Dean Thomas felt Kettering Town’s quality eventually came to the fore as their fine run of form continued with an emphatic 5-1 victory over Leighton Town at Latimer Park.
The Poppies’ first game of 2014 couldn’t have gone much better as Dubi Ogbonna created history by becoming the first Kettering player to score a hat-trick of penalties in one match.
Further goals from Josh Moreman, his second in two matches since joining the club, and Andy Gooding rounded things off in front of over 600 fans.
The victory extended the Poppies’ unbeaten run to 14 matches in all competitions and sent them up to fifth place in the Calor League Division One Central.
But Thomas acknowledged it wasn’t as easy as the final scoreline suggests and he was delighted with the way his team “kicked on” in the latter stages.
“I thought it was a very competitive game,” the Poppies boss said.
“They played with an extra man in midfield and that made it hard for us but it was end-to-end in the first half.
“We lacked a bit of quality from the wide positions despite getting into good positions and I think our only shot on target was the penalty.
“But we got the ball into the penalty area and when that happens, you will create chances. We may have been given three penalties but were all were justified in my mind.
“No-one is going to come here and lie down. Every team we play against will hang in there, fight, battle and scrap.
“They always looked capable of nicking a goal while their energy levels were good but we kicked on and it was encouraging considering we have only played once in four weeks.
“I thought we killed their enthusiasm in the end by getting that third goal and we ran away with it towards the end.
“But that will happen a lot this season where teams will come here and dig in. I thought Leighton raised their game but our quality showed in the end.
“Overall, it was a hard-fought battle and a good win for us, which has helped improve our goal difference.
Thomas paid tribute to Ogbonna, whose treble from the spot was his third hat-trick for the club since joining from St Ives Town.
Kettering had previously failed five times from 12 yards this season and Thomas said: “It’s nice that we have found a penalty taker. Taking penalties is a fine art, we as Englishmen know that better than anyone!
“He was very calm and showed a lot of composure and he put them away well. Those penalties have won us the game.
“But I also thought Josh Moreman worked tirelessly and I was pleased he got his goal.”
Thomas is now hoping the Latimer Park surface will recover in time for his team to take on Premier Division outfit Redditch United in the Red Insure Cup on Tuesday night while a big league game at second-placed Rugby Town lies ahead next weekend.
“We will have to see what the conditions are like on Tuesday because the pitch is a bit chewed up now,” the Kettering manager added.
“But we have to get used to playing on these surfaces because it is that time of year.
“Hopefully, we can get the game on and then we have a big one at Rugby next weekend.
“We are better equipped for that than we were the first time we played them and we are looking forward to it.”
Elliot Sandy made his debut as a second-half substitute after the former Brackley Town man signed for the Poppies on Friday.