I was quite lucky that I managed to get to a game today after the heavy snow that had battered my particular part of the country over the previous 24 hours. Despite it being bitterly cold there were no issues with the pitch, or indeed the motorway network, as I made my way south to Northamptonshire.
Kettering Town were hosting Stratford Town at Latimer Park, in the town of Burton Latimer. If you didn't know, Burton Latimer is the home of Weetabix, with the famous breakfast cereal having been produced there since 1932. You certainly got the smell of the wheat wafting over the football ground!
It has been a difficult last few years for Kettering Town. In 2011 they left their home of 114 years, Rockingham Road (which was demolished earlier this year) and moved to Nene Park, the former home of Rushden and Diamonds. The upkeep of the ground nearly cost the club their mere existence. The club did go into administration and dropped two divisions from the Conference National, of which they were founding members in 1979, into the Southern League.
In 2012, in mid-season, the club moved from Nene Park to Steel Park, the home of Corby Town before agreeing a groundshare with Burton Park Wanderers at Latimer Park. This has been 'home' since 2013, the year in which Kettering dropped another level to the Southern League Central Division, though the club were promoted back to the Southern Premier in 2015 as Champions.
Latimer Park has been home to Burton Park Wanderers since 1973. Last year Kettering Town agreed a 25 year lease to remain at the ground but are actively seeking a site within the town that would be suitable for a new stadium. Kettering had to bring the ground up to Southern League standards, with the addition of new stands to the ground.
Despite it being a groundshare, when I arrived at Latimer Park I got the feeling, rightly or wrongly, that Kettering were the more senior partners. For example, the signage around the ground, the posters in the clubhouse and even the stands themselves all gave me the impression that this was definitely Kettering's ground.
The Poppies made the breakthrough after just 4 minutes thanks to a somewhat controversial goal from Matthew Stevens. A corner from the right was curled into the box and there was a coming together between Stratford's 'keeper Louis Connor and Stevens. The ball and Connor ended up in the back of the net. In this day and age you would expect a referee to disallow such an effort but the goal stood and Kettering were on their way.
As Stratford failed to trouble the Kettering back line, apart from the odd free-kick, Kettering applied plenty of pressure but couldn't find that second goal. They thought they did in first half stoppage time when Rene Howe headed home but the referee disallowed it for (what was presumed to be a push) by the striker. Maybe he was was righting the wrong of the first goal?
The second half continued in a similar vein and as the game went on there was a feeling Stratford will get a big chance to level things. It never came. After Kettering's Tom Marshall had a goal disallowed for offside, the Poppies finally killed off the visitors stubborn resistance when Howe scored a fine individual goal with a couple of minutes remaining.