VERDICT - Peaks' Diamonds deliver at Hayden Road

Nabil Shariff celebrates with Joe Curtis after opening the scoring in AFC Rushden & Diamonds' 2-0 victory over Hanwell Town at Hayden Road. Picture by Mike Capps/www.kappasport.co.uk
Nabil Shariff celebrates with Joe Curtis after opening the scoring in AFC Rushden & Diamonds' 2-0 victory over Hanwell Town at Hayden Road. Picture by Mike Capps/www.kappasport.co.uk

A whirlwind week ended in the best possible fashion for AFC Rushden & Diamonds as they got life at Hayden Road under way with a victory.

After the incredible effort put in by the club’s volunteers to get their new home ready in time for the new Evo-Stik South League East season, the spotlight fell on Andy Peaks and his players.

And they responded in the only way they could, by rewarding those fans and putting three points on the board.

The 2-0 success over Hanwell Town, on the face of it, sounds comfortable.

In general, it was but the visitors more than played their part and, on another day, could have spoiled the party.

But this day belonged to Diamonds and those that ensure their move to Hayden Road was completed quicker than anyone expected.

Hanwell actually started the brighter but it was Diamonds who settled any early-season nerves when they opened the scoring on 12 minutes.

Joe Curtis went up for a high ball with Kyle Watson, who clattered into his opposite number.

Referee Robbie Dadley immediately pointed to the penalty spot and last season’s top scorer Nabil Shariff stepped up to score into the corner despite Xavi Leon Comas getting a hand to it.

But Hanwell weren’t about to cave in and they so nearly levelled three minutes later when Michael Malcolm, who had spells with Rushden & Diamonds and Kettering Town back in the day, saw his shot smack off the crossbar after a corner had only been half-cleared.

Diamonds went on to create the better chances in the remainder of the first half and Comas was extended by both Ben Farrell and Shariff before the break.

But Peaks’ men made a flying start to the second period and doubled their advantage six minutes after the restart.

Joel Gyasi’s corner caused havoc in the penalty area and, after Chris Dillon’s shot was blocked, Shariff pounced from close-range to give the hosts some breathing space.

Malcolm produced an early contender for miss of the season just before the hour mark when he somehow sliced wide of an open goal after Watson’s shot had come back off the post.

And the visitors struck the woodwork again late on when Ben Heath tipped Joe Chandiram’s cross onto the bar.

In between, there wasn’t a great deal to report on as Diamonds went about their business without ever really threatening to add a third. But it wasn’t needed.

This was a day when they simply needed to win. They did, the job was done and now the season is under way.

Hayden Road is now home and Diamonds already look very comfortable in it...

Diamonds: Heath; Westwood, Brown, Dolman, Ford; Gyasi, Farrell (sub Bell-Toxtle, 81 mins), Curtis, Fairlamb (sub Smith, 87 mins); Shariff, Dillon (sub Lorraine, 67 mins). Subs not used: Finlay, Punter.

Hanwell: Comas; Stevenson (sub Ehui, h-t), O Duffy, C Duffy, Chandiram; Mitchell (sub Bolaise, 58 mins), Buckley, Watson, Wright; Dean (sub Hunt, 66 mins); Malcolm. Subs not used: Yala, O’Regan.

Referee: Robbie Dadley.

Goals: Shariff pen (12 mins, 1-0), Shariff (51 mins, 2-0).

Bookings: Farrell, O Duffy (both fouls).

Attendance: 610.