Kettering go into the derby just a point from the prize

Kettering go to Wellingborough tomorrow needing a point to seal the Midlands One East title
Kettering go to Wellingborough tomorrow needing a point to seal the Midlands One East title

The long wait could finally be over for Kettering as they hope to clinch promotion Midlands One East this weekend.

The Blues have been knocking on the door for some years now without ever being able to get in.

The closest they came was in 2017 when, having been edged out of the title race by Newbold on Avon, they suffered a home play-off defeat to Bournville.

However, with two games remaining of this season they need just a single point to confirm their elevation.

And, as sporting fate would have it, the deed could be done at their old rivals Wellingborough as this weekend brings the East Northants derby at Cut Throat Lane.

It is likely to be a great occasion but one Kettering director of rugby Doug Bridgeman insists his team cannot focus on.

“This would be a big game anyway because we’ve played against each other for many, many years,” he said.

“It always has a different meaning to other matches.

“But we have to concentrate on building from a very strong performance against Towcestrians last week and stopping the challenge that Wellingborough will provide.

“We know it will be tough because, for them, what have they go to lose?

“They will come hard and I’m sure there will be big celebrations for them if they can stop us winning.

“From our point of view, being a local game, hopefully a lot of people will travel with us.

“It’s just down the road – the closest away game for us – so it should see a big crowd.

“Hopefully we can wrap it up because it would nice if we don’t have to go to West Bridgford for our last game still needing to win it.”

Bridgeman’s thoughts on the home crowd being keen to see any promotion celebrations postponed is echoed by his opposite number at Wellingborough.

George Shipman’s side were beaten 40-21 at West Bridgford last weekend but he feels the derby clash will provide some balance between the sides.

He said: “They are doing extremely well and have given themselves a little space at the top now.

“Our supporters would love us to get one over at home to Kettering and sometimes a local derby can be more of a cup final feel about it – form doesn’t always matter as much.

"Last week was a tough task for us with a number of players unavailable due to injury and two playing for the East Midlands Under-20s.

"We felt West Bridgford was an away game for the taking, particular after giving away a lead in the home fixture. We will have a few players returning for Saturday's fixture which will be a boost.

"We are aware that Kettering require just a point to secure promotion, and if they pick up one point against us and we win the game then everyone will go away happy!

"It will be a stern test for us against the top-of-the-table side.

"But we have nothing to lose in a sense as we are neither in a promotion push or in a relegation fight and the focus for us ending the season on a positive note.

"We had hoped to come in to Saturday's game on the end of three straight wins but the belief is there to try to upset the Kettering party happening at Cut Throat Lane."