Next Match & Preview
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Following last Saturday’s win against a strong and re-juvenated Kidderminster Harriers’ side, Saints continue the busy festive programme with Wednesday’s New Year’s Day visit to St James Park of Kettering Town. As the Boxing Day trip to The Poppies was postponed due to a water-logged pitch, remarkably this will be the first ever league encounter between the two Northamptonshire near-neighbours. The fixture at Latimer Park is yet to be re-scheduled.
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Following last Saturday’s convincing display and 3-0 home win against a determined Curzon Ashton side, Saints continue the busy festive programme with Thursday’s Boxing Day trip to Kettering Town. Remarkably this will be the first ever league encounter between the two Northamptonshire near-neighbours. The Poppies return to St James Park a week later on New Year’s Day.
After the win over Curzon Ashton which took his side into 4th place, Kevin Wilkin looked ahead to the visit to Latimer Park: “There are no easy games and every one comes with its challenges. You have to go to difficult places and adapt if you are going to be successful and come through. If we can apply ourselves as we have before, hopefully we can come away with something. But we are under no illusions that it’s going to be a really tough game for us.”
While Kettering lie 19th in the National League North table, that position has been greatly improved through the recent run of fine form, unbeaten in seven league games including Saturday’s 2-0 win at Alfreton Town. Sandwiched in between the back-to-back fixtures against Brackley is another tough test at Boston United, while Saints take on Kidderminster Harriers at SJP.
Since leaving Rockingham Road in 2011, The Poppies have been nomadic, ground-sharing at then Rushden and Diamonds’ Nene Park and Corby’s Steel Park before moving in at Latimer Park with UCL club Burton Park Wanderers in 2013. This has at least brought Kettering closer to home with Latimer Park just 3 miles outside Kettering but a move back home to a new ground still appears some way off for Paul Cox’s side.
The links between Brackley Town and Kettering Town are many as one might expect given the geographical proximity. Former Saints players Brett Solkhon, Luke Graham (now player-coach) and Daniel Nti feature in Cox’s squad while Dan Holman has moved the other way. Further links come via former Brackley manager Jon Brady who played at Rockingham Road and Roger Ashby who managed Saints and, with 463 league appearances, has played more times for the club than any other player although Brett Solkhon is closing in.
Saints are in good form and looking to stay in touch with the teams in and around the top, with just the single defeat at Southport in the last 12 league games, the league’s joint meanest defence with York City and the best goal difference by a country mile (+28). We will be in all yellow strip on Thursday as Kettering will wear their familiar red and black stripes.
If you cannot get to the game you can follow the action on BBC Radio Oxford and BBC Radio Northampton with pre-match, half-time and full-time reports and via the club Twitter feed with a full match report available on the club website shortly after full-time.
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After another blank Saturday last weekend, Kevin Wilkin’s side will be eager to get back in action this Saturday as Curzon Ashton visit St James Park.
Saints are well placed going into the busy Christmas period, sitting in 5th place just one point off Chester in 3rd. The festive period sees 5 games in 15 days and whoever among the dozen or so teams competing for the top spots takes a big chunk of the 15 points on offer will set themselves up nicely for the back half of the season.
As Saints sat it out last weekend, Curzon lost out at AFC Fylde in the FA Trophy and return to league action at SJP desperate for points themselves as they are just above the bottom three. Home form has been strong, unbeaten now in four games at The Tameside Stadium, but away form remains Mark Bradshaw’s side’s Achilles heel.
When the sides met in September in Manchester, Saints won out with goals from Jimmy Armson, Thierry Audel, Shane Byrne and Lee Ndlovu. Armson’s close range finish in the first half and Audel’s fine headed second set Saints on their way to an important victory while Byrne and Ndlovu netted from distance, both pearlers.
With the fortnight lay-off Kevin Wilkin will be hoping he has a fully fit squad to choose from for a tenth meeting between the two sides, a fixture Curzon have never won.
If you cannot get to the game you can follow the action on BBC Radio Oxford with pre-match, half-time and full-time reports and via the club Twitter feed with a full match report available on the club website shortly after full-time.