VERDICT - Poppies face FA Cup replay after stalemate
Kettering Town and Nantwich Town will do it all again at Latimer Park on Tuesday night after they shared a 1-1 draw in the fourth qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup at the Weaver Stadium.
The Poppies took the lead late on in the first half through Michael Richens but the Dabbers earned a deserved replay thanks to Sean Cooke’s fine second-half free-kick.
It was no more than the hosts deserved with the Poppies being far from their best.
Kettering were without on-loan defender Marshall Willock, who was cup-tied, so it meant Brett Solkhon and Gary Mulligan were reunited at the heart of the back four.
Jordan Wright, also on loan, kept his place in goal while Mathew Stevens also started with Paul White and Rene Howe having to be content with places on the bench.
Kettering started brightly and won a series of early corners but, out of the two goalkeepers, it was Wright who was called into action first when he made a fine save to deny David Forbes after a free-kick had caused havoc in the Poppies’ penalty area.
Lindon Meikle saw a shot held by Will Jaaskalainen and Aaron O’Connor fired wide after a quick counter-attack but it was the hosts who created the better opening when Cooke evaded the challenge of Ben Milnes down the left and his cross was headed over Matt Bell.
However, the Poppies made the breakthrough two minutes before the break.
They won yet another corner and this time Milnes sent it to the far post, Hoenes headed it back and it fell to Richens who made no mistake with a thumping finish.
Nantwich were on the front foot after the break and they went close to levelling when David Forbes’ shot rolled just wide of the post after good work from Sean Cooke.
Substitute Rene Howe struck the post from a Ben Toseland cross but a flag was already up for offside but the Poppies lacked an attacking threat and it was Nantwich who continued to make the running.
And their endeavour paid off with 15 minutes to go when Richens conceded a free-kick 20 yards from goal and Cooke stepped up and curled it beyond Wright and into the corner.
Nantwich had their tails up after that but Kettering had a big shout for a penalty waved away when Hoenes went down under a challenge from Toby Mullarkey.
But it was the hosts who nearly won it late on when Bell headed over from Steve Jones’ cross.
Overall, it’s a replay that Kettering will take having not been at their best. They will hope their fine home form can continue on Tuesday night.
Nantwich: Jaaskalainen; Bourne, Stair, Mullarkey, Wildin; Hall, Hughes (sub Cotterell, h-t), Bell; Clayton (sub Jones, 73 mins), Cooke, Forbes (sub McDonald, 73 mins). Subs not used: Morgan, Quinn, Davies, Brooke.
Poppies: Wright; Berry, Mulligan, Solkhon, Toseland; Hoenes, Richens, Milnes, Meikle (sub Brighton, 78 mins); Stevens (sub Howe, 59 mins), O’Connor (sub Stohrer, 81 mins). Subs not used: Baker, White, Maagbe, Sundire.
Referee: Leigh Doughty.
Goals: Richens (43 mins, 0-1), Cooke (75 mins, 1-1),
Bookings: Hall, Richens (both fouls).