Nationwide Conference

Hednesford Town

Shutt (3) (OG)

Kettering Town

Watkins (85), Hudson (90)

(1) 1

(0) 2



Current Form

Next Match


Mark Cooper



Boston United (A) 21.10.00

The Pitmen were left sucker-punched by fellow strugglers Kettering this afternoon at Keys Park as two late, late goals from the Poppies turned the game on its head and earned the visitors a barely-deserved three points in a game that had been largely dominated by the hosts

A morale-boosting 2-0 win over Forest Green Rovers last weekend - their first on the road this term - had moved John Baldwin's inconsistent side back up into sixteenth place in the table ahead of their return to Keys Park this afternoon. Baldwin elected to stick with his winning side from last week for today's game, although there were two changes amongst the substitutes as both Paul Bagshaw and Stuart Evans were passed fit to replace Stewart Airdrie and Ross Rhodes amongst the replacements

Nineteenth-placed Kettering arrived at Keys Park off the back of a poor run of recent results, with the Poppies without a win in their last five games. Player/manager Carl Shutt made two changes from the side that had been beaten 2-1 at Chester City last Sunday, with Dale Watkins coming in for Lee Cowling  and Lee Hudson replacing Steve Lenagh

The tempo of the game was set from the kick-off as the hosts enjoyed the majority of the possession and territory but struggled to make either count despite their dominance. They did, however, take an early lead in the third minute of the game through a touch of good luck as they were gifted the game's opening goal; Ian Robinson was given time and space to send over a cross from the right to the far post, aimed at Keith Russell who was arriving late into the Kettering six-yard box. Shutt managed to get in front of the striker to block the cross, but could only watch in horror as his attempted clearing header dipped over the head of goalkeeper Steve Wilson, hit the underside of the crossbar and rolled over the line

The hosts went close to doubling their lead just three minutes later as Stuart Lake intercepted a pass from Brett McNamara and threaded a delightful pass through the Poppies back line and into the path of last week's goal hero Neil Davis, who was denied a certain goal as he bore down on a goal by a last-ditch challenge from skipper Colin Vowden

Lake lifted a ninth-minute free-kick high over the Kettering wall but also high over the goal frame after Mark Cooper's run towards the penalty area was halted by Vowden, earning the hosts a free-kick in a dangerous position

In the fifteenth minute, Kettering's first sight at goal came through Hudson, whose glancing header from Shutt's quickly-taken free-kick drifted well wide of Mark Gayle's far post after the striker had got goal side of Russell Bradley

Two minutes later, Robinson, Val Owen and skipper Jake Sedgemore linked up well just inside the Kettering half to play Lee Colkin into acres of space down the left; the former Northampton Town man swung in a teasing cross to the far post that neither Davis nor Russell could get a toe to, allowing the Poppies to clear their lines

Robinson was enjoying the freedom of the right flank for the Pitmen so far, making several good runs from deep into space just outside the Kettering box. On twenty-one minutes, his run and cross picked Davis out with a fine stood-up ball that the Pitmen's top scorer headed back into the path of Russell, who was denied a shot at goal by some smart goalkeeping by Wilson to smother the ball in front of the former Blackpool man

Gayle was given a momentary concern by a well-taken free-kick from Poppies left-back Carl Adams on twenty-four minutes as the former Stevenage Borough man drove a powerful shot past the Hednesford wall from twenty-five yards out and saw his effort dip just wide of the stopper's right-hand post

On twenty-seven minutes, an Adams corner kick was partially cleared by the Pitmen but only as far as Matt Fisher, who played the ball back out to the corner kick taker with a threaded pass inside Robinson. Adams changed the angle of his shot but found the presence of the burly Lake in his way as the utility man blocked the defender's goalbound shot

Just after the half-hour mark, Colkin made a marauding run forwards as he chested down a pass from Scott Bonsall and slipped the ball through to Owen, whose first-time effort from sixteen yards out whistled a matter of inches past Wilson's right-hand post

More hesitation in the Kettering penalty area saw the Pitmen waste another great chance two minutes later as Colkin took advantage of the hosts not paying attention from a corner kick as he pulled the ball back to Cooper, standing on the corner of the box unmarked. As the visitors rushed out to challenge the experienced midfielder, Cooper whipped the ball into the box right in front of Wilson, but again no one in white could react quickly enough to turn the ball home from close range and the ball skipped harmlessly away

The formidable figure of Vowden almost pulled Kettering level on thirty-seven minutes as the tall, rangy Poppies skipper made a late run into the Hednesford penalty area to meet another well-taken Adams free-kick but toe-poked his effort just wide of Gayle's far post from six yards out

With six minutes of the first half remaining, Vowden came across his penalty area as he looked to intercept Cooper's fine pass through to Davis but could only succeed in deflecting the ball into the path of the striker. Davis spotted Wilson off his line and tried his luck with a crafty lob over the goalkeeper's head from fifteen yards out that landed on the roof of the Kettering net

With half-time looming, the hosts had two late chances to put clear daylight between themselves and their visitors. On forty-four minutes, Adams allowed Robinson more time and space to advance on the Kettering goal, striking a low right-footed shot across goal but watching his effort skip off the turf and go wide of the far post

A minute later, Robinson was at it again as he skipped past Adams down the right and cut into the box, working the ball onto his left foot on this occasion but striking a weak low shot at goal that Wilson fielded with ease at his near post

There was still time for the Pitmen to create yet another golden chance in the third minute of added time as the excellent Cooper fed Russell with a defence-splitting pass from midfield, playing the striker in on goal despite calls for offside from the Kettering defence. Wilson stood firm against Russell, forcing him to strike an early shot at goal and made a fine save at his near post to push the ball around the post

