This was a thumping win for Diamonds in the Rushden sunshine as a Darryl Smith hat-trick, a Nabil Sharif brace, a Liam Dolman penalty and dream goal for returning hero Claudiu Hoban maintained the 100% start to the season.
Diamonds dominated this game from the start with Darryl Smith and Joel Gyasi ripping into the Fleet Town back four. They had to wait until the 18th minute to open the scoring but then bagged 4 goals in 7 minutes to effectively win the game. Nabil Shariff turned onto his right foot on 18 to fire home into the bottom corner from the edge of the box and then repeated the routine on his left foot 4 minutes later. On 24 Darryl Smith guided a looping header over the despairing away keeper and a minute later came onto another Joel Gyasi killer cross to fire high into the roof of the net to make it 4.
Fleet worked hard all afternoon against dynamic opponents and had a good chance late in the half as Cadete pounced on a rare defensive mistake to lob over Ben Heath but also just over the bar. But Diamonds added a 5th just before half-time as Liam Dolman converted a 41st minute penalty after Boateng had been felled on the edge of the box.
The second half was just a minute old when Darryl Smith completed his hat-trick with a near post header from a left wing free-kick to make it 6. Diamonds continued to create chances at an understandably lowered level of intensity with Gyasi, Curtis, and Gyasi again all testing the away keeper but it was Fleet who would grab the next goal Bradley Wilson converting an excellent left wing cross from 8 yards.
Claudio Hoban had made a heroes return to the biggest cheer of the day just before that goal and he would get his dream 2nd debut goal with a 15 yard strike after more great work by Nabil Shariff. Fernando Bell Toxtle also made an impressive cameo appearance as a second half substitute as Diamonds ran out 7-1 winners to maintain a 100% start to the season.
Manager Andy Peaks made one enforced change to his starting line-up with Chief Boateng making his first start replacing the injured Tom Lorraine. Returning hero Claudiu Hoban came onto the bench alongside youngsters Blaize Punter, Harry Henbury and Fernando Bell-Toxtle, and veteran (!) Matt Finlay.
Hayden Road looked an absolute picture in the August sunshine as Diamonds looked to build that home ground feeling in their new home.
Diamonds dominated possession from the off against hard working opponents who defended well in the opening 15 minutes but were at full stretch to deny wide men Darryl Smith and Joel Gyasi and in form striker Nabil Shariff.
Shariff had early chances to get efforts away with a blocked effort on 2 minutes and drive over the bar on 4 after holding his man off well. Darryl Smith was already having his best game for Diamonds showing neat footwork and great determination to set up Chief Boateng on 6.
On the other side Joel Gyasi was starting to build his man of the match performance with some great runs at harassed full-backs, two dangerous corners, and a screamer of an effort from 20 yards that the away keeper Beach just tipped over.
After keeper Beach had tipped another dangerous cross away at full stretch Diamonds finally took the lead on 18 minutes in what would be a blast of 4 goals in 7 minutes.
Sam Brown surged over the half-way line splitting the Fleet midfield to find Nabil Shariff on the edge of the box. With back to goal Shariff took a touch, turned his man and fired low and hard into the bottom corner.
Just 4 minutes later it was Shariff again, back to goal on the edge of the box turning and striking low with his left foot this time into the opposite corner.
Two minutes later is was Darryl Smith’s turn. Callum Westwood drifted a deep cross beyond the far post which the wide man met with a guided looping header over Beach into the far corner.
Just a minute later it was 4 for Diamonds and two for Smith as Joel Gyasi skinned his man down the right fired in a firm cross that Smith met on the run to fire high into the roof of the next from 8 yards.
Shell shocked Fleet did well to contain Diamonds in the next 15 minutes and get onto the front foot themselves at times. Liam Dolman was forced to clear a ball away from the goal after Ben Heath had been caught off his line, a dangerous central free kick was well gathered by Heath and a defensive lapse saw Cadete clear in the box to lob over Heath but over the bar.
But it was Diamonds who would make the almost relentless pressure count again on 41 minutes. Chief Boateng chased a ball over the top to the edge of the area where either defender or keeper should have cleared but neither did and away keeper Beach lunged at the ball taking down Boateng. Referee Mark Howes pointed straight to the spot and Liam Dolman taking on penalty duties after a couple of misses by Nabil Shariff slotted home comfortably.
Half time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 5 Fleet Town 0
After the half-time respite for Fleet it took Diamonds just a minute to pile on more misery. Joel Gyasi won a free-kick wide out left and fired it into the near post where Darryl Smith got away from his marker to guide the ball into the bottom corner for his hat-trick and Diamonds 6th.
