VERDICT: Poppies give boss Cox the perfect start
The Paul Cox era at Kettering Town started in fine style as they thumped fellow strugglers Bradford Park Avenue 4-0 at Latimer Park.
First and foremost, the win lifted the Poppies off the bottom of the Vanarama National League North and out of the relegation zone - a big psychological boost if ever there was one.
But the Kettering players, some of them no doubt playing for their futures in their first outing under the new boss, really had to get down and dirty to get the job done.
The game was only given the go ahead an hour before kick-off after a number of volunteers had helped fork the pitch to get rid of the standing water that had appeared after the morning rain.
And their valiant efforts were suitably rewarded as Kettering dealt with the boggy surface much better than the visitors.
With John Ramshaw back in the home dugout after rejoining the club as Cox’s assistant-manager, the Poppies were out of the traps quickly.
Ben Milnes side-footed a volley wide after a cross from the left and then shot over from the edge of the area before the breakthrough came on the quarter-hour.
It was made on the right-hand side as a driving run from Gary Stohrer then saw him twice exchange passes with Dan Nti and his final cross was converted from close-range by Lindon Meikle.
It was the perfect start but, as the pitch began to deteriorate, so did the game as the scrappy affair that most had predicted really developed.
The hard working Aaron O’Connor found no takers for his cross from the left but a key moment arrived on the half-hour mark when Paul White produced his only real save after the afternoon.
And it was a good one as he flung himself to his right to keep out Alex Hurst’s deflected shot.
Half-time was probably needed and whatever was said in the home dressing-room clearly had a positive effect as the Poppies came out with renewed vigour.
The crucial second arrived on 56 minutes with the excellent Connor Kennedy, who revelled in the swashbuckling conditions, rising highest to head home Milnes’ left-wing corner.
And it was Milnes who added the third seven minutes later as he sent a 20-yard free-kick around the wall and into the bottom corner.
That ensured the game was done and dusted but Bradford did have the ball in the net themselves, only to see it ruled out by an offside flag after Oli Johnson had flicked home Dan Sweeney’s shot.
The game gradually opened up again and Nti was unlucky to see a volley fly just wide before he won the penalty that resulted in the fourth goal.
Nti was hauled down in full flight by Lewis Knight and O’Connor stepped up to send Joe Green the wrong way from 12 yards.
Knight almost atoned for that but was denied by White while, at the other end, Meikle went close to grabbing his second of the game but was off target with his final effort after robbing a defender and going into the box.
The job, however, was well done by that point.
The same group of players who had managed just two wins in 13 league matches before this game seemingly won this one at a canter.
But you can guarantee no-one, least of all someone of Cox’s experience, will be getting carried away.
There’s a long road ahead to turn this season around and this is just the start...
Poppies: White; Stohrer, Graham, McGrath, Skarz; Kennedy; Nti, Milnes, Meikle, Kelly; O’Connor (sub Mitford, 82 mins). Subs not used: Solkhon, Brighton, Carta, Sebbeh.
Bradford PA: Green; Lund, Lowe, Heaton (sub Johnson, 59 mins), Priestley; Knight, Hurst, Nowakowski, Agusteen (sub Dockerty, h-t), Sweeney, Hughes (sub Keane, h-t). Subs not used: Bazeley, Marriott.
Referee: Daniel Lockyer.
Goals: Meikle (15 mins, 1-0), Kennedy (56 mins, 2-0), Milnes (63 mins, 3-0), O’Connor pen (79 mins, 4-0).
Bookings: Hurst, Skarz, Lowe, Knight (all fouls), Hughes (dissent).
Northants Telegraph man-of-the match: Connor Kennedy - this turned out to match made for the combative midfielder. The boggy pitch didn’t bother him as he tore around the pitch, making tackles and showing a good eye for a pass as well. He rose highest to head home the crucial second goal and that was the cherry on top of a very tasty cake for the youngster.