The Pitmen had been good value for their half-time lead, having dominated proceedings and limiting an unimaginative Kettering side to a clutch of half chances so far. However, you felt that the hosts would need a second goal to see the game out after several individual errors in recent games in defence

Wilson saved Kettering's blushes once more just three minutes into the second half as a poor back pass from Chris Perkins was seized upon by the constant menace of Davis, who was denied a shot at goal by Wilson rushing out of goal and hacking the ball clear before the striker could shoot at goal

Cooper felt that he should have been awarded a penalty kick on fifty minutes as he made a run into the Poppies penalty area before being nudged off the ball by Vowden. Despite the midfielder's pleas, referee Mr Drysdale was unimpressed with his easy fall to the floor and the play continued

A minute later, Kettering's Phil Brown was the first player to earn himself a yellow card in the game as Mr Drysdale was forced into booking the midfielder for a foul on Sedgemore to stop the youngster from making a move forwards

Cooper was having arguably his most consistent game for the Pitmen since his summer move from Rushden & Diamonds and saw another good chance come and go on fifty-five minutes after a period of Hednesford pressure saw Owen set him up on the edge of the penalty area, only for his drilled effort to be deflected wide by Perkins for a corner kick

Kettering seemed content to put nine men behind the ball whenever possible and soak up the Hednesford pressure, frustrating their hosts in the process. On fifty-eight minutes, Bradley was the first Hednesford player to be shown a yellow card by Mr Drysdale for a blatant shirt pull on McNamara inside the Kettering penalty area as the pair challenged for a Colkin free-kick

The third yellow card in quick succession saw Hudon also having his name taken just before the hour mark for pulling back Colkin in full flight as the full-back broke down the left flank

Owen fired well over for the hosts from a good position on sixty-three minutes, rifling a shot in at goal from twenty-five yards out that rose in flight and failed to test Wilson

Russell was also wasteful with a fanciful shot from long-range midway through the half, firing high over the crossbar from twenty yards out and irking the frustrated fans in the Heath Hayes terrace in the process

Indeed, the home crowd was starting to get restless at the home side's continual wasting of chances, with a feeling spreading through the ground that they would most likely pay a price for not seeing off their shot-shy visitors. Kettering seemed to feed off this frustration and started to win more of the ball in the final quarter of the game as they looked to get back into a game

Gayle made a smart save at his near post on seventy minutes to hold a weakly struck angled shot from Lenagh - on as a substitute for Hudson - after a run and cross from former Leeds United hero Shutt down the left flank

On seventy-four minutes, a long punt forwards from Bradley was flicked on by Cooper and into the path of Russell, who struck a first-time shot with his weaker left foot and found Wilson behind his effort

A quick break from the visitors three minutes later saw Shutt play an angled pass into the path of Watkins who held off a challenge from Sedgemore just outside the penalty area but was denied a shot at goal as he was pulled back for a marginal offside call against him on the Wimblebury side of the ground

Fisher fired well wide from twenty yards out on seventy-nine minutes as an Adams corner was cleared by Bradley as far as the midfielder, whose rebounded shot was well off target and failed to trouble Gayle

Sedgemore came off worst in a challenge with McNamara a minute later and required a lengthy bout of treatment from physio Don Drakeley before he was cleared to continue. However, after three minutes of manfully playing on, Sedgemore gestured to the bench that he could not continue and was replaced by the returning Bagshaw down the left flank

More of that familiar defensive lapses in confidence that has plagued the Pitmen in recent weeks almost gifted Kettering an equaliser from nothing on eighty-four minutes as an innocuous-looking backpass from Bradley to Gayle saw the stopper scoop the ball up inside his own penalty area before Lenagh could get to the ball, handing the visitors a direct free-kick inside the box. Adams took the set-piece and drilled his shot through the six-man wall to force Gayle into a full-length stop down to his right-hand side

Suddenly, it was Kettering with the initiative and they looked to grab themselves a late equaliser. On eighty-five minutes, Shutt made amends for his earlier own goal as he had a hand in his side's leveller as a cross from Fisher on the right was turned back across goal by Shutt at the far post and into the path of Watkins, who had the simple task of nodding the ball past Gayle from a couple of yards out. Game on

The visitors were buoyed by their goal and went in search of a late winner against a Hednesford team that had suddenly lost its nerve and could not retain the ball. On eighty-eight minutes, Vowden's looping header from another Adams free-kick was desperately hacked clear by a combination of Lake and Gayle as Watkins looked to turn the ball into the empty net from close-range

Just as the added time board went up signalling there was to be five additional minutes, Kettering struck again as Fisher's through ball from deep somehow found its way into the path of Lenagh, who stole a yard on Bradley to nip in and toe-poke the ball past Gayle, just getting enough purchase on the ball to take it past the stopper and trickle over the line from ten yards out

The shell-shocked Pitmen pushed forwards in added time, forcing three successive corner kicks in the process, but some excellent defending from Vowden and McNamara saw Kettering over the line to record a crucial three points over their fellow strugglers. This sees Kettering move within a point of the Pitmen in the table as Baldwin's men drop to seventeenth in the process. Mid-table Boston United provide tough opposition for the Pitmen next Saturday as they make the long journey out east to York Street to face Steve Evans' Southern Premier League winners

Hednesford Town: Gayle, Robinson, Colkin, Lake, Bradley , Sedgemore © (Bagshaw 83), Bonsall, Owen, Davis, Cooper, Russell (L. Brown 90)    Subs Unused: Pointon, Evans, Carney

Kettering Town: Wilson, Codnor, Adams, Perkins, Vowden ©, McNamara, Fisher, P. Brown , Hudson  (Lenagh 65), Watkins, Shutt      Subs Unused: Wilkinson, Matthews, Cowling, Tye