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The Conference Years: Kettering Town

29 May 2014

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Remembering where we once were.

Kettering Town have never beaten Doncaster Rovers, and by the current state of affairs, it seems a long time before they will even have the chance.

The Poppies as they are affectionately nicknamed currently reside in the Southern League Division One Central, or eighth tier of English football, if you prefer.

The fall of Kettering has, arguably, been as dramatic as the resurrection of Rovers.

Despite once having former England superstar Paul Gascoigne temporarily at the helm or FA Cup ties against Fulham and Leeds United, the Northamptonshire club nearly went to the wall following huge debts and winding up orders.

They were relegated from the Conference National in 2012 – repeating the feat of nine years previous – and are yet to return.

Town don’t even play at their traditional home of Rockingham Road any more and have used Rushden & Diamond’s Nene Park, as well as Corby Town’s Steel Park and they now reside at Latimer Park, home of Burton Park Wanderers.

Rovers first visited Rockingham Road in 1999 following a 1-1 draw earlier in the season where Glenn Kirkwood’s goal was cancelled out by Craig Norman’s penalty on the stroke of half time at Belle Vue. The Road was to be to Rovers’ liking and the visitors pinched a win through Ian Duerden’s 88th minute strike.

The South Yorkshiremen picked up four points the following season also thanks to a 2-1 win at Belle Vue, where Dino Maamria and Dave Penney scored, before the return in Northants where scores were settled. Kirkwood opened the scoring but Town responded through Gary Setchell and Carl Adams and, though Dean Walling was sent off, Rovers salvaged a point thanks to Mark Atkins in Ian Snodin’s penultimate game in charge.

The 01/02 season ended with neither side even scoring in 180 minutes of football between the two sides, while the following year, Rovers acquired another maximum.

Gareth Owen’s goal saw off The Poppies at Belle Vue before the return where hitman Paul Barnes bagged a brace, in a 2-0 win, over ten men.

Kettering, thankful to still have a football team after more than 140 years in existence, came out in force for Town’s play-off final game against Slough Town last month with over 2,000 attending a game that they ultimately lost.

Having finished third in the league, Town failed to reach the Southern Premier Division (7th tier) and their manager stepped down within the last week.

*The joy on the face of Rovers’ star striker Paul Barnes is all too clear as he celebrates one of his goals in the 2-0 win at Rockingham Road in February 2003 where 1633 attended the Conference fixture* 

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