Andy Peaks was more than satisfied by the performance of his AFC Rushden & Diamonds after they suffered penalty shoot-out heartbreak at Latimer Park last night (Tuesday).
Diamonds produced an excellent first-half display as two goals from Ryan Robbins gave them a deserved 2-0 lead against Kettering Town in the NFA Hillier Senior Cup semi-final.
Brett Solkhon pulled one back for the hosts from the penalty spot just before half-time and the Poppies were much-improved after the break with Rene Howe and Rhys Hoenes scoring further goals to put them in front.
However, Diamonds grabbed a dramatic late leveller through captain Liam Dolman to make it 3-3 but it was Kettering who prevailed 5-4 on penalties when Joel Gyasi missed the crucial spot-kick.
Nonetheless, boss Peaks was impressed with the vast majority of what he saw from his team.
“I am sure it was a very interesting and entertaining evening for any neutrals, as local derbies go that was probably as good as it gets,” the Diamonds boss said.
“I thought for 44 minutes we were absolutely superb, we were well in control of the game and deservedly two goals up and we were just disappointed with the goal before half-time because we felt there was a foul on Sam Brown and then they were offside in the lead up to it.
“But that gave them a massive lift. I hadn’t seen much from them but I know they have a lot in the tank and a lot of good players so we knew they were better than what we had seen.
“They were the better team in the second half but for me, the disappointing thing was the manner of the second goal. It was a free header that went in a bit cheaply.
“They were always going to have a go at us and I was disappointed that we didn’t keep the ball well enough when we had it.
“And the third goal came when we were having a little break ourselves and we didn’t deal with the danger. The boy (Rhys) Hoenes is quick and you’re not catching him.
“But to then get another reaction and get back into it with a third goal was fantastic and for me that shows what this squad is all about.
“It’s another team from a higher level who haven’t been able to beat us in 90 minutes.
“To lose on penalties is disappointing but this isn’t going to make or break my season.
“All I wanted to do was to see the boys put a shift in for the fans who made the trip and they did that.”
Peaks, meanwhile, felt Kettering’s celebrations in front of both dugouts after their third goal were “a bit over-exuberant” and it led to Diamonds doing the same after Dolman’s effort/
He added: “I thought their celebration for the third goal was a bit over-exuberant but it obviously meant a lot to them, although they made a point of doing it in front of our dugout.
“But then our boys mimicked it because they did it to us but it’s all about passion, it’s a local derby and we have seen both teams produce fine comebacks.
“You don’t want to take the passion out of the game but ultimately it was NFA Senior Cup semi-final, not the World Cup final.”