Russ Dunkley went through what he described as a “unique” experience as he stole the FA Cup headlines for AFC Rushden & Diamonds.
The ChromaSport & Trophies United Counties League Premier Division team have been competing in the competition for the first time this season since they became a senior side.
And they reached the second qualifying round in devastating style at the Dog & Duck on Tuesday night when they thrashed Cockfosters 8-0 in a first qualifying round replay, which set up a home clash with Calor League Premier Division outfit Cambridge City a week on Saturday.
But it proved to be an incredible evening for Diamonds captain Dunkley who scored five of his team’s goals – all with his head inside 52 minutes before he was substituted.
The striker has been a big hit for Mark Starmer’s men since signing during the summer and the midweek nap hand made it 12 goals in 11 games in all competitions so far this season.
And while he was pleased with his own contribution, he was quick to praise his team-mates as further goals from Alfie Taylor (2) and Fazel Koriya completed the midweek rout.
Dunkley said: “I don’t think I have scored five goals in a game since I was about 10 and I have never scored more than a couple with my head in one game before! It was a unique game and night.
“I am happy with my performance but I am always very critical of myself.
“But it is thanks to everyone who puts the balls in the box, the likes of Nat (Liburd) and Fazel (Koriya) that I am able to get on the end of them.
“And it isn’t even always about that, it is about the lads who get the ball to the wingers for them to create the chances.
“We didn’t play as well as we would have liked last Saturday (in the 2-2 draw at Cockfosters) so it was important to put in a performance like that.
“Getting an early goal settled the nerves a little bit and we managed to build on it.”
Diamonds boss Starmer also piled the praise on his skipper after the five-goal haul.
“It’s not just on the pitch where Russ is making an impact, he is good around the place with the experience he has,” Starmer said.
“He has high standards, he leads the side well and he is an honest lad. If he has been poor and missed chances, he will be the first to put his hands up.
“He brings an awful lot to the team, his finishing is great and he will bring even more as the season goes on.”
Diamonds are back in knockout action on Saturday when they host Hoddesdon Town in the second qualifying round of the FA Vase.