They came close to a 7th on 53 as Gyasi surged through defenders to get a shot away that was deflected just wide, half-time substitute Blaize Punter headed a free-kick just over, and Joe Curtis had a dangerous looking long distance effort just blocked.
The biggest cheer of the day came on 63 as returning hero Claudiu Hoban prepared to come on for his second debut. He replaced Chief Boateng with Fernando Bell-Toxtle also coming on for Ben Farrell.
Joel Gyasi immediately benefited from Hoban’s great touch surging onto a neat ball driving towards the box and being felled 25 yards out. He stepped up to take the kick himself amongst great anticipation but hit it horribly high over the Peter De Banke Terrace.
The wide man was never out of the game for long and he produced a stunning reaction save from Beach to deny him a deserved goal on 65 minutes after he fired a spectacular volley towards goal but Beach somehow batted it away.
Fleet were energised by a trio of substitutions and kept working hard to create chances for themselves and became the first side to score against Diamonds this season on 69. An error in possession saw the ball flipped over the Diamonds back four where it was chased down, fired across the goal for the willing Bradley Wilson to sweep home from 8 yards.
They had their best spell of the game following that goal with Efambe running hard at Callum Westwood on 72 to create danger and earn a free-kick 25 yards out. He stepped up to take it himself and his super effort just clipped the bar.
Nabil Shariff with 7 goals to his credit this season nearly got an 8th with an on target effort from 18 yards that Beach saved with his legs after a really good ball from Darryl Smith.
Diamonds would get their 7th of the game though on 75 minutes to win the second half and give the returning hero a special moment. Nabil Shariff latched onto a ball over the top surging into the right side of the area, turning back and laying it off to the supporting Claudiu Hoban. His eyes lit up as the the Peter De Banke crowd roared him on as he swept a first time effort back across goal into the bottom corner.
Joel Gyasi was ripping into the fleet back four all afternoon and came close to a deserved goal three times in the closing stages. He had a near post effort saved on the line by Beach after a ball carried right through the box to him, he had another edge of the area shot blocked after twisting away from his markers, and he ran onto a Darryl Smith ball with the goal gaping but fired it high wide and handsome when everyone expected the net to bulge.
Callum Westwood hit a fantastic curling free-kick just over and Claudiu Hoban hit a trademark driven shot into the arms of Beach as Diamonds closed out the game on the front foot as they had been all afternoon.
Final Score: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 7 Fleet Town 1
This was an emphatic win by Diamonds in a game they dominated throughout. Fleet worked hard particularly defensively but couldn’t handle the pace and trickery of Joel Gyasi and Darryl Smith or the strength touch and finishing of Nabil Shariff. Ben Farrell and Joe Curtis dominated midfield and the back four were solid when they needed to be and creative in support of Diamonds attacking play.
It takes Diamonds to the top of the table with 3 wins from 3 in the league only matched by also free-scoring Hartley & Witney. Kempston Rovers had a good away win yesterday at previously 100% Uxbridge and will be the biggest test of the season for Diamonds in the Bank Holiday derby game.
Man of the Match: Joel Gyasi
Match Summary by Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
13. Ben Heath
2. Callum Westwood
3. Ben Ford
4. Sam Brown
5. Liam Dolman
6. Ben Farrell
7. Joel Gyasi
8. Joe Curtis
9. Chief Boateng
10. Nabil Shariff
11. Darryl Smith
12. Blaize Punter (for Dolman 45)
14. Harry Henbury
15. Claudiu Hoban (for Boateng 63)
16. Fernando Bell-Toxtle (for Farrell 63)
17. Matt Finlay
1. Liam Beach
2. Chris Wales
3. Carl Garstang
4. Bobby Dormer
5. Greg Haydon
6. Chris Musgrove
7. Will Efambe
8. Nick Sowden
9. Bradley Wilson
10. Adewale Oshilaja
11. Danilo Cadete
12. Sammy Pekun (for Cadete 64)
13. Harrison Button
14. Ben Toye
15. Kiye Martin (for Dormer 69)
16. James Smith (for Garstang 52)
Goals: Shariff (18, 22), Smith (24, 25, 46), Dolman Pen (41), Hoban (75)
Goals: Wilson (69)
Yellow Cards: Dormer, Wales, Beach
Referee: Mark Howes
Assistants: Daniel Stokes, Daniel Pattison
Match Gallery courtesy of Matt Hawkins. Copyright HawkinsImages ©2017