As far as league debuts go, Dan Nti’s for Kettering Town wasn’t a bad one at all.
A hard-working display from the summer signing was rewarded when he became an instant hit with the Poppies faithful as he grabbed an 88th-minute winner to seal a 2-1 success over AFC Telford United as the club enjoyed a triumphant return to the Vanarama National League North on the opening day of the season.
The victory was made all-the-more impressive as the Poppies were 1-0 down at half-time and, after Joel Carta had equalised, they were reduced to 10 men with Sam Cartwright being sent-off while Paul White saved the resulting penalty from Aaron Williams.
Despite that numerical disadvantage, Nti finished off a blistering counter-attack led by Lindon Meikle to give boss Nicky Eaden a win in his first league game at the helm.
It was a day to remember at Latimer Park and former Brackley Town forward Nti believes the performance and result epitomised a hard-work ethic that has already developed in the new-look squad.
“I am really happy for the debut goal and hopefully I can get many more,” the 25-year-old said.
“But it was a big team effort. The gaffer has got behind us, he has told us how to play and I think we executed it perfectly.
“Hopefully we can carry on doing that and make sure we are in the top half of the table.
“It was an exciting game. Obviously we went down to 10 men, which isn’t ideal, but the boys worked their socks off.
“We showed we were a threat in the first half but we went 1-0 down. But we stuck together, we got the two goals and the fans were right behind us so it was great.
“This is a group of boys who want to work hard for each other and that was important for us on this occasion.
“And it was a great stop by Whitey to tip the penalty onto the crossbar. If that doesn’t happen, we’re down to 10 men, 2-1 down and it’s a harder game. But he made that save and that was the difference.”
The Poppies are now gearing up for a tough trip to King’s Lynn Town tomorrow (Tuesday) night.
And Nti is well aware of just how hard it will be throughout the whole of the season.
“Everyone knows this is a tough league,” he added.
“You have got some big clubs in there who have good players and experienced players in the division.
“Telford are one of those teams and I would see them up there this season.
“But we are going to stand up and be counted. Hopefully we can have more games like that and get more wins on the board.”