VERDICT: Poor Poppies make it so easy for Altrincham
There haven’t been many bad days on the pitch for Kettering Town since Paul Cox arrived but this game will certainly be filed under that particular category.
Play-off chasing Altrincham ran out 2-0 winners in the tough conditions at a perishing Latimer Park and, in truth, they probably won’t earn an easier three points for the rest of the Vanarama National League North campaign.
While the Robins were energetic, good on the ball on and solid defensively, the Poppies were the complete opposite.
Right from the off, the performance felt flat. Everything that had, to this point, been so good about them since Cox’s arrival disappeared in the space of 45 minutes.
There was a lack of energy, no real quality when they were in possession, no desire to go and win the second ball and, when chasing the game, they failed to register a single attempt on target in the second half.
There’s a reason why Kettering still remain embroiled in a battle at the wrong end of the table, it’s because they were so easy to beat in the early stages of the season. On this night, that unwanted attribute was back.
The warning signs were there early on as Tom Peers’ low ball in across the face of goal had no takers while Josh Hancock dragged a shot wide after good work from Jordan Hulme as Altrincham set the tone.
On a poor night, the only Kettering player to stand out was the ever-reliable Gary Stohrer who went about his business while others hid away.
Stohrer registered the Poppies’ only two attempts on target in the first period - both coming after he had helped create the opportunities himself.
But, having said all that, things might have been different in a defining two-minute spell in the first half.
Lindon Meikle took aim from 25 yards with a curling effort that saw Altrincham goalkeeper Anthony Thompson clutching thin air, only for it to clip the post and go out for a goal-kick.
Two minutes later, Kettering were behind as Hancock produced a fine finish into the top corner after the hosts had failed to clear their lines.
Cox looked like a man ready to explode as he prowled on the touchline and his frustration would have only been enhanced when Altrincham doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time.
A right-wing corner came in, James Jones was left unmarked and his volley squirmed through the hands of Paul White, although Hulme may have got the final touch in front of goal.
That left the Poppies with a mountain to climb and, in truth, they never really started to try to climb after the break.
Indeed, the less said about the second half the better. The visiting defence was rarely troubled as Kettering struggled to complete straightforward passes while, when the opportunity to produce a final ball came, the quality was sorely lacking.
And, with the Robins comfortably seeing the game out, it was them who looked the more likely to add to their lead with White blocking Hulme’s effort on the angle while Joshua Lundstram saw a well-struck volley fly just over the crossbar.
Cox kept his players locked in the dressing-room for 40 minutes following the final whistle as some home truths were, no doubt, delivered.
Kettering remain locked in a relegation battle and more performances like this simply can’t be afforded.
Poppies: White; Stohrer, Graham, Solkhon, Taylor; Nti, Milnes, Meikle (sub Carta, 84 mins), Williams, Law (sub Richens, 76 mins); O’Connor (sub Mitford, 59 mins). Subs not used: Bennett, McGrath.
Altrincham: Thompson; Densmore (sub Mullarkey, 73 mins), Jones, Hannigan, Hampson; Peers, Moult, Hancock, Lundstram, Mahon (sub Walters, 61 mins); Hulme. Subs not used: Harrop, Wall, Torrance.
Referee: Tom Kirk.
Goals: Hancock (34 mins, 0-1), Jones (44 mins, 0-2).
Northants Telegraph man-of-the-match: Gary Stohrer - went about his business and did his job when others simply didn’t.