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Kingstonian 0-1 Kettering Town

Kettering at home. A must-win match if ever there was one. The opposition had lost their previous two matches by five goals to two, had only won two away games all season and were bottom of the league. K's had, of course, lost their last game two-nil and had only won two home games all season. But if ever there was a night when three points could be expected, this was it.

But at the end of ninety minutes the players trooped off as an eerie silence descended on the (few) parts of the ground occupied by K's fans, as everybody struggled to come to terms with the fact that K's are now deep in a relegation fight which they seem ill-equipped to cope with.

The team selection seemed somewhat positive, as K's looked to be starting with two strikers - Ian Duerden and Sammy Winston. But it soon became apparent that Winston was under instructions not to stray from the right-hand touchline by more than fifteen yards. With Eddie Akuamoah spending most of his time on the left wing, Duerden looked to have something of an exclusion zone around him, with no red 'n white shirts allowed to get close to him. The result was, of course, that none of his flicks or lay-offs came to anything.

What's more, Kettering started the brighter of the teams. They had a couple of early corners, which K's defence (the one still consisting of five players) cleared more by luck than judgement. And it took just eight minutes for the quiet ground to become quieter still, as the visitors took the lead. Geoff Pitcher was dispossessed by Niall Inman in midfield, and his first time pass/hoof was chased down by Darren Collins. He sprinted in between Messrs Saunders and Harris, took one touch to the edge of the area and planted his right-footed shot past Gavin Kelly's dive.

Yet thankfully, the goal seemed to do what the pre-match team-talk had failed to do: inspire the players. Eddie Akuamoah, in particular, was involved in everything, harassing and tackling every blue shirted player on the ball. And he seemed to have remembered the way he used to play - getting the ball and running at, and beating, defenders. One such run saw play ended when goalkeeper Ian Bowling dived at his feet, K's appealed for a penalty but referee Mr. I. Williamson awarded just a corner. And from that Derek Allan's header was flicked just over by Duerden. At least the ball was up the right end now.

But not for long, as another hoof from Kettering saw Collins through on goal with no defenders in attendance. Yet just as he shot, a superb sliding tackle from Colin Luckett put him off and Kelly was able to save with less concern than would otherwise have been the case.

Geoff "Anonymous" Pitcher played a good ball out to Winston (who was obviously out on the right) and he looked up to see both Duerden and Akuamoah in good positions in the middle. Unfortunately the cross was woeful and Kettering cleared with ease. And not only did they clear. The long ball up-field was totally missed by Eddie Saunders as it bounced over him, Dale Watkins crossed to Phil Brown who only had to connect to double the lead. He didn't, and K's - and in particular Eddie Saunders - breathed again.

The moment which summed up the first half arrived with just a few moments to go to the break. A great ball from Gary Patterson found Akuamoah on the left and he set off on another good run. He got almost to the goal-line and cut the ball back towards the edge of the area. Duerden brought off a perfect dummy and then looked around to see Winston in his instructed position - out on the right-wing. If he had been told/allowed to play in his natural position then it's quite likely that Winston would have got in a shot, but as it was Kettering cleared under no pressure at all.

Collins should have doubled his account just after when a right-wing cross from Colin Vowden found him - once again - bereft of markers in the middle of the K's box. His flicked header was poor though, and again Kelly was allowed to make an easy save when the chances looked good for another goal. And instead of accepting responsibility for his blunder, Derek Allan tried to pass the buck by informing the linesman that he should have give Collins offside. He shouldn't.

A wayward Patterson cross almost crept under the bar, but Bowling was alert enough to turn it over, and that - in truth - was the closest that K's came to scoring in the first half. The second forty-five saw more of the same, but an up-turn in the frustration levels for the supporters.

Gavin Kelly pulled off one fantastic save when a much-delayed free-kick was finally taken by Craig Norman. The shot took a couple of deflections off of the wall and K's can be thankful that Kelly was alert enough to turn the ball aside for a corner.

K's finally had a shot on target when Patterson played a ball inside to Colin Luckett, but even a deflection did little to trouble Bowling as he clutched the ball to his stomach. A minute later, Watkins hit the post from another quick break, and then K's almost pressed the self-destruct button again. Allan headed square to Saunders, but the ex-basketball player showed just why he should have stuck with that game as he allowed Watkins to take the ball from him. A quick pass to Collins allowed another shot at goal, but this one crept just inches wide of the right-hand post. And then Mark Harris made a howler as he missed a long kick from Bowling, escaping only when Kelly pulled off his third remarkable save of the match - this one low to his left somehow turning the ball over.

The second (and last) shot on target for K's came from Winston when he was released by Eddie after a brilliant run. He cut in (from the right, obviously) but his shot was saved well by Bowling for a corner. This saw Harris foul the goalkeeper and Cowling head off the line. Maybe that counts as a shot on target too.

The game ended just after Eddie Saunders made a total hash of shooting from six yards when he totally missed the ball just to the side of the goal. But we shouldn't really be relying on a centre-half to score from a last-minute scramble should we?

And so the whistle went. Kettering celebrated their first (and only) "double" of the season, the K's players trooped off with heads held low and the K's fans walked off knowing exactly what the future holds - a desperate fight to remain in the national league. Everyone there knows that the players performed below par - them better than most one would hope. But in reality, this game might not matter much.

Kettering look doomed, and one result against another team in trouble should do nothing to change that. K's - on the other hand - didn't move down any places, and only one of the "in-hand" games have disappeared. And there were positives to take from this match. Colin Luckett and Eddie Akuamoah looked ready to die for the cause, as one would expect of long-serving players, and Winston looked a completely different player from the one he has been of late. If a couple of wins can be earned soon, the confidence levels will rise and things should look rosier. But let's not kid ourselves. The time for changes is now. If things aren't working then nobody (Chapple, Macca, Pitcher et al) should be too big to admit it. The club is bigger than any individual, and the club needs to work together to put right what is going so horribly wrong.

Tue 20th Feb 2001
Kingsmeadow Stadium
Football Conference
Kettering Town1
1Gavin Kelly
2Mark BoyceCautioned16
3Colin Luckett
4Derek Allan
5Eddie Saunders
6Mark Harris
7Gary PattersonCautioned
8Geoff Pitcher
9Ian Duerden
10Sammy Winston
11Eddie Akuamoah
12David Bass
13Adrian Blake
14Simon Stewart
15Paul Fewings
16Ronnie Green2
Man of the Match
Gavin Kelly
Gavin Kelly
Match Report By
Gary Ekins