Saturday sees the two form teams play each other when Celtic travel to Kettering. There?s no doubt that Kettering will be favourites for this match, sitting on top of the Conference North, five places ahead of Celtic, with fourteen points more on fifty-six having played the same number of games. For those unable to attend, there will be a live match event viewer for this game.
Kettering deserve to be top of the league, they have the second best attack with fifty-two goals (just behind Hyde?s fifty-five), and the best defence, having conceded just seventeen goals this season. Apart from a dip in form in October, Kettering have been top of the league for most of the season. The dip in form started with the only defeat Kettering have suffered all season, at home to Hyde. They have not lost away from home this season.
Celtic are currently on a seven game roll, equalling Kettering?s winning streak at the start of the season that saw them win their opening seven games, including a 6-0 thrashing of Vauxhall Motors in their second home game, a record that still stands as the best home result of the season. Kettering are currently on a six game winning streak, and put six past Solihull Moors to open the New Year with an emphatic win. Something has got to give in this match, and with Kettering?s record, the safe money will be going on them, and the automated prediction algorithm does not disagree, with a 2-1 score-line predicted for the home side.
We met Kettering in our first game of the season, and Kettering won that 1-0 through Brett Solkhon, though it was a virtually new team that turned out against Kettering, and it was a baptism by fire for them. It?s been two years since Celtic last beat Kettering, with a 2-0 home win in March 2006. It?s been even longer since we beat them at the A-Line Arena, as we last got any kind of result there back in 1996 when we beat them 6-1. Our last visit to Kettering saw Celtic go out of the Trophy almost a year ago to the day after they had held us to a replay thanks to an own goal by debutant defender Luke Foster at Bower Fold. Our last league encounter there was saw us lose 2-1.
With Kettering already having taken six points off Hucknall, Tamworth, Leigh and Solihull they will be looking to add Celtic to that haul.
This season, Kettering have scored an average of 2.8 goals per game at home (2.3 overall), and conceded 0.8 goals per game at home (0.7 overall). Their first goal comes on average in the thirty-first minute, whilst their average time for the first concession is sixty-four minutes. They have failed to score in just one home game and once away, whilst they have kept nine clean sheets (five of which were at home). Of their fifty-five goals, four were own goals (a current league record), and twenty-three were in the first half, though their most dangerous period is the quarter hour after the hour mark, where they have scored fourteen. Kettering have conceded just four goals in the first half.
Kettering?s leading scorer is David Bridges who has nine goals this season, with Jean-Paul Marna coming up fast on seven. The in-form striker for them at the moment though is York City loanee Chris Beardsley, who has four goals in three games. With fourteen different players finding the net, and with seven on four or more, goals come from all over the pitch for Kettering.
Kettering will be without John Dempster for the match, who is suspended for the match, and Mark Rawle is injured. In their last match, the 2-0 away win over Hucknall, Kettering lined up as:
1. Lee Harper
2. Nicky Eaden
3. Tommy Jaszczun
4. John Dempster
5. Tom Kemp
6. Brett Solkhon
7. Craig Westcarr
8. Gary Mills
9. Chris Beardsley
10. David Bridges
11. Jean-Paul Marna
Celtic will be without Barrie Keeling who has a broken arm, but otherwise the squad is fully fit and suspension free. In our last match, the 3-2 home win over Harrogate, Celtic lined up as:
1. Paddy Gamble
2. Ashley Woolliscroft
3. Andy Smart
4. Steve Payne
5. Simon Garner
6. Paul Sykes
7. Lee Ellington
8. Terry Barwick
9. Chris Hall
10. Matty Barlow
11. Alex Meechan
Celtic?s momentum is good at the moment, and the players have a great deal of self belief, and this will be important in the match on Saturday. Although over the last seven games, Celtic are the top form team, over the course of the season, Kettering have been consistently in-form, taking fifty-six points from an available sixty-nine, whereas Celtic have taken forty-two from the same period. Form is normally taken over the last six, and between the two, there is no difference, with both teams having a 100% record. As a consolation, Celtic have won their last four away games, whilst Kettering have only won their last three home games, with a draw at home to Alfreton spoiling the party four games ago. As a further consolation, we went to Hyde when they were top of the league, and we got a surprise result.
If the Harrogate game was an indication of how far we?ve come this season, the Kettering game will be an indication of how far we can go. Now the team is gelling nicely, Celtic can go to Kettering and gain revenge for the opening day defeat, but this will be by far and away our toughest game of the season against one of, if not the, best teams in the league.