Tactical change pays off for Cox as Poppies see off Tulips

Kettering Town have booked a place in the third qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup but were made to work hard for it again by Spalding United

Tuesday, 21st September 2021, 10:53 pm
Claudio Ofosu's fine strike beats the despairing dive of Spalding United goalkeeper Michael Duggan to give Kettering Town the lead before they went on to seal a 2-0 win in the FA Cup second qualifying round replay at Latimer Park. Pictures by Peter Short

Paul Cox was delighted to see a tactical switch pay off as Kettering Town eventually saw off Spalding United 2-0 to move into the third qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup.

Having drawn 1-1 in Lincolnshire at the weekend, the Poppies and the lower-ranked Tulips had to do it all again and, again, Kettering found it hard to find a way through a resolute visiting side.

Indeed, Rhys Davies had to make a magnificent save to deny Scott Floyd from point blank range early on while Spalding goalkeeper Michael Duggan was only forced into action once at the end of the first half when he made a good stop to deny Connor Barrett.

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Claudio Ofosu shows his delight after he opened the scoring

Cox took defender Tom Unwin off at half-time and brought on forward Decarrey Sheriff and changed the shape in a bid to get things going in attack.

And, eventually, it paid off as the Poppies piled on the pressure. But it took a spectacular goal from Claudio Ofosu, who also scored at the weekend, to break Spalding’s resistance as he gave Duggan no chance with a fine strike from 20 yards.

Substitute Sheriff added the second when he stabbed home after good work from Ofosu and the Poppies were never really troubled after that as they set up a clash at National League North rivals Leamington in the next round a week on Saturday.

Cox was full of praise for Step 4 outfit Spalding but was pleased to see his switch have the desired effect.

The Kettering supporters celebrate as Decarrey Sheriff's effort finds the net to put them 2-0 up

“Sometimes you have to look at the opposition and say it was a tough nut to crack,” the Poppies boss said.

“They came here, got 10 men behind the ball and left their centre-forward up and, to be honest, I had to make a huge decision at half-time to go a bit more offensive and ask questions of them.

“I took a chance but I’d rather have a go and try to win the tie.

“It’s always a gamble. Spalding denied us space in behind and between the lines.

Paul Cox applauds the Kettering fans after the final whistle

“We took a centre-half off and added a bit more pace and power up there and we always looked a threat. I think fitness levels told in the end.

“Was it a gamble? Not necessarily. It was something tactically that I saw and we acted on it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Thank God, it worked for us.

“We were positive, the boys were positive although I felt they were a bit nervous in the wake of the first game.

“There are no easy games in football and this will have done the young boys a world of good to come up against a resolute side who were hard to break down.

“Claudio’s goal was excellent and we could have ended up with a few more but I will take nothing away from the opposition, they were excellent.

“I am just pleased we are through. The fans were great, I think they were trying to suck the ball into the net and they really got behind us.

“I think they could sense the nervousness and it’s a real positive because we have some babies in there and the big occasions will worry them so it’s great that we have supporters who will get behind them and not get on their backs.”

Cox reserved special praise for Ofosu who made a positive impact off the bench at the weekend and was rewarded with a start in the replay and he duly delivered the key moment with that fine opening goal.

“We were getting plenty of chances but Claudio has stepped forward and done what we know he can do,” Cox added.

“I think there’s more to come from the kid. He has unbelievable power and pace.

“He came to us late in pre-season so he is still building his fitness but his potential is exciting. It’s up to him to nail down his place now.”

The Poppies return to National League North duty at the weekend when they entertain Spennymoor Town.