Kettering Town’s players brought a bit of light relief for their fans as they finished off Wisbech Town with a comfortable 3-0 win at Nene Park.
The disappointing 0-0 draw in Cambridgeshire at the weekend was immediately wiped out in the replay as two goals from Warren Byerley and one from David Mayo completed a straightforward evening.
It all means that the Poppies are £3,000 richer and they will now head to Blue Square Bet North side, and old rivals, Boston United in the second qualifying round of the FA Cup on Saturday week.
But, unfortunately, there are clear signs that things remain in tatters off the pitch at Nene Park.
A home attendance of just 231 is one of the worst in the club’s 140-year history while, more bizarrely, the Poppies again played in their away kit for the home tie.
And the rumoured reason for that is that a local laundrette is holding the club’s home kit until they receive the money they are owed for washing it.
Thankfully, there was a bit of respite on the field, which was mainly down to a superb individual display from Byerley, who terrorised the Wisbech defence for most of the evening.
But the overall performance and result was a decent achievement in itself when you consider the players are still yet to receive their full wages, which were supposed to be paid last week.
Boss John Beck – who celebrated his first victory since taking over as manager – made a couple of changes with Ryan Hervel and Michael King coming into the midfield while Jamie Griffiths and Omar Beckles were surprisingly named on the bench after it had been thought they were ruled out through injury.
It was Wisbech who made the brighter start and Phil Ifil had to be alert to clear Dubi Ogbonna’s shot off the line after good work from Chris Bacon.
But it was the Poppies who made the breakthrough on 19 minutes thanks to a moment of magic from Byerley.
His magnificent backheel took two visiting defenders out of the game and it released David Mayo who ran on before beating Lea Jordan with a low shot.
Laurie Walker tipped Scott Johnson’s shot over the bar as Wisbech looked for a quick response but the hosts doubled their advantage on the half-hour mark.
Byerley had already seen his cross helped over the bar by Jordan before another brilliant flick from Andrew Burns’ cross was also blocked by the goalkeeper.
But in the scramble that followed, Ed Palmer was caught by a high boot and referee Rob Hodges pointed to the spot.
It looked a bit harsh but Byerley, who missed his last penalty for the Poppies, was not in an unforgiving mood as he stepped up and fired home from 12 yards.
That seemed to kill the contest with Kettering looking comfortable into half-time and they went close to making it three early in the second period when the impressive Byerley shot just wide of the far post.
Wisbech tried hard to get into the game but the Poppies defence stayed strong and the game was over with 20 minutes to go when number three arrived.
A corner was swung in from the right, Ben Gerring headed it towards goal and Byerley was there to finish the job from a matter of yards.
That well and truly knocked the stuffing out of the spirited visitors and Gerring should have made it four before the end when he sent a free header over the crossbar.
But it didn’t matter as the evening turned into a bit of a cruise for the Poppies, who were able to enjoy their first success of the campaign.
Poppies: Walker; Ifil, Gerring, Palmer, Radford; Burns, Hervel, King, Mayo; Byerley, Blazio (sub Peake, 76 mins). Subs not used: Griffiths, Beckles.
Wisbech: Jordan; Reeve (sub McGeorge, h-t), Fairweather, Spafford, Cartwright; Lunn, Reid, Millson, Johnson; D Ogbanna (sub T Ogbanna, 73 mins), Bacon (sub Jimson, 84 mins). Sub not used: Roberts.
Referee: Rob Hodges.
Goals: Mayo (19 mins, 1-0), Byerley pen (30 mins, 2-0), Byerley (70 mins, 3-0).
Bookings: Burns (dissent), Blazio, McGeorge (both fouls).