Assistant-manager John Ramshaw admitted a 1-0 home success over Bradford (Park Avenue) was the “best way to start the season” for Kettering Town.
The new-look, and youthful, Poppies line-up secured all three points on the opening day of the Vanarama National League North campaign thanks to a first-half penalty, which was won and converted by Claudio Ofosu, who was one of eight players making their league debut for the club.
After a nervy start, Ofosu was hauled down in the area after 23 minutes and picked himself up to find the net from 12 yards.
And that proved to be enough as the Poppies were forced to hold on in the latter stages as Bradford piled on late pressure
Kettering were unlucky not to have a second in the first period when centre-half Luke Ward saw a volley crash off the crossbar.
But there was some desperate defending in the second period not least when Ward was forced to hack the ball off the line after Bradford substitute Akeel Francis saw an effort cannon back off the underside of the crossbar.
However, they did see things out to get off to a winning start, which left Ramshaw delighted.
“It’s the best way to start the season, with three points on the board,” he said.
“I don’t think it was a sparkling game, I don’t think it was a sparkling performance from us but it’s a results driven business and we have come away with the result today.
“I thought we were the better side for 70 minutes. They threw everything at us for the last 20 minutes but the very young back three, I think the oldest of them was 21, weathered the storm.
“If they didn’t defend well, they defended bravely and that’s important.
“There has been some last-ditch defending, some of which was from their own making, but they are prepared to put delicate parts of their body into areas you wouldn’t put your boot so well done to them for that.
“There wasn’t a lot in it but I thought we were worth the three points.
“The players are still learning. They’re getting to know each other and, for a lot of them, it’s been a wake-up call from academy football.
“Hopefully they have taken on board what they have learned and will be a bit sharper next time around.”
A crowd of 762 were on hand as the fans made a welcome return to Latimer Park following two campaigns hampered and ended early by the Covid-19 pandemic.
And Ramshaw was grateful to the Kettering supporters for being “forgiving” to the young players within a starting line-up which had an average age of just 23.
“The fans are massive to us in the way they back us and the club generally so to see them back in was lovely,” the assistant-manager added.
“They really got behind us and they have gone home happy because we have rewarded them with three points.
“I thought the fans were really positive about everything we did. They were willing the team on and they have been magnificent for me and Paul (manager Cox) since we came in here.
“They are our 12th man and when we were under the cosh late on, you could feel them willing us on.
“They were very forgiving for the mistakes made by a young side and let’s hope that continues for a long time to come.”
The Poppies return to action next weekend when they make the trip to Gateshead.