by Peter Scherer
It’s back on the road again on Saturday as Mickleover continue to build their lead at the top of the table, against a struggling Kettering Town.
It’s not been the easiest of starts for the Poppies since their relegation from the National League North, having won only one league game, at Bromsgrove 2-1. They are currently 20th in the table.
They weren’t in league action last week though, as they still in the FA Cup, but went down 0-5 at home to Chesterfield.
Manager Andy Leese has been in charge since June, he previously managed Enfield Town for six years and 10 at Chesham United.
He took Enfield to the Isthmian League South Premier play-off semi-final in 2021-22 and ninth in the league last season and has also managed Boreham Wood, Cheshunt, Potters Bar and Somersett Ambury.
Goalkeeper Billy Johnson started out at Norwich City and was loaned out to Lowestoft and Braintree, before joining Stevenage on his release. As well as a number of return trips to Braintree, he has played for Gloucester City and Leiston and came to the Poppies in June.
Josh Blunkett has also been playing in goal, a loanee from Braintree. He has played for Sudbury and Wycombe too.
Right back Owen Cochrane is on loan from Stevenage. He has also had spell on loan last season at Potters Bar.
Ben Toseland is a left back that started out at Northampton Town. He first joined Kettering in 2017 following his release, but moved onto Peterborough Sports after two years. He joined the Poppies in July 2022 after 2 ½ years with St.Ives.
Centre back Kelvin Langmead is one of their most experienced players, having totalled over 500 appearances in the Championship, Leagues One and Two.
He started at Preston North End, who loaned him out to Tamworth, Carlisle and Kidderminster, before he signed for Shrewsbury on his release.
Six years later he moved to Peterborough Utd, before moving on to Northampton, Ebbsfleet, Kidderminster, Nuneaton, Harrogate and Brackley. He came to Kettering in July after three years at Banbury.
Striker Leon Clarke matches Langmead for experience, having played in all four divisions of the football, with again over 500 appearances and 141 goals.
After starting out at Wolves, he spent time at Kidderminster, QPR and Plymouth, before finally leaving Molineux in 2006 to join Sheffield Wednesday.
Southend, QPR again and Preston followed, before a permanent move to Swindon. He was then loaned to Chesterfield before joining Charlton, with loans at Crawley and Scunthorpe following, before joining Coventry.
He then went back to Wolves again in 2014, but soon moved on again with a loan at Wigan, Bury, Sheffield Utd, Bristol Rovers, Rushall and Hartlepool, from where he started this season, until arriving at Kettering a couple of weeks ago.
Gary Stohrer is one of the long serving players, having signed in 2017 from Frickley. The right back has now started his sixth season with the club and previously played for Shaw Lane.
Striker Tyrone Lewthwaite was a junior at Watford and Rotherham, before joining Hampton & Richmond on his release. He played for Chesham, Beaconsfield and Aylesbury Utd, before a three month spell at Bedford preceded his move to Kettering in October 2022.
Left back Rhys Sharpe is a former Northern Ireland Under 21 International, who started out with Derby County. He was loaned to Shrewsbury Town, before going to Notts County on his release. His next stop was Swindon Town, before moving to Matlock, Tamworth and Nuneaton, spending a month at Stratford before coming to Kettering in November 2020.
Midfielder Dan Jarvis was a Stoke City Junior, who went to Wrexham after his release. His next stop was Gateshead, who also loaned him to Hereford, before becoming a Poppy pre-season.
Teenager Huw Dawson is another pre-season signing, a midfielder, signed from St.Albans.
Harry Reilly is a centre back who made his name in the US with Rio Red Storm and Mississippi, before joining Stratford in 2020. He then went to Daventry and spent a year at Banbury, before joining Kettering for the start of last season.
Striker Sam Bennett played his junior football at Cambridge Utd. After a loan spell at Mildenhall, he joined Yaxley following his release, before a short spell at Soham Rangers. He was then at Wisbech for nine months before joining our hosts at the start of last season.
Centre back Lewis White came from Corby Town at the start of last season, having previously been at Shepshed Dynamo.
Winger Kai O’Keeffe arrived at the start of this season. He is a former Northampton Town Junior and was on loan at Daventry at the end of last season.
James Carvell is a midfielder and another former Derby County Junior. He then moved to Barnsley, but had sixth months in the US at Oregon State before returning to Oakwell. He then moved on to Basford, Ilkeston and Barwell, arriving at Kettering pre-season after sixth months at Ossett Utd.
O’Shane Stewart is a central midfield, a pre-season signing from Kingstonian. He was a junior at Southend United, after they spotted him playing for Wandsworth. He then joined Canvey Island after a loan spell at Welling United,
Central midfielder Tom Scott started at Northampton Town before moving to Sunderland. He was on loan for a few months at Kettering at the end of last season and started this term at Banbury, before returning permanently to the Poppies squad.
Josiah Bridgeman is a winger signed from Burgess Hill. He also played for Haringey Borough and Boreham Wood.
Full back Gedeon Okito was captain of the MK Dons Under 18’s, before joining Dunstable Town. He then moved to Banbury before returning to Dunstable and has also played for Hadley and Stratford.
Defender Luca Purse was another pre-season signing. A Rushden & Diamonds Junior, he has played for Biggleswade , Cogenhoe and Barton Rovers too.
Will Mellors-Blair played some of his youth football at Manchester Utd. A striker, he spent time with Detroit City in the US, as well as playing for Walsall, Kings Lynn, Solihull Moors, Stamford and Loughborough Dynamo.
Luca Miller is a young striker from Kettering’s own youth scheme, who has also played at Desborough, and both goalkeeper Niall Shackleton and striker Freddie Moriarty have also been on the bench this season, Moriarty is a former Watford Junior.
Kick off at Latimer Park is 3pm.