Kettering 2 - 0 Wellingborough
Kettering close in on league title
Kettering 2s have, for the majority of the season, been at the top, or very close to, the table. This was always an aim, and ending the season as league champions was always the target. With 3 game left to go, everything was still very much in their own hands, but a very tough run in against 3 teams occupying 2nd, 3rd and 5th would not make it easy.
Wellingborough came to Kettering after a couple of shock results going against them, knowing that a Kettering win would make overtaking them in the league a vey difficult proposition. Kettering knew that a win would open a commanding lead at the top of the table with two games to go.
All the possibilities aside, this game came down to two very good teams, (possibly the two best in the league). Two teams that are local rivals, even from before the move from midlands to east. And two teams that both had a point to prove. Wellingborough; a chance to complete the double over Kettering (and become the only team to finish the season without losing to Kettering). For Kettering, a chance to reverse a loss early in the season...
For once, Kettering started the game with the level of intensity and sharpness that they are capable of, and that has seen them score so freely in patches of every game. The intensity shocked a Wellingborough team that on the day never really looked like threatening. Ketterings passing and movement was a cut above Wellingborough, and off the ball, the high press that has again been a feature of Kettering all season, proved too much for Wellingborough to handle, and they rarely had an easy out from their within own 25.
For all the pressure and all the play, however, Kettering could not find a breakthrough goal. Wave after wave of attack was dealt with, sometimes by some stalwart defending, and at other times with a little (or a lot) of luck. One great example of this towards the end of the half saw Kettering play through the Wellingborough defence down the right. A pull back towards the top of the 'd' to skipper Ricky Payne and a sharp pass through to George York, whose first time rifled ball was blocked by a goalkeeper that knew nothing about it!!
Half time came with the score still deadlocked at 0-0. The team talk was easy though. Comfortably the better team, and all the players knew the goal was coming, if they just kept up their play.
The second half was the same story for long periods. Kettering pressing again and again, knowing that the goal would come, and Wellingborough relying on two very strong centre backs, and a lot of luck. The few times Wellingborough did manage to press forwards, their tactics seemed to be to attack down their right wing and crash the ball into the 'd' from the wide channel. A combination of strong defending by Ketterings back line coupled with Wellingborough not really getting players into goal scoring positions meant that they never looked like scoring, bar for one ball across the 'd' which Wellingborough may feel was unlucky not go in as it was put into the side of the goal.
Kettering on the other hand were all the more likely to score, and the pressure inevitably told, as some more great passing saw Ollie Smith lay the ball off to George York to score from a very unlikely position.
The game continued in the same manor, until Kettering sored a somewhat fortuitous second goal, as George York again (who else would it be...) saw possibly the tamest shot hit all year bobble through a mass of players and sneak between the goalkeepers fast closing legs. Despite some desperate attempts by the Wellingborough defenders almost crawling across the floor to try to stop it, the ball (just about) crossed the line. 2-0 and it looked like game over.
The game did finish that way, although the younger York brother did score one of the best goals (not) scored all year, as a ball lifted by Wellingborough in the 'd' was volleyed by George York to Ben York to volley home first time. Unfortunately, the umpire had blown for a short corner to Kettering a fraction before the ball was put home by Ben!!
Not a bad word can be said about any Kettering player, as they all game everything for the full 70 minutes, and the result was possibly the most complete performance by this team all year.
With 3 points over their nearest rival in the chase for the title, Kettering are now in a very strong position. A win next Saturday will win the league, though this is far from a formality as they travel to Wisbech who are still chasing promotion themselves!