Kettering Town took a giant step towards the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central title as they beat Leighton Town 3-2 at Latimer Park.
Goals from Dubi Ogbonna, Elliot Sandy and Andy Hall secured a seventh win in a row for the Poppies and it proved to be a crucial one.
Second-placed Bedworth United were beaten 3-2 at home by Hanwell Town, which meant the Poppies opened up an eight-point lead at the summit with 10 games to play, which is one more than Bedworth.
It’s not over, of course. But it’s clear that the title is there for the taking now as far as Kettering are concerned.
There was good news for the Poppies ahead of the game with David Kolodynski agreeing a contract for the remainder of the season with another year’s option.
However, the frontman had to settle for a place on the bench as Ogbonna came back into the starting line-up while James Clifton was passed fit after being the only injury doubt.
It was a fairly slow start, although Ogbonna forced visiting goalkeeper Zaki Oualah into his first save at the near post after good work from James Jepson.
Ogbonna proved to be an influential figure in the first half and he sent Josh Moreman clear on the left, although Sandy was unable to connect with the winger’s cross.
But Kettering did get a let off midway through the half when Jason Lee conceded possession to Mark Bunker. His shot was parried by Richard Knight and Claude Senia fluffed his lines with the goal at his mercy.
The Poppies continued to look lively in attack and Moreman was denied by Oualah before smashing the rebound wide.
However, the breakthrough did come four minutes before the break. Clifton went up for a header in the area, only to be met by a defender’s boot to his face.
Referee Darren Russell pointed to the spot and Ogbonna made no mistake from 12 yards.
Sandy saw a shot deflected wide in first-half stoppage-time but he did double the advantage 12 minutes into the second half.
Moreman did the leg work and eventually found Hall. His shot was blocked but Sandy was there to pick up the pieces from a couple of yards.
It needed an excellent save from Knight to turn away Aaron Morgan’s free-kick soon after that second goal.
However, Leighton were right back in the game on 69 minutes. There wasn’t a lot Clifton could do as he blocked Ash Farmer’s shot from close-range.
But Mr Russell spotted a hand had been used and pointed to the spot. And Danny Watson gave Knight no chance with a well-struck spot-kick.
That sparked nerves aplenty around the ground as Leighton piled forward looking for an equaliser.
But the Poppies did a good job of closing things out before they got back on the front foot.
Moreman saw a shot deflected just over the bar but the hosts wrapped it up in the final minute when Jepson’s wonderful quick free-kick found Hall and he showed all the composure in the world with a low finish.
However, there were still some nerves to be jangled as the visitors immediately went down the other end, won a free-kick and Morgan this time brilliantly found the top corner.
But it didn’t matter. The win had already been secured and this could well be a night that everyone looks back in a few weeks time.
It’s Kettering’s title to lose...
Poppies: Knight; Clifton, Solkhon, Lee, Kinniburgh; Hall, Jepson, Hull, Moreman; Sandy, Ogbonna (sub Kolodynski, 86 mins). Subs not used: Gooding, Tayal, Robinson, Richard-Noel.
Leighton: Oualah; Lyon, Goodman, Rajaram, Ridgeway; Watson, Bunker, Crook (sub Murphy, 72 mins), Morgan, Forrester (sub Farmer, 55 mins); Seina. Sub not used: Green.
Referee: Darren Russell.
Goals: Ogbonna pen (41 mins, 1-0), Sandy (57 mins, 2-0), Watson pen (69 mins, 2-1), Hall (90 mins, 3-1), Morgan (90 mins, 3-2).
Bookings: Ridgeway, Kolodynski, Murphy (all fouls).