Kettering Town’s run of three consecutive wins in the Evostik League Southern Premier Division came to an end as they were beaten 5-2 by Hemel Hempstead.
The Poppies were made to pay for a poor first half performance at Vauxhall Road that saw them go in for their half-time cuppa trailling by a 4-0 margin.
It was a much-improved effort by the visitors in the second period and they found the net twice to get some sort of reward but in truth they were second best against the league leaders.
The Poppies were on the back foot almost immediately as Dave Pearce gave Hemel a second-minute lead.
David King doubled the advantage four minutes later and the uphill task became more difficult midway through the half when Matt Nolan added a third.
Three-nil became four 11 minutes from the half-time whistle as Charlie Mpi made the piints safe with the hosts’ fourth.
The second period was much more of a contest with the Poppies giving as good as they got and they got on the scoresheet in the 56th minute as Will Muzvimbiri found the target.
That gave the visitors a glimmer of hope which was extinguished 15 minutes from time when Pearce added his second.
Jamie Griffiths netted from the penalty spot in the latter stages but that proved to be just a consolation with the damage already done.
Poppies: Nlate, Gyasi, Maddox, Logan, Exe, Crowie, Johnston (Akinshade), Hicks, Griffiths, Muzvimbiri (King), Ford. Subs not used: Kelly, Glen, Talbot.
Referee: Marc Wilson.
Goals: Pearce (2, 75), King (6), Nolan (23), Mpi (34), Muzvimbiri (56), Griffiths (pen, 84).