Steelmen miss their chance to progress

Corby Town manager Tommy Wright
Corby Town manager Tommy Wright

Corby Town face a trip to Evo-Stik Northern League Division One South strugglers Norton United on Tuesday night after throwing away a chance to progress in the first qualifying round of the FA Cup.

The Steelmen were seemingly cruising at 2-0 up and then 3-1 up thanks to goals from Ben Milnes, Paul Malone and Wilson Carvalho.

But some poor defending allowed the visitors to score twice inside the last nine minutes to earn themselves a deserved replay with Leigh Skellern being their hero with a hat-trick.

Steelmen manager Tommy Wright made three changes from the side that drew 2-2 with Cambridge City on Wednesday night.

Carvalho returned from a three-match ban while Greg Mills and Kalern Thomas were also restored to the starting line-up with Wright, Curtis Hartley and Akin Daramola dropping to the substitutes’ bench.

After an even start, the Steelmen so nearly fell behind as Norton gave as good as they got in the early stages.

Michael Lennon turned on the edge of the box and his low shot was tipped onto the inside of the post by Paul Walker before Connor Kennedy cleared the loose ball.

But Corby gradually got into their stride and, after Spencer Weir-Daley had sent a shot over, they took the lead thanks to some quick thinking from Mills.

His short corner found Milnes and the midfielder took aim before seeing his effort deflect off Richard Smith to leave goalkeeper Chris Fletcher helpless.

Mills shot wide soon after but it was 2-0 seven minutes before the break when Mills’ free-kick was flicked on by Weir-Daley. Fletcher saved well but the ball fell to Malone who stabbed home from close-range.

That could and probably should have been the crucial goal.

Instead, Norton came out fighting and Walker saved well from Lee Cropper who was clear on goal before the visitors threw themselves a lifeline just before half-time when Skellern gave Walker no chance with a thumping finish.

Norton started the second period brightly while the Steelmen struggled to retain possession.

But Corby grabbed the all-important third just past the hour. A corner was only cleared as far as Carvalho and he had time to set himself before curling a wonderful strike into the corner.

That sparked the Steelmen back into life and Mills saw a long-range effort well tipped over by Fletcher as they looked to finish the visitors off.

But it proved to be a nervous finish as, shortly after lobbing over the bar, Skellern got away from a static Steelmen defence again and this time skipped round Walker before finding the empty net.

And disaster struck in the second minute of stoppage-time when Corby failed to clear their lines before a neat passing move ended with Skellern having just Walker to beat, something he did nice and calmly.

In truth, it was no more than the visitors deserved for their endeavour. They will surely now be sniffing an upset when the two teams meet again on Tuesday night.

Steelmen: Walker; Kennedy (sub Jackson, 85 mins), Malone, Appleton, Thomas; Taylor, Byrne; Mills, Milnes (sub Daramola, 77 mins), Carvalho; Weir-Daley. Subs not used: Hartley, Wright, Crawford, Clarke, Bentley.

Norton: Fletcher; Green, Clarkson, Smith, P Taylor; Blackhurst, Hawthorne (sub Diskin, 87 mins), McDonald (sub Winkle, 65 mins), Skeller; Lennon; Cropper (sub Bradbury, 76 mins). Subs not used: Fogg.

Referee: Neil Pratt.

Goals: Milnes (25 mins, 1-0), Malone (38 mins, 2-0), Skellern (44 mins, 2-1), Carvalho (62 mins, 3-1), Skellern (81 mins, 3-2), Skellern (90 mins, 3-3).

Bookings: P Taylor (foul), Milnes, Lennon (both unsporting behaviour).

Attendance: 332.