It was a day which will live long in the memory of Rebels supporters, who will have been fearing the worst after a first half largely dominated by hosts Kettering Town, who went in to the interval with a comfortable 2-0 lead at a packed Latimer Park, with over 2,300 in attendance.
Denied the services of top scorer Ed Smith through suspension, Adam Cornell came in to the side to replace him and Slough matched their opponents early on as both sides looked to settle into the match and the occasion, with a strong breeze favouring the Poppies in the first half.
Just twelve minutes had been played when Kettering took the lead in fortuitous circumstances, a real blow to the Rebels’ chances. A simple header in to the box from Jonathan Thorpe towards Chris Logan was met by George Short who, in trying to clear the ball away, succeeded only in looping it over the head of Jake Somerville for an own goal.
Kettering went on to dominate. Josh Moreman set up Thorpe, who blazed over. Andy Gooding’s fierce effort was deflected wide by Ryan Parsons, and Logan went close but his strike from the edge of the box was palmed over by Somerville.
Ten minutes after the first goal, Kettering doubled their lead and then threatened to run riot. Andy Gooding’s corner from the left was met by the imposing figure of centre-back Henry Eze, who powered a header past Somerville.
Moreman threatened the goal on more than one occasion, flashing a cross-shot well wide, whilst Gooding fired just wide after turning away from Guy Hollis following a short corner. Slough, who were outplayed in every department, failed to test Alastair Worby in the first half, but had their best spell in the closing minutes. James Dobson ran at the heart of the defence and shot wide on his weaker right foot, and also blazed another effort well wide on his left.
Jon Underwood and Neil Baker then delivered their biggest team talk as managers, and Slough emerged in the second half looking like a different side, attacking Kettering from the off. The Rebels kept the ball on the bumpy surface instead of aiming long balls towards Cornell and Dyer, which were easily dealt with by the hosts.
Eze headed another Jepson corner wide, but Slough made their pressure count, and grabbed a vital goal on 56 minutes – and with it, a way back in to the match. Johnnie Dyer latched on to a flick from Cornell, and bore down on goal on the left side of the penalty area before firing past Worby from a narrow angle to give Rebels fans hope.
James Clifton beat a number of players on the right as Kettering broke away, but he dragged his shot well wide, whilst Elliot Sandy was also guilty of firing off target after cutting in from the right. In response, Adam Cornell flicked a header just wide from a James Dobson free kick delivery as Slough emerged as the dominant force in the match.
And on 65 minutes, Slough were level courtesy of another fantastic finish from Dyer. Finding space in the box, he took Warren Harris’ pass and turned away from his man before firing across Worby and in at the far post – a superb goal well worthy of the occasion, and now Slough looked the more likely to win the match after a disappointing first half.
Two minutes later, Slough could well have taken the lead. Worby beat away a fierce strike from Dyer, and Henry Eze got his body in the way to block as Jamie McClurg controlled and got his shot away at what seemed to be an open goal.
Kettering were pushed back into their own half with Warren Harris seeing a lot more of the ball on the right, and McClurg scuffed a shot wide, whilst Dave Woozley headed over the bar.
But on 77 minutes, Slough took the head and turned the game on its head. Harris’ cross into the middle was headed by Eze, but only to McClurg 15 yards out, who this time made no mistake in controlling the ball and firing a crisp shot into the bottom corner, leaving Worby flat-footed. Slough supporters, around 300-400 in number, erupted with joy as the rest of Latimer Park fell silent.
Far from having to hold on to the victory, Slough saw out the final thirteen minutes of so relatively comfortably, with Kettering unable to create another chance, despite the introduction of Dubi Ogbonna to the attack. Dyer could well have claimed a hat-trick as he burst clear of the defence, but he tried a lob from distance and the ball fell well off target.
The final whistle brought scenes of joy from Rebels players, management and fans alike, who can now look forward to Southern League Premier Division football next season after breaking their playoff hoodoo and witnessing the club’s first promotion in two decades.
Kettering Town Line up
Worby, Clifton, Eze, Hull, Kinniburgh, Thorpe, Jepson, Gooding, Logan (Ogbonna, 80 mins), Moreman, Sandy. Subs not used: Hamilton, Bukasa, Osei-Siribour, Fuller.