Kettering Town 3 Brackley Town 1 - Jon Dunham's verdict
Kettering Town picked up one of their best wins of the season so far as they stunned Vanarama National League North leaders Brackley Town with a 3-1 success in the Northamptonshire derby at Latimer Park.
In challenging conditions on a boggy pitch, the Poppies rose to the occasion after 15 days without playing due to Covid-19 issues and they were, in the end, worth every bit of the three points they picked up for their efforts.
It’s now back-to-back wins for Paul Cox’s team and, as a result, they have now shot up to 10th place in what is proving to be a congested mid-table area.
It simply wasn’t Brackley’s day. The table-toppers struggled to get going in the face of a fired up opposition but they do remain at the summit after Gateshead slipped to a surprise defeat to Blyth Spartans.
Brackley, who were without Glenn Walker, did start the better and Tre Mitford was off target when he seized on a moment’s hesitation in the Kettering defence.
But it was the Poppies who went in front after 19 minutes. Alex Brown whipped in a free-kick from the right and Brackley goalkeeper Danny Lewis didn’t quite get there as Chris Smith rose to nod home his first goal in Kettering colours.
There was little to choose between the two sides in the remainder of the half but things certainly livened up after the break.
Kettering doubled their lead nine minutes after the restart.
Jordon Crawford, who had been a doubt after suffering an ankle injury in a friendly at Harborough Town during the week, darted in front of Gaz Dean who caught the frontman.
The referee immediately pointed to the spot and while Lewis made a fine stop to keep out Callum Powell’s penalty, the Kettering man made no mistake from the rebound.
But Brackley responded well and, after Jackson Smith had made a superb save to keep out Lee Ndlovu’s header, they pulled one back from the resulting corner as Jordan Cullinane-Liburd arrived unmarked to power home a close-range header.
From there, Kettering did a decent job of killing the game and Connor Barrett shot wide after being played in by the magnificent Gary Stohrer.
But the crucial third did arrive six minutes from full-time.
A corner was recycled back to Harrison Neal and the on-loan midfielder then sent a curling shot into the far top corner to send the majority of Latimer Park into raptures. It may have been a cross but he certainly didn’t care as he celebrated his first goal for the club.
There was no way back for Brackley after that as Kettering saw things out to complete a well-deserved success.
Kettering: J Smith; Johnson, Cooper, C Smith; Barrett, Kennedy, Neal, Stohrer, Brown; Powell, Crawford (sub Sheriff, 70 mins). Subs not used: Stones, Ward, Sharpe, Milovanovic.
Brackley: Lewis; Dean, Lomas, Cullinane-Liburd; Myles (sub Rolt, 74 mins), Armson (sub Yusuf, 81 mins), Murombedzi, Lowe, Franklin (sub York, h-t); Ndlovu, Mitford. Subs not used: Putz, Lopes.
Referee: Andrew Humphries.
Goals: C Smith (19 mins, 1-0), Powell (54 mins, 2-0), Cullinane-Liburd (61 mins, 2-1), Neal (84 mins, 3-1).
Bookings: Ndlovu, Murombedzi, Neal, Armson, Johnson (all fouls).
Northants Telegraph man-of-the-match: Gary Stohrer - this sort of game was right up the Kettering midfielder’s street. He worked his socks off in the middle of the pitch and threw a couple of driving runs into the heart of the Brackley defence into the bargain. This game was all about hard work and Stohrer is very much the chief when it comes to that.