Diamonds stopper Finlay wary of the underdogs

AFC Rushden & Diamonds goalkeeper Matt Finlay
AFC Rushden & Diamonds goalkeeper Matt Finlay

Matt Finlay knows Bedfont & Feltham will be gunning for AFC Rushden & Diamonds this weekend.

Many will be expecting a straightforward afternoon for Andy Peaks’ side when they head to west London for the FA Cup first qualifying round clash.

They are unbeaten in all competitions this season and moved to the top of the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central thanks to a 3-1 success at North Greenford United last weekend.

Bedfont, meanwhile, ply their trade in Division One of the Combined Counties League, making them one of the lowest-ranked sides left in the competition.

But, as both clubs eye a place alongside the National League North and South clubs in Monday’s second qualifying round draw, Diamonds goalkeeper Finlay is wary of the underdogs.

He said: “I am sure most will expect us to go through but it’s never as easy as that.

“They were probably happy with picking us out of the draw and I am sure they will do all they can to put one over us.

“But we want to go through and get the chance to play a team from a higher level to test ourselves.

“All teams want to have a go at teams higher up than them and I am sure Bedfont will be bang up for it. We have to make sure we are as well.

“We have had a good start to the season. The first three games that ended in draws disappointed us but since then we have done well and hopefully we can go from strength to strength.

“We have a lot of lads who have played at this level and higher and we knew the quality would be better.

“But we know what we are capable of and we have to stay focused and see where it takes us for the rest of the season.

“It’s all gone reasonably well so far and we are just looking forward to this weekend now.”

Finlay’s shirt number came into sharp focus earlier in the season.

He wears the number 17 jersey after the club retired the number one shirt as a mark of respect to Dale Roberts who died in 2010 while playing for Rushden & Diamonds.

The club had been told by the Southern League that they had to use a number one shirt but a special dispensation was granted by the Football Association following an outcry from the football community ensured they could keep it retired.

Finlay said: “Obviously there was no issue with it in the UCL and I struggled to see why it should be a problem just because we went up.

“It was something the club have wanted to do ever since they were formed because it was an emotional time for the fans when Dale passed away.

“I am just glad it got sorted out and I am very happy and proud to wear the number 17 shirt.”