VERDICT – Diamonds shine as Northwich are hit for six

Nabil Shariff scored twice in AFC Rushden & Diamonds' 6-1 victory over Northwich Victoria
Nabil Shariff scored twice in AFC Rushden & Diamonds' 6-1 victory over Northwich Victoria

AFC Rushden & Diamonds got their play-off bid firmly back on track as they dismantled a sorry Northwich Victoria side at the Dog & Duck.

With the April sun shining, Diamonds had a clear spring in their step as they showed no mercy on their struggling visitors with an emphatic 6-1 success.

If there was to be one criticism, and let’s get it out of the way, it could and probably should have been an even bigger scoreline than it was.

But that was the only question mark that could be put over Andy Peaks’ side who will still have a big say in how the top five of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One South will look at the end of the season.

They will face much stronger opposition in the weeks ahead but if they continue to perform like they did in this game then there’s no doubt they will be in for an extended season and a shot at promotion at the end of the month.

There was just a good feeling swirling around the ground ahead of this game.

With players, coaches and families of the club’s youth teams on hand as part of a community day, it helped swell the attendance to over 600 and gave the Diamonds players a good atmosphere to play in.

And they clearly revelled in it. Right from the off they looked the part and once they had got in front, the final outcome was never in doubt.

But they also showed a ruthless side. They were 4-0 up at the break but didn’t let up as they bombarded the visiting goal with wave after wave of attacks.

You can, after all, only beat what is put in front of you and Diamonds set themselves up for a crucial few weeks by getting the month off to a flying start.

The highly impressive Ollie Brown-Hill had an early effort saved by Dylan Forth but Diamonds finished Northwich off with a three-goal blast in the space of just nine minutes.

Jack Bowen raced away from his marker to set the ball rolling with a composed finish but the second goal was thing of beauty.

Ben Ford split the visiting defence with an inch-perfect cross field pass with that trusty left foot of his and as the Northwich players stood still, Brown-Hill continued his run and planted a header beyond Forth.

And it was game over on 17 minutes when a trademark long throw from Sam Brown was flicked on by Bowen and top scorer Nabil Shariff continued his hot streak in front of goal when he applied the finishing touch.

It was a stroll in the sunshine after that. Shawn Richards had an effort ruled out for offside before Bowen made it 4-0 just before half-time as he was sent through and beat Forth with another confident finish.

Brown-Hill almost grabbed the fifth with an outrageous strike with the outside of his left boot which clipped the top of the crossbar and he was denied by Forth again early in the second period.

The only blot on the copybook came on 53 minutes when David Short’s 40-yard free-kick was misjudged by Ben Heath and found the top corner.

But it was merely a blip. Diamonds poured forward again and Ben Farrell had an effort cleared off the line by John Bennett before the fifth arrived on 66 minutes when Shariff hammered home from close-range following a corner.

Peaks could have been forgiven for thinking this was a perfect day when he threw Dan Quigley fired home a volley from the edge of the box just 20 seconds after he had replaced Richard Bunting.

And it could have been even better before the end as Shariff was denied by Forth after being played in by Ross Oulton while the frontman somehow fired against a post soon after when he had the goal at his mercy.

Yes, Diamonds could have had more but this day was always about getting back on track and they did that in some style.

Tougher challenges do lie ahead but if this evidence is anything to go by, Peaks and his players seem to be in the mood to go and make it happen for themselves...

Diamonds: Heath; Ford, Harris, Dolman, Brown; Richards, Farrell (sub Oulton, 64 mins), Bunting (sub Quigley, 79 mins), Brown-Hill (sub Koriya, 69 mins); Bowen, Shariff. Subs not used: Finlay, Lorraine.

Northwich: Forth; Lawrence, Fitzgerald, Mannion; McDonald, Bennett, Clarke (sub Shaw, 70 mins), Matthews (sub Kelleher, 65 mins); Imade, Short, Sultan. Sub not used: Lyndon.

Referee: Robert Hathaway.

Goals: Bowen (8 mins, 1-0), Brown-Hill (14 mins, 2-0), Shariff (17 mins, 3-0), Bowen (44 mins, 4-0), Short (53 mins, 4-1), Shariff (66 mins, 5-1), Quigley (80 mins, 6-1).

Booking: Imade (foul).

Attendance: 604.