A MAGNIFICENT second-half display helped Kettering Town demolish Solihull Moors as they flexed their muscles in the race for the Blue Square Conference North title.
The Poppies simply battered their visitors into submission after the break at the A-Line Arena as they claimed a win that meant so much more than just a healthy-looking scoreline.
The Kettering players would not have realised it. But it turned out to be their game in hand on second-placed Harrogate Town whose own fixture against Blyth Spartans was called off.
And they took full advantage to put clear daylight between themselves and the chasing pack as both Hyde United and Southport also slipped up on the opening day of 2008.
This victory ensured the Poppies of a full house of wins over the Christmas period. But it also rounded off the first half of the season – and the stats make pretty good reading.
They have won 15 of their 21 matches, drawn five and lost just one. A total of 50 points, which have come thanks to 47 goals scored and just 16 conceded. It has been impressive to say the least.
The demolition of Solihull was built around a magnificent debut performance by Chris Beardsley who was terrific having completed a one-month loan move from York City on New Year’s Eve.
He worked hard, won every header, linked up the play beautifully and scored twice to make it a dream start.
His display alongside the classy duo of Craig Westcarr and Jean-Paul Marna made for an awesome cocktail for the Poppies and it left the visitors completely shellshocked.
There had been little sign of what would come after a dull opening period which saw the hosts 2-0 up despite barely getting out of first gear.
Brett Solkhon opened the scoring on five minutes when he hooked home from close-range after Westcarr’s free-kick had fallen to him.
And Westcarr was the provider again as he fed a pass through for Marna who coolly rounded Adam Rachel before scoring into an empty net.
Beardsley was denied a goal in the first half as Carl Motteram cleared the danger at the far post as the striker looked to head home.
But he didn’t have to wait long to get in on the act.
Westcarr had already rattled the visitors’ post with a free-kick early on in the second half. But within a minute it was game over as Beardsley towered above the Moors defence to power home Marna’s cross.
The Poppies went on the rampage after that and three goals in the final 19 minutes ensured they finished the festive period with a flourish.
Marna returned the earlier favour by playing in Westcarr for number four and David Bridges stabbed home the fifth from close range.
But it was left to the superb Beardsley to finish the job when his 18-yard volley beat Rachel with the aid of a slight deflection.
Cooper was left less-than-impressed as his defence’s only real slip allowed Darren Middleton to skip past Lee Harper and score a consolation.
But there was no way that goal could take the gloss off a terrific display from the rampant hosts.
There’s still plenty of football to be played. But a win over Harrogate in Saturday’s top-of-the-table showdown at the A-Line Arena will have the Kettering fans believing 2008 might just be their year…