Cox praises Poppies' character as they fight back to beat Ashton in FA Trophy
Paul Cox praised the attitude and commitment of his Poppies players as they 'ground out' a battling 2-1 FA Trophy win at Ashton United on Saturday.
The Kettering boss admitted his team were nowhere near their best in a rainswept Greater Manchester, but spectacular second-half goals from Decarrey Sheriff and Connor Kennedy were enough to send the Poppies into the last 32 of the competition.
The home side, who beat Poppies' National League North rivals York City in the second round in midweek, looked to be on course for another giant-killing as they led 1-0 at the interval thanks to a first-half penalty.
The Northern Premier League side were good value for the lead as well, but Cox was able to rally his troops at the break and they responded to first level with a hooked volley from Sheriff, and then win it with an overhead kick from six yards from Kennedy.
"Nobody was happy with the first-half performance, and I don't think it was a great performance from start to finish," admitted Cox after the game, talking to thepoppies.online
"But we showed signs of being a team that, when you're not playing well, can grind out a result and I think that is the basis of a good side."
The third round tie came just a few days after the Poppies were 5-1 second round winners over Nuneaton Borough at Latimer Park, and Cox felt the amount of matches played in the past few weeks has caught up with his team.
"The lads have put in an awful lot of work on heavy pitches, and I thought we looked fatigued, and we were down on numbers a little bit in terms of players we could have brought in," he said.
"But the players have dug in and done brilliantly, and for cup games it is not about the performance it is about getting through to the next round and, whatever I did say to them at half-time, the lads threw it back down my throat and that is what I expect of them.
"Overall, we have ground out a good result.
"It wasn't a day where we played well in any capacity, I can't think of one person that stood out performance-wise, but as a team we have fought our way to a good win.
"Ashton knocked York City out and beat South Shields before that, so we knew how tough the game was going to be, and we have come away with a good result."
The Poppies now have a free week before they return to action on Boxing Day with a Latimer Park derby date against county rivals Brackley Town in the Vanarama National League North.
The Saints were also in FA Trophy action on Saturday, but suffered shootout agony as they went down 4-3 on penalties after drawing 0-0 at National League side Chesterfield.
The fourth round of the Trophy is scheduled to be played on January 21.