VERDICT - Patient Poppies finally break Kidsgrove's hearts

Aaron O'Connor heads home Kettering Town's second goal, which wrapped up their 2-0 victory over Kidsgrove Athletic at Latimer Park. Pictures by Peter Short
Aaron O'Connor heads home Kettering Town's second goal, which wrapped up their 2-0 victory over Kidsgrove Athletic at Latimer Park. Pictures by Peter Short

It took a while but Kettering Town finally broke Kidsgrove Athletic’s resistance to book a place in Monday’s Emirates FA Cup third qualifying round draw.

This proved to be the ultimate game of patience for the Poppies.

Michael Richens and Gary Stohrer applaud the Kettering fans at the final whistle

Michael Richens and Gary Stohrer applaud the Kettering fans at the final whistle

Anyone who was expecting Marcus Law’s in-form team to rampage through their lower-ranked opponents were sorely mistaken at a damp Latimer Park.

To their credit, Kidsgrove did an excellent job. They were resolute at the back, had their moments on the counter-attack and really made the Poppies think before a real moment of quality put the hosts in front with just 10 minutes remaining.

Law included Ben Toseland and Gary Stohrer from the start with Ben Milnes and Liam Bateman only fit enough for the bench but Milnes had to be deployed midway through the second half as the frustration began to build.

Things would have been so much different if Michael Richens’ header from a corner inside the first minute had found the back of the net instead of being cleared off the line.

But that actually set the tone for the day. The Poppies huffed and puffed in the opening period but never really looked like blowing the Kidsgrove house down as David Parton saved from Aaron O’Connor while Gary Mulligan had a shot deflected narrowly over the bar.

And Kidsgrove visibly grew in confidence with Paul White making a good low save to deny Rhys Thompson before Tim Sanders shot over.

In general, the second half was one-way traffic with Parton playing a significant role as he produced good saves to deny O’Connor and Rene Howe as Kettering looked to settle the nerves with an early breakthrough.

And even when O’Connor did beat the goalkeeper, he was denied by a magnificent last-ditch clearance off the line from Thompson.

At that stage. Kettering could have been forgiven for thinking it wasn’t going to happen.

But then, the breakthrough. Milnes’ corner was only half-cleared and Lindon Meikle took one touch before unleashing a fierce strike, which found its way in via the underside of the crossbar.

The relief was clear but Kidsgrove almost hit straight back with Tom France firing narrowly over as the Poppies struggled to clear their lines.

But the game was up for the plucky visitors five minutes from the end when Howe’s inch-perfect cross was gobbled up by O’Connor who nodded home from a couple of yards.

The job was eventually done and while Kidsgrove deserve the credit for holding out for as long as they did, the Poppies must take some as well for continually knocking on the door before finally breaking it down.

They are in the hat on Monday, another step closer to the first round proper.

Eight wins out of nine so far this season and perfect at Latimer Park. A very happy camp indeed...

Poppies: White; Berry, Mulligan, Solkhon, Toseland; Richens, Hoenes (sub Stevens, 71 mins), Meikle, Stohrer (sub Milnes, 65 mins); Howe (sub Baker, 86 mins), O’Connor. Subs not used: Bateman, Bradshaw, Sundire.

Kidsgrove: Parton; Davidson, Ashman, Austin, Thompson; Diskin (sub Rhodes, 79 mins), Skelton; France (sub Haughton, 84 mins), Sanders (sub Pickerill, 65 mins), Cocks; Malbon. Subs not used: Bath, Fraser.

Referee: Scott Postin.

Goals: Meikle (80 mins, 1-0), O’Connor (85 mins, 2-0).

Bookings: Richens, Berry, Skelton (all fouls).

Attendance: 543.