VERDICT – Impressive Diamonds show they are one of the teams to beat

Tom Lorraine's shot beats Aylesbury goalkeeper James Weatherill as AFC Rushden & Diamonds claimed a 1-0 victory at the Dog & Duck. Pictures by Alison Bagley
Tom Lorraine's shot beats Aylesbury goalkeeper James Weatherill as AFC Rushden & Diamonds claimed a 1-0 victory at the Dog & Duck. Pictures by Alison Bagley
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If anyone didn’t believe AFC Rushden & Diamonds would be a force in the Evo-Stik Division One Central this season, then they surely will now.

True, it remains early days as far as the season is concerned.

Claudiu Hoban in action for AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Claudiu Hoban in action for AFC Rushden & Diamonds

But a hard-fought 1-0 win over highly-fancied Aylesbury is concrete proof that Andy Peaks’ side will be one of those to beat.

Tom Lorraine’s early strike proved decisive and, in truth, it could have been more as Diamonds tore into their high-flying visitors in the first half.

But after the break, it became a case of digging in and holding onto the points as Aylesbury saw more of the ball.

And it proved to be a job well done as Diamonds defended so well that goalkeeper Matt Finlay was largely untroubled for the whole 90 minutes.

Tom Lorraine celebrates scoring AFC Rushden & Diamonds' winner against Aylesbury

Tom Lorraine celebrates scoring AFC Rushden & Diamonds' winner against Aylesbury

Things really do seem in good order at the Dog & Duck. This was Diamonds’ seventh win in a row and it made it a staggering 30 matches without a defeat.

Throw in the fact they sit on level on points with Chalfont St Peter at the top of the table and it all adds up to a very happy camp.

From front to back, Diamonds look strong. They are a big threat in attack and resolute in defence, a perfect recipe for success.

And even though it is early days, they already have to be regarded as serious contenders for the title after a terrific start following the step up from the United Counties League.

Diamonds made their intentions clear from the start as Lorraine forced James Weatherill into a save inside the first minute, the Aylesbury goalkeeper turning the frontman’s strike into the side-netting.

Weatherill saved well from Tommy Berwick soon after but he was powerless to prevent Diamonds from grabbing what proved to be the winner on six minutes.

Brad Harris saw his shot blocked but Lorraine made no mistake with his as he thumped the ball home from 10 yards.

Berwick was out of luck when he cut in from the left and then shot against the post with Weatherill well beaten but the goalkeeper was up to the task as he saved well from a Liam Dolman free-kick as Diamonds sought a second.

Their quick tempo clearly rattled the visitors and the Moles’ frustration threatened to boil over with the lively Claudiu Hoban the main target.

He was cynically hauled down by James Dobson, who was rightly booked and the winger was fouled again by Terry Dixon, who was lucky he didn’t see red after already having his name taken by referee Akil Howson.

But Aylesbury did finish the half the better with Finlay finally being forced into a save by Lynton Goss before Kyle Anthony headed over from a free-kick.

The second period proved to be scrappier. Indeed, there were few chances.

Aylesbury huffed and puffed but Diamonds defended resolutely and never really looked like conceding.

Instead, Weatherill remained the busier of the two stoppers as he twice denied Hoban.

But another goal wasn’t needed as Diamonds comfortably saw things out to make it a magnificent seven wins in a row.

Time, as ever, will tell when it comes to whether Peaks’ side remain one of the main contenders for the crown.

But, as it stands, there’s no reason to believe they won’t...

Diamonds: Finlay; Wilkinson, Dolman (sub Gordon, 72 mins), Ashton, Brown; Lamb-Johnson (sub Butt, 82 mins), Harris, Quigley, Hoban; Lorraine, Berwick (sub Joseph, 72 mins). Subs not used: Vitue, Bunting.

Aylesbury: Weatherill; Simpson, Anthony, Prosper, Murphy; Goss (sub Rudd, 68 mins), D Haule, Tomlin, Dobson (sub Feyi, 80 mins); Dixon (sub B Haule, 71 mins), O’Toole. Subs not used: Lynn, Logie.

Referee: Akil Howson.

Goal: Lorraine (6 mins, 1-0).

Bookings: Dixon, Dobson, Dolman (all fouls).

Attendance: 522.