VERDICT – A job well done as Diamonds march on

Andy Hall is mobbed by his AFC Rushden & Diamonds team-mates after opening the scoring in the 3-0 home win over Ware. Pictures by Alison Bagley
Andy Hall is mobbed by his AFC Rushden & Diamonds team-mates after opening the scoring in the 3-0 home win over Ware. Pictures by Alison Bagley

AFC Rushden & Diamonds can file this one in the ‘job done’ section.

Andy Peaks’ side made a quick return to winning ways at a windswept Dog & Duck with what was a convincing and, ultimately, routine 3-0 success over Ware.

Andy Hall takes aim as he fires home AFC Rushden & Diamonds' first goal against Ware

Andy Hall takes aim as he fires home AFC Rushden & Diamonds' first goal against Ware

It wasn’t a day for the purists. First and foremost, the volunteers who work on the pitch did a sterling job to get the game on while other matches in the surrounding area fell foul of the weather.

The pitch was in tremendous nick given the circumstances and it enabled Diamonds to eventually pass their way to victory.

But, for the most part, the stiff breeze blowing across the ground made it a scrappy affair.

However, there were no signs of any hangover in the league following the shock 4-0 loss at Beaconsfield SYCOB last weekend.

AFC Rushden & Diamonds midfielder Brad Harris battles for possession with Ware's Jimmy Hartley

AFC Rushden & Diamonds midfielder Brad Harris battles for possession with Ware's Jimmy Hartley

The midweek victory over Brackley Town in NFA Hillier Cup had, perhaps, already repaired the damage.

And Diamonds were back to the usual on this occasion as they powered away from the visitors in the second half to ensure they extended their lead at the top of the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central to three points.

The opening exchanges were scrappy with Jack Ashton heading off target for the hosts early on.

But they found things tough early on as they played into the wind while Ware worked hard to close them down and ensure that chances were few and far between.

AFC Rushden & Diamonds captain Liam Dolman challenges Ware striker Harley Haag

AFC Rushden & Diamonds captain Liam Dolman challenges Ware striker Harley Haag

With the breeze at their backs, the visitors looked a threat at times with Murat Karagul shooting over from a good position while Josh Oyibo’s effort went the same way after he found some space on the edge of the area.

Indeed, Diamonds’ first meaningful attack brought with it the opening goal.

Claudiu Hoban got to the by-line on the left of the area. His cross found Jon Stevenson and, after his shot had been blocked, it fell to Andy Hall who made no mistake with a cracking strike into the corner.

Ashton had an effort saved by Thomas Coulton from another Hoban delivery before the break but it was in the second period that Diamonds produced a kick that proved too much for Ware.

The warning signs were there when Alaa Oudji produced an excellent last-ditch challenge to deny Stevenson and the frontman should have done a lot better than to shoot wide with just Coulton to beat after he charged down a clearance.

Nonetheless, Stevenson was a real livewire for the hosts and he sent a spectacular overhead-kick over the bar before having a hand in the crucial second.

Lewis Leslie shot off target after latching onto a Stevenson flick but the midfielder made no mistake when he swivelled to fire home after the frontman had again created havoc with another knockdown in the visitors’ penalty area.

That knocked the stuffing out of Ware and, aside from a Jack Mace shot which was held by Matt Finlay and Karagul’s stoppage-time header that went just wide, Diamonds were very much in cruise control for the final 20 minutes.

And Stevenson capped the victory with a deserved goal when substitute Delroy Gordon headed a free-kick back across goal and the striker finished things off from close range.

Solid, if not spectacular is probably the best way to describe this Diamonds display.

But that’s how you have to be on days like these if you are to be at the top of the tree come the end of April.

Fourteen more performances and results like this and Diamonds won’t be far away.

On to the next one!

Diamonds: Finlay; Wilkinson, Dolman, Ashton, Kennedy; Hall (sub Hipwell, 89 mins), Leslie (sub Gordon, 81 mins), Harris, Hoban (sub Quigley, 70 mins); Lorraine, J Stevenson. Subs not used: Vitue, Ackroyd.

Ware: Coulton; Mace, Rose, Crilley, Oudji; K Stevenson (sub Dacosta, 58 mins), Hartley (sub Bakici, 70 mins), Hervel, Oyibo (sub Wynters, 58 mins), Karagul; Haag. Subs not used: Bailey, Simmonds.

Referee: Guy Stretton.

Goals: Hall (34 mins, 1-0), Leslie (69 mins, 2-0), J Stevenson (85 mins, 3-0).

Bookings: Oyibo, Hoban, Rose, Bakici (all fouls), Karagul (dissent).

Attendance: 422.