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Kettering Town FC 1 Chasetown FC 2 (aet)

Chasetown players celebrate in front of their fans. Pic: Dave Birt

Chasetown players celebrate in front of their fans. Pic: Dave Birt

A last-minute winner is always special in football, but when it comes in the dying moments of extra time against opposition two leagues higher than your side,  it really is something special.

And that’s what Grant Ryan achieved for Chasetown in their FA Carlsberg Trophy replay at Kettering Town.

Chance after chance went begging during the 90 minutes as the two sides frustrated each other throughout, but the action exploded in extra time with two early goals, a missed penalty for the Scholars, and a brilliant and sensational winner from young striker Ryan at the death.

Chasetown started strongly and took the game to the Blue Square Premier side, welcome returnee Dean Perrow producing a good turn and shot in the eighth minute but the Poppies defence blocked his effort, while Chris Peel cleared the hosts’ first attack for a corner which resulted in Marcus Kelly firing over the bar.

Appeals for a Poppies penalty were turned down after Peel and Jean-Paul Marna went down in the area, while Perrow then outplayed the defence on the left and squared the ball to Gary Birch but his low shot was deflected out by Greg Taylor.

Kettering’s next chance saw the lively Peel block the shot, with Ben Jevons then forcing Kelvin Jack into a fine save from ten yards.  Chances became scarce and the midfield play tougher before a free kick for the Poppies on the right was pushed away by Ryan Price and cleared by Richard Davies.

The home side went close again in the 41st minute but Price was on hand with a fine save, while heading into stoppage time Marna’s effort bounced back off the crossbar and Patrick Noubissie sent the follow-up wide, and a long night looked in prospect at the break.

The Poppies turned up the pressure still further as the second half began but the Scholars defence was equal to their early efforts including a goalmouth scramble.

Perrow spurned a good chance on 53 minutes when he headed wide from close range before Birch also fired wide from 30 yards, and in a similar pattern to Saturday’s encounter at the Scholars Ground the play began to liven up and become more even.  Paul Furlong went for a header following Marna’s free kick from the right but again Price was equal to it, scooping the ball over the bar.

Price was having a superb evening and dived to push away Taylor’s chance from the left before on the hour Ashley Westwood just failed to find the gap at the near post with a header.

The hosts produced some great passing play down the left but Furlong blazed his shot over the bar, but Chasetown were still able to force gaps in the defence.  Jevons had the ball in the net in the 71st minute but the offside flag was up, and despite the tough attacking play neither side could quite find a shot on target, Jevons firing wide of the target after breaking clear.

Gary Birch equalises for Chasetown against Kettering Town. Pic: Dave Birt

Gary Birch equalises for Chasetown against Kettering Town. Pic: Dave Birt

At brief moments the action showed signs of igniting, Ramone Stephens somehow firing narrowly over when set to score on 80 minutes as the Scholars produced a late rally with Richard Teesdale and Birch also going close, but the touchpaper did not catch enough for a goal and extra time ensued.

Price produced yet another good save as the extra period began to deny Serge Makofo, but two minutes later he couldn’t stop Furlong’s shot following a James Dance cross and the Poppies were ahead.

Makofo could have made it two four minutes later but his cross flew narrowly across the face of goal, and on 97 minutes the Scholars were level when Birch found a gap in the defence following a free kick from the left and stabbed his shot beyond Jack.

Birch then went close again following some good play by Peel but this time Jack was equal to his shot before on 103 minutes the visitors were awarded a penalty when Danny Smith was felled by Westwood in the area but Davies was out of luck as Jack got behind the spot kick.

Grant Ryan's late winner finds the net. Pic: Dave Birt

Grant Ryan's late winner finds the net. Pic: Dave Birt

The Trinidad and Tobago international then produced a great save to tip away Dave Egan’s shot from the left, while Price punched away a cross from the right in the closing minutes.

Ryan was introduced to the Chasetown attack in the dying moments when a penalty shoot-out was looking likely, and with his first action in the very last minute he cut in from the left and fired across Jack to steal the victory right at the death to delirious scenes from those wearing blue.

The victory sets up a home tie with Grimsby Town on January 15, but the Scholars will now focus on their league visit to Burscough this Saturday (December 18), 3pm kick-off.

Kettering: Jack, Westwood, Dempster (c), Furlong, Marna, Kelly, Taylor, Dance, Green, McKoy, Noubissie.  Subs: Graham, Roper, Makofo (Marna 64), Solkhon (McKoy 108), Pryor.
Chasetown: Price, Farmer, Peel, Cohen, Davies, Teesdale (c), Stephens, Egan, Birch, Perrow, Jevons.  Subs: Ryan (Stephens 118), D Smith (Perrow 90), Bridgewater, Slater (Cohen 96), M Branch.

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