Poppies bidding to end a decade-long wait for FA Cup first-round return
Kettering Town haven't reached the first round proper of the FA Cup since 2011 but will get the chance to end that run this weekend
You have to go back almost 10 years to find the last time Kettering Town reached the first round proper of the Emirates FA Cup.
It was during the ill-fated 2011-12 season when the Poppies had moved to Nene Park and was just a year before the club so nearly went out of business.
They were beaten 1-0 at Sutton United having got past Southend Manor in the fourth qualifying round, which was where the Poppies had started due to them being in non-League football’s top flight at the time.
Since then, due to moving further down the non-League ladder, they have had to start in earlier qualifying rounds but they have ‘hit the post’ on a couple of occasions in a bid to reach the first round proper.
In 2016, they lost 3-1 at Solihull Moors, in 2017 they missed out after losing to Nantwich Town in a replay and, most recently, they were beaten 2-0 at National League side Aldershot Town in the final qualifying stage in 2018.
Last season, of course, they had to surrender their place in the competition due to a Covid-19 outbreak in the squad when they were set to play Northamptonshire rivals Brackley Town in the third qualifying round.
But Paul Cox’s new-look squad have reached the final qualifying round again and it’s got the Poppies supporters dreaming of another big run in a competition that has been kind to the club in the past.
However, if they are to join the Sky Bet League One and League Two clubs in the first-round draw, they will have to get past Northern Premier League high-flyers Buxton at Latimer Park on Saturday.
And that, as Gary Stohrer who returned from injury in last weekend’s 0-0 draw with Chester admitted, won’t be an easy task.
The visitors are set to have former Kettering players Lindon Meikle, Ben Milnes and Nathan Fox in their ranks and will arrive confident of upsetting the Poppies.
But Stohrer is feeling confident himself.
“The first goal for teams at our level is to try to reach the first round proper,” he said.
“It’s going to be a tough game. Buxton are a good side, they have started the season well and they have a big budget.
“We know the likes of Lindon Meikle and Ben Milnes coming back here to play us so we know how capable they are.
“But, with the way the lads are performing, we probably fancy ourselves against anyone.
“It’s a great opportunity and we will be feeling confident for it.”
Indeed, the Poppies have enjoyed a decent start to the new season with their progress through two rounds of the FA Cup being matched by a solid first couple of months in the National League North.
Stohrer finds himself as one of the more experienced players in the squad after a summer of change brought with it a change of direction with Cox opting to bring younger players in.
And Stohrer has been thoroughly impressed with what he has seen.
“All the lads who have come in have got their heads on,” he added.
“They all want to work really hard. A lot of them have their whole careers ahead of them so I am sure they will want to push on.
“This is a perfect place to start and they have the gaffer and Kyle Perry here with their experience and if I can help any along their way then I will.”