VERDICT: Poppies are denied at the death

The Kettering Town fans celebrate after Gary Roberts put through his own net to give them the lead against Chester at Latimer Park. Pictures by Peter Short
The Kettering Town fans celebrate after Gary Roberts put through his own net to give them the lead against Chester at Latimer Park. Pictures by Peter Short

Kettering Town were denied a second win of the season in dramatic fashion as Chester converted a stoppage-time penalty to secure a 1-1 draw at Latimer Park.

But that didn’t tell the full story of what proved to be a topsy-turvy second period in the Poppies’ second home out of the campaign in the Vanarama National League North.

Dan Nti can't believe it after he struck the post with a penalty

Dan Nti can't believe it after he struck the post with a penalty

In truth, it was a game that was sorely lacking in quality for the most part with both teams cancelling each other out for long periods.

In the end, it came down to those ‘fine margins’ managers so often refer to.

After a dull first half in which neither side had really threatened, the second period gradually opened up with Paul White helping a Simon Grand header over the bar while Lindon Meikle headed wide at the other end.

But it was Kettering who got their noses in front when Gary Roberts put through his own net from Meikle’s low cross with 20 minutes to go.

Paul White is sent the wrong way from the spot by Akwasi Asante as Chester snatched a late point at Latimer Park

Paul White is sent the wrong way from the spot by Akwasi Asante as Chester snatched a late point at Latimer Park

Man-of-the-match Sam Cartwright, who was excellent alongside the impressive Luke Graham, produced an excellent block to deny Matty Hughes soon after that opener.

But those ‘fine margins’ came into play with 14 minutes left on the clock.

A good move saw Elliot Hodge find Marcus Kelly whose shot was well saved by Russ Griffiths.

But then, as the ball was recycled in the area, the hard-working Dan Nti was scythed down to give the Poppies a penalty and a golden chance to put the game to bed.

Nti stepped up but missed the target as his spot-kick struck the post.

And within a minute, Kettering were down to 10 men when Kelly was sent-off for a second bookable offence having received his first yellow earlier in the second period.

Despite the numerical disadvantage, the Poppies held firm right up until the second minute of stoppage-time when a moment of hesitation when trying to clear their lines allowed Hughes to get in front of Joe Skarz.

It was soft but there was contact as Hughes tumbled over in the area. Referee Sam Mulhall wasted little time in pointing to the spot and Akwasi Asante made no mistake as he sent White the wrong way from 12 yards.

Chester will argue they were worthy of that point. They probably were.

But for Kettering, it will be a case of mixed feelings once the dust has settled.

There will be frustration. They were 1-0 up and had the chance to make it two. Those golden opportunities simply can’t be wasted at this level.

But what shouldn’t be forgotten is that Nicky Eaden’s side came into this one on the back of two successive away defeats and two decisive defeats for that matter.

A better performance was needed and it was duly delivered as the Poppies worked hard, stayed disciplined and so nearly grabbed that second win.

Once again, on home soil at least, they showed they belong here. Now they have to produce that same level every week, home and away, starting again on Saturday…

Poppies: White; Stohrer, Graham, Cartwright, Skarz; Richens, Kennedy; Hodge, Meikle, Kelly; Nti. Subs not used: O’Connor, Solkhon, Milnes, Carta, Brighton.

Chester: Griffiths; K Roberts, Livesey, Grand, Taylor; Stopforth, Roberts; Mahon (sub Hughes, 62 mins), Dudley (sub Asante, 73 mins), Jackson; Waring (sub Elliott, 62 mins). Subs not used: Burton, Waters.

Referee: Sam Mulhall.

Goals: Roberts og (70 mins, 1-0), Asante pen (90 mins, 1-1).

Bookings: Nti, Waring, Kelly, Stopforth, Grand (all fouls), Asante (dissent).

Sending-off: Kelly (second bookable offence).

Northants Telegraph man-of-the-match: Sam Cartwright - playing alongside the experienced and impressive Luke Graham, the young Peterborough United loanee produced the sort of display that reminds everyone just why he is contracted to League One club. He was commanding in the air, made numerous blocks including an excellent one to deny Matty Hughes shortly after Kettering had scored and showed general composure against a physical attack. More displays like this will do his own career and, in the short term Kettering, the world of good.

Attendance: 971.