VERDICT: Steelmen undone at the death in FA Cup opener
The Lee Attenborough era got off to a bitterly disappointing start as Corby Town found themselves on the end of a smash-and-grab at Steel Park.
United Counties League Premier Division North side AFC Mansfield produced a gritty defensive display to keep their higher-ranked hosts out and then, in the final minute, snatched the only goal of the game to seal a 1-0 victory and a place in the preliminary round of the Emirates FA Cup.
It was harsh on the Steelmen who dominated for long spells but lacked a cutting edge in front of goal, which ultimately proved their undoing.
There were no fewer than 10 debutants in the starting line-up but it was the sole survivor from last season’s squad who registered the first shot in anger as Curtis Hartley’s long-range effort was held by Hugo Warhurst.
Corby goalkeeper and captain Jason Alexander denied Sam Ackroyd at the other end after he could only parry the initial shot but the Steelmen were unfortunate not to be in front at the break.
Carl Sibson saw a header tipped over by Warhurst and then, soon after, a lovely move saw Tsaguim Florian release Daniel Collins. He pulled the ball back and Tristan Thompson-Matthews was out of luck as his shot cannoned off the post.
Curtis Burrows saw a free-kick saved by Warhurst and the pressure continued in the second half.
Aside from Ackroyd shooting over in the area, Mansfield offered little in attack as they made it their duty to keep Corby out at the other end.
And Warhurst was rarely troubled as, despite numerous crosses going into the box, the Steelmen were unable to find a way through with Sibson seeing a couple of headers hacked clear.
It seemed everyone would be heading to Mansfield for a replay on Tuesday night.
But then disaster struck for Corby. A cross came in from the right, a header was missed at the back post and when a low ball came back in, Ackroyd applied the finishing touch from close-range.
Eight minutes of stoppage-time followed but Corby couldn’t find an equaliser as any hopes of financial gain from this season’s competition were ended.
It was a far from ideal start for Attenborough who will surely rue his team’s inability to convert good moments into shots on goal.
Corby Town: Alexander; Akubuine, Atcha, Sibson, Gordon (sub Bucciero, 69 mins); Hartley, Burrows; Gyasi (sub Collins, 30 mins), Thompson-Matthews (sub Gordon-Douglas, 78 mins), Uyi-Olaye; Florian. Subs not used: Timson, Grubor, Markelic, Norman.
AFC Mansfield: Warhurst; Lawrence, Hobson, Bartholomew, Bratley (sub Mears, 74 mins), Walyn-Alsop; Suleiman (sub Tomlinson, 82 mins), Birks, Bouheraoua (sub O’Brien, 64); Ackroyd, Hardwick. Subs not used: Lane, Clark.
Referee: Daniel England.
Goal: Ackroyd (90 mins, 0-1).
Bookings: Sibson, Walyn-Alsop (both fouls), Mears (time-wasting).
Northants Telegraph man-of-the-match: Sidik Atcha - signed in the week, the big centre-half produced a composed display alongside Carl Sibson. He dealt with Mansfield’s threat for the most part and got attacks going from the back.