Andy Peaks felt his AFC Rushden & Diamonds team “ticked all the boxes” as they moved a step closer to promotion with a superb 2-1 success at Royston Town.
Diamonds will travel to St Ives Town, who beat Egham Town in the other semi-final, in the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One play-off final on Bank Holiday Monday (3pm) after goals from Jack Bowen and Liam Dolman secured a famous win at Garden Walk.
Having lost twice to runners-up Royston during the regular campaign, Diamonds settled the score in magnificent fashion as terrific all-round display moved them to within 90 minutes of a second successive promotion.
They had a nervy final few minutes after Scott Bridges pulled one back in stoppage-time.
But they held on to secure a deserved success and Peaks couldn’t have been happier, although he admits the job is only half done.
“I thought we were excellent from the first minute to the last,” the Diamonds boss said.
“It was fully deserved and we dominated against a very good Royston team, who didn’t really create anything apart from in closing stages.
“The goal made it a bit nervy for the last couple of minutes but I couldn’t have asked for anymore.
“We were first to every ball all over the field and the whole 11 were absolutely fantastic.
“We pressed them all over the pitch and we have started to get back on track in the past couple of weeks.
“They are getting their confidence back and this was a massive game because we had lost twice to them during the season.
“But we were up for it and we ticked all the boxes. The scoreline flattered them a bit.
“We are delighted to get through but it’s only half a job and we have got another one to look forward to.”
The evening, however, didn’t pass off without some disappointment as winger Claudiu Hoban was sent off for two bookable offences.
Under play-off rules, it means Hoban will now have to sit out Monday’s final.
Don’t miss more reaction to Diamonds’ play-off success in Thursday’s Northamptonshire Telegraph