Kettering Town’s unbeaten record in all competitions came to an end as they were given a lesson by Redditch United’s Jermaine Hylton as the visitors won a Red Insure Cup thriller 5-4 at Latimer Park.
Hylton produced a near-perfect performance as a lone frontman after the visitors were reduced to 10 men early in the contest following James Mutton’s red card for deliberate handball.
Hylton terrorised the Poppies defence with his pace and skill and his superb hat-trick and two assists proved the difference as Redditch booked their place in the last 16.
Kettering only had themselves to blame as they failed to learn from their mistakes in trying to defend against the pacy frontman while also having plenty of chances of their own to score more than they did.
Poppies boss Dean Thomas was forced into a couple of changes with an ankle injury keeping Dan Crowie out while Elliot Sandy was rested because of a thigh problem.
It meant a start for Jonathan Bukasa and a return to the fold for Chris Logan, who replaced Sandy.
Kettering started brightly enough and Josh Moreman forced a save out of Sam Hornby before the game burst into life on 13 minutes.
Moreman got a bit of space in the area and his goal-bound shot was blocked by the hand of visiting defender Mutton. There were few complaints as referee Nigel Smith awarded a penalty but the Redditch players were not quite so unforgiving as he dismissed Mutton for deliberate handball.
It gave Dubi Ogbonna the chance to step up from 12 yards but a sixth missed penalty of the season followed as his kick struck the bar. Thankfully, Andy Gooding reacted the quickest to nod home the rebound.
Despite the numerical advantage, the Poppies’ lead lasted just three minutes. Redditch’s reshuffle saw Hylton left as the lone striker but he would prove to be a thorn in the home team’s side.
He raced through unchallenged before beating Denham Hinds with ease to bring the visitors level, although Jonathon Thorpe almost immediately saw a shot cleared off the line by Leavi Oshungbure.
Steve Kinniburgh almost connected with Jepson’s flick-on towards the far post before the Poppies regained the lead with a lovely move.
Gooding poked the ball forward, Moreman raced onto it and his perfect cross back into the area found the unmarked Jepson who made no mistake with a firm header.
But again, the Poppies weren’t able to hold on to the lead for long. And once again, they had no answer to the pace of Hylton as he burst into the area and beat Hinds with a low shot.
Kettering stormed back from that setback but Hornby came to Redditch’s rescue as he saved from Thorpe and then recovered to block Ogbonna’s follow-up.,
But they still allowed Hylton one more chance before the break as he wriggled clear in the area but Hinds got down well to deny him.
Thomas threw on Louis Hamilton in place of James Clifton at the break as Thorpe dropped in at right-back and it was Thorpe who went close soon after the restart as his left-foot curler went just wide of the post.
Jepson was denied his second of the game as his near-post shot was blocked by Ben Birch.
But the game burst back into life when the 10-man visitors took the lead. Again, Hylton was behind it all as he got away on the left. His crossfield pass found Omari Sterling-James and he beat Hinds with a crisp strike into the bottom corner.
But, as was the case in this game, the lead didn’t last long. Barely 60 seconds later and Moreman was given space in the area to score from close range.
And just three minutes after that, the Poppies were in front again. Moreman had more work to do on this occasion and he made no mistake with an excellent low effort that gave Hornby no chance.
Moreman might have had a hat-trick when his first-time strike was straight at Hornby but there was a treble at the other end as Hylton continued to cause chaos in the Poppies’ back four.
Kettering were attempting to play a bit of keep-ball in the midfield but lost it. The ball, as was Redditch’s main tactic after going a man down, was quickly swept forward to Hylton and he jinked his way past a couple of defenders before calmly stroking past Hinds.
Jepson was denied by an unbelievable clearance off the line from Joel Caines as Kettering looked to respond again while Bukasa sent a fierce strike across goal.
But it was Redditch who nicked it and it was no surprise that Hylton was again behind it all.
His trickery was too much for the Poppies defenders and, as they closed him down, he rolled the ball into the path of Ashley Sammons who coolly rolled the ball past the helpless Hinds.
Kettering huffed and puffed after that but they never really threatened the spirited 10 men again.
And so the unbeaten record has been ended, although the Poppies will point out that their unbeaten record in Division One Central stands at 13 and counting.
And, in truth, they are unlikely to come up against anyone as devastating as Hylton again this season.
Poppies: Hinds; Clifton (sub Hamilton, h-t), Hull, Kinniburgh, Bukasa; Thorpe, Jepson, Gooding, Logan (sub Muzvimbiri, 84 mins), Moreman; Ogbonna (sub Newman, 85 mins). Subs not used: Fuller.
Redditch: Hornby; Birch, Mutton, Flanagan, Caines; Sterling-James (sub Loveridge, 86 mins), Oshungbure, Sammons, Molyneux (sub Ahenkorah, 74 mins); Headley, Hylton. Subs not used: McDonald, Bridgewater, Cutlow.
Referee: Nigel Smith.
Goals: Gooding (15 mins, 1-0), Hylton (18 mins, 1-1), Jepson (27 mins, 2-1), Hylton (35 mins, 2-2), Sterling-James (56 mins, 2-3), Moreman (57 mins, 3-3), Moreman (60 mins, 4-3), Hylton (70 mins, 4-4), Sammons (77 mins, 4-5).
Bookings: Clifton, Headley (both fouls).
Sending-off: Mutton (deliberate handball).