ANOTHER WIN, ANOTHER CLEAN SHEET
CORBY TOWN 2 HERTFORD TOWN 0
It has been a long time coming - far too long - but Corby Town have at last tasted success in the Emirates F.A Cup. After a 4-0 midweek Preliminary Round replay win away to Dunstable Town the Steelmen gained a victory over Hertford Town at Steel Park in the First Qualifying Round which was almost as convincing.
The only surprise was that Corby had not built up an unassailable lead during an opening period of almost total dominance. In the opening minutes a cross by Sam Warburton was headed wide at the far post by the over stretching Elliot Sandy. The Steelmen's first clear opening fell to Joel Carta but he headed over the top after skipper Gary Mulligan had flicked the ball onto the crossbar from a Ben Bradshaw corner.
Bradshaw then had a shot saved by Hertford goalkeeper Charlie Mann and Sandy was just unable to connect with another centre from the left by Warburton.
As Corby continued to bombard the visitor's goal Mann got to a Jordan Francis through ball a fraction ahead of Jordon Crawford and Sandy glanced a header wide from a centre by Francis.
Carta had one shot saved by Mann and hit another which curled agonisingly wide after patient build-up play involving Sandy, Bradshaw and Crawford and the overworked Mann then made a good block from Crawford after the Corby wide man had burst into the penalty box.
Warburton was the next to hit a shot narrowly off target and he then went closer still when he crashed a free kick from just outside the area against the bar. This was the result of some good captaincy by Mulligan who had called the defender up from the back to take the kick.
Hertford, it must be said, did muster sporadic attacks and their clearest opportunity fell to skipper Ollie Sharman who headed over from a David Keenleyside free kick.
Just as it seemed the visitors had survived the Steelmen's onslaught they gifted the hosts the lead in the first of three minutes of stoppage time at the end of the first half. A cross by Crawford was mis-controlled inside the penalty area by Keenleyside and the loose ball landed at the feet of Sandy who rolled it into the net.
There was still time for one hearts-in-mouth moment for Corby supporters when goalkeeper Dan George fell heavily after challenging George Lutaaya for a high ball but fortunately both players were able to continue after treatment.
Corby were forced to make their first change at half time with the injured Miles Smith being replaced by Jake Bettles and Connor Kennedy dropping from midfield to his former position of right back.
Bettles almost made an immediate impact as Mann was forced to make a decent block to deflect his goal bound effort wide after the Corby substitute had outpaced Sharman. To be honest, however, the Steelmen were never the dominant force after the interval that they had been during the opening forty five minutes.
Corby did continue to create chances with Carta having a shot saved by Mann and Bettles being penalised for an aerial challenge on the 'keeper. Warburton then sent in a dangerous centre from which Sandy could only prod the ball straight at Mann. And with twenty minutes remaining they cemented their place in the Second Qualifying round with a well-worked second goal. Francis chipped the ball into the area and although Sandy was unable to get a touch but Carta was there behind him to nod into the net from close range.
Two late Hertford chances both fell to substitute Tyler Hatherly. The first, an acrobatic overhead kick, was turned round the post by George - although referee Mr Christopher Bodell awarded a goal kick - while the second was hit over the bar.
CORBY TOWN:- Dan George, Miles Smith (substitute Jake Bettles), Sam Warburton; Joel Carta, Jamie Anton, Gary Mulligan (captain); Jordan Francis (substitute Zac Allen), Connor Kennedy, Elliot Sandy, Ben Bradshaw, Jordon Crawford (substitute Lee Garvie). Unused substitutes: Ashley Robinson, Dean McBride, Dan Smith (GK).
HERTFORD TOWN:- Charlie Mann; Joe Clemo, Macauley Joynes; Michael Toner, Jason Beck, Ollie Sharman (captain); David Keenleyside (substitute George Beattie), Charlie Ruff (substitute Mark Twumasi), Tommy Wade, Romeric Logan (substitute Tyler Hatherly, George Lutaaya. Unused substitutes: Todd Brownson, Matt Thomson, Chikosi Basden, Daryl Mitchell.
REFEREE:- Mr Christopher Bodell (Enfield).