VERDICT: Poppies stop the rot as they pick up first point of the season

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Kettering Town stopped the rot as Andy Leese picked up his first point as manager after a 2-2 draw with Halesowen Town at Latimer Park.

The Poppies twice fought back from losing positions to secure a share of the spoils and, in the end, they could argue that they got what they deserved for their efforts.

The major positive, of course, was that the run of three defeats in a row at the start of the Southern League Premier Central season was ended while debutants Will Mellors-Blair and Dan Jarvis were both on target after signing for the club this week.

However, there are still issues for Leese to address.

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The ball is in the net for Halesowen Town's second goal as Kettering Town twice fought back to secure a 2-2 draw at Latimer Park. Picture by Alison BagleyThe ball is in the net for Halesowen Town's second goal as Kettering Town twice fought back to secure a 2-2 draw at Latimer Park. Picture by Alison Bagley
The ball is in the net for Halesowen Town's second goal as Kettering Town twice fought back to secure a 2-2 draw at Latimer Park. Picture by Alison Bagley

The Poppies have now shipped 12 goals in their first four games and that ratio simply can’t be allowed to continue.

It felt like the goals an impressive Halesowen side scored were all a bit too easy and Kettering needed goalkeeper Billy Johnson to make a couple of decent saves to ensure the points were shared.

Things were very even early on but Halesowen always looked the more likely to break the deadlock and they did just that with their first real chance.

The ball was fed into the box and lively frontman Miracle Okafor produced a neat turn and fired his shot across goal and into the far corner, despite Johnson getting a hand to it.

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Okafor might have doubled the lead when he headed wide from a good position but the Poppies drew level almost out of nowhere just past the half-hour.

As Halesowen attempted to clear a set-piece, midfielder Huw Dawson put his head where it hurts and was caught by the high boot of Caine Elliott.

It was a clear penalty and debutant Mellors-Blair made no mistake as he stepped up and sent Daniel Platt the wrong way from 12 yards.

There were further chances at both ends before the break with Jarvis seeing a shot deflected over the crossbar while, at the other end, McKauley Manning was out of luck when his far-post header cannoned off the post.

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With Halesowen having controlled things for the most part in the first half, Kettering tightened things up in the early stages of the second half.

But it was still the visitors who threatened with Joshua Ezewele forcing a good save from Johnson after running unchallenged to the edge of the area while Okafor was off target with another effort.

However, the Yeltz did regain the advantage just before the hour and, again, it came from a driving run from Ezewele and this time he found Manning who fired a precise low shot into the far corner with the aid of a post.

For a while, it looked like Halesowen might run away with it and the dangerous Okafor was just off target with another header.

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But Kettering worked their way back into it again and they were back on level terms with 19 minutes to go when Jarvis took aim from the edge of the area with his well-struck effort being too good for Platt.

It was Halesowen who went closest to finding a winner with substitute Richard Gregory unable to hit the target with a shot on the turn before he was denied by a fine stop from Johnson at the death with the goalkeeper recovering to block Okafor’s follow-up, which wouldn’t have counted due to an offside flag.

It wasn’t a perfect performance, by any stretch.

But Leese will take comfort from a bit more resilience shown by his Poppies side as they halted that three-game losing streak.

A good haul of points over the busy bank holiday would now be the perfect way to follow it up.

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Poppies: Johnson; Cochrane, Reilly, Langmead, Toseland; Dawson (sub Okito, 77 mins), Stohrer; Mellors-Blair, Jarvis (sub Carvell, 89 mins), Sharpe; Lewthwaite. Subs not used: O’Keefe, Barker, Miller.

Halesowen: Platt; Ezewele, Wynter, Morris, Mitchell; Parker, Elliott (sub Hayward, 59 mins), Hawker (sub Holmes, 68 mins), Manning; Okafor, Boothe (sub Gregory, 75 mins). Subs not used: Donnelly, Cater.

Referee: Jason Porter.

Goals: Okafor (23 mins, 0-1), Mellors-Blair (33 mins, 1-1), Manning (58 mins, 1-2), Jarvis (71 mins, 2-2).

Bookings: Toseland, Okito (both fouls), Johnson (time-wasting).

Northants Telegraph man-of-the-match: Dan Jarvis – made a good impact on debut, some decent touches and came up with a fine equaliser.

Attendance: 905.

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