Scott Machin is in no doubt that teams in the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central raise their game when they come up against Kettering Town.
The Poppies were put through another thorough examination on Saturday as Brett Solkhon’s header earned them a hard-fought 1-0 success at Northamptonshire rivals Daventry Town.
Kettering now sit seven points clear at the top of the table heading into the new year, which kicks off with a home clash against Rugby Town on Thursday before Beaconsfield SYCOB come to Latimer Park on Saturday.
And joint-boss Machin knows big tests lie ahead for his team.
He said: “I think teams do raise their game.
“I went to the one between Rugby and Bedworth on Boxing Day and it certainly wasn’t played at the tempo we had at Bedworth a couple of weeks ago.
“People do lift their game. This is a big club with a long heritage and people want to get that scalp.
“And with us being top of the league, they want to beat us for two reasons.”
Machin was delighted with the large turnout of Kettering supporters at Daventry with well over 400 making the short trip across the county to help give the hosts a record crowd at Communications Park of 660.
He added: “The fans have been fantastic all season. It is quite a tight ground at Daventry and they made themselves heard.
“They were great and it really helps us because when you are having to defend and be resilient like we were, those guys being there is very much appreciated.”
Machin, meanwhile, also reserved praise for match-winner Solkhon as his crucial goal capped another impressive display at the heart of the defence.
“He played in midfield for the first few games but we had a few problems defensively and we put Brett back there and he has been fantastic,” Machin said.
“He is always a threat in and around set-pieces. He scored the goal but some of the clearances he made, especially in the second half were fantastic.
“He leads from the front. The guys all respect him because of what he has done in the game but also for what he does for us in the games.”