Alfreton Town could not have hoped for a better start to their crucial Blue Square Bet Premier game against troubled Kettering Town at Nene Park on Saturday.
The two goals that eventually separated the teams came in the opening 10 minutes, and incredibly it was the first time in a dozen league and cup meetings that there had been more than one goal between them.
Darran Kempson and Jake Moult took their goals well, but questions must have been raised by the home side for some atrocious defending that made the Reds’ onerous task that much easier.
Alfreton started on the front foot with Paul Clayton’s second minute shot blocked by Jerel Ifil, but they were soon ahead from Nathan Arnold’s fourth minute corner.
The delivery found skipper Kempson unmarked at the back post for a simple yet clinical header to claim his first goal for the Reds.
Six minutes later Jake Moult took a free-kick wide left and managed to curl it directly into the far corner of the net without a solitary Kettering defender coming anywhere near it.
Danny Mills tried to instil a fightback by the hosts with a lengthy run down the left in the 14th minute, but Reds’ keeper Jon Stewart easily smothered his cross.
Then three minutes later a Nicky Deverdics free-kick saw Moult’s volley blocked by Phil Ifil before Clayton’s header was superbly turned behind by home keeper Laurie Walker.
Moult fired over from 18 yards from Arnold’s 24th minute tee-up, then Nathan Jarman saw his 20 yarder spin off Phil Ifil for another corner.
A deep free-kick on 31 minutes from Kettering skipper Sol Davis allowed Djoumin Sangare’s stifled header to be comfortably dealt with by Stewart. Then Max York’s effort looped up off the vigilant Kempson before being held by the keeper.
Charlie Wyke’s angled volley spun harmlessly behind from a deep Phil Ifil free-kick as Kettering kept trying to find a way back into the game, then on the stroke of half-time Seamus Conneely cleared when Sangare sent Ben Joyce through.
Ben Ford went close for the Poppies with a 22 yarder on 54 minutes, then their best chance of reducing the deficit arrived two minutes later and it needed a good save from Stewart.
The Reds’ keeper managed to parry Mills’ close range header at his near post and the follow-up from the same player was diverted into the side-netting.
Nicky Law decided to bolster his defence with Theo Streete taking over from Clayton in the 58th minute, which was a perfect tactic as the home side never troubled his side again and Alfreton were able to engineer three telling breaks.
Connor Franklin sent Anthony Wilson through on 60 minutes but as the striker attempted to control the ball inside the area a suspicious nudge by Jerel Ifil went unpunished.
Ten minutes later Jarman sent Arnold clear and this time there was a definite push by the same defender that again saw vehement penalty appeals fall on deaf ears.
Arnold was sent through again with seven minutes remaining, this time by Deverdics, but as he prepared to fire past Walker the ball clearly bobbled and he could only watch his effort screw well wide.
The final four minutes of added time were exclusively played out in one corner of the pitch, with sub Adam Cunnington the principal player in keeping possession as frustrated Kettering defenders conceded a chapter of corners and free-kicks.
ALFRETON: Stewart; Law (Mullan 80 mins), Kempson, Conneely, Franklin, Moult, Deverdics, Arnold, Jarman, Clayton (Streete 58 mins), A.Wilson (Cunnington 66 mins). Sub not used: Lowson.
ATTENDANCE: 1093 (inc. 192 from Alfreton).