VERDICT – Ruthless Diamonds show they are serious

Andy Hall hit a hat-trick as AFC Rushden & Diamonds thrashed Arlesey Town 6-1 at the Dog & Duck
Andy Hall hit a hat-trick as AFC Rushden & Diamonds thrashed Arlesey Town 6-1 at the Dog & Duck

There are certain times when a team chasing promotion does their very best to convince you that they are deadly serious about their aims.

And the past three days has been one of those occasions as far as AFC Rushden & Diamonds are concerned.

They got something of a wake-up call when they were thumped 4-0 at Beaconsfield SYCOB just under two weeks ago.

For every action, there is a reaction and Diamonds have responded like, dare we say it, champions.

The 3-0 win over Ware at the weekend was straightforward and this 6-1 demolition of Arlesey Town was highly impressive, if for nothing else than the brutal way in which Diamonds finished their opponents off late on in the night.

This was a big evening. Diamonds were handed a chance to move six points clear at the top of the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central and they grabbed it in ruthless fashion.

There is, of course, a long way to go. But, all of a sudden, the games are just beginning to run out and Diamonds find themselves in a very, very good position.

There are big matches to come. Not least next week when, after Saturday’s trip to Fleet Town, fellow high-fliers St Ives Town and Kings Langley come to the Dog & Duck in the space of a few days.

And now the pressure is shifted onto those in the chasing pack. Diamonds are, certainly at the moment, the team to beat and, if this sort of form is anything to go by, it’s going to have to take a decent side to stop them from clinching automatic promotion.

They didn’t have things all their own way on a perishing night. Indeed, they were forced to battle back after falling behind inside the first six minutes.

Diamonds failed to clear their lines and it gave Saul Williams the chance to play in Lewis Wilson who cut back inside before placing the ball into the bottom corner.

Arlesey worked hard to close down the hosts and frustrate them for a time after the goal.

However, slowly but surely Diamonds worked their way back into things and, after Claudiu Hoban had dragged an effort wide, they levelled on the half-hour.

Andy Hall, who was the best player on the pitch, saw his cross loop up off a defender and, with visiting goalkeeper Nick Thompson out of position, Lewis Leslie rose to nod home his second goal in as many games.

There was no looking back after that.

A corner routine straight off the training ground ensured the hosts were in front before the break as Hall swung his delivery to the far post, Jack Ashton headed it back and Tom Lorraine was there to apply the finishing touch with a firm header of his own.

With the momentum behind them, Diamonds dominated proceedings in the second half.

Hall tormented left-back Sam Willett all evening and the defender hauled the winger down just past the hour and Hall stepped up to sent Thompson the wrong way from the penalty spot.

Matt Finlay was forced into a smart save as he turned Williams’ free-kick round the post but it was Diamonds who continued to threaten with Hoban curling a set-piece just wide before Thompson held another long-range effort from the winger.

The game seemed to be petering out but Diamonds weren’t finished and they ruthlessly blew Arlesey away with three more goals at the end.

Hall had his second with a low shot across Thompson after good work from Stevenson and his second hat-trick for the club was completed when he was again brought down by Willett and again got up to beat the goalkeeper, who got more than a hand to this one, from the spot.

But there was still time for Hall to create one more as he slipped the pass through for Shawn Richards who raced away from his marker before stroking the ball into the far corner.

The final scoreline may have been slightly harsh on Arlesey.

However, the brutality with which Diamonds finished them off was the sign of a side that has its eyes firmly locked on the prize.

There is, of course, a lot of work yet to be done by Andy Peaks and his players.

But if they carry on like this then a second successive title and promotion is well and truly on the cards...

Diamonds: Finlay; Wilkinson, Dolman, Ashton, Kennedy; A Hall, Leslie (sub Quigley, 56 mins), Harris (sub Richards, 68 mins), Hoban (sub Gordon, 85 mins); Stevenson, Lorraine. Subs not used: Vitue, Hipwell.

Arlesey: Thompson; Carr, M Hall, Rowland, Willett; Olukanai (sub Gittens, 67 mins), Powell, Tavernier, S Williams; T Williams, Wilson (sub Abrahams, 76 mins). Subs not used: Beesley, Plumpton, Wright.

Referee: Abbas Khan.

Goals: Wilson (6 mins, 0-1), Leslie (30 mins, 1-1), Lorraine (36 mins, 2-1), A Hall pen (63 mins, 3-1), A Hall (87 mins, 4-1), A Hall pen (90 mins, 5-1), Richards (90 mins, 6-1).

Bookings: M Hall, Harris, Willett (all fouls).

Attendance: 330.