Josh Moreman hit a hat-trick as Kettering Town got their Calor League Division One Central campaign back on track with a 4-0 success over Ashford Town (Middx) at Latimer Park.
Moreman headed the Poppies into a deserved first-half lead but it wasn’t until 13 minutes from full-time that the lead was doubled by Dubi Ogbonna.
And that goal knocked the stuffing out of the hard-working visitors and Kettering, and Moreman in particular, showed no mercy as the hosts finished the game with a flourish.
In the wake of a second successive defeat, manager Dean Thomas rang the changes to his starting line-up as Elliot Sandy, Chris Logan and James Clifton all dropped to the bench with Louis Hamilton, Dan Crowie and Ash Fuller all coming in.
A hamstring injury kept James Jepson out of the squad but there was a place on the bench for Will Muzvimbiri.
There was also a change in formation with Ogbonna and Moreman being paired in attack as part of a 4-4-2 with Tommy Hull switching into midfield while Jonathon Thorpe dropped into the right-back slot.
After a sluggish start, Kettering soon got into their stride and they went on to dominate the first half as Ashford failed to really test Alastair Worby.
Ogbonna shot weakly at Tyler Tobin and Fuller volleyed over from close-range while birthday boy Henry Eze flicked a header wide as the Poppies gradually took control.
And they found a breakthrough midway through the half. Fuller did brilliantly to sweep a pass out to the right wing for Hamilton to chase. And his excellent cross to the far post was met by Moreman who outjumped his marker to head home.
The Poppies went for the kill as they seeked the second goal but they were only left frustrated as the impressive Tobin kept them out.
He saved another Eze header but the big defender really should have scored when he showed a nice bit of skill to create an opening for himself but blasted wide when the time to shoot arrived.
Captain Steve Kinniburgh saw a low drive saved by Tobin after he was set up by Ogbonna and the striker was also denied by the visiting goalkeeper with a similar effort.
And Tobin had the final word in the half when he dived full length to save from Fuller after Moreman had found him in the left channel.
Kettering did have the ball in the net again early in the second half but Tommy Hull’s effort was chalked off after Moreman was adjudged to have fouled Tobin.
From there, it all got a bit scrappy with neither side really looking like adding to the scoreline.
But with 13 minutes to go, the floodgates opened. Ogbonna chased a ball over the top and beat Tobin to it. The frontman lobbed it towards goal and it found its way in with the aid of the post.
And just 90 seconds late the game was over as Moreman took aim from the edge of the box and his low shot left Tobin flat-footed.
Ashford’s energy seemed to disappear with that and Moreman completed his hat-trick in emphatic style when he raced away on the right and hammered home a terrific shot into the far corner.
That ended the contest, although substitute Logan had a great shout for a penalty waved away when he appeared to be hauled down in the area.
But the damage had been done, Moreman stole the show and the Poppies may well be on track.
One home game this week is down, three points are in the bag. There is still a lot of work to do though.
Everyone back to Latimer Park on Thursday then?
Poppies: Worby; Thorpe, Crowie, Eze, Kinniburgh; Hamilton (sub Clifton, 78 mins), Gooding (sub Logan, 80 mins), Hull, A Fuller; Ogbonna, Moreman (sub Osei-Siribour, 84 mins). Subs not used: Sandy, Muzvimbiri.
Ashford: Tobin; Dearden, Mullan, Canderton, Ewing; Hughes (sub Brunton, 69 mins), Jones, Mann (sub Weight, 66 mins), Kazi (sub Thornley, 80 mins); Price, Moody. Subs not used: J Fuller.
Referee: Darren Russell.
Goals: Moreman (22 mins, 1-0), Ogbonna (77 mins, 2-0), Moreman (79 mins, 3-0), Moreman (82 mins, 4-0).