REVIEW – Promotion shot falls short but Peaks’ Diamonds still shine

Liam Dolman and Andy Peaks enjoyed another run to the play-offs with AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Liam Dolman and Andy Peaks enjoyed another run to the play-offs with AFC Rushden & Diamonds
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Another season done for AFC Rushden & Diamonds and, perhaps, another step forward even if it didn’t end in promotion.

While it may be somewhat strange to describe a season as a success when nothing has been won, this one would certainly edge towards that description.

Witton Albion, who were eventually promoted, celebrate the goal that ended Diamonds' own hopes of elevation

Witton Albion, who were eventually promoted, celebrate the goal that ended Diamonds' own hopes of elevation

After the disappointment of missing out in the Southern League Division One Central play-off final last year, Diamonds were faced with the prospect to the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One South.

New surroundings, new opponents, new friends and foes to be made.

In the end, Andy Peaks and his players made themselves right at home.

Despite an indifferent start, a 19-match unbeaten run in the league set them up for another shot at the play-offs while a famous 3-1 win at National League South side Concord Rangers in the second qualifying round of the FA Cup was a moment to savour.

But it was the league that Peaks was more interested in and right up until that superb unbeaten run was ended in a 5-2 home loss to Kidsgrove Athletic, Diamonds really looked the part, although you do wonder what might have been if their home form had been slightly better than it was.

There were tricky times in the run-in, indeed a run that saw them lose eight games out of 12 during a tough March and early April had plenty questioning whether they could indeed finish the job and take a place in the top five.

But they bounced back and a final-day win over Carlton Town secured a play-off place for the second season in a row.

In the end, they were edged out by Witton Albion. There were few complaints and the fact Witton eventually joined Shaw Lane in being promoted was universally accepted. The two standout teams went up, end of story.

But Peaks, his staff, the players and the fans should be looking back with good feeling.

A fresh start in a new division was always going to make it tough. Yet again, they were in the shake-up at the right end of the table.

But, as the summer approaches, the winds of change are beginning to blow.

It’s an end of an era as they move away from the Dog & Duck in Wellingborough.

They will start next season – most probably back in the Southern League – with a groundshare at Kempston Rovers but hopeful that a move to Rushden & Higham United’s Hayden Road can be completed sooner rather than later.

And should Diamonds find themselves at the heart of that community, the future may well be even brighter for them.

Jon Dunham’s unofficial player of the season – Liam Dolman.

The words ‘no brainer’ come to mind. Not for the first time, the influential defender was the one who led the way in Diamonds’ play-off charge.

A tremendous reader of the game with an exceptional ability to distribute the ball from the back, Dolman also played through the pain when his team needed him to.

Throw in the nine goals he contributed and you have yourselves a proper leader.