AFC Rushden & Diamonds made it five Evo-Stik League South Premier Division Central matches without defeat with a fine home success.
But what did we learn?
Diamonds have well and truly arrived at Step 3
There were those of us who never had any doubts that Diamonds would hold their own at the higher level. No-one said it would easy but there’s no question Andy Peaks’ side have arrived. Yes, the performances were there but the results weren’t for a while and this is, as always a results business. But, ever since the defeat at Royston Town, Diamonds have tightened things up defensively and have shown good resolve to draw games instead of losing them and they have also picked up a couple of eye-catching wins. The draw at King’s Lynn Town, although tough to take after the hosts scored a stoppage-time equaliser, was the strongest signal so far. And Diamonds backed it up under the lights at Hayden Road as they saw off a decent Coalville side. Yes, Diamonds have arrived and they are making themselves comfortable.
There were two teams trying to win - just the way it should be
This should be a given but, even at this level, you find too many teams turning up to make sure they don’t lose. The tone for this game was set within the first 10 minutes with both teams checking any defensive mindsets at the door and going all-out to score a goal. We won’t know if Coalville’s approach would have changed if they’d scored first. But they turned up to try to win a game of football and, for that, they should be applauded. It made for a pulsating first half, which as Andy Peaks observed, was more like a game of basketball rather than football. If you were a paying neutral, you wouldn’t have been disappointed.
Declan Rogers’ impact has been instant and impressive
The midfielder’s return at the end of last month was greeted with much delight from the Diamonds management and fans and for good reason. I have to admit, I didn’t see much of him in his first stint with the club but I can see why Andy Peaks rates Rogers so highly. This was the perfect game for him. It was wide open at times and he had plenty of time on the ball to make things happen. He scored the second goal, his set-piece delivery was exceptional for most of the evening, he was denied a goal of the season contender (more on that below) and he produced the killer pass that set up the crucial third goal. He has now scored in the last three matches with that wand of a left foot and his impact has been instant. Let’s hope there’s plenty more to come.
Coalville have a very good goalkeeper
I have to say, I hadn’t heard of Coalville goalkeeper Rudoles Soloha before this game but he certainly left a lasting impression. Diamonds did all they could to put the match to bed in the first half but were denied by the visiting stopper. He made two fine saves to keep out headers from Albie Hopkins and Ben Diamonds. But his flying save to push away Declan Rogers’ magnificent volley was as good as you will see. He prevented a goal of the season contender with that stop. And he even had one more in the second half as well, getting down well to parry away a low effort from Hopkins. It could have easily been 5-1 or 6-1 (which wouldn’t have been a fair reflection) and for that, Soloha deserves a lot of credit.
Confidence is high and there’s plenty of time left in this season
A quarter of the league season is done and Diamonds sit in eighth place after picking up nine points from the last 15 available and they are unbeaten at home. I think everyone would have taken that. But now I am interested to see where they go from here. From what I have seen, there isn’t much to choose between the majority of sides in the division. It’s a question of attitude and making sure you perform for those 90 minutes on a Saturday or Tuesday night. The work-rate and desire of this Diamonds side will never come into question while Andy Peaks is the manager. It’s the first and last thing he asks his players for. The encouraging thing now is that they are eradicating the individual errors and producing moments of quality in the final third. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Diamonds will definitely be in a play-off position at the end of the season. But, from what I’ve seen from them and others, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t aim high. The confidence is high and Diamonds are in a nice groove. It’s vital they seize the moment...