John Ramshaw was delighted to see Kettering Town give their supporters an “occasion” to look forward to after they beat AFC Rushden & Diamonds to book a place in the NFA Hillier Senior Cup final.
On a stormy night at Latimer Park, the Poppies produced a dreadful first-half display with Ryan Robbins’ brace putting Diamonds 2-0 up before Brett Solkhon pulled one back from the penalty spot just before the break.
But Kettering were impressive in the second half and Rene Howe equalised before Rhys Hoenes looked to have won it late on, only for Liam Dolman to grab a dramatic leveller for Diamonds to make it 3-3.
That meant a penalty shoot-out and Kettering triumphed 5-4 in sudden death when Diamonds winger Joel Gyasi fired his spot-kick wide of the target.
Head coach Ramshaw conceded the Poppies were “awful” in the first half but was full of praise for the way the team responded to a half-time dressing down.
“We didn’t pull any punches with them at half-time about our inadequacies in the first half and they responded in the appropriate fashion” he said.
“We didn’t deserve anything from the first half, I thought we were awful but it was a nailed on penalty.
But I thought we dominated the game in the second half, they had to play on the counter when they could and by the end I thought we deserved to win.
“It was disappointing to concede the late equaliser but there were two good sides out there and it was a cracking cup tie.
“It’s always nice to be in a cup final and I think it’s brilliant for our fans who follow us all over the country week in, week out to have an occasion towards the end of the season.
“And we know that it could lead to the Maunsell Cup, which was another great game in pre-season last summer.”
Kettering’s third goal sparked wild scenes of celebration in front of both dugouts before Diamonds did the same after Dolman’s dramatic leveller.
But Ramshaw played down the celebrations and added: “It was a local derby and everybody was fired up.
“I don’t think there was any malice intended in either team’s celebrations.
“It was a big moment for both sides when we took the lead and then they equalised and the players celebrated as you would expect, you just have to be man enough to take it when it goes against you.”