Our FA Cup Quest is taking us back to Brackley after they eased their way past Rugby Town in a Third Qualifying Round replay last night (Tuesday, October 13).
The tie had gone to a replay after Brackley’s Steve Diggin scored in the 7th minute of 8 additional minutes in the original tie on Saturday, October 10, at The Saints’ St James’ Park ground.
And he was on target again last night to seal the victory after Richard Bachelor had set them on their way in just the fourth minute with a neat, hooked finish.
Rugby, in fairness, never really looked like threatening to overturn a side two rungs above them on the non-league ladder.
However, they were awarded a massive chance from the spot on the half hour mark after what looked like a soft challenge. But Rugby’s all-time leading goal scorer David Kolodynski had his penalty brilliantly saved by Dan Crane who dived low to his right to tip it around the post. It was reminiscent of Rugby keeper Raaj Gill’s heroics in the first game when he pulled off an equally impressive save after another harsh decision.
That was to be Rugby’s only real chance of the game. Brackley limited them to half chances, with their best coming from a cross which was headed over at the far post.
That proved costly when Steve Diggin made sure of Brackley’s Cup progress on 79 minutes. Having missed the target with a lob moments earlier, he got his angles right when the ball dropped to him on the edge of the box. With the keeper advancing, he half-volleyed the ball which slowly but surely rolled into the bottom right of the net.
The win sets up a home tie with Bamber Bridge of the Northern Premier League Division One North in the 4th Qualifying Round. They defeated Kettering 3-2 in their replay last night, denying a Northants derby en route to the First Round Proper.
And despite Bamber Bridge being from the same level as Rugby, they shouldn’t be taken lightly. In Brett Ormerod they have a striker who has scored in every level of league football and has a FA Cup Runners-Up medal in his cabinet from his time at Southampton in 2003, when they were beaten by Arsenal. His pedigree is clear to see at this level, too, and he recorded a brace in that 3-2 win over Kettering.
So it’s back to Brackley for us a week on Saturday for a hugely important tie for both sides as they look to make it into the First Round Proper and beyond.
Finally, I’d like to say a huge farewell to Rugby Town and everyone at the club. Mark and I have visited their tidy little stadium twice on our Quest and it’s a wonderful advert for non-league football. The food is good, the beers are good, there’s a friendly atmosphere, their travelling fans are louder than the Formula 1 engines that were being tested at Brackley on Saturday…it has all the elements of how a small club should be run. We’d like to wish them well for the campaign ahead, and who knows, our paths may even cross again some day.