Andy Gooding’s penalty ensured Kettering Town’s unbeaten run continued in the Calor League Division One Central with a 1-1 draw with Marlow at Latimer Park.
But it proved to be an afternoon of frustration for the Poppies as a whole host of chances went begging while they were continually denied by excellent visiting goalkeeper Erno Bostyan.
The big news ahead of the game saw midfielder Ben Ford rejoin the Poppies from St Neots Town following a seven-day approach to the Premier Division club.
But Ford had to settle for a place amongst the substitutes along with returning top scorer Dubi Ogbonna as Dean Thomas made just one change to the side that beat Royston Town 5-0 in their last outing as Alastair Worby was handed his debut in goal in place of Jamie McAlindon.
And the new stopper was quickly into the action as he was forced into his first save inside eight minutes as Kettering made a tentative start.
A free-kick from the right was sent to the far post and Jon Bennett met it with a sweetly-struck volley. It looked to be heading in but Worby got down well to palm it away.
That early warning seemed to spark the Poppies into life as they began to push the visitors back.
A lovely move involving James Clifton and Gooding ended with the latter producing a lovely flick that released Jonathon Thorpe. He ran on but his effort was well blocked by Marlow goalkeeper Bostyan.
Elliot Sandy shot straight at Bostyan soon after but the frontman was out of luck when his shot from close-range smashed off the crossbar after good work from Thorpe.
Sandy shot over again after bursting away from his marker and the woodwork denied the Poppies for a second time before the break when Henry Eze’s thumping header from a Gooding corner crashed off the bar to safety.
But while it was still goalless, there was always a hint of a threat from the visitors and Joshua Blackwood sent another warning shot in before half-time when he fired over at the second attempt.
However, there was still time for Thorpe to shoot wide after good work from Jepson when he probably should have done a lot better.
It didn’t take long for Kettering to create a clear chance in the second half and again it fell to Thorpe. He had a clear run on goal but Bostyan again saved the final effort.
And that inability to take their chances soon cost the Poppies. A ricochet sent the ball towards the Kettering goal and while Tommy Hull waited for Worby to come, Bennett raced past him and showed everyone how to finish with a bit of composure.
That left the home crowd stunned but the response was almost immediate as Clifton saw a fierce drive tipped over by the brilliant Bostyan, who also stopped a close-range header from Eze following the resulting corner.
It almost got a lot worse the Poppies when Worby came to their rescue with a brilliant stop Lewis Gabbidon’s fine header from a corner.
Thomas threw on Ford in a bid to change his team’s fortunes and they finally found a way through with 13 minutes to go.
Sandy went down under a challenge in a crowd of bodies in the area and a penalty was awarded. And there was no mistake from Gooding as he stepped up to finally beat Bostyan.
The Poppies and the crowd got the lift they needed from the equaliser and they were given a helping hand with six minutes to go when Blackwood was shown a straight red card for a studs-up challenge on Thorpe.
Thomas sent on Ogbonna as the hosts chased a winner but the closest they came was in stoppage-time when Clifton sent another shot just over.
It was one of those days for the Poppies and they will no doubt look back on those chances that went begging.
But there is little time to dwell as they now prepare for midweek dates at Chertsey Town (Tuesday) and Daventry Town (Thursday) before rounding off a busy week at Beaconsfield SYCOB next weekend.
Poppies: Worby; Clifton, Eze, Hull, Kinniburgh; Thorpe, Gooding, Jepson (sub Ogbonna, 86 mins), Logan (sub Ford, 68 mins), Moreman (sub Fuller, 82 mins); Sandy. Subs not used: Fuller, Hamilton, Osei-Siribour.
Marlow: Bostyan; Ovenden, Moran, Richards, Ashton; Gabbidon, Blackwood; I Davies, Whittingham, Bennett (sub Bovell, 84 mins); Bartley (sub Downes, 75 mins). Subs not used: Lingwood, Romeo, C Davies.
Referee: Scott Postin.
Goals: Bennett (51 mins, 0-1), Gooding pen (77 mins, 1-1).
Bookings: Ashton, Bovell (both fouls), I Davies (dissent).