VERDICT '“ Is Poppies' season finally showing signs of life?
It may well be a case of baby steps, but Kettering Town's season might just be starting to show a few signs of life.
That statement is made with a bit of caution, given how inconsistent the Poppies have been as a whole so far in the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division.
But this 2-0 success over rock-bottom Cinderford Town made it two home wins and clean sheets in a row for Marcus Law’s team – something of a collector’s item when you consider how poor they have been at Latimer Park during the first four months of the campaign.
It proved to be a routine victory as Cinderford were condemned to their 11th defeat in 11 away matches this season but they certainly weren’t as poor as that record suggests and, with a bit more composure, they had the chances to make it edgy in the second half.
As it turned out, the Poppies’ decent first-half display and two goals in two minutes proved to be enough.
Law made changes with new boy Jack Kelly starting and impressing at left-back while Wilson Carvalho and Spencer Weir-Daley both dropped to the bench.
As it turned out, Carvalho came back into the action earlier than he may have expected after Gary Mulligan was forced off with a sickening nose injury after challenging for a header after just a quarter-of-an-hour.
But, by then, the damage had already been done.
Cinderford started brightly and Karnell Chambers curled an effort narrowly wide after skipping past Brett Solkhon early on.
However, Kettering knocked the stuffing out of the visitors with a two-goal blast.
The first was route one. Dean Snedker launched the ball forward and Aaron O’Connor got in behind the defence before beating Cameron Clarke with a good finish on the angle.
And barely 120 seconds later, the Poppies were in total control when Solkhon headed home James Brighton’s right-wing corner.
It could have been more before the break with Clarke producing a fine save from Carvalho after he cut in from the left while Rene Howe blasted over from the winger’s low cross.
Cinderford did have the better of things in the second half and Chambers’ shot was blocked by James Haran on the line before Snedker made a fine save from Matthew Thomas’ follow-up.
Howe saw another close-range effort deflected off target when he seemed certain to score but the visitors continued to cause a few problems and both Getyn Hill and Thomas should have done better than miss the target when they were given clear sights of goal.
Liam Canavan tested Chambers with a rasping long-range drive while another chance for the visitors went begging when Thomas poked wide of the target after a fine ball in from Josh Nelmes.
In the end, the Poppies saw things out with the minimum of fuss. By no means a classic display but a victory that came out with them being slightly more clinical in front of goal.
Bigger tests await, not least tomorrow (Tuesday) night when Frome Town - who are eighth and won at high-flying Slough Town on Saturday - come to town.
The word ‘momentum’ is not one that has been associated with the Poppies too much this season.
But another home success in midweek will certainly justify that tag being used....
Poppies: Snedker; Haran, Solkhon, Malone, Kelly; Hornby (sub N Hicks, 73 mins), Mulligan (sub Carvalho, 17 mins), Canavan, Brighton; Howe, O’Connor (sub Weir-Daley, 81 mins). Subs not used: Barnes-Homer, White.
Cinderford: Clarke; John (sub Waugh, 81 mins), Nelmes, Bloom, Alderoice; S Hicks, Hanos; Bowen (sub Turner, 81 mins), Hill, Chambers (sub McConie, 69 mins); Thomas. Sub not used: Michael.
Referee: Abbas Khan.
Goals: O’Connor (8 mins, 1-0), Solkhon (10 mins, 2-0).