SUPPORTERS of Poole Town will be hoping this contest turns out to be indicative of the remainder of the season.
Such was their dominance during the first 60 minutes, any neutrals at Tatnam could have been forgiven for overlooking the fact this was a clash between play-off rivals in seventh and eighth.
The Steelmen had arrived in Dorset boasting four wins and a draw from their previous five away games and had been looking to leapfrog the Dolphins, playing on home soil for the first time since December 14.
However, Steve Devlin’s stunning strike and a double from Cherries loanee Jordan Chiedozie deservedly saw Poole race into a three-goal lead as the visitors’ brittle defence was dismantled with relative ease.
And while boss Tom Killick would have been a contented man during the first hour, he should also take comfort from the final 30 minutes when Poole had to dig deep and show another side to their game.
A thunderous strike from Claudio Hoban, who had netted all four goals in Corby’s midweek win at Bedford, threatened to spark an unlikely comeback as the visitors made it 3-1 with 18 minutes remaining.
And as the Steelmen, whose team was laced with players with Football League experience, continued to probe, Dolphins goalkeeper Dan Thomas made a late bid for the man-of-the-match plaudits.
Having kept out an effort from Gareth Jelleyman, Thomas then posted a save-of-the-season contender when he stuck out his right arm to thwart Greg Mills after the former Derby youngster had gone through one-on-one.
Had Mills – who played in the Championship for the Rams – made it 3-2 with 11 minutes left, there was a strong possibility Corby would have gone on to level, striking a huge psychological blow to Poole’s play-off chances.
With 20 league games to shoehorn into 59 days and an 11-point gap to make up on fifth place, Poole’s staying power is going to be tested as the runners and riders turn for the home straight.
They also face four of the six teams above them at Tatnam, including runaway leaders Hemel Hempstead, and the mix of flair and grit shown against Corby will be the ideal fuel for what promises to be a gruelling and gripping climax.
“It is going to be a huge ask to catch Hemel,” said Killick. “We are not going to give up on that but the play-offs are now a more realistic outcome for us. Beating Corby was vital because of how far behind we are. We need to be in contention and putting pressure on teams.
“The final two months will be the be-all and end-all and the difference between success and failure. It would be a real under-achievement if we didn’t make the play-offs and another brilliant occasion for the club if we did.”
Striker Justin Bennett has extended his loan from Gosport for a second month, although the agreement includes a 24-hour recall.
Defender Will Spetch is expected to be available for Poole’s Dorset Senior Cup semi-final at Gillingham on Tuesday after sitting out against Corby. He needed treatment in hospital on Thursday after some plaster had fallen into his right eye at work.
Dolphins: Thomas, Emmerson, Dibba, Whisken, Martin, Brooks, Devlin, Pettefer (Davies, 63), Preston, Bennett (Cann, 74), Chiedozie (Charles, 74). Unused subs: Elliott, Hutchings (g/k).