Harry May struck a late winner for Corby Town as they claimed a deserved 1-0 win over local rivals Kettering Town at Latimer Park.
The Red Insure Cup clash seemed to be heading for a penalty shoot-out until the Steelmen’s persistence finally paid off when May found a way through a stubborn and very young Poppies outfit.
As expected, there were changes galore for both teams.
Four of Kettering’s squad that feature at the weekend were involved as Josh Moreman, Louis Hamilton, Lewis Wilson and Nat Liburd all started while the rest of the line-up was made up of under-21 players.
The Steelmen made eight changes to their starting line-up but their squad had a stronger feel to it with the likes of Wilson Carvalho, Jamie Anton and Connor Kennedy all in from the start.
Corby had the better of the opening exchanges and Elliott Chamberlain found no takers for his dangerous ball across the face of goal before Carvalho fired just over soon after.
But this proved to be a more competitive contest than the previous meeting in the NFA Hillier Senior Cup - when the Steelmen first team was used pretty much in full - and Kettering gradually grew into things.
Niall Duffy forced debutant Steelmen goalkeeper Sam Donkin into his first save after a neat piece of skill while Moreman couldn’t get enough on a volley after he found a bit of space in the area.
But Corby really should have gone in front just before the half-hour mark when May’s corner was missed by Poppies goalkeeper Sachin Tayal. The ball went back into the six-yard box and Chamberlain somehow volleyed over with the goal at his mercy.
Duffy nodded wide from a Hamilton cross at the other end but the Steelmen started the second period with more purpose and again went close to breaking the deadlock.
Jamie Anton headed at Tayal from a corner with the Kettering goalkeeper making a decent stop but May really should have put Corby in front when he dragged his shot wide after good work from Chamberlain.
It all went a bit scrappy from there with neither side really threatening to open the scoring.
But the breakthrough arrived with just three minutes left on the clock.
Carvalho worked the opening from the left, he found substitute Greg Mills whose shot was well saved by Tayal but May was there to pick up the pieces from close range.
It was no less than the Steelmen deserved for creating the better chances throughout.
There could be no arguments at the final outcome and Corby can look forward to the next round.
But it’s fair to say both clubs have bigger priorities to come...
Poppies: Tayal; Richard-Noel (sub Katesmark, 64 mins), Njie, Djujic, Joyce; Hamilton, Liburd, Watts (sub Sweeney, 62 mins), Duffy; Moreman (sub Obeng, 76 mins), Wilson. Subs not used: Sanchez, Clifton.
Steelmen: Donkin; Kennedy, Anton, Appleton, Bentley; May, McInally, Hartley (sub Buckby, 88 mins), Carvalho; Chamberlain (sub Mills, 65 mins), Crawford (sub Goddard, 88 mins). Subs not used: Peprah, Clarke.
Referee: David Avent.
Goals: May (87 mins, 0-1).
Bookings: Katesmark (foul).
Don’t miss all the latest news from both the Steelmen and Poppies in Thursday’s Northamptonshire Telegraph