VERDICT: Poppies' fine season ends with a shoot-out defeat
Kettering Town’s successful, title-winning season ended in defeat as they lost 5-3 on penalties to Premier Division South winners Weymouth after a 1-1 draw in the Evo-Stik League South Championship Match at Latimer Park.
The Poppies controlled the match and will be disappointed not to have won in normal time, missing a number of chances whilst limiting Weymouth’s shot count throughout.
The first effort of the game came very early on and was a rare chance for Weymouth, as the prolific Brandon Goodship showed his quality, moving onto his left in a tight space on the edge of the box and getting a shot away which Paul White was able to reach above his head to parry.
Minutes later, White played Rhys Hoenes through on goal with a kick out of his hands, and Kettering’s top-scorer dribbled past Weymouth goalkeeper Mark Childs before blasting over the bar from four yards with one of the worst misses of the season.
Poppies captain Michael Richens then shot just over from 20 yards, however Childs had the strike covered as it was over the centre of the goal.
The breakthrough came against the run of play after 25 minutes when Weymouth right-back Calvin Brooks headed to Yemi Odubade who played it back to Brooks and his half-volley from twelve yards left White rooted to make it 1-0.
Five minutes later, Dion Kelly-Evans found Aaron O’Connor in space and the striker’s left-footed curled away from Childs’ left-hand post.
O’Connor was then found by a Marcus Kelly cross, but his free header from eight yards went over the bar.
The always dangerous Goodship cut in on the edge of the box soon after, unleashing powerful shot that was straight at White, who dealt with the danger comfortably.
On the stroke of half-time, Gary Stohrer crossed to O’Connor who headed straight at Childs from four yards out, ending a frustrating half for the Poppies who had created more chances and been the better team, but found themselves on the wrong end of the scoreline.
Weymouth had the first chance of the second-half, as a Goodship free-kick on the left was flicked just over by Guadeloupean centre-back Stephane Zubar.
After an hour, Cameron Murray brought-down Hoenes with a slide tackle in the box, but the top scorer’s penalty was saved by the feet of the diving Childs.
Ten minutes later, Kelly curled a free-kick from 20 yards a yard left of the post.
But, with five minutes left, the equaliser arrived when Stohrer hit the post after a mazy run into the box, and Poppies Hall-of-Famer Brett Solkhon was able to head in the rebound.
Almost immediately, Weymouth responded when a low cross was back-heeled wide from four yards by Goodship, before the striker played in Abdulai Baggie who tested an out-of-position White low down to his right.
But, with honours ending even, it needed penalties to decide it and it was Weymouth who won the famous Southern League Shield after Kettering’s fourth penalty from Kelly was saved by Childs, and Goodship converted the next one to seal the deal.
From the quality of the game and the chances created, it was clear to see why Kettering and Weymouth have had title-winning seasons.
Both will have to adapt over the summer to life in the National League North and South respectively, but based on their success this season they will be full of confidence looking forward.
Poppies: White; Stohrer, Towers, Stanley, Rowe-Turner, Kelly; Kelly-Evans, Richens (sub Solkhon, 71 mins), Meikle (sub Brighton, 61 mins); O’Connor, Hoenes. Subs not used: Toseland, Graham, Massaro.
Weymouth: Childs; Brooks, Zubar, Camp, Ngalo; Odubade (sub Wakefield, 76 mins), Murray, Carmichael, Baggie; Baker, Goodship. Subs not used: McHale, Farrugia, McQuoid.
Referee: Ritchie Watkins.
Goals: Brooks (25 mins, 0-1), Solkhon (84 mins, 1-1).
Penalties: Baker (goal, 0-1), Solkhon (goal, 1-1), Murray (goal, 1-2), Rowe-Turner (goal, 2-2), Carmichael (goal, 2-3), O'Connor (goal, 3-3), Wakefield (goal, 3-4), Kelly (miss, 3-4), Goodship (goal, 3-5).
Bookings: Childs (deliberate handball), Richens, Kelly-Evans (both fouls).
Northants Telegraph man-of-the-match: Gary Stohrer - A consistent performer all season, Gary Stohrer had another solid game, filling in at both right-back and right-wing as he has done many times in Kettering’s title-winning campaign. The Poppies’ utility player was unlucky not to score, seeing the flag go up before he half-volleyed in and having his shot rebound off the post before Solkhon headed in for his goal.