Hot shot Shariff focused on Diamonds’ play-off bid

Nabil Shariff is congratulated by Tom Lorraine after he hit the late winner in AFC Rushden & Diamonds' 2-1 success over Leek Town last weekend
Nabil Shariff is congratulated by Tom Lorraine after he hit the late winner in AFC Rushden & Diamonds' 2-1 success over Leek Town last weekend
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Top scorer Nabil Shariff is feeling confident about AFC Rushden & Diamonds’ play-off bid.

Shariff’s 20th goal of the season was arguably his most important so far as he fired home a late winning in last weekend’s 2-1 victory over fellow contenders Leek Town at the Dog & Duck.

The win opened up a four-point gap between Diamonds, who sit in the final play-off place and Leek in the battle to earn a top-five finish in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One South.

Andy Peaks’ team have nine games left to secure their spot, the next of which is at 16th-placed Market Drayton Town on Saturday.

And while last weekend’s clash with Leek had a big-game feel about it, Shariff insists the game at Market Drayton is now even bigger.

The frontman insists the main aim for his team is to just make sure they do earn an extended season because he believes they can match anyone in the division on their day.

“It’s one we have got to win and just because they are a bit lower in the league, it doesn’t mean we will take it any less seriously,” Shariff said.

“We are just looking forward to another massive game. We have got aims and we need to achieve them.

“We just have to get in there and if we do then we don’t really mind whether it is at home or away, we will take on whoever we have to.

“We fancy ourselves against anyone in this division so we just want to make sure we finish in the play-offs.”

It’s been a fine season for Shariff so far after he had eight months on the sidelines due to a problem with his lungs.

Peaks chose to take him out of the side recently but brought him back for the clash at Northwich Victoria in which he scored a hat-trick in a 4-1 success.

He was also on target in the 3-2 defeat to Buxton in the Integro League Cup before hitting his fifth in three games to secure that crucial win over Leek.

That strike came after he had hit the post earlier in the second half and Shariff insists he is feeling fresh and ready for the run-in.

He added: “I was gutted with the one that hit the post and came out but you have to be in there and carry on and I was glad to get another.

“I was out for eight months, I think people forget that and I did feel a bit jaded but I feel fresher now which is good.

“That is 20 for the season and the aim was to get 25 so I have still got more goals to score.

“But the main aim is for us to get promoted, it’s not about how many goals I score.”