AFC Rushden & Diamonds kicked off the new BetVictor Southern League Premier Division Central season in impressive fashion as two second-half goals secured a 2-0 success at Barwell.
Diamonds boss Andy Peaks handed league debuts to summer signings Nat Gosnal-Tyler and Matthew Slinn while four more new arrivals were named on the bench.
But it was the old guard who eventually secured the first three points of the season as the outstanding Liam Dolman and Jack Ashton grabbed the goals.
It proved to be a close and competitive opening period in the blustery conditions and Diamonds were the first to show when a quick long throw from Sam Brown released Tom Lorraine who held the ball up well before finding Ben Acquaye, whose goalbound shot brilliantly blocked by Jamie McAteer.
And Diamonds were adamant they should have had a penalty for handball when Alex Collard’s effort was blocked in the area.
Little had been seen of Barwell as an attacking threat but they went close towards the end of the half when a free-kick towards the back post was headed back into the danger area and Eliot Putman saw his shot bounce back off the inside of the far post and into the grateful hands of Ben Heath.
But Diamonds went close themselves before the break. Heath’s long punt up the field saw Jack Bowen sprint clear and he got there ahead of Barwell goalkeeper Andrew Wycherley but his header was hacked off the line and, after being wiped out by the stopper, the resulting free-kick on the edge of the box was cleared.
However, after a scrappy start to the second half, Diamonds did break the deadlock on 58 minutes.
Brown launched a trademark long throw into the area from the left touchline, it was flicked on by a home defender and Dolman was there all by himself to fire home a right-footed volley.
To their credit, Barwell worked their way back into the contest and there was a key moment when a fine ball in from Putman found the head of Brady Hickey in front of goal but Heath produced a superb reflex save to turn the ball away.
Sam Grouse shot straight at Heath soon after but Diamonds rode the storm and then put the game to bed with 16 minutes to go.
Wycherley produced a fine save to deny Bowen after he had been played in by Lorraine.
But, from the resulting set-piece delivered by substitute Declan Rogers, Jack Ashton rose unmarked to head into the far corner.
There was a nervous moment for Heath when he failed to hold on to a speculative shot but managed to grab it at the second attempt with Hickey closing in.
But, aside from that, Diamonds saw the game out with ease and also managed a couple more dangerous attacks in the Barwell half without being to able to add to the scoreline.
Nonetheless, this was the perfect start with three points on the board and a clean sheet to boot.
Now the challenge is to follow it up in two successive home games...
Barwell: Wycherley; Whitmore (sub Cotterill, 67 mins), McAteer, Percival, Putman; Tomkinson, Brown-Hill, Armeni (sub Thomas, 72 mins), Hickey; Harrad (sub Grouse, h-t), Hollis. Subs not used: Preston, Campbell.
Diamonds: Heath; Collard, Dolman, Ashton; Gosnal-Tyler, Acquaye, Slinn (sub Rogers, 62 mins), Hicks, Brown; Lorraine, Bowen. Subs not used: McDonald, Dove, Akubuine, Cooper.
Referee: Simon Brown.
Goals: Dolman (58 mins, 0-1), Ashton (74 mins, 0-2).
Bookings: Bowen (dissent), Acquaye, Wycherley, Slinn (all fouls), Grouse, Collard (both unsporting behaviour),
Northants Telegraph man-of-the-match: Liam Dolman - The more things change the more they stay the same. Liam Dolman did what everyone who has watched him over the past few years would expect him to do. He led the team with his usual presence at the back. He didn’t put a foot wrong defensively. And, just when his team needed a goal, he found himself free and finished with aplomb. He’s a class act at this level and the years passing by don’t seem to change that.