On Saturday, Celtic will travel down the M1 into deepest Northamptonshire to Rockingham Road, the home of Kettering Town. Kick off has been scheduled for 1pm to allow fans to take in the England v Wales match taking place at Old Trafford on the same day. This match will have segregation in force.
The Poppies currently lie in 6th place, one point off the play-off places and must be fancying their chances against 21st placed Celtic. After all in Darren Lynch they have one of the top three strikers in the league, and he?s found the net 9 times this campaign. Hot on his heels is Ollie Burgess who?s found the net 7 times. Conceding just 14 goals so far this season, they have one of the top five defences in the league as well, which goes some way to explaining their current high placing in the table.
Kettering are most dangerous around the half time interval scoring 11 of their 16 goals within ten minutes of either side, Lynch and Burgess are obviously the major scorers in this period.
Interestingly, Kettering have scored more penalties than any other team in this league, with 3.
At home, they score an average of a goal per game, and concede 1.2. They have failed to score only three times, and have kept 3 clean sheets.
If that looks gloomy then Kettering?s home form is a ray of sunshine. Away from home, Kettering have not lost since the opening away game of the season away at Stafford Rangers, along the way they have beaten Southport, Worksop, Bradford and Ashton, with Southport being their last league game. At home it is a different story. They last played in the league at home against Alfreton, and held the league leaders to a 1-1 draw. Prior to that, they lost three straight home games against Droylsden, Moor Green and Gainsborough.
Attendances for home games at Rockingham Road are dropping as fast as the points, from the opening Saturday of 1158, down to the Alfreton draw with a mere 774. 774 is still an impressive number, though!
In the FA Cup, they were drawn against Stafford, and got a creditable draw away from home to bring a replay back to Rockingham Road, but once again their home form let them down, and Stafford ran out 1-0 winners.
Celtic too got a creditable draw away from home at Barrow in the FA Cup, but unlike Saturday?s hosts, won the replay with that extra time strike from Ben Smith. Celtic?s league form has not been tested under the regime of Peter Wragg, and this will be his first foray into Conference North. There?s a lot to repair, with Celtic having not won away from home this season in the league. Indeed, our only league win has been at home to Vauxhall.
The prediction algorithm actually has Celtic down for a draw though. It?s more optimistic than I am then!
With no injury or suspension worries coming into the game, Kettering are likely to line up as:
1. Steve Corry
2. Martin Matthews
3. Rob Gould
4. Scott McCafferty
5. Liam Folds
6. Brett Solkhon
7. Jamie Kearns
8. Ollie Burgess
9. Drew Roberts
10. Chris Difante
11. Darren Lynch
Celtic are still without the services of Gregg Pearce and Dean Calcutt, both of whom are still a few weeks away. Danny Caldecott is now fit enough to play, but is lacking in match fitness, and probably will not start but may get onto the bench. Chris Denham is unlikely to play after hobbling off against Barrow as he needs further recovery time. Sykes played better coming out of defence in the first half to terrorise Barrow in the second half, and this seems like a logical move again for Saturday.
Celtic may line up as follows:
1. Craig Dootson
2. Dave German
3. Tony Whealing
4. Paul Sykes
5. Barrie Keeling
6. Nathan Wharton
7. Scott Bonsall
8. Kev Parr
9. Andy Hayward
10. Phil Eastwood
11. Steve Smith
Danny Caldecott, Ben Smith, Terry Bowker, Damien Hindle and David Moores will probably be on the bench. Options would be to substitute Bonsall for either Bowker or Smith and move Sykes into midfield, and bring Caldecott on for a run out, and should Eastwood tire, Hindle or Moores could replace him.
Given the recent confidence boost for Celtic, and the poor home form of Kettering, we stand a good chance of getting something from this game ? even a win, but it will be exceptionally tough.