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Northampton National league derby among waterlogged postponement chaos

calendario 29.12.2020
by: Zach
  • England
  • Uhlsport Hellenic League [5-6]
  • Vanarama National
  • Southern
  • Step 3-4
  • Step 5-6
  • Southern - Premier
  • Uhlsport Hellenic League [5-6] - Premier Division
Northampton National league derby among waterlogged postponement chaos

For football fans up and down the country, boxing day matches are a staple of the holiday season. Sadly for fans of National League North, the Northampton derby fell victim to the boxing day storm sweeping the country, storm Bella. The match, between Kettering Town and Brackley Town, was called off after Kettering’s Latimer Road received the unwelcome Christmas present of a failed pitch inspection on Christmas day.

It’s hard to blame the Kettering Town Poppies, as, on top of a fearsome year, Bella has been a fearsome storm. The met office recorded wind speeds over 100 mph in parts of the country and issued yellow warnings about ice and snow in parts of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the North West of England. Latimer Road fell victim to storm Bella after days of torrential rain, despite upgrades to the ground and premises at the start of the season. Non-league football, more prone to waterlogged pitches than other tiers of the sport, wasn’t alone in weather disruptions this festive period. 

Storm Bella also halted the Welsh Grand National horseracing competition, after Chepstow was hit by 127mm of rain between Saturday and Sunday. 

In the West of England, flooding forced Briscombe and Thrupp AFC to move their FA Vase clash with Bridgewater to Cirencester’s nearby astroturf ground, the Corinthian Stadium. Briscombe and Thrupp’s whole league, the Hellenic Premier, ranks in step 5 of the non-league pyramid. The whole competition ground to a halt in the face of coronavirus restriction. Despite this obstacle, and everything storm Bella has thrown at the club and the region, Briscombe and Thrupp’s FA Vase run continues. Even Cirencester’s Corinthian Stadium is somewhat lucky to escape flooding, as other parts of the town faced severe waterlogging when the river Churn broke its banks.

Kettering and Brackley’s parallel National League, the National League South, also saw waterlogging due to the nation-wide storm. Concord Rangers, based in Canvey Island, Essex, were due to host fellow Essex side Billericay Town on December 27. A club born beside the water, Concord Rangers are named after Concord beach on Canvey Island, and their ground is even called Thames Road. Like Kettering’s Latimer Road, Thames Road saw major upgrades to its infrastructure at the start of the season, but particularly a new pitch surface. Despite this refurbishment, Concord Rangers’s pitch became so waterlogged that their Essex derby was rearranged for the new year.

As mentioned, the whole non-league football hierarchy faced a spate of existential crises throughout 2020. After multiple coronavirus shutdowns and league resumption uncertainty, more postponements are the last thing the sport needs. Already, Kettering and Brackley’s National League North feels the effects of 2020’s chaos, facing huge discrepancies in games played. 

Coming into gameweek 14, Kettering Town languish at 19th in the league. However, the club have only managed to play 11 games this season, fewer than 20th-placed Alfreton’s 14 games played, and bottom-placed stragglers Blyth Spartans on 13 games. Unlike the Spartans’ -20 goal difference and worrying winless streak, Kettering have a positive goal difference and are unbeaten in four games. 

The waterlogged boxing-day derby strikes an extra blow for the Poppies as it staggers their momentum, particularly against a Brackley town side who lost their last game to Kidderminster Harriers. Kettering recently beat the high-flying 2nd-place Harriers two-nil, so would have fancied their chances against their county rivals Brackley.

All these cancellations, postponements and waterloggings mean that, for many non-league fans, football matches are few and far between. However, it goes to show how precious and vulnerable grassroots sport is, and how much it deserves our support.

Another silver lining to storm Bella’s clouds is that they give struggling non-league staff a much-needed break. In light of the latest postponement, Kettering Town tweeted that “you therefore have our blessing to continue eating, drinking and being as merry as possible, and please continue to enjoy a very merry Christmas.” 

We at echo these sentiments and wish non-pro football staff and fans alike a happy, safe, prosperous and non-2020-like new year. 


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