VERDICT: Impressive Diamonds have too much for Coalville
It's fair to say that AFC Rushden & Diamonds have found their feet at Step 3.
Andy Peaks’ team produced a highly-impressive display to claim a 3-1 success over Coalville Town at Hayden Road as they extended their unbeaten run in the Evo-Stik League South Premier Division Central to five games.They are still unbeaten on home soil and if this game is to be used as evidence then there’s no question there will be plenty more points to come.Having suffered the devastating blow of conceding a stoppage-time equaliser at King’s Lynn Town at the weekend, there were thankfully no signs of any hangover as Diamonds came out of the traps quickly.Coalville, who have been in the upper reaches of the table early on, did likewise and it made for a pulsating first half which was more akin to a game of basketball as both sides went on the attack.But it was Diamonds who had that extra punch in front of goal and they were also blessed by having the best player on the pitch in the form of Declan Rogers.The midfielder has been outstanding since returning to the club and he took it up a gear or two on this night as he largely controlled the midfield area while having a big hand in two of his team’s goals.With Rogers pulling the strings throughout, Diamonds just had a bit too much for their visitors and they did a decent job of killing the game off after the break as things finally settled down.But the first half was one to savour and the tone was set when the hosts opened the scoring after just eight minutes.Nathan Hicks summed up the desire and determination instilled into Peaks’ side by chasing a lost cause down the right-hand side. He kept the ball in, skipped past a defend and drove the ball across goal where Ben Farrell arrived on cue to fire into the corner.Coalville almost had an instant response when Tim Berridge shot straight at Ben Heath from an Alex Dean cross after Diamonds were caught sleeping from a quick throw-in.But the home side doubled their advantage on 14 minutes when Albie Hopkins sent the ball back into the danger area after being dragged wide. Farrell was there to help it on and Rogers applied the finishing touch.However, any thoughts that the second goal would give Diamonds a comfortable cushion were dispelled within two minutes as Coalville did find a quick response when Danny Jenno headed home Courtney Wildin’s left-wing corner.There were chances at both ends after that and it was visiting goalkeeper Rudoles Soloha who took centre-stage.He made fine saves from both Hopkins and Ben Diamond - both of which were headers from set-piece deliveries from that man Rogers.But Soloha saved the best until just before half-time when he dived full length to keep out a thunderous 20-yard volley from Rogers, which looked to be heading for the top corner.In between, Coalville continued to pose a threat and Tom McGlinchey headed over from a good position while Dean Freeman was just off target with another header from Wildin’s cross.The visitors went close to a leveller early in the second half as Jenno’s 20-yard free-kick curled just wide of the far post with Heath rooted to the spot.But Diamonds continued to pose the bigger threat and Soloha was at it again when he parried away Hopkins’ low shot after he was teed up by Tom Lorraine.You always felt one more goal was needed and it duly arrived with 19 minutes to go.Rogers, of course, was behind it all. He swept a wonderful pass out to the left, which put Hopkins away. He fizzed the ball across goal and Lorraine had the simple task of finishing it off from close-range.And, from there, it was plain sailing. McGlinchey went close with an effort, which was deflected just wide but, aside from that, Diamonds saw the game out with few problems.It had been felt that their performances up until this point had merited more than they had got for them.Well, on this occasion, a fine display was rewarded with a well-deserved three points.It’s taken a bit of time but Diamonds are well and truly settled at the higher level and have shown they can mix it with some of the more fancied teams in the division.It’s far too early for anyone to get ahead of themselves but Peaks’ teams are now in a nice groove.And if they continue on the same path, there’s only one direction they will be heading...
Diamonds: Heath; Reynolds, Westbrook, Dolman, Brown; Farrell, Rogers (sub Curtis, 81 mins), Hicks; Diamond, Lorraine (sub Bowen, 75 mins), Hopkins (sub J Dean, 86 mins). Subs not used: Ashton, Punter.Coalville: Soloha; Jenno, Freeman, McManus (sub Bryant, 40 mins); A Dean (sub Hallahan, 81 mins), Towers (sub Ebanks, 81 mins), Wildin, Doyle-Charles, McGlinchey; Creaney, Berridge. Subs not used: Spence, Graham.Referee: Kenwyn Hughes.Goals: Farrell (8 mins, 1-0), Rogers (14 mins, 2-0), Jenno (16 mins, 2-1), Lorraine (71 mins, 3-1).Bookings: Freeman, McManus, Hopkins (all fouls).Northants Telegraph man-of-the-match: Declan Rogers - the midfielder continues to have a positive impact after returning to the club and he was outstanding on this occasion. He was on hand to score the second goal and produced a killer pass that led to the crucial third. But his general play was also highly impressive. He keeps it simple and is a real threat with the ball at his feet in front of goal from long-range. Throw in his excellence from set-pieces and you have a player who, when he’s on his game, can be the real difference.Attendance: 407.