AFC Mansfield boss Rudy Funk was pleased with his side’s never-say-die spirit as they bowed out of the FA Cup at Kettering Town — and came close to causing an upset.
After Southern League Premier Division side Kettering built a two-goal lead, Brad Wells’ late header almost inspired a last-gasp comeback for the Bulls.
But the Northern Premier East League visitors were denied an equaliser by brilliant goalkeeping.
“I have to hold my hands up and say well done to Kettering,” Funk said.
“In the first half they played extremely well. We certainly weren’t happy with our display in the first half — we dropped off.
“For us it has been a massive learning curve. We played against a very good side.”
Despite being displeased with his side’s first-half display, the manager praised the character they showed after half-time.
“I’ve got nothing but admiration for our lads,” Funk said.
“They gave a fantastic account of themselves (in the second half), so I am disappointed but at the same time very upbeat.”
Assistant manager Mark Ward said the Bulls were not at Kettering’s level in the first-half.
“We got outmuscled and out-thought,” Ward said. “We looked a little bit nervous and a little bit edgy.
“But they gave a good account of themselves in the second half. We took more risks, we went forward, and it was (only) two set-pieces that did us.”
The hosts were awarded a penalty after 21 minutes when Jack Broadhead was judged to have brought down Rhys Hoenes. Brett Solkhon stepped up to send Jason White the wrong way from the spot.
The Poppies went into the break one goal up, despite having numerous chances, but eventually found a vital second goal when Ben Milnes curled home a free-kick.
Brad Wells set up a nervous finish when he headed home Jimmy Ghaichem’s cross at the back post on 79 minutes.
Deep into injury time Kettering keeper Paul White denied Cameron Dear with a point-blank save.