Kettering Town’s hopes of reaching the first round proper of the Emirates FA Cup were ended as they slipped to a 2-0 defeat at Vanarama National League side Aldershot Town.
But the scoreline didn’t quite tell the full story as the Poppies, who included last season’s top scorer Aaron O’Connor on the bench for the first time this season after a knee injury, gave their higher-ranked hosts a fright or two.
The Poppies started brightly and Will Mannion saved Marcus Kelly’s header at point-blank range early on before Paul White produced a superb stop to parry away Scott Rendell’s overhead-kick at the other end.
But it was the Shots who broke the deadlock after 16 minutes when Rendell was on hand to score after White had saved from Adam McDonnell.
White made good saves from Shamir Fenelon either side of half-time but the Poppies grew into things in the second half.
Ben Milnes had a great chance when he was sent through on goal, only for Mannion to deny him with a fine save and the Poppies felt they should have had a penalty when Rhys Hoenes got into the area and round Mannion before going down but the referee only awarded a goal-kick.
O’Connor was thrown on for the final 25 minutes and he came within a whisker of marking his return with a goal but Mannion tipped his shot wide.
And Aldershot settled the nerves with eight minutes to go when, out of almost nothing, McDonnell fired home an excellent 25-yard strike into the top corner.
The Poppies were unable to find a way back after that and will now have to focus on other competitions, the next of which is the Buildbase FA Trophy when they host Stourbridge at Latimer Park next Saturday.