Kenya Police coach Kenneth Kaunda has admitted the second leg of this season's Kenya Hockey Union men's Premier League will be tough after watching his side labour to a 2-0 win over Parklands on Wednesday.
Goals from talismanic striker Moses Cheplaiti and Amos Barkibir gave the law enforcers a winning start in their first match of the second leg at the City Park Stadium.
The result saw the 2013 champions' move 10 points clear at the top of the table, but Kaunda admitted they will need to improve if they are to be crowned champions for the first time in four years.
"Parklands gave us a hard time and we really had to dig deep to claim the three points. This is a pointer that the second leg will be closely contested and therefore also we need to brace ourselves for a bruising battle," the tactician said on Thursday.
Police, who cruised in the first leg, winning 13 out of 14 matches and dropping only two points, will be hoping to extend their lead to 13 points with a win over champions Strathmore University Gladiators on Saturday.
Kaunda has set a target of 12 wins for his charges to reclaim the title this season.
"I think if we can show the same form as we did in the first leg and not drop points, we will be in a position to win the title," he added.
Against Parklands, Police almost went down in the third minute after Parklands' Akshay Harkhani failed to steer an Erick Odendo pass past Police goalkeeper Martin Agesa.
Police, who won the reverse fixture 6-1, struggled to impose themselves early on.
Parklands continued to press forward as their opponents struggled to settle in the match with Allan Odongo proving to be a handful to the Police defence.
The law enforcers did eventually settle and went ahead with their first chance of the match.
Vincent Odindo's perfectly measured short corner was brilliantly stopped by Richard Birir before he teed up Cheplaiti who blasted past Parklands keeper Farhad Shire.
Shire denied Sammy Wokila a goal in the dying minutes of the first quarter as Police grew in confidence. Parklands dominated possession in the second quarter but were let down by poor finishing and Police once again picked them out through another set piece to double their lead.
Parklands coach Kamal Bhachu blamed poor finishing for his side's loss.
"I think we had far many chances than them but the difference was they utilised theirs and we didn't," he said. Parklands remain eighth with 19 points ahead of Sunday's match against Kenyatta University Vultures.