sean cooke free-kick for nantwich town v kettering, FA Cup

Sean Cooke’s second half free kick put Nantwich Town in the hat for the FA Cup 1st Round hat after a 1-1 draw with Kettering Town at the Weaver Stadium, writes Ryan Batty.

Michael Richens put the visitors in front on the verge of half-time as he was able to stab home following a deflection from a corner.

But Cooke equalized on 73 minutes with a beautifully-struck free-kick.

There was a special appearance from Nantwich’s 1981 Cheshire League winning side before the game, in front of more than 750 supporters.

Nantwich were fully fit after their planned midweek game with Stourbridge was postponed to give them time to prepare.

The first chance of the game went to the visitors as they won a corner after Troy Bourne cleared a ball away.

However, Joel Stair was there to prevent anything coming from the set-piece.

Kettering dominated the first 10 minutes as they won several corners, but Nantwich’s youthful backline was able to deal with the pressure.

The first clear-cut chance came when Aaron O’Connor was through on goal, but he wasn’t able to get his shot away as the home side’s defence pressured the forward.

After 13 minutes, Cooke was brought down from behind and earned a Dabbers free-kick.

Cooke dipped the ball in for David Forbes to shoot after a mix-up in the box, but it was stopped by a fantastic save from Wright in the Kettering goal.

Will Jaaskalainen, on his Nantwich debut in nets, repelled a range of crosses and shots from the Kettering attack in the away side’s most consistent attacking spell.

Sam Hall was booked after seemingly winning the ball in the 25th minute, to howls of derision from the Nantwich faithful.

sean cooke for nantwich town v kettering, FA CupWith five minutes to go in the half, Cooke looped a cross into Matt Bell, but the midfielder’s header was just over.

But on the verge of half-time, Kettering took the lead.

A corner was fired into the box, and despite Jaaskalainen’s parry, there was nothing he could do as the Dabbers defence failed to react and Richens was able to fire home.

The Dabbers made a half-time substitution as Caspar Hughes was replaced by Nathan Cotterell.

The first real chance of the second half went to Nantwich as Harry Clayton cut inside and his left-footed strike was under-hit and straight at Wright.

A minute later, O’Connor looked to be through but Stair tracked back fantastically and cleared the ball to prevent Kettering’s second.

On 50 minutes, Hall took a boot to the face from Richens, but the Kettering goalscorer escaped punishment.

Ten minutes later, Kettering made their first change of the tie as Rene Howe replaced Mathew Stevens.

After 62 minutes, Cooke found Forbes in the box, who turned the defender brilliantly and fired a shot across goal which grazed the far post.

Nantwich began piling the pressure on and a double change followed as Steve Jones and Clayton McDonald replaced Forbes and Clayton.

In the 73rd minute, Cooke was then brought down on the edge of the box.

The midfielder curled the free-kick around the wall and past the outstretched hand of Wright to send the home faithful wild.

Kettering made two more changes in the seven minutes that followed as Aaron O’Connor and Lindon Meikle were replaced by James Brighton and Gary Stohrer.

The home side poured forward in the last 10 minutes but weren’t able to find a goal as Kettering were content to play to a draw for a replay at Latimer Park this week.

Both sides are in the hat for Monday’s draw for the First Round Proper.

Nantwich: Jaaskalainen, Bourne, Wildin, Stair, Mullarkey, Hall (C), Hughes (Cotterell 45’), Bell, Clayton (S. Jones 70’), Cooke, Forbes (McDonald 70’). Subs not used: Morgan, Quinn (GK), Davies, Brooke

(Pics by Jonathan White)

kettering boss Marcus Law and Nantwich boss (background) Dave Cooke

Nantwich Town v Kettering, FA Cup 4th qualifier, Oct 2017

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