Dean Thomas praised the desire and determination of his Kettering Town side as they battled their way into the Calor League Division One Central play-off final.
Henry Eze’s second-minute header proved to be enough for the Poppies as they held on to beat Northamptonshire rivals Daventry Town 1-0 in front of over 1,400 fans at a packed Latimer Park.
Kettering will have home advantage again for the promotion showdown with Slough Town on Bank Holiday Monday after the Rebels, who finished fifth in the table, claimed an excellent 3-0 victory at Rugby Town, who missed out on the title by just one point.
Daventry huffed and puffed during a tense encounter against the Poppies but the home defence stood firm and Thomas was delighted by the final outcome as his team moved to within 90 minutes of an immediate return to the Premier Division.
The Kettering boss said: “It is fantastic for everybody and I am delighted for everyone involved in the club.
“We knew how tough it was going to be, Daventry are a good side and they have had a fantastic season.
“Taking the lead after a couple of minutes brings its own pressure if you don’t go and get a second goal.
“In the first half I thought we edged the game and we had the better chances even though Alastair Worby had to make a great save to keep it level.
“We missed some glorious opportunities and scoring those may have taken the edge off our nerves.
“We never really got into it in the second half, it took us a while to get going.
“They put us under a lot of pressure for the first 25 minutes after half-time but we defended with resilience, we protected our 18-yard box and we have shown the desire and determination to get over the line.
“The bigger players stuck at it and won their headers. I thought Chris Logan was immense in shielding the back four, he played with a lot of guts as did others.
“That performance was what we are all about. I have tried to build a team which has resilience, a determination to win games and is hard to beat and we have certainly proved to be that.”
Don’t miss more reaction and pictures in Thursday’s Northamptonshire Telegraph