CHIPPENHAM TOWN 1 0 KETTERING TOWN – Sat 11th Feb 2017
This match was played in bitter conditions against the backdrop of snow flurries, but the Bluebirds warmed their supporters as they overcame one of their stiffest challenges of the season to date.
This match was played in bitter conditions against the backdrop of snow flurries, but the Bluebirds warmed their supporters as they overcame one of their stiffest challenges of the season to date as they defeated in form Kettering Town with a wonder goal from Will Richards.
The result was even more impressive as it was achieved without the suspended pair of influential captain Greg Tindle and vice captain and leading scorer in the Southern Premier division Andy Sandell.
By a quirk of the fixture list this game on the second Saturday in February saw a repeat of last season's match when the then mid-table Poppies defeated the then top of the table Bluebirds, which heralded an eleven match run that resulted in only two victories for the Bluebirds and subsequent fall from the play off positions.
The second half was a nail biting time for the Bluebird supporters in the five hundred plus crowd as the Poppies threw four men up front and their physical approach was matched by the Bluebirds who put their bodies on the line and defended manfully to keep the Northamptonshire side at bay to retain their place at the top of the table.
The first chance fell to Richards whose twelfth minute shot was stopped on the line by Dom Langdon, whilst Alex Ferguson also saw an effort blocked.
Kettering responded with their only on target effort of the first half with Liam Canavan's free kick piercing the home wall but safely pouched by Darren Chitty.
On twenty two minutes Dave Pratt's cross found strike partner Jake Andrews on loan from Bristol City but his shot was blocked.
The all important goal came on twenty four minutes when Richards won the ball around the half way line and with the away defence back-peddling he drove forward and let fly with a thunderous thirty yard effort that flew into the net.
Kettering responded as a combination of Langdon and Rene Howe presented Arron O'Connor with a chance which he put wide.
On the half hour White did well to push away Matt Smith's shot and two minutes later made an even better save as James Guthrie's free kick found the head of Pratt.
On forty minutes O’Connor’s shot from distance was off target.
Just before the break Kettering appeared fortunate to escape a penalty when Andrews's cross appeared to be blocked by Brett Solkhon's arm.
The last action of the half saw Kettering centre back Gary Mulligan shoot over.
After the break the Poppies Lewis Hornby fired over whilst at the other end a Chippenham corner saw Ferguson's volley from just inside the area loop over the bar.
On fifty eight minutes White had to dive at full stretch to turn Andrews's low free kick around a post.
As the away side increased the pressure Canavan shot wide when well-placed, O'Connor's shot hit a home defender, James Brighton's effort was off target and Howe's shot lacked the power to beat Chitty.
Nine minutes from time a James Guthrie corner ended with Rhys Baggridge’s header going straight to White.
The Poppies best chance to rescue a point came five minutes from time when Brighton's corner was headed against the bar by Solkhon and Brighton's follow up shot went over the bar.
The away side created two more chances with Howe's chip easily claimed by Chitty and substitute Matthew Barnes-Homer shot wide.
Chippenham: Darren Chitty, Dan Bowman, Nuno Felix, Gary Horgan, Rhys Baggridge, Will Richards, Alex Ferguson (Michael Pook 80), Matt Smith, Dave Pratt, Jake Andrews (Joe McClennan 87), James Guthrie subs not used: Jon Beeden, Matt Jones, Mario Mateus
Kettering: Paul White, Nathan Hicks, Dom Langdon, Brett Solkhon, Gary Mulligan, Liam Canavan, Lewis Hornby (Matthew Barnes-Homer 62), James Hall, Rene Howe, Aaron O’Connor (Jorrin John 83), James Brighton subs not used: Jack O’Connor, Jamie McAlindon
Ref: Bhupinder Gill - Iver
Ass Refs: Liam Beames – Cheltenham, James Nattrass – Cheltenham