A solid performance on the road allowed Kettering Town to kick off the new Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division campaign on a winning note as they claimed a 2-0 success at Dorchester Town.
After a goalless first half in which the Poppies struggled to turn their possession into chances, they got it right after the break as goals from Liam Canavan and substitute Callum Westwood secured three points.
The Poppies’ preparations were hampered by heavy traffic with the team bus taking over six hours to get down to the south-west before they finally arrived just after 2.20pm.
That resulted in a 10-minute delay in the kick-off but Marcus Law’s men didn’t allow that to stop them in their tracks.
It wasn’t a vintage display but a decent defensive effort ensured goalkeeper Paul Walker enjoyed a relatively quiet afternoon while, at the other end, a real moment of quality from Canavan unlocked the door early in the second half.
And, with expectations high for a promotion challenge, Law probably couldn’t have asked for a better start from his troops.
The Poppies boss handed youngster Nathan Bobowicz his first league start for the club while recent signing James Haran was also included at right-back while fellow summer arrival Nathan Hicks took his place in the midfield.
That resulted in a 10-minute delay in the kick-off but they started brightly and Bobowicz was presented with a big chance early on when he was played in by Canavan but home goalkeeper Shane Murphy was out quickly to deny him.
The youngster was in the thick of the early exchanges and should have done better than drag a shot wide after a loose pass from Nathan Walker fell into his path.
The Poppies continued to have the bulk of possession but were lacking punch in the final third.
Nathan Hicks shot wide from distance while Dorchester’s first real opening saw Mario Mateus slip a pass through to Liam Sayers who curled his effort high and off target.
Rene Howe smashed one high while Dory Yates went closer at the other end as his 30-yard special missed the top corner by a matter of inches.
But the breakthrough did come six minutes into the second half when the Poppies took the lead.
Howe took a quick throw-in on the right, Spencer Weir-Daley knocked it down and Canavan produced a real moment of quality as he hooked the ball over Murphy and into the far corner.
The Poppies looked comfortable after that but a dreadful free-kick routine, which saw Canavan pass straight to a home player, resulted in Haran having to produce a decent challenge on Sayers as he tried to race away.
Paul Walker produced an excellent fingertip save to turn Mark Jermyn’s deflected effort around the post as Dorchester went on the hunt for an equaliser.
But, just as the hosts were getting on top, a horrible mistake from their goalkeeper cost them dearly.
With 12 minutes to go, Murphy’s attempted clearance was charged down by youngster Westwood and he coolly rolled the ball into the empty net.
It could have been even better for the Poppies went another substitute, Sam Smith, was sent through on goal. But a heavy touch allowed Murphy to make a save and then Jordan Wilson was crowded out after Smith retrieved the ball.
It didn’t matter, however.
The Poppies made few mistakes when defending their own goal with Dorchester struggling to make any inroads.
This was the sort of performance they will need on the road if they are to mount a challenge.
Now it’s back to Latimer Park where Leamington will be waiting for them on Tuesday night.
Dorchester: Murphy; Oldring, Jermyn, N Walker, Martin; Mateus (sub Ayunga, 83 mins), Yates (sub B Walker, 73 mins), Jerrard, Smeeton, Wood (sub Crittenden, 63 mins); Sayers. Subs not used: Crittenden, Swann, Brookes.
Poppies: P Walker; Haran, Solkhon, Mulligan, Brighton; Hicks, Bobowicz (sub Westwood, 57 mins), Stephens (sub Wilson, 83 mins), Canavan; Weir-Daley (sub Smith, 73 mins), Howe. Subs not used: Carruthers, Langdon.
Referee: James Robinson.
Goals: Canavan (51 mins, 0-1), Westwood (78 mins, 0-2).