AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1-2 Stewarts & Lloyds Corby
AFC Rushden & Diamonds’ magnificent run of nine consecutive victories finally game to an end with defeat to an impressive S&L Corby side in the Jaymann Shield.
The Diamonds welcomed back Blake Helsdown after a lengthy injury lay off, while Danny Bird made his first competitive appearance since the end of February. Recent signings Anthony Ottaway, Harry May, Jake Reynolds, Noah Bryant and Mozza Roberts were all omitted from the squad, as none are eligible for next week’s League Cup final against Kempston Rovers.
The heavy rain in the days leading up to the game had left an irriguous pitch, but any surface water had safely drained away to leave it in a decent condition.
The visitors, in their first game of the competition, started brightly and forced Ashley Foulger into the first of many good saves with only two minutes on the clock. A huge throw in from the right wing saw Elliot Ames struggling to reach the ball, and he inadvertently flicked it into the path of Jon Dean who volleyed at goal from a tight angle, but Foulger did well to save his effort and hold onto the ball.
Just three minutes later though, the visitors went ahead. A long ball over the top of the Rushden defence saw a breakdown in communication between Foulger and Danny Bird, and as Foulger came to the edge of his area to claim the ball Bird, under pressure from an S&L striker, headed the ball over his ‘keeper’s head and into the net via the underside of the cross bar for an own goal.
The Diamonds went close to equalising almost immediately. James Harrison embarked on a great run down the left wing, getting to the byline before cutting inside and hitting a shot from a narrow angle that was parried behind for a corner. The resulting ball in found the head of Bird at the near post but he glanced inches over the bar.
With 12 minutes gone, the Foundrymen came close to doubling their lead. Ryan Gormley burst past Ames down the left flank, and crossed low into the path of Macauley McBride in the middle, but as the striker went to shoot he was denied by a terrific challenge from Fred Devereaux, whose block took all the pace off the ball leaving Foulger with a simple save.
Rushden were struggling to find any rhythm in the early stages of the game, although Harrison was causing the S&L defence plenty of problems with his strength and skill on the ball. On 18 minutes he forced the defence into conceding possession just outside their own area, before bursting into the box and taking the ball around Corey McGovern, but the S&L ‘keeper forced him wide, allowing the defence to recover and prevent a Diamonds’ equaliser.
The AFC defence were struggling to cope with the pace of the S&L attack, and were caught out on several occasions by simple balls over the top. On 22 minutes Gormley raced onto once such pass which had evaded Ames, but with only Foulger to beat he shot weakly forcing the Rushden stopper into a routine save. Dean was probably the visitors greatest threat, and a few minutes later he raced forward from midfield and hit a shot from 20 yards that flew inches wide of Foulger’s right hand post.
Just after the half hour mark McBride setup Gormley once more, but after turning past Ames he could only shoot straight at Foulger.
Frustration was beginning to set in for the home side as the visitors continued to control the game, and with scoring opportunities hard to come by Louis Smith decided to try his luck from all of 30 yards. His effort was well struck, but was too close to McGovern who made a comfortable save.
The referee had infuriated both sides with his overly fussy yet inconsistent handling of the game, but he was left with no choice but to show a yellow card to S&L captain Adam Saunders on 34 minutes, after the defender lunged in on Smith long after the ball had gone. From the resulting free kick, Smith’s ball into the penalty area was only half cleared by the Foundrymen allowing Devereaux a shooting chance from 15 yards, but his effort was deflected just wide of the post.
Shorty after, the visitors should have taken a two goal lead when the impressive Dean skinned Ames down the left flank and picked out McBride with a low cross, but the visitors’ leading scorer scuffed his shot wide of the post with the goal at his mercy. Five minutes later, the Diamonds made them pay for the missed opportunity by netting an equalising goal. Harrison set off on a powerful run down the right flank before picking out Blake Helsdown, whose cross was deflected behind for a corner. Smith’s ball in found the head of Conor Bell who nodded home at the near post. The ball was hacked clear by the S&L defence, but the assistant referee signalled that the ball had already crossed the line.
There was just enough time remaining for the referee to further frustrate the Rushden bench by brandishing an unnecessary booking to Alex McDonald, after a clumsy but in no way malicious foul.
HT: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1-1 Stewarts & Lloyds Corby
The second half was not quite ten minutes old when the referee decided to take centre stage once more and produce another unwarranted booking; Ben Roche the recipient on this occasion following what was another soft foul.
Just after the hour mark the visitors regained the lead, and it was no surprise to see Jon Dean grabbing the goal. A simple through ball dissected the AFC defence and saw Dean race clear before placing an excellent finish past Foulger and into the bottom corner.
Five minutes later it almost got even worse for the home side as Gormley stormed forward and hit a powerful shot from 25 yards, but Foulger produced a good save to deny the striker.
With 70 minutes gone Mark Starmer made a double substitution and a