Corby Town moved one step closer to promotion as they saw off Bedford Town in the Evo-Stik League South Division One Central play-off semi-final at Steel Park.
But what did we learn?
Strip away the result for a moment, a big crowd was treated to a brilliant night of entertainment.
Football, ultimately, is a results business. And that is even more so the case when it comes to the play-offs - it’s win or bust. From our point of view, in this area, the result of this game went the right way as Corby moved a step closer to promotion. But to get the game we got in the process made it even better. Both sides went out to win the game and they went on to serve up something of a play-off classic. Eight goals, a penalty (a saved one at that, good work Dan George) and a sending-off - yes this game had everything. Even when Corby were 4-0 up, Bedford came at them and when they got it back to 4-2 there may well have been a few nerves amongst the Steelmen faithful. In the end their team prevailed and they would have gone home feeling they got value for their money. That’s football as it should be.
On the big occasion, the Corby players stood up to be counted. It really was a terrific performance.
For the most part, Steve Kinniburgh’s team have been excellent this season. They didn’t quite have enough to be right up there but they have stuck to their principles of playing attacking football and those principles were on full show in their biggest game of the campaign so far. They attacked with pace, they were ruthless in front of goal and, despite conceding three goals, there were some impressive performances at the other end of the pitch to help see the job through. There can’t be anything more satisfying for a manager than to see his team deliver when it really matters and Kinniburgh would have been a very satisfied boss on this occasion.
Give credit to Bedford, they could have easily thrown the towel in but they more than played their part.
There had been plenty of talk before this game surrounding the fact that Bedford were a side with nothing to play for, given that their points per game ratio would mean they wouldn’t be able to be promoted even if they won the play-offs. And, with that in mind, it would have been quite easy for them to come to Steel Park and roll over. But they didn’t. Even before Corby had opened up the commanding 4-0 lead, the Eagles had their moments and we can only speculate what might have happened if Dan George hadn’t made a fine save to deny Leon Lobjoit while the game was still goalless.
Jordon Crawford could hold the key to promotion.
Let’s not take anything away from the other Corby players. To a man, they were very good. They carried no-one, everyone played a part in such a fine performance. But in Jordon Crawford, the Steelmen have a player who is capable of taking a game away from any opponent. He burst onto the scene last season and, although he may not have hit those heights consistently this time, he has still enjoyed another good campaign. But when the big games come along, you need your big players to show up. And, on this night, Crawford turned up and then some. He was involved in every goal and scored the second one himself. His ability in the final third can’t be questioned but he puts the work in as well and that was there for all to see. This was an example of Crawford being right in the mood. And if he’s in that mood again on Monday, then he has the capability of firing his team to promotion.
It’s the right play-off final, now the Steelmen must finish the job.
As they would have expected, Bromsgrove Sporting and Corby were both given stiff examinations in their semi-final matches. But, given that these two can both go up under the points per game ruling while the other two teams involved couldn’t, we have arrived at the right play-off final in Division One Central. It’s the team who finished second against the team who finished third. It’s not very often you see that in a play-off final but it is, without question, the perfect storm. There will be a huge crowd of more than 2,000 at the Victoria Ground on Monday afternoon and this season now comes down to 90 (maybe even 120) minutes of football to decide who goes up and who is left to face another season at Step 4. The stakes couldn’t be higher. The pressure will be on both sets of players. But once that first whistle goes, it will be the team who plays the game and not the occasion who prevails. The Steelmen have it in them. In their three meetings with Bromsgrove so far this season, they have won two of them. But all of that counts for little. It’s once again another test to see if you can perform when it really counts. And if the Steelmen play like they did in their semi-final, they will have every chance. I wish them the very best of luck for it.