Kettering Town 2 Fleetwood Town 1
Fleetwood Town’s hopes of reclaiming fourth place in the Blue Square Bet Premier were dashed at the Elgood Arena where they lost 2-1 to Kettering Town.
The game’s pivotal moment came in the 53rd minute, when Kettering skipper Brett Solkhon was allowed to rise unmarked and send a header past Town keeper Scott Davies for the opening goal.
Iyseden Christie scored a late second for the Poppies and Jamie McGuire a consolation goal for Town in added time but by then the damage was done. Town remain in the play-off zone but have fallen further behind the top three.
Town returned to Northamptonshire just a few short miles north of Rushden, where life in the Blue Square Bet Premier league had begun some five months ago.
The Elgood Arena had not yielded too many points for the Poppies, whose 3-0 victory over Eastbourne Borough last Saturday was only their second on home soil.
Their mid-table position was largely helped by six away victories, a total only exceeded by Crawley Town.
This was the return fixture between the sides, Fleetwood having triumphed 4-1 at Highbury, courtesy of two goals each from Magno Vieira and Ian Craney, had given the Cod Army their fourth win of the season.
Defender Paul Linwood remained unavailable following his recent knee operation and Nathan Pond was suspended after receiving a red card against Hayes and Yeading at the weekend.
Striker Gareth Seddon lined up against the team he scored 21 times for in 59 game before moving to Highbury in September 2009, while Anthony Barry made his 50th appearance in a Town shirt.
Micky Mellon made one change from the Hayes and Yeading game, Peter Cavanagh replacing the injured Shaun Beeley at right-back. It was Cavanagh’s first start since the visit to Bath City in mid-November.
Kettering’s 42-year-old coach, Paul Furlong,kept his place in the Kettering side after scoring twice in the Eastbourne victory.
After a quiet opening, Town began to assert some authority with Barry’s influence evident.
Jamie McGuire found Sean Clancy stealing up on the back post after six minutes but the opportunity was wasted.
Shortly after, Barry struck a free-kick narrowly wide of Seasiders loan keeper Mark Halstead’s post.
Kettering showed their intent and forced a corner in the tenth minute. Both George Donnelly and Sean Clancy had shots blocked just before the quarter hour and Barry had another effort, this time from open play. McGuire was in the thick of the action but Halstead, on loan from Blackpool, looked assured in the Kettering goal.
Cavanagh received a warning after 22 minutes and from the free-kick as Thomas Flanagan’s looping header went wide.
Three minutes later, it was Sean Gregan’s turn to receive a lecture from referee Whitton and Macdonald’s resulting free-kick was comfortably taken by Davies.
George Donnelly created a good chance to break his duck, cutting in from the right after 25 minutes, only to see his shot deflected for a corner.
On the half hour, Davies did well to draw Wilson wide without making contact as the Poppies’ player broke through.
Barry was booked after 20 minutes for a challenge on Wilson and Jean-Paul Marna received the Poppies’ 53rd yellow of the season soon after.
By this stage, the home supporters were extremely vocal in the direction of the referee. Magno Vieira had a great chance to extend his scoring streak just before half-time but the shot was deflected. Clancy then brought a save out of Halstead just before the break.
Vieira had the first chance in the second half, shooting wide off his left foot after 50 minutes.
Three minutes later, the home side turned their fans’ frustration into delight by taking the lead. Solkhan rose in space as the ball came in from the right and was able to direct his header down and past Davies for his sixth goal of the season.
Town responded immediately, with Seddon heading wide and Barry’s shot deflected for a corner, with the keeper rooted to the spot.
Jamie Milligan replaced Clancy in the 55th minute as Town looked to unlock the home defence, but Kettering grew in confidence from their goal and Furlong tested Davies with a fierce shot from the right which the keeper was able to deflect for a corner.
Another Town change saw Lee Thorpe replacing Seddon, who left the field to generous applause from the main stand after once again working hard.
As Town pushed forward, Kettering almost snatched a second when Ian Roper’s shot was deflected narrowly past Davies’ right post for a corner in the 75th minute, and Furlong had a great opportunity in the 82nd minute at the back post following an excellent cross from the right.
Town’s hopes were finally ended as the game went into injury time, Kettering substitute, Iyseden Christie hammering a right-foot shot into the roof of the net for his sixth of the season.
Town came back to finally break their duck, with McGuire scoring a consolation at the back post, his third in four games.
The whistle went soon after and Town tasted defeat for only the fifth time this season.
A moment’s lack of concentration had proved crucial and Town have four days to pick themselves up ahead of a home fxture on Saturday against Forest Green, one of those sides who have already defeated them.
Thirty eight members of the Cod Army made the long journey south from the Fylde in a crowd of 798.
Kettering: Halstead, Graham, Roper, Flanagan, Kelly, Wilson, Solkhon, McKoy, McDonald (Challinor 66), Marna (Christie 85), Furlong.
Fleetwood Town: Davies, Cavanagh, McNulty, Gregan, Brown, Barry, McGuire, Clancy (Milligan 59), Seddon (Thorpe 71), Vieira, Donnelly.
Attendance: 798; Referee: Rob Whitton (Essex).