Buxton FC assistant manager Mark Ward insists the Derbyshire club will set up to win their FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round replay against National League North side, Kettering Town.
By Amos Murphy
Buxton bounce back to force replay
Stepping up to stroke a penalty home in the 94th minute of the match, Diego De Girolamo’s second of the game kept Buxton’s FA Cup run alive.
De Girolamo had netted the Buck’s first of the afternoon midway through the second-half and was instrumental throughout their famous comeback.
The former Bristol City and Sheffield United man was no doubt feeling the pressure of the eyes of all 1,218 supporters inside Kettering’s Latimer Park stadium on him. The ex-Italy youth international didn't disappoint, tucking his spot kick into the side netting.
One man glad to see the ball hit the net was Buxton’s assistant manager Mark Ward, who admitted it was a nervy finish to the contest:
“I can’t say it wasn’t a relief because it’s the FA Cup and anything can happen. If it (the penalty) goes in we feel like we’ve won the game, but if it doesn’t that’s the match gone”.
Second-half comeback saves Buxton’s day
It had looked as if the National League North side were going to see off Buxton of the division below with ease, after Callum James Powell scored just before the break to put Kettering 2-0 ahead at half-time.
Instilling the players with the confidence to go out and get back into the match was crucial in Buxton’s second-half comeback, believes Ward:
“Kettering nullified the majority of our threats really well in the first-half, so we knew we needed to adapt and take more risks in our attacks.
“We told them that it didn’t matter so much if we lost the game, as long as they went out in the second period and left an impression on their lads”.
Leave an impression they did. De Girolamo was just one of a number of standout Bucks’ players in the second-half, with the Northern Premier League side delivering a late knockout blow to keep the tie alive.
Complacency not an issue for Buxton, believes Ward
Both Kettering and Buxton have been operating at the top end of their respective decisions this season and most coaching teams wouldn’t welcome an extra match into an already congested fixture list, yet Ward isn’t wary of complacency setting in:
“When you come this far in the FA Cup you’ve got to go for it. If you go out in the earlier rounds you do get to put all your attention on the league, but now we’re at a stage where we want to keep progressing”.
With the draw for the First Round having already taken place, both sides will enter the replay knowing a win will pit them against either York City or Morpeth Town, and Ward has urged his players to ignore any potential future ties:
“If you think too far ahead it can lead to you coming unstuck in games. We’ve just got to play this game in front of us and if the result comes, then you focus on who’s up next.
“We’ve got a big game at the weekend against South Shields, but we have to forget about that for now, because we’re focusing on the game against Kettering”.
FA Cup run providing momentum for Buxton promotion push
The important matches will keep on coming for Buxton, regardless of if they progress into the First Round, with a top-of-the-table clash against South Shields awaiting the Bucks on Saturday.
Buxton are seven points behind joint-leaders South Shields and Matlock Town at the summit of the Northern Premier League Premier, yet they do boast three games in hand over their fellow title rivals.
Ensuring they use this FA Cup run as inspiration to go on and earn promotion is something Ward wants to see the Buxton players to do:
“If you look up to the National League North and see some of the teams like Kettering competing there and that’s what you want to be involved in football for.
“It also helps with the motivation too and I’ve coached in the leagues further down and it’s hard to find that edge if the matches aren’t that intense”.
Confidence flowing throughout in-form Buxton side
For Buxton supporters of a certain age, deep runs in the FA Cup will bring about fond memories, particularly the club’s 1951/52 campaign, where they reached the Third Round for the first and only time in their history.
Beaten by Doncaster Rovers, the following years represented somewhat of a decline for the club, yet Ward believes the Bucks once again have a bounce in their step:
“There seems to be that confidence and belief around the place, and we don’t seem to stop.
“We know we can score goals, so even if we do go behind, we're still aware that there’s every chance for us to get back into games.”
A former player at Sheffield United, Ward knows a thing or two about success as a footballer and the Yorkshire-born coach is confident the Derbyshire side are heading in the right direction:
“I’ve seen changing rooms before like this, where there are a plethora of players coming in and you look around knowing they have experience and quality. That feeling just gives you a buzz”.
Buxton, Ward and his superior Gary Hayward will continue their journey in the FA Cup when they take on Kettering for a place in the First Round on Tuesday evening.