Burgess' delight as AFC Rushden & Diamonds close in on a play-off place

Andy Burgess was understandably delighted as AFC Rushden & Diamonds took a giant step towards securing a Southern League Premier Central play-off place.

Andy Burgess and the AFC Rushden & Diamonds players applaud the travelling fans after their 3-1 win at Redditch United
Andy Burgess and the AFC Rushden & Diamonds players applaud the travelling fans after their 3-1 win at Redditch United

Diamonds claimed an impressive 3-1 victory at Redditch United and, with sixth–placed Alvechurch being held to a goalless draw by Hitchin Town, it opened up a six-point gap between fifth and sixth.

Restored to the starting line-up, Jesse Akubuine fired Diamonds into the lead before captain Alex Collard converted a Nathan Tshikuna corner with a far-post header to make it 2-0.

And it was 3-0 before half-time with Collard on target again, this time from a Connor Furlong delivery.

Redditch pulled a goal back through Ryan Edmunds with 13 minutes to go but Diamonds saw things out to put themselves on the brink of an extended season.

“I am delighted,” interim boss Burgess said.

“We missed an opportunity against Tamworth (in last weekend’s 2-2 draw) when other results went in our favour.

“So for us to get the three points and others below us dropping some, it really solidified our position and what we are trying to do.

“Redditch have been on a good run recently and it was always going to be a tough one.

“But I thought the lads were outstanding, particularly in the first half.

“Jesse took his goal very well and I felt the first goal was always going to be important.

“When you have mid-table teams who don’t have a lot to play for, if you give them a lift and something to hold onto it becomes difficult. They were playing without pressure.

“It was important to impose ourselves onto them and we did that with a great goal from Jesse.

“And then it came down to two moments of quality delivery from Nathan and Connor and the skipper got on the end of them.

“Just before we got our third goal they had a good chance that was cleared off the line and all of a sudden we went up the other end and scored and we went from nearly going in at 2-1 to going in at 3-0 up.

“To be honest, 2-1 is probably an easier scoreline at half-time because you can focus them a bit better and, at 3-0, although you try to maintain the focus, it’s always the case that the foot will come off the pedal a little bit.

“The damage was done in the first half but we took the heat out of it in the second half. We were a bit disappointed with the goal we conceded but, all in all, we are really pleased.

“It was always going to be difficult but I thought the lads applied themselves brilliantly and I felt we deserved the three points.”

Diamonds have the chance to open up a nine-point gap on Alvechurch when they head to relegation-threatened Biggleswade Town on Tuesday night.