Peaks’ pride as last-gasp Diamonds finish with a trophy

Jack Ashton powers home the stoppage-time head that won the NFA Hillier Senior Cup for AFC Rushden & Diamonds. Pictures by Peter Short
Jack Ashton powers home the stoppage-time head that won the NFA Hillier Senior Cup for AFC Rushden & Diamonds. Pictures by Peter Short

Andy Peaks was a proud man after seeing his AFC Rushden & Diamonds players round off their season with an NFA Hillier Senior Cup final success over Kettering Town.

Jack Ashton’s powerful header in the final minute of stoppage-time secured a 2-1 success for Peaks’ side at Sixfields.

AFC Rushden & Diamonds captain Liam Dolman lifts the NFA Hillier Senior Cup after the 2-1 success over Kettering Town

AFC Rushden & Diamonds captain Liam Dolman lifts the NFA Hillier Senior Cup after the 2-1 success over Kettering Town

Shawn Richards had earlier given them the lead, only for Herve Pepe-N’Goma to level for the Poppies before half-time.

But, having absorbed a lot of pressure in the second half, Diamonds won it at the death as they bounced back from their Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central play-off final defeat at St Ives on Bank Holiday Monday.

Peaks was forced to make a number of changes with no fewer than five of his first-team players being cup-tied.

And while he conceded his team had to defend well for long spells, he felt they offered plenty on the counter-attack as a well constructed gameplan paid off in the nick of time.

The AFC Rushden & Diamonds players applaud their fans following their NFA Hillier Senior Cup success over Kettering Town at Sixfields

The AFC Rushden & Diamonds players applaud their fans following their NFA Hillier Senior Cup success over Kettering Town at Sixfields

“I knew we would have to defend well,” Peaks said.

“We had to make a lot of changes and we brought some boys in who had been in and around the squad.

“We knew we would be without the ball for long spells, they have some good players and they did well in the league above us and, like us, were probably disappointed they didn’t go up.

“It was vital we didn’t concede early goals after the disappointment of Monday because I did fear for the mentality of the boys if that happened.

“We looked dangerous when we got the ball but we got some fantastic blocks in to keep them out.

“We knew we would be under pressure but that was the gameplan and I always thought we looked dangerous on the break.

“We probably had the better chances, even though we didn’t have a lot of the ball.

“And then we had a great delivery right at the end and it was great for Jack to score in front of the fans. That was a very good time to score!

“Monday hurt us, of course. It was a bonus game after finishing fifth in the league but to be two minutes away from getting promoted and then getting beaten was a massive whammy.

“If I am being honest, I thought this game would be one too far for us but I told them to go and enjoy it and to win it tops off a good season.

“I was very proud of the way the boys went about it and it’s a pleasing way to finish.”