Wilkin’s Bucks prove too much for wilting Poppies
The Bucks scythed down the Poppies without having to hit top gear, gaining a satisfying victory at the end of a week where their promotion credentials were questioned.
Some of those questions would have been asked within the group Wilkin has assembled. The culture instilled by the manager is such that the players are asked to take ownership of their performances, both good and bad. If Wilkin’s squad were stung by the events of the last week, they responded positively.
Given their respective league positions, a Bucks victory was probably expected, and possibly even demanded in some quarters. Failure to take maximum points from this game would been unconscionable for a team with upward aspirations.
If surrendering a 2-0 lead to draw with Royston Town on Tuesday taught Wilkin’s team anything, it was that complacency is a killer, and although they took a while to find their rhythm against the Northamptonshire side, once found they didn’t lose it.
Wilkin named an unchanged side from the team held by Royston a few days earlier. A heavy Hertfordshire pitch appeared to take a lot out of Wilkin’s troops, but the manager’s selection suggested he was content with how they’d managed their recovery since their midweek mud bath.
Reece Styche and Sam Whittall were fit enough to be named as substitutes, beefing up Wilkin’s options from the bench.
The Poppies were captained by one of Wilkin’s summer signings, George Forsyth. He has been allowed to join Kettering on loan for the rest of the season, and despite some fearing that Wilkin may have been inviting trouble by allowing him to play in this fixture, those fears proved unfounded, despite Forsyth enjoying a good game.
Kettering were humbled 3-1 at home by bottom side Long Eaton United last weekend, so they arrived with a clear intention to stay in the game for as long as possible. The Poppies sat deep and, with only Bruno Andrade up front, were happy to present the Bucks with two solid lines to try and break through.
The plan worked for the first half an hour or so. Wilkin felt his team were a little inaccurate with their passing, and the closest the Bucks came was an 18th-minute free-kick that the left-sided Nathan Fox switched flanks to take, curling the ball up and over the wall and just clearing the angle of post and crossbar to keeper Dan Jezeph’s left side.
Jezeph’s last visit to the New Buck’s Head saw him pick the ball out of his net seven times, the Bucks routing the now-defunct Nuneaton Borough 7-0 in August. He was the busier out of himself and the Bucks’ Brandon Hall. Jezeph mostly had to be alert to grab the ball to safety rather than make saves, with the Bucks inaccurate with their final ball.
Ricardo Dinanga, who appears to have been given a huge shot of confidence by his winning goal against Stourbridge, had a shot blocked when he controlled at the second attempt around the penalty spot, and Montel Gibson sent a bending low shot just wide of goalkeeper Dan Jezeph’s far post from 18 yards, but he was soon to break the deadlock.
Much like the Bucks themselves, Gibson’s goal return this season is less than the sum of his abilities, but in the 30th minute, it was a combination of determination and a gambler’s instinct that put him in the right place to meet Dinanga’s deflected cross from the left. Jezeph held back, perhaps in the belief that his defender would shepherd the ball over the goal line; however, Gibson got in front of him and guided a neat header over Jezeph and across the goal from a tight angle, the ball bouncing into the far corner.
Some neat, incisive passing and a dart towards goal by Jordan Piggott followed and when he burst into the 18-yard box, he was sent crashing by Jezeph and the referee, Jason Porter, pointed to the spot.
Kyle Storer, signed by Wilkin for his experience and cool head, sent the keeper the wrong way to double the lead.
In the second half, Kettering staged a small rally but their need to gamble then cost them dearly in the 69th minute. Playing a higher line in defence, they didn’t deal with a Bucks’ clearance to the centre circle and Marcus Dinanga escaped.
The young Irish forward of African parentage was probably most culpable for not putting Tuesday’s game to bed, not taking a chance at 2-0, but this time he was to make no mistake. Jezeph left his line, Dinanga took the ball around him to Jezeph’s left and then slid the ball home past a covering defender.
That goal allowed Wilkin to start to make changes. Storer, who had taken a knock, was replaced by Sam Whittall, and Piggot made way for young tyro Ty Webster. The attacking midfielder’s absence from the Bucks’ side has been lamented by some, but feeling that the game was won, Wilkin gave Webster his opportunity and he showed some bright touches.
Whittall went close to a first Bucks goal when he directed a header back across Jezeph and off the crossbar, but it was to be Gibson who ended the scoring, having started it. The forward could barely miss when, in the 85th minute, he was on the end of a ball into the six-yard box from the right and beat Jezeph with a header, the 11th goal conceded at the New Bucks Head this season by the hapless keeper.
Injury time was brief, and at the final whistle, the Bucks enjoyed a return to winning form which, although expected, was welcome nonetheless. Bigger tests lie ahead over the final 13 games, but you can only beat what’s in front of you.
Job done, on to the next…
AFC Telford United: Hall, Myles, Fox, Piggott (Webster 77), Pendley, Kerr, Walker, Storer (Whittall 72), Dinanga, Gibson, Brown (Hodgkiss 85). Subs: Moore, Styche.
Kettering Town: Jezeph, Reilly, Toseland, Rowe-Turner, Miller (Langmead 80), Forsyth, Sharpe, Degruchy (Okito 80), Jarvis, Scott, Andrade. Subs: Dawson, Johnson, White.
Referee: Jason Porter.
Assistants: Stuart Hale, Ryan Grandison.Attendance: 1,054