The pre-Christmas top-four challenge got off to a great start at Deeping Rangers.
Scott Mooney’s scrappy goal, six minutes into the second half, proved enough to edge out Newport Pagnell Town on Saturday.
Next up is tonight’s derby with Holbeach United followed by games against unbeaten AFC Kempston Rovers and leaders Leicester Nirvana.
Those fixtures will be a big test for Rangers to show whether they are capable of forcing their way into the top three.
On the attack, they always look dangerous and capable of creating chances.
However, this display was all about determination for Deeping who proved they can defend under pressure.
Daniel Bircham kept a clean sheet for the first time since October with safe handling in very difficult conditions.
Against the wind in the opening period he couldn’t kick the ball to the halfway line but his shot-stopping skills kept out the Swans.
Jason Kilbride and David Burton-Jones had early opportunities during a bright start before Deeping were forced back.
Bircham kept out long-range drives from Greg Ling and Darryl Smith while Josh Crawley missed a rebound and Fazel Koriya’s tap-in was ruled out for offside.
Another attempt by Ling was deflected away by some last-ditch defending and Koriya was denied again at the start of the second half by Bircham’s save.
The wind-assisted goal came as Newport Pagnell keeper Mark Osborn failed to deal with a back-pass and Mooney pounced for his 12th goal of the season.
The striker squeezed the ball inside the near post as Swans skipper John Thorpe couldn’t clear off the line.
Burton-Jones, Kilbride and substitute Jezz Goldson-Williams had chances to extend the advantage but a solid performance was fully rewarded.
Boss Michael Goode has guided Rangers’ unbeaten home league run into double figures and this was another impressive display.
Without the flair which we know Deeping can often produce, this time they had to dig deep.
It wasn’t pretty but that doesn’t matter because they got what they deserved for a hard-working performance.
Rangers look ready for more tests coming soon.
4-4-1-1: Bircham 8; Flack 7, Hunnings 8, Cotton 7 (sub Goldson-Williams 80 mins), Smith 7; Avis 8, Tinkler 7, Burton-Jones 7, Kilbride 7; Coupland 6; Mooney 6 (sub Dunn 85 mins). Subs not used: Porter, Bird, Marsden.
NEWPORT PAGNELL TOWN
4-2-3-1: Osborn; Tapp (sub Smeathers 57 mins), Pryke, Thorpe, Williams (sub Lawless 67 mins); Smyth, Ling; D Smith (sub Macdonald 77 mins), Koriya, O’Neill; Crawley. Subs not used: L Smith, Pursell.
Mooney (51 mins, 1-0).
Thorpe, Williams, Smyth (fouls); O’Neill (leaving pitch without permission); Crawley (dissent).
Luke Avis – chosen by match sponsor, two-year-old Edward Cuthbert, with help from Paul and Jackie Watling. The midfielder’s hard-working display typified the effort put in by Rangers all over the pitch.
Holbeach United (H) – Tuesday.