Greg Mills scored twice as Corby Town made comfortable progress into the next stage of the NFA Hillier Senior Cup with a 4-0 success over Kettering Town at Latimer Park.
On a night when both clubs had plenty on their minds, things panned out as expected with the Steelmen fielding a strong side as they now face up to an eight-day break from match action.
For the Poppies, it was an experimental evening with no fewer than nine changes made as they prepare for Saturday’s FA Cup second qualifying round clash with Chalfont St Peter.
Corby were in control pretty much throughout, although credit must be given to the youngsters within the Kettering line-up who, if nothing else, worked hard for the cause.
Goalkeeper Jamie McAlindon Tommy Hull were the only Poppies players to retain a starting place from the team that lost at Marlow at the weekend.
Josh Moreman started against his former club while Alfie Taylor, Jon Bukasa and Nat Liburd were also involved with the rest of the side being made up of players from the under-21 squad.
The Steelmen made just three changes from the side that thumped Paulton Rovers on Saturday with youngsters Elliott Bentley, Curtis Hartley and Jordon Crawford all handed starts with Kalern Thomas, Akin Daramola and Weir-Daley the players to make way.
It was a fairly low-key start but the Steelmen gradually took control as the half progressed with Mills being at the centre of most of their attacking play.
He dragged a shot wide after being played in by Ben Milnes before he forced McAlindon into a smart save after a good ball in from Connor Kennedy.
But Mills and Corby were, quite literally, handed the chance to take the lead on 27 minutes when the frontman’s cross was handled in the area by Bleu McNeil.
Mills stepped up but McAlindon got down well to his right to save his spot-kick.
Almost immediately, Mills missed the target after being sent clear down the left channel and he then fired over the bar after good work from Wilson Carvalho.
Carvalho blasted wide of the mark while Niall Duffy did likewise at the other end in what was Kettering’s best attempt of the half.
But the breakthrough came on the stroke of half-time. Liburd’s heavy backpass saw McAlindon mis-control and concede a corner.
That was played short and Mills eventually crossed to find Anton completely unmarked and he made no mistake with a firm header.
And it was 2-0 early in the second half as Mills got a well-deserved goal thanks to a neat finish from a narrow angle after he had jinked past a home defender.
It was quiet after that with Paul Malone stabbing an effort wide and then heading off target from a Mills corner.
But Mills put the game to bed on 69 minutes when he got clear of the Kettering defence. He was thwarted for a moment by Liburd but quickly recovered to get round McAlindon and finish smartly into the corner.
Corby continued to see plenty of the ball after that third goal as they knocked it around nicely.
And they grabbed their fourth with 10 minutes to go when Mills’ quickly-taken free-kick was met by Malone’s firm header, which found the bottom corner and continued the Steelmen skipper’s hot streak in front of goal this season.
That rounded things off nicely for Corby and their healthy following of supporters. The serious business for them resumes a week on Wednesday when Slough Town visit Steel Park.
For the Poppies, plenty would have been learned about the young players at the club.
But it’s all eyes on Latimer Park and the FA Cup now...
Poppies: McAlindon; McNeil (sub Sweeney, 58 mins), Hull (sub Joyce, 64 mins), Djujic, Bukasa; Katesmark, Liburd, Moussi (sub Hussain, 58 mins); Duffy, Taylor, Moreman. Subs not used: Tayal, Obeng.
Steelmen: Walker; Kennedy (sub Weir-Daley, 83 mins), Malone, Anton, Bentley; Hartley, Taylor (sub McInally, 60 mins); Crawford, Milnes (sub Peprah, 80 mins), Carvalho; Mills. Subs not used: Thomas, Clarke.
Referee: Geoff Russell.
Goals: Anton (45 mins, 0-1), Mills (47 mins, 0-2), Mills (69 mins, 0-3), Malone (80 mins, 0-4).
Don’t miss all the latest news from both the Steelmen and Poppies in Thursday’s Northamptonshire Telegraph