When Swindon Town became the first post-war Football League visitors to play a Cup-tie at Rockingham Road in 1961, it was against a backdrop of Kettering having failed to beat a League side at home since Loughborough back in 1898. Indeed, it had been over 60 years since Kettering had beaten any League team at any venue, Chesterfield Town being the last such victims at Saltergate in 1901. However, under the newly-installed floodlights, the Poppies ran out comprehensive 3-0 winners to claim their 8th giant-killing. There would be no decades-long wait for the 9th. Two years after beating Swindon, Kettering faced a similar scenario - a first-round replay - when they travelled to Millwall. After a ding-dong battle, the Poppies, having taken the lead on three occasions, eventually emerged the victors by the odd goal in five, George Armour netting the decider from 35 yards, ten minutes from time.
Football League opponents during the period: Bristol Rovers, Leyton Orient, Reading, Swindon Town, Northampton Town, Millwall, Oxford United.
Previously, every Poppies-Posh Cup-tie had been played in the qualifying rounds. But not this one; this was the competition proper. It was also Peterborough United’s penultimate season as a non-League club. Five consecutive Midland League titles would more than make the case for their election to the Football League in 1960.
A 2-2 draw at London Road in front of a little under 18,000 spectators meant a Thursday afternoon replay at Rockingham Road, where another big crowd was gathering.
Half-an-hour before the kick-off about 6,000 people were in the ground, including a large contingent of Peterborough fans, sporting blue and white favours, and numerous rattles and bells were being exercised all over the ground [reported the Evening Telegraph]. The pitch looked in beautiful condition, but with a slight moisture on top and generally conditions were perfect. The early morning mist that had threatened the game had practically cleared . . . When the teams ran out, the sun had made an appearance and the attendance had exceeded expectations and there appeared to be 8,000 people on the terraces with hundreds more still streaming in.
Later, when all was totalled up, the official attendance was 11,246 - a combined figure of over 29,000 for the two matches, a truly astonishing figure for two non-League teams.
After only 45 seconds, Hughie Morrow, attacking the Rockingham Road end, received the ball from a throw-in, swung over a cross, and there at the far post was Bill Draper to nod the Poppies into the lead. A sensational start, which was to become doubly sensational when, in the 19th minute, Draper headed home Alan Dadswell’s cross to put Kettering fans in dreamland. It was still 2-0 come the interval, though injuries to Morrow and the experienced Norman Plummer (who had captained Leicester City in the 1949 Cup final) were of concern to the Poppies.
Geoff Toseland almost made it three when he beat the keeper . . . but his effort was cleared off the line. After that, Kettering spent most of the second half on the back foot. Peterborough halved the deficit after 71 minutes, a low shot travelling through a forest of legs to beat goalie Peter Roberts. Then, five minutes from the end of the 90, disaster befell the Poppies. The ball was played into the goalmouth and defender Brian Reynolds inadvertently sent a bullet of a header into his own net.
The match went into extra-time. A quarter of an hour later the players changed ends with the scores still tied. Both teams were tiring and the pace had gone out of the game. A second replay was a distinct possibility - and who can say what the combined attendance figure would have been then? But it was not to be. With nine minutes remaining, Posh scored their third goal. After two truly dramatic Cup battles between worthy opponents, the Poppies were out of the competition.
The Friar summed up local feelings in the following day’s Evening Telegraph:
Fate struck a cruel blow to Kettering football yesterday afternoon. The Poppies suffered
the sort of ill-luck that makes saints want to kick in stained glass windows.
Including replays, it was, in fact, the 13th time Kettering and Peterborough United had crossed swords in the Cup, and the third time the fixture had attracted a five-figure gate through the Rockingham Road turnstiles. It is a rivalry yet to be resumed.