VERDICT – Job done for Diamonds as the big cup date awaits

Scott Joseph wrapped up AFC Rushden & Diamonds' 5-2 win over Fleet Town
Scott Joseph wrapped up AFC Rushden & Diamonds' 5-2 win over Fleet Town

Andy Peaks wanted the job done and his AFC Rushden & Diamonds players delivered.

So much has been made of Diamonds’ fine run in the FA Cup but the manager was clear in his comments when he urged full focus on two Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central matches before they head to Barwell at the weekend.

They got the job done against Potters Bar Town on Saturday and then, last night, they blew struggling Fleet Town away with a 5-2 victory that made it seven league wins in a row, maintained the unbeaten league record and sent them back into the top three.

And, in truth, it could and probably should have been more as dominated the vast majority of the game and created enough opportunities to win two or three games.

They made a flying start with in-form frontman Tom Lorraine heading home after Tommy Berwick challenged visiting goalkeeper Ryan Pryce for a high.

And they didn’t relent as the Fleet defence were constantly under the cosh.

Pryce saved well from Brad Harris and then from Andy Hall, who made an impressive full debut for the hosts.

In a brief venture down the other end, Fleet should have pulled one back when Chris Hall fired over when he had a clear sight of goal.

But a wonderful passing move that saw Berwick find Courtney Herbert who, in turn, played in Lorraine ended with the striker thumping his shot in off the underside of the bar.

And that was the spark for a crazy 20-minute spell, which produced four more goals.

It was 3-0 when Hall flicked Sam Brown’s shot into the corner and Herbert so nearly grabbed the fourth when his long-range pile driver smacked the top of the crossbar.

A minute later, Fleet pulled one back when a ball wasn’t cleared properly. It was recycled on the right wing and James Scott’s low cross found the unmarked Daryll Phillips who tapped home at the far post.

But it took just four minutes for Diamonds to restore their three-goal lead as Berwick brilliantly adjusted his body to send an excellent strike back across goal and into the far corner after Brown had flicked on a Lorraine cross.

At 4-1, that should have been that. But another lapse in concentration gave Fleet some hope as Phillips’ shot struck the post and, while everyone stood still, Benjamin White smashed home the rebound.

Diamonds did tighten up in the second half as Peaks took the chance to rest some legs ahead of the weekend.

And it was the introduction of Scott Joseph that sparked the game back into life.

Hall sent an audacious chip just over the bar on 73 minutes but soon after the game was well and truly put to bed when Joseph took on a shot from 25 yards and it flew past a surprised Pryce and nestled in the corner.

In the game’s final act, Hall saw another long-range effort cannon off the crossbar but Diamonds were able to enjoy a very good night at the office.

It all bodes well. With the job done in the league for the time being, the full focus of everyone will now be on Saturday as Peaks’ men aim to make even more history.

And if they can reproduce the sort of attacking play they served up on this occasion, a place in the first round proper of the FA Cup will certainly not be beyond them…

Diamonds: Finlay; Harris, Wilkinson, Dolman, Brown; A Hall, Bunting (sub Butt, h-t), Quigley, Herbert (sub Joseph, 69 mins); Berwick (sub Liversedge, 59 mins), Lorraine. Subs not used: Gordon, Vitue.

Fleet: Pryce; Stanley (sub Parker, 76 mins), Rousell, J White, Davis, Francis (sub Harfield, h-t); C Hall, Scott (sub Toye, 60 mins), B White; Miambo, Phillips. Subs not used: Westbrook, Martin.

Referee: Akil Howson.

Goals: Lorraine (4 mins, 1-0), Lorraine (23 mins, 2-0), Hall (26 mins, 3-0), Phillips (29 mins, 3-1), Berwick (33 mins, 4-1), White (42 mins, 4-2), Joseph (77 mins, 5-2).

Attendance: 322.