Before the formation of the Alliance Premier Football League in 1979 - which later became the Conference, the best non-league football divisions in England were the geographically determined Northern Premier League and Southern League. People were curious as to which of the two leagues had the best side, so a challenge match was arranged after the end of each season to pit the champions of the Northern Premier League against the champions of the Southern League. It was formally called the Inter League Challenge Cup, but soon became better known as the "Champion of Champions Trophy" and was played for over two legs.
At the end of the 1972/3 season the legs were played just days after the sides had been crowned as champions of their respective leagues. Boston United had won the Northern Premier League title nine points clear of Scarborough and ten points ahead of Wigan Athletic and Altrincham. Big spending Kettering Town had clinched the Southern League Premier Division title with a 2-0 win over Barnet on April 24th but eventually only finished one point clear of runners-up Yeovil Town. Kettering had ambitions of joining the Football League. They were led by player-manager Ron Atkinson who had joined the Poppies in December 1971 after a long and successful playing career with Oxford United. After taking Kettering to the Division One North title in his first season, Atkinson signed a player for a then record Southern League fee of £8,000 when he brought in Roy Clayton from his old club Oxford. He soon became the club's top scorer with 14 goals in 28 appearances prior to the Boston game. Earlier in the year Kettering's form had dipped so more money had been spent with £2,000 being used to bring in striker George Cleary from fellow Southern League rivals Bedford Town. Cleary had found the net 7 times in 8 games prior to this match.
In the first leg at York Street on the Monday night Boston put in what The Standard called their "Finest display of the season". Indeed reporter George Wheatman described Boston's performance that night as "the best York Street performance I have seen from a United team in the eight seasons I have been covering their matches."
Boston began playing good entertaining football right from the kick-off. They suffered an early set back when a pass in midfield by John Moyes was intercepted allowing Kettering to break forward quickly through O'Kane and Webster before finding CLAYTON who gave Malcolm White no chance. Four minutes later Boston equalised. A cross by Phil Waller was knocked down by Jim Conde to Alan TEWLEY whose fierce shot went into the net off a Kettering defender. In the 22nd minute Boston won a penalty when a Howard Wilkinson shot was deflected over by the hand of full back Roger Ashby. Cliff WRIGHT scored from the spot. The good football continued into the second half. Boston's third goal came when another cross was knocked down by Conde for TEWLEY to slam home. In the 89th minute Boston ended any thoughts of a Kettering revival when player-coach Howard WILKINSON scored after good work by Waller and Tewley.
In the second leg three days later Boston rubbed their superiority in with a professional 2-1 win at Rockingham Road. Kettering had taken the lead with a penalty by Ashby after Bate had brought down Webster. Ron Atkinson having recovered from his knee injury now came on for Myton, but Boston soon equalised when Waller deceived Dighton with tantalising shot cum-cross. Six minutes from the end Boston got their own spot kick when O'Kane fouled Wright, who got up to convert the penalty. A hail storm at the end meant the trophy presentation had to take place in the dressing rooms as conditions were so bad on the pitch.
Boston United: Malcolm White, John Lakin, Phil Waller, John Moyes, Dick Bate, Billy Howells, Cliff Wright, Alan Tewley, John Froggatt, Jim Conde, Howard Wilkinson. Sub: John Croy.
Kettering Town: Dick Dighton, Roger Ashby, Mick Goodall, Vincent O'Kane, Trevor Peck, Joe Kiernan, Andy Jones, George Cleary, Ray Webster, Brian Myton (John Hawksby), Roy Clayton.
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