Les Has Much To Ponder

Slough Town

Slough Town

Kettering Town

Kettering Town

Taylor (0-1), Brown (79)
League Attendance: 1102 Alan Dowson
Back in August the wise old owls of the Conference - the sort who think nothing of a freezing February night in Bunstead watching 'their lads' do battle in the "who cares anyway, let's give the young 'uns a run out cup," - were making cases for likely league front runners.

"Kettering," they said, "Kettering, will be up there, they are the ones to watch," and to a man they nodded knowingly to one another.

Those same heads were nodding again on Saturday, and though no-one said, "I told you so," it was in the air.

After a number of almost but not quite years, it does seem that maybe this season will see Kettering make the step into league football.
One defeat in 15 and a steady climb to the top of the Conference suggests those voices back in August could prove astute indeed come next May.

Slough will testify that Kettering are a side worthy of such lofty ambitions. On Saturday the visitors soaked up a hefty amount of first half pressure, struck out to secure the interval advantage and did far better than to just hang on. They had the edge over Slough in a disjointed, often scrappy second half and never appeared likely to surrender their advantage. Indeed their defensive record is the best in Britain, a mere five league goals conceded in 15 games.

For Slough and in particular Les Briley it is a worrying time, their last league win was against Merthyr Tydfil back on October 12, when John Docherty was still technically in charge.

Briley's sole victory as boss was the FA Cup qualifier at Hayes and that fact will be eating at his competitive joints.

Briley however was not at fault when his recognised front me repeatedly fail to score.

On Saturday, finally, the chances fell to Andy Sayer, last season's top scorer, but a man who hasn't found the net for ten months.

If he was without luck on a couple of occasion he was too slow, too hesitant on as many others and on this day Slough would regret his profligacy.

His first opportunity came on 14 minutes when Morrys Scott flicked on Briley's free-kick and Sayer moved sharply to twist and strike a low volley. A yard either side of Graham Benstead —formerly with Brentford — and Slough were ahead but it went straight at the tall goalkeeper.

Six minutes later Sayer's snapshot on the turn was hacked off the line as Kettering struggled to clear a Hancock corner. Sayer would now be thinking one of two things: "At least the chances are coming my way' or 'I'm never going to flippin' score.!!'

Thirty three minutes. Manning's deep cross, Scott's nod back towards goal and Sayer with a free header — this time? His lack of inches didn't help but Benstead wasn't exactly tested by the lopping effort.

Slough could have been out of sight but Kettering had remained in their slipstream and approaching the halfway stage, they changed gear and roared ahead.

Donald's short pass tore a sizeable hole in Slough's five man defence and coming through at pace Robin Taylor took advantage dipping his shot in off Bunting.

Sayer's clever pass set Fiore boring down on goal and drifting in onto his favoured left foot he brought a fine tumbling save from Benstead.
Ian Hazel's half time introduction — for Mark Quamina — meant that Briley had perhaps his first choice ii on the pitch as he attempted to come from behind once more.

Surprisingly Slough never really threatened. Dowson's superb tackle saved his manager considerable embarrassment after he twice gave away the ball in the same passage of play.

Hazel and Manning were often overrun in the middle with the latter giving the ball away as frequently as he would find a team mate.
Thorpe and Sayer tangled untidily and the Slough man was fortunate in the light of recent events that his flying elbow was missed by Thorpe and the referee.

Not so fortunate was Russell Edwards who appeared to find Clarke's elbow with his head and for a moment he looked out cold. His recovery was swift and it was difficult to tell whether the knock affected his performance — Clarke was hugely lucky to get away cardless.

None of this helped Slough's bid to recover parity and neither did Bunting's flap at a 77th minute corner but in fairness he's done little wrong this season and deserved to escape further punishment.

Two minutes later there was no escape as Brown —Kettering's outstanding performer — stopped to power in a header from Thorpe's swinging cross; 2-0 and goodnight.

It seemed only fitting that Slough's final chance should fall to Sayer —running through on goal — last year he would have shot first time, now he hesitated cut back and the opportunity was lost.

I fancy a goal for Sayer may yet turn round Slough's season, but it needs to come soon.

Kettering Town Lineup


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