Sixteen-nil!: 1901-02 to 1914-15

Three of Kettering's top Cup goalscorers

Although they would draw a blank against top-flight Bury in January 1909, the Poppies (a nickname adopted in 1907) front line that day included three of the most prolific Cup-tie strikers ever to don the red shirt. From left to right: Ernest Panter is the club’s leading scorer in the Cup, with 18 goals to his name. He joined Kettering from Desborough in 1907, and in his first three seasons at Rockingham Road averaged just shy of a-goal-a-game in all competitions. One of two players to net five times in the 16-0 hammering of Higham Ferrers YMCI in 1909, Panter was associated with Kettering until 1914. Formerly of the reserves, Billy York made his first-team debut in 1906, and went on to score 11 Cup goals in two spells with the club. Equally at home in either the forward or half-back line, York, who also captained the team, was snapped up by Crystal Palace in 1912. He returned to the Poppies in 1919 and soon after became the club’s first recognised team manager. A native of Rothwell, Harold Parker signed for Kettering in 1902 and remained with the club until football ceased due to the First World War. Parker, who also played in the game against top-flight Derby County at the Baseball Ground in 1906, sits second in the Poppies’ all-time Cup goalscoring chart, having netted 17 times, including a four-goal haul in the 9-0 drubbing of Peterborough GN Loco in 1913.

Football League opponents during the period: Burton United, Derby County, Bury.

Classic Cup-ties: Derby County v Kettering, 1905-06

Having dropped from the heights of the Southern League into more local surroundings, it had become more difficult for the club to progress to the latter stages of the Cup. Even so, the 1905-06 season found Kettering, having accounted for teams from Luton, Hitchin, Biggleswade and Ilkeston, once again competing in the first round proper.

Since their last appearance at this stage, the number of clubs involved had doubled to 64 (making it the equivalent of today’s third round). It was therefore even more remarkable that Kettering - of the Northants League - came out of the hat alongside First Division Derby County, with the tie to be played at the Baseball Ground on Saturday, 13 January 1906. In addition to their top-flight status, the Rams had contested (but lost) three of the past eight Cup finals. The Ketts could scarcely have been handed a tougher task!

On the day of the match, based on their standing in the Football League, Derby could consider themselves the eighth best team in the land, boasting among their number Steve Bloomer, a truly prolific goalscorer for club and country who averaged over a-goal-a-game in England colours. The full Derby team comprised: Smith, Jimmy Methven, Charlie Morris, Benny Warren, Ben Hall, Alf Wood, J.W. Davis, Steve Bloomer, T. Fletcher, George Richards and S. Lamb.

Kettering, minus the injured Fred Hanger, were otherwise able to field their strongest side. Horace Styles, Arthur Bosworth, Fred Farren, Jim Wood, Charlie Farren, Harry Hanger, Jimmy Garfield, Harold Parker, Syd King, Joe Dix and Johnny Garton were the men who embarked on mission impossible.

On a poor pitch, Derby, having won the toss, took advantage of the stiff breeze. Kettering, as if to prove they were not there simply to make up the numbers, almost gave their hosts an early shock when Dix went close. At the other end, the ever-present threat of Bloomer was repeatedly thwarted by a last-ditch tackle or Kettering body in his line of sight. With no hope of out-footballing their lofty opponents, the visitors rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in.

For all the Ketts’ endeavour, the Rams took the lead after 40 minutes through Davis. Two minutes later, the hosts won a corner, and following a lively scrimmage in the goalmouth Hall doubled Derby’s lead with a shot from point blank range. Having overall enjoyed a positive first half, the Ketts now found themselves with a mountain to climb.

Fortified by those two strikes, Derby set about the second half in a far more dominant mood. The simplest chance of the afternoon fell to the best player on the pitch when the hosts were awarded a penalty. Up stepped Bloomer, only for Horace Styles to save his kick. It sounds well that the greatest shootist England has ever had could not score against a Northants League team, chortled the Friar, the nom de plume adopted by the Evening Telegraph’s Kettering correspondent for many decades. But it sounds a bit better when it is added that he had the privilege of shooting from the penalty mark and allowed to take his time. Yes, the great and only Stephen failed at a penalty!

Moving into the final 15 minutes, the hosts were granted another opportunity from the spot when the referee, not unreasonably, penalised Hanger for fisting away a goal-bound effort. This time it was Warren’s turn to take the kick and he made no mistake in putting the Rams three up. The game’s final goal was Derby’s fourth, Fletcher scoring with the best shot of the match.

The Reds were out of the Cup but could return home with heads held high. In the words of the Friar:

That oft-repeated phrase defeated but not disgraced, may well be applied to Kettering in the cup-tie at Derby on Saturday. No Kettering partisan expected them to win, but the 300 odd supporters who were present were more than satisfied with the performance of the boys in red. The directors of the Derby club congratulated the Ketts on their play, and it was thoroughly deserved. The spectators were impartial and frequently applauded the good work of the visitors. This was particularly noticeable in the first half-hour when Kettering were continually attacking. Garton was making rings round Benny Warren, which not only caused Bloomer to lose his temper a little, but a spectator to remark, That’s right laddie, show ’em how to play.

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