Blues’ cup success could herald a bright new era

Kettering celebrate their dramatic East Midlands Cup win over Luton
Kettering celebrate their dramatic East Midlands Cup win over Luton

Kettering’s dramatic victory in the Wells Bombardier East Midlands Cup – which came with the last kick of the season – brought down the curtain on a record-breaking campaign.

Joe Daniel was the last-gasp hero against Luton at Bedford with a 40-metre penalty as Blues overturned a 16-10 deficit entering the final 10 minutes to triumph 18-16.

Coach Doug Bridgeman said: “The guys have worked very hard this season, we’ve won a lot of games and it was nice for the guys to get some reward for all their efforts.

“They have put a lot in this season and could have come away with nothing.”

The Blues had grabbed an early lead as they set out to lift the cup for a record 12th time.

Tom Bridgeman darted over and Daniel’s conversion made it 7-0 after two minutes.

The score was 10-6 by the break but Luton had ended the half on top and it took what Bridgeman described as “tremendous defence” to prevent them crossing.

They were breached, though, and it was 16-10 going into the last 10 minutes.

Time was running out when Damien Conyard gathered a crossfield kick from Daniel and touched down.

But Daniel missed what looked like a make-or-break conversion.

However, there was still time for more drama.

From the kick off, the Blues gained possession and went on a last, desperate attack. Their chance appeared gone when the referee penalised them, but he was over ruled by his touch judge and a penalty was awarded to Kettering.

As the crowd held its breath, Daniel booted his 40-metre effort between the posts and the match was won.

Bridgeman added: “At 16-10, it did look as though we had missed our chance, but we responded fantastically.

“We’ve worked a lot on resilience this year and we showed that in the last 10 minutes. It was real never-say-die stuff.”

Earlier in the evening, Kettering under-11s had won the Mini Mobbs final with a 6-2 win over Ampthill.

Bridgeman said: “That was a great start to the night and a lot of the parents stayed behind to cheer us on.

“There was a good-sized crowd and they created a special atmosphere.”

Bridgeman reckons Blues supporters will see their side mount another promotion challenge in 2015-2016.

They missed out this season after winning their opening 12 games in Midlands One and finished with a club-record 94 points.

Bridgeman said: “In terms of league points, it was the best season we’ve had since we were promoted around 10 years ago.

“We know there are things to improve on, but only five per cent here and there.

“We don’t need to make big strides if we want to take the extra step.

“If you look at the three teams that finished above us, I think the difference is that when they had teams at their mercy they finished them off and got the bonus point.

“We maybe weren’t as ruthless as we might have been and that was costly.

“Over the past few seasons, we’ve improved our points tally and if we do that again, we will be in the mix again next season.

“We need to be up there if we want to keep the players interested and keep people coming along to watch us.”

Bridgeman hopes the current squad will stay together.

The club have their annual dinner on Saturday night and he said: “We will be talking to a few of the players then. There’s a tremendous team spirit here and I just hope we can keep that going next season.”