Skipper Bunting targeting the first round with Diamonds

Richard Bunting is hoping AFC Rushden & Diamonds can go one step further in the FA Cup this season and reach the first round proper

Richard Bunting is hoping AFC Rushden & Diamonds can go one step further in the FA Cup this season and reach the first round proper

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Richard Bunting is hoping AFC Rushden & Diamonds can go one better than last season and reach the first round proper of the Emirates FA Cup for the first time in their history.

Diamonds head to Ryman League Premier Division side Hendon on Saturday, bidding to match what they did this time last year when they booked a place in the fourth qualifying round.

Captain Bunting was on target in the fine 3-1 success at National League South side Concord Rangers in the second qualifying round and Diamonds are now eyeing another scalp.

They head into the clash on the back of two successive home draws in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One South.

And while they will be seen as the underdogs again, they face a Hendon side who have struggled and are yet to win a home league game so far.

Two more wins will send Diamonds into the first round and Bunting said: “It’s a welcome distraction for us and we want to do as well as we can in it for the club.

“It’s similar to Concord, they (Hendon) are from the level above but I don’t think their league form is particularly great and we will definitely go there looking to be in the hat on Monday.

“We are two games away from the first round.

“We played Barwell in a replay down here last season and I don’t think we really did ourselves justice that night.

“It’s certainly in the back of my mind to try to put that right from last year and Saturday is a good opportunity, even though they are from the league above.”

Diamonds go into Saturday’s clash on the back of a 0-0 draw with fourth-placed Romulus at the Dog & Duck on Tuesday night - their third successive stalemate in the league.

They are now unbeaten in five league matches and Bunting is hoping they can maintain that form to push themselves up the table.

“I think it was about right,” Bunting said as he reflected on Tuesday’s goalless draw.

“We have got to be looking to get three points at home whenever we can so I am disappointed we didn’t do that but we will take the point, we weren’t at our best.

“It’s been a bit stop-start so far this season and if we had converted just a couple of the draws into wins then we would be really happy.

“It’s early doors and if we can get good unbeaten runs going then we will soon push up the league.”

Should Saturday’s game, which will be played on Hendon’s 4G surface, finish in a draw, the replay will take place at the Dog & Duck next Tuesday night with a 7.45pm kick-off.