Match report – Poppies 1 – 0 Sporting Khalsa

Kettering Town v Sporting Khalsa

Emirates FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round

Saturday 16th September 2023   3:00pm

Kettering Town Sporting Khalsa
1  Josh Blunkell   1  Sheridan Martinez  
2  Owen Cochrane   2  Andy Parsons  
6  Lewis White   3  Carlo Franco  Off 59
5  Kelvin Langmead   4  Matt Fulloway  
3  Ben Toseland  Off 59 5  Tes Robinson (Capt)  
11  Rhys Sharpe   (Capt)   6  Todd Ferrier  
4  Harry Reilly  Off 85 7  James McGrady  
20  O’Shane Stewart   8  Kieron Whittaker  Off 71
15  Huw Dawson   9  Curvin Sanderson – Ellis  Off 82
9  Tyrone Lewthwaite   10  Toumani Sidibe  
19  Josiah Bridgeman  Off 63 11  Richard Batchelor  
  Substitutes     Substitutes  
7  Kai O’Keefe   12  Gaz Singh  On 71
10  Sam Bennett  On 63 14  Alex Woodhouse  
12  James Carvell   15  Brett Lloyd  
13  Niall Shackleton   16  Dilano Reid  On 59
14  Gedeon Okito  On 85 17  John Letford  On 82
16  Luca Purse  On 59 18  Dominic Perkins  
18  Freddie Moriarty   19  Cain Smith  

Referee: David Hinton       Assistants:  Mariusz Tomon and Thomas Johnson

After a battling draw on Tuesday night, Kettering faced their third match in eight days. After playing in the strength-sapping heat at Bromsgrove, and the effort required to salvage a point on Tuesday, some of the Kettering players might be feeling a little weary. Rhys Sharpe recovered from his illness returned to the starting line-up, relegating Gedeon Okito to the sub’s bench and reclaiming the captain’s armband from Kelvin Langmead. Dan Jarvis, injured in Tuesday’s game, would see his starting spot taken by his replacement that night, O’Shane Stewart, who would be making his first start for the club. Luca Purse was deemed fit enough for the bench but Gary Stohrer was still nursing an injury and Will Mellors-Blair was cup-tied. Sporting having had no mid-week fixture made 5 changes from the side which played last Saturday.

The weather conditions for the game were pretty much ideal being sunny and dry with occasional cloud cover and a slight breeze blowing. The pitch looked in good condition.

As on Tuesday, prior to kick-off the teams changed ends resulting in Kettering Town kicking off with Sporting Khalsa, in yellow shirts and blue shorts, defending the Tin Hat end as the Kettering fans made their way from the IMK stand end to the previously deserted Tin Hat.

The first action of any note occurred in the fifth minute when the ball was played towards Stewart whose first touch let him down and, in stretching for the ball whilst going to the floor, caught Sidibe who had nipped in to steal possession. Contact was made and the Khalsa man went down and gave the impression of being in some distress. Mr Hinton immediately blew for a foul and saw fit to issue a very early yellow card to O’Shane leaving the spectators wondering if the game would finish with all 22 players on the pitch. The free kick mid-way inside Kettering’s half was over hit and went out on the full for a Kettering goal kick.

Sporting started positively and, being the underdog, had nothing to lose and were willing to shoot on sight, however their first couple of shots were blocked by red shirts not bothering Blunkell.

Just before the quarter hour mark Khalsa had their best chance of scoring. Andy Parsons played a ball forward out of defence and it was flicked on towards Kettering’s goal. Josh Blunkell came out to the edge of his penalty area and, as he was reaching to collect the ball, Sidibe kicked the ball from his hands which the referee saw no problem with. The ball fell kindly for the forward who took the ball around the keeper and slid the ball into a seemingly empty goal. Out of nowhere Lewis White appeared and, for the second Saturday running, came to Blunkell’s aid with a goal line clearance.

Kettering responded by applying pressure of their own on the Khalsa goal through a Sharpe long throw on the open side. It was nodded on by a Khalsa head and was picked up at the far post by White who recycled the ball into the middle towards Lewthwaite. He took a tumble to the floor but not through a foul in the eyes of the officials. Kettering retained possession and patiently passed the ball on the edge of Khalsa’s penalty area waiting for an opening. Harry Reilly tried a shot but it struck Rhys Sharpe. Once again Kettering retained possession and again patiently passing the ball until Ben Toseland had a shot, this time Reilly was in the way. The period of sustained pressure was brought to a halt when Dawson lost the ball to Sanderson-Lewis who fed the ball quickly onto the dangerous Sidibe, who took the ball forward, firing a ball aimed at Kettering’s near post where it was met by Cochrane who headed it behind for the game’s first corner which came to nothing.

Three minutes later The Poppies were probing down Khalsa’s right. A fine passing triangle between Lewthwaite, Stewart and Sharpe led to Ty threading a ball through to Sharpe, who hit a fine shot trying to beat Martinez at his near post. The keeper moved across to cover the shot but it hit the inside of the post and rebounded out to Reilly who was lurking on the edge of the penalty area. Harry picked his spot and, with the keeper out of position, fired in straight and true for his first goal for Kettering. 1-0 Kettering 21 mins

Shortly after Kettering won their first corner of the game when Bridgeman and Lewthwaite linked up well to send Ty to the by-line, sending a cross into the middle but it was cut out by Whittaker at the expense of a corner. The corner was cleared but Kettering retained possession until White was felled by a high boot to the mid-drift. The free kick, just outside the penalty area, was taken by Sharpe but struck the wall and spun behind for an unproductive corner.

The final fifteen minutes of the half, including two additional minutes, produced no further action of note apart from a booking just before the end of the half for Reilly for standing in a position disagreeable to the Khalsa players.

