In search for their first away victory of the season, United took the lead, slightly against the run of play at Nene Park on 7 minutes. Debutant Dan Spence slotted his pass inside the left edge of the box and Tom Collins raced in to put the ball past Kettering 'keeper Laurie Walker.
The goal brought United to life and moments later captain Mark Bentley's out-stretched boot just couldn't get a firm enough connection to Louie Soares' curled cross but Kettering were rocked.
On the quarter hour mark, Collins again made his pace tell as he raced away from defenders and was unceremoniously upended by Walker. Only a yellow card for the Kettering goalkeeper but Soares stepped up to send him the wrong way from the spot and put United 2-0 ahead with just 17 minutes on the clock.
Five minutes, later and it was three to United. Luke Williams the provider of a cross from the right edge of the box met with a text-book header from Pierre Joseph-Dubois, headed across the goal and down inside the far post.
Then followed a spell of 10 minutes or so with United almost completely in control, unleashing their passing game, both long and short and obviously buoyed by their three goal lead. As the half drew to an end however, Kettering probably fearing a half-time roasting from boss Mark Stimson seemed to step up their game. United were caught on their heels defensively and on 44 minutes Moses Ashikodi was allowed too much space as he cut across the top of the box, before firing home left-footed into the far top corner.
So United went into half-time 3-1 ahead and a quarter of the way through their season. Yet, the majority of the drama was still to come.
United came out the brightest. Two minutes after the restart, Joseph-Dubois was just off target with a header from Hector Mackie's floated cross and on 53 minutes Soares was denied by Walker's legs when one-on-one with the Poppies' goalkeeper. United's fourth goal however was just minutes away as Mackie picked up a loose ball and drilled home under Walker from 10 yards out.
Kettering however were given revised hope on 57 minutes when Adam Cunnington fired home from 9 yards out from what looked suspiciously like an offside position.
At 4-2 Kettering boss Stimson made a double substitution as he looked to change the game and introduced fans favourite striker Jean-Paul Marna - he will probably wish he hadn't. The change certainly seemed to inspire the Kettering side, with United forced to do some defending, with all hands to the pumps at times.
On 70 minutes that included a superb reflex save from Delroy Preddie reacting to a late deflection off Fraser Franks by pushing the ball out for a corner. Preddie was being kept busy, not by shots, but requiring a series of interventions via punches and organising his defence. To help United weather the storm Nas Bashir added Richard Pacquette (for Man of the Match Collins) to the attack and soon after Daniel Wishart (for Joseph-Dubois) and the fresh legs helped United absorb the pressure.
With 7 minutes of normal time remaining Soares grabbed his second goal of the game and United's fifth, some good play near the left corner flag by his team-mates saw the ball laid back for him to unleash a perfectly placed shot past Walker.
5-2 in the dying minutes and still more drama to come. In the 87th minute, Pacquette back defending fouled Ashikodi in the box and the Poppies had a penalty. Ashikodi immediately stuffed the ball up his shirt, as Marna sought to take the spot kick. A stand-off and heated words ensued leading to referee Whitton having to call over Kettering captain Sol Davis to decide on who should take the penalty. Ashikodi it was who stepped up but Preddie was alert, guessing the right way and leaping back up to tip away the follow-up, making it an amazing sixth penalty save from six for the United goalkeepers this season and leading to chants of "Are you Arnold in disguise" from the travelling fans.
From the resulting corner however, Kettering did grab a goal back. 90 minutes on the watch and 5-3 thanks to Marna touching home at the far post, which was to be his last footballing action of the game. As the sides re-assembled for the re-start the disagreement over penalty-taking continued between Ashikodi and Marna, resulting in fists flying and players from both sides having to separate the team-mates. Left with little option referee Whitton gave both their marching orders.
Despite a further 5 minutes of added time, other than Ryan Crockford's arrival from the subs bench the drama in this match was over. Sometimes you watch a game that people talk about for years to come - this was probably one of those.
Report by Tim Fuell.
United Man of the Match: Tom Collins.
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