Kettering Town marked their return to action after a month of inactivity with a superb display as they completed a comprehensive 4-0 win over Potters Bar Town at Latimer Park.
The Poppies, who are now unbeaten in 14 Calor League Division One Central matches, powered away from their visitors once they had taken the lead through Andy Gooding.
There were numerous impressive displays with Gooding eventually completing a double but it was Elliot Sandy who stood out.
Starting as a lone striker, the former Brackley Town man played a part in the Poppies’ first three goals before adding the fourth himself.
Kettering were a fairly strong side even before Sandy arrived at Latimer Park but, in this kind of form, he could well prove to be a key figure in any sort of push for the play-off places.
Sandy was given the nod in attack with Dubi Ogbonna ruled out because of injury while Jamie McAlindon finally making his league debut in goal due to the absence of Denham Hinds.
And McAlindon was forced into action early on when a quick counter-attack from the visitors ended with Finbar Robins teeing up Cole Penny and the Poppies keeping was at full length to turn the ball away for a corner.
But Kettering gradually came into the game and they should have been in front on 12 minutes when visiting stopper Mike Underwood parried Sandy’s shot into the path of Josh Moreman who could only blast the rebound over the bar.
Sandy himself was denied by a last-ditch challenge in the six-yard box but the Poppies did break the deadlock on 21 minutes.
A ball was sent over the top and Underwood raced just outside his area to head it clear as Sandy put the pressure on. It fell for Gooding and he coolly chipped the ball back over the goalkeeper’s head. and into the net.
It was almost 2-0 just five minutes later when Gooding whipped in a free-kick from the left and Sandy was out of luck as his header cannoned off the underside of the crossbar before being cleared.
But the second did arrive four minutes before the break when Sandy flicked on a ball forward and Thorpe beat the offside trap before sending an inch-perfect lob over Underwood.
If Dean Thomas had demanded a quick start to the second half from his team then he got it as the third goal arrived just 45 seconds after the restart.
Again, Sandy was the architect as he raced away in the left channel but rolling the ball into Gooding’s path. The midfielder’s first shot was blocked but he made no mistake at the second attempt.
That goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of the visitors and their frustration boiled over when Ashley Harrison-Barker lunged into James Clifton. It was an ugly challenge and the Potters Bar man was lucky to escape with a booking.
But Kettering continued to control things and Sandy eventually grabbed the goal he so richly deserved. He was sent clean through and he skipped round Underwood before tucking home into an empty net.
Underwood got the better of Sandy soon after as a smart save denied the frontman a second.
But it was all very comfortable for the Poppies from there as they dominated possession without ever really pushing on to add further goals.
No more were needed and Thomas was even able to rest a few legs with Saturday’s home clash with fellow play-off contenders Royston Town coming up on Saturday.
Poppies: McAlindon; Clifton (sub Hamilton, 70 mins), Eze, Hull, Kinniburgh; Thorpe, Jepson, Gooding (sub Bukasa, 79 mins), Logan (sub Fuller, 70 mins), Moreman; Sandy. Subs not used: Crowie.
Potters Bar: Underwood; Close, Simms (sub Friend, 44 mins), Duncan, Clifford; Harrison-Barker (sub Delgado, 79 mins), Bowditch, Hutchinson, Penny, Robins (sub Hamdan, 66 mins); Akinjirrin. Subs not used: Lane, Ailey.
Referee: Matthew Smith.
Goals: Gooding (21 mins, 1-0), Thorpe (41 mins, 2-0), Gooding (46 mins, 3-0), Sandy (64 mins, 4-0).
Bookings: Logan, Harrison-Barker, Clifford (all fouls).
Don’t miss all the reaction to Kettering’s win in Thursday’s Northamptonshire Telegraph