VERDICT – Poppies must do it the hard way after honours end even

Liam Canavan struck Kettering Town's equaliser against Bamber Bridge
Liam Canavan struck Kettering Town's equaliser against Bamber Bridge

Kettering Town will have to do things the hard way as they face a long trek to the north-west on Tuesday night in a bid to keep their FA Cup hopes alive.

The Poppies and lower-ranked Bamber Bridge will both be in Monday morning’s fourth qualifying round draw after they battled out a 1-1 stalemate at Latimer Park.

And, in the end, the outcome was probably about right after what proved to be a very watchable and well-contested cup tie.

For Kettering, there will be regrets. And that will mainly come from the fact they didn’t start the game well enough and went on to be decisively average in the first half.

The visitors took full advantage of that to take a deserved lead through former Premier League man Brett Ormerod.

The Poppies were much better after the break, however. They levelled through the impressive Liam Canavan and were the width of the post away from clinching victory.

But they also needed a hero in the form of Jamie McAlindon who saved a Jamie Milligan penalty 11 minutes from the end.

Both sides could argue that they deserved to go through. In the end, neither did and both will fancy their chances of finishing the job when the two teams meet again on Tuesday evening.

Not for the first time, Marcus Law rang the changes to his Poppies starting line-up.

Perhaps that was the reason behind a slow and sluggish start.

There was no such thing from the visitors, however, as they began briskly - closing the hosts down quickly and showing a bit of enterprise when in possession.

After an even start, it was Bamber Bridge who drew first blood on the quarter-hour.

A cross in from the left caused panic in the Poppies defence and the ball eventually broke for Ormerod at the far post. His initial shot was stopped by McAlindon but the frontman managed to force it home to give the visitors the advantage.

Kettering initially struggled to muster up a response with Canavan - the only real livewire in the opening period - forcing Lee Dovey into an easy save while Dubi Ogbonna fired over.

Indeed, it needed a good stop from McAlindon to prevent Bamber Bridge from going 2-0 up when he denied Darren Green after a well-worked corner routine.

There were signs of life towards the end of the half when Canavan had an effort deflected wide while Dovey just about held on to Saul Williams’ long-range effort.

The Poppies needed to be much better after the break and, thankfully, they were.

Dovey somehow deflected Ogbonna’s close-range shot over after good work from Williams.

But it was a lovely move that finally unlocked the door on 52 minutes.

Andy Gooding fed the ball into Ogbonna and his delightful flick sent Brett Solkhon racing into the right channel of the area. He might have shot but instead squared to Canavan who had time to steady himself before firing home.

Solkhon sent a header wide from a corner but the chance to win it arrived for the visitors when Steve Kinniburgh was adjudged to have fouled substitute Curtis Thompson in the area.

It looked soft but McAlindon proved up to the task as he dived away to his right to push away Milligan’s well-struck spot-kick.

That set the stage for a grandstand finish and the Poppies so nearly won it with two minutes to go.

The ball fell perfectly for Gooding and he smashed his shot off the inside of the post while substitute Courtney Baker-Richardson saw his follow-up was blocked by Matt Lawlor.

There was also an almighty penalty shout in the dying moments when Baker-Richardson felt he was fouled by Dovey who came racing from his goal to climb over the striker and clear.

Those protests continued after the final whistle but fell on deaf ears.

And so, they will meet again at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium on Tuesday evening.

Bamber Bridge will now seriously fancy their chances on home territory.

For Kettering, it will take a big effort and a change in midweek fortunes. We’ll certainly find out what Law’s men are made of after that one....

Poppies: McAlindon; Solkhon, Mulligan, Langdon, Kinniburgh; Brighton, Gooding; Williams (sub Brown, 86 mins), Canavan, Grocott (sub Sandy, 77 mins); Ogbonna (sub Baker-Richardson, 68 mins). Subs not used: Bryan, Marsden, Ordonez, Obeng.

Bamber Bridge: Dovey; Hankin (sub Mahoney, 63 mins), Lawlor, Street, Green; Booth, Key (sub Thompson, 63 mins), McKenna, Milligan; Ormerod (sub Linney, 74 mins), Joel. Subs not used: Marlow, Vassey, Alexander, Moss.

Referee: Alistair Wilson.

Goals: Ormerod (15 mins, 0-1), Canavan (52 mins, 1-1).

Booking: Booth (foul).

Attendance: 696.