Half Time: Kettering Town 1  Sporting Khalsa 0

Almost immediately after kick-off Mr Hinton had cause to hold up play so Stewart could receive treatment after being caught from behind by Sanderson-Ellis, curiously the referee in stopping play acknowledged that O’Shane was hurt but did not see fit to award a free kick or talk to Sanderson-Ellis.  Kettering started the second half with purpose with Bridgeman running onto a through ball from Dawson, but his ball from wide was into a Khalsa penalty area devoid of red shirts. Shortly afterwards Toseland ran onto a nod on from Lewthwaite but his shot went just wide.

The Sporting Khalsa manager received a yellow card ten minutes into the second half after a throw-in decision was uncertain by the match officials. The view of the linesman would have been obscured by the SK manger who was constantly outside of his technical area and spent a lot of the first half with one or both feet on the pitch. As a result of the indecision the manager sent a stream on invectives at the linesman and the referee, quite rightly, cautioned the over-excited manager.

Just before the hour mark Ben Toseland went down injured and, despite lengthy treatment, could not continue and was replaced in a straight swap with Luca Purse. Khalsa were upset with Toseland being of the opinion that there was a degree of play acting from the Kettering man. A minute later Khasla made their first change with Dilano Reid coming on for Carlo Franco.

Fifteen minutes into the half Khasla were awarded a soft free-kick in a dangerous position, but it came to nothing as a forward strayed into an off-side position. Before the game restarted Kettering made their second change with Sam Bennett replacing Josiah Bridgeman. Two minutes later Kettering had a thrust down Khalsa’s right as Sharpe reached the by-line and started to cut inside, but he was taken out by Batchelor just short of the penalty area for a free-kick which was effectively a corner but six yards closer to goal. No caution was issued. The set piece came to nothing.

Khalsa had an opening on sixty-seven minutes when Whittaker lifted the ball forward for Sidibe to chase. Blunkell was alert to the danger though and came of his line to dive at the forward’s feet and save the day despite appeals from the visitors for a penalty. Shortly after Lewis White took a high boot to the face after another high boot from Sidibe. Again no card issued.

With just over twenty minutes left in the half Bennett had the opportunity to ease the nerves of the watching fans when he broke free of the defence running on to go 1v1 with Martinez. The keeper did not have to make himself any bigger than he already was as he loomed large in front of Sam, whose shot struck him. The ball came back to Bennett who was driven wide and, before he could slot the ball home, a defender was back on the line and Sam’s shot went in the side netting. This was to be virtually Kettering’s last threat on the visitor’s goal. Khalsa’s response was to increase their attacking intention by withdrawing Kieron Whittaker and bringing on Gaz Singh.

With fifteen minutes to go with Luca Purse off the pitch following a head injury, Khalsa had a golden opportunity to equalise as the ball was crossed in from the left giving McGrady a free header some five yards out but he put his effort well wide of the post. Five minutes later Khalsa made their final change removing the tiring Sanderson-Ellis for John Letford.

Kettering were defending deeper and deeper and trying to run the clock down and Josh Blunkell was booked for time wasting with seven minutes to go without any precautionary warning. Further time was expended a minute later when Gedeon Okito came on for Harry Reilly as Kettering made their final substitution.

Inside the final five minutes Gaz Singh had the chance to be Khalsa’s hero of the hour as he carved a path for himself through the middle of Kettering’s defence and unleashed a powerful shot that looked bound for the back of the net, before a diving Blunkell pulled off a world class save and at the last moment flicked the ball over the bar. The resulting corner came to nothing.

Mr Hinton declared that there would be a minimum of seven additional minutes played. Three of those minutes had been played when Bennett flicked the ball onto Lewthwaite who fired in a shot, but Martinez got a touch on it to push it over the bar for a corner. Kettering tried to keep the ball in the corner but quickly lost possession. With ninety-five minutes on the clock Khalsa won a corner as an attempt from Singh was deflected over the bar. With nothing to lose Sheridan Martinez trundled up into Kettering’s penalty area. McGrady sent the corner in and the big man got his head to McGrady’s set-piece appearing to send it wide but the officials declared that it had touched a Kettering player for another corner. McGrady over hit this corner going out on the full for a goal kick. It would be Khalsa’s last chance as the final whistle was blown shortly after.

 Full Time: Kettering Town 1  Sporting Khalsa  0

 Kettering appeared to be holding on at the end of the match but achieved the primary objective of the day, and that is to be in the hat for Monday’s draw. In the FA Cup it is all about results as there are no bonuses on offer for style. Khalsa were a dangerous opponent and very much a potential banana skin for the Poppies. Kettering never seemed to get out of first gear in the first half but were steady. As the second half wore on Kettering dropped deeper and deeper with a gulf appearing between the defensive line and the front two, meaning that many clearances from the defence were collected by a yellow shirt and Khalsa were straight back onto the attack. The defence held firm though and £3,375 prize money will be very welcome with a minimum return of £1,875 from the next round. Also most welcome was a fifth consecutive game avoiding defeat.

Kettering Town yellow cards: Stewart – foul, Blunkell – time wasting, Reilly – unsure.

Sporting Khalsa yellow cards:  Manager – Dissent 

Attendance: 683

Elwood’s Brewery Kettering Town Man-of-the-Match selected by IMK  – O’Shane Stewart  – Despite playing over 85 minutes with a caution, O’Shane produced a controlled performance showing good distribution skills. Joining the club just prior to the Hullbridge game he has quickly assimilated himself into the squad showing guile and skill in midfield and is the conduit through which most of Kettering’s forward probes flows through.