Kettering Town are heading for the drop in the Blue Square Bet Premier after a dreadful first-half display allowed relegation rivals Alfreton Town to pick up a 2-0 win at Nene Park.
New signing James Smith was handed a start by Poppies boss Ashley Westwood while Max York was also handed a debut in midfield.
Alfreton went off like a train and the game was pretty much done and dusted inside the first 10 minutes.
Paul Clayton had an early shot blocked but the visitors went in front when Darran Kempson was left completely unmarked to head home Nicky Deverdics’ corner.
If that was bad, things got even worse for the Poppies when a free-kick from the left was curled over by Jake Moult and it missed everyone including goalkeeper Laurie Walker and nestled in the corner.
The shell-shocked hosts were unable to respond and only a fine block from Phil Ifil and an excellent save from Walker to deny Clayton stopped Alfreton from extending their advantage.
There was little seen of Kettering as an attacking force and James Smith forced Jon Stewart into his only notable action as he easily held a long-range effort.
It could only get better for the Poppies after the break and they looked brighter with half-time substitute Ben Ford sending a shot over the bar before Stewart was forced into some serious action with a decent save from Danny Mills’ header.
The hosts saw plenty of the ball but were unable to create any clear-cut chances and Alfreton had an appeal for a penalty waved away after Nathan Arnold went down under a challenge from Jerel Ifil.
And the visitors should have wrapped things up five minutes from the end when Arnold beat the offside trap and raced away but sent his final shot high and wide.
But it didn’t matter as the visitors comfortably held on to seal the crucial win.
Poppies: Walker; P Ifil, J Ifil (sub Noubissie, 78 mins), Sangare, Davis; Joyce, Bridges, York (sub Ford, h-t), Mills; Wyke, Smith. Subs not used: Westwood, Ralph.
Alfreton: Stewart; Law (sub Mullan, 80 mins), Kempson, Conneely, Franklin; Arnold, Moult, Deverdics, Jarman; Clayton (sub Streete, 58 mins), Wilson (sub Cunnington, 66 mins). Sub not used: Lowson.
Referee: Wayne Barratt.
Goals: Kempson (4 mins, 0-1), Moult (10 mins, 0-2).
Bookings: Streete (foul), Stewart (kicking ball away).