AFC Rushden & Diamonds enjoyed a superb start to life at Step 3 as they kicked off the new Evo-Stik South League Premier Division Central season with a 5-2 win over Redditch United at Hayden Road.
So, what did we learn from the game?
Make a good start and the rewards will come
Diamonds came flying out of the blocks at the weekend.
Whatever Andy Peaks and his coaching staff said before the players headed down the tunnel clearly had the desired effect as the hosts raced into a 2-0 lead to all-but kill the game off inside just eight minutes.
On this occasion, Redditch had no response to hammer home the point that if you start brightly on the front foot and you are clinical with early chances then it will always make life hard for the opposition.
A change in formation worked a treat
Diamonds’ promotion-winning campaign last time out was built around a 3-5-2 formation with the exploits of wide players Luke Fairlamb and Joel Gyasi being crucial to their success.
With those two departing over the summer, it left boss Andy Peaks with something of a conundrum but he made his additions and was clearly working towards a 4-3-3 formation during pre-season.
That was put into action for the real thing at the weekend and it couldn’t have gone any better.
A solid back four, a hard-working midfield three and a three-pronged attack that didn’t give the Redditch defence a moment of peace.
Peaks will, no doubt, have to change things up from time-to-time but this looks to be the way forward for the moment.
Diamonds can cope without their influential captain
Liam Dolman has been a figurehead in Diamonds’ rise up the divisions and his absence due to a calf injury was a big blow on the opening day.
Hopefully he will be back soon but, if this is anything to go by, then they can cope without him.
Jack Ashton was his usual swashbuckling self while Blaize Punter produced a highly-impressive display alongside him at the heart of the defence.
Punter was an unsung hero last season and was at it again in the first game of this campaign.
With Callum Westwood and Sam Brown in the full-back roles, Diamonds looked solid.
The right move to put Ben Diamond on a contract
Diamonds’ front three were excellent on Saturday but it was Ben Diamond who stood out.
There’s something natural about his game. His movement is excellent, his touch and close control is second to none and he knows where the net it.
He scored two very different goals and showed just why Diamonds were so keen to put him on a contract for this season.
More performances like this and the scouts will soon be taking a closer look.
A standard has been set
Any doubts about Diamonds’ ability to step up to the higher level were dismissed with their opening-day success.
But they have now set their own standards.
It’s unreasonable to believe they will play with the same intensity every single week, it just doesn’t happen at this level.
But should times get hard, this game is the one they should go back to.
If they can repeat this, or something close, on a weekly basis then there will be plenty more wins to come.