Andy Peaks says AFC Rushden & Diamonds got just what they wanted as they enhanced their play-off hopes with a crucial 2-1 victory over fellow contenders Leek Town.
Nabil Shariff’s fifth goal in three games and 20th of the season sealed the win with just six minutes remaining after Ben Farrell’s opener for Diamonds had been cancelled out by Darren Chadwick.
The victory ensured Diamonds remain in fourth place in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One South, although Basford United and Newcastle Town remain firmly on their tails in the battle for a top-five finish.
But the win opened up a four-point gap between Diamonds and Leek and Peaks was left to reflect on a good day.
The manager played his part by bringing on substitutes Tom Lorraine and Ross Oulton with 15 minutes to go and it was the former who set up the winner for Shariff.
“It was a massive game and to get three points was exactly what we wanted,” Peaks said.
“I thought we showed loads of character against a decent team so I am really pleased.
“The conditions were tough, it was very windy and the pitch is a bit bobbly in areas now so it was never going to be a day for pretty football but it was very competitive and you could see it was a big game for both teams.
“It was very even in the first half and it was a good time for us to score just before half-time.
“We started the second half well and we hit the post so we could have been two up but they got a set-piece and we switched off and it was game on again.
“But we showed some character after that and the changes were crucial because it’s nice to have the likes of Tom Lorraine and Ross Oulton, who could get into most teams week in, week out, to come off the bench.
“We finished strongly and the changes were vital to that.”
Peaks also paid tribute to top scorer Shariff who has enjoyed an excellent week after being brought back into the starting line-up.
“It’s been a great reaction from Nabil,” the Diamonds boss added.
“We had a chat and he agreed it was right for him to come out of the team.
“He had a couple of games on the bench, his attitude was spot on and he has scored five goals in three games now so we are all delighted with that.”