Russ Dunkley scored five headed goals as AFC Rushden & Diamonds destroyed Cockfosters 8-0 in the FA Cup first qualifying round replay at the Dog & Duck.
Mark Starmer’s side didn’t look back after Dunkley had put them in front inside two minutes and they went on to run riot with the striker stealing what proved to be a very good show.
The defending from the visitors was, at best, questionable as Dunkley was given the freedom to do his damage. But scoring five goals, let alone with your head, takes some doing at any level.
And an overall energetic display got the full reward as Diamonds booked themselves an intriguing second qualifying round home clash with Calor League Premier Division side Cambridge City on Saturday week.
As far as starts go, Diamonds boss Starmer couldn’t have asked for a better one.
There were barely two minutes on the clock when Nat Liburd crossed from the right and Dunkley was left unmarked to power a header past Mario Cennolli.
Fazel Koriya was also denied by Cennolli after jinking into the area but Cockfosters should have levelled soon after that.
Adem Ali latched onto a ball into the left channel of the area, he skipped past Diamonds goalkeeper Tom Cross and pulled it back for Stuart Blackburne who somehow shot wide with an open goal gaping.
That was a let off and Diamonds took full advantage as they finished the game off inside half-an-hour. And it really couldn’t have been much simpler for them.
Another Liburd cross landed on the head of Dunkley and this time it looped over Cennolli. And a hat-trick of headers was complete just nine minutes later when Dunkley applied the finish to an Alfie Taylor centre from the left.
That ended the game as any sort of contest but there was more to come from the hosts.
Dunkley turned provider on the stroke of half-time when his low cross found Koriya who skipped past a defender before firing home a low shot.
And there was no let up after the break with three goals in seven minutes. Taylor blasted home a fine low strike and then his effort cannoned off the bar with Dunkley there to head home the rebound.
And an unbelievable night for the striker was rounded off when he converted his fifth goal, and header, of the night from Sam Brown’s cross.
That was Dunkley’s last action as he was replaced by Lance Allen, Starmer no doubt keen to rest him up for the FA Vase on Saturday.
The game went pretty quiet after that. Taylor saw a shot cleared off the line while, at the other end, Cross preserved a clean sheet with a superb full-length diving stop to deny John Christian, who really got hold of a volley.
Diamonds stayed in control after that and never really looked conceding while remaining a threat at the other end.
The eighth did arrive when a neat passing move ended with Allen finding Taylor who was left with just the goalkeeper to beat, something he did with ease.
That rounded off a very, very good night. Cambridge City will, of course, be a tougher test but one would guess they won’t exactly be relishing a visit to the Dog & Duck given the Diamonds’ form.
Diamonds: Cross, Merrill (sub Parkinson, 68 mins), Brown, Harris, Deakin (sub Gillingwater, 60 mins), Clarke, Liburd, King, Dunkley (sub Allen, 52 mins), Taylor, Koriya. Subs not used: Shorunmu, Wisniewski, Dent.
Cockfosters: Cennolli, Cruickshank, Kane (sub O’Keefe, h-t), Moore, Pepera, Woolley (sub Bolger, 65 mins), Ali, Marks, Protain, Blackburne, Christian. Subs not used: Tamne, Moses, Okechukwu, Valenti, Leslie.
Referee: Paul Hands.
Goals: Dunkley (2 mins, 1-0), Dunkley (19 mins, 2-0), Dunkley (28 mins, 3-0), Koriya (45 mins, 4-0), Taylor (47 mins, 5-0), Dunkley (48 mins, 6-0), Dunkley (52 mins, 7-0), Taylor (81 mins, 8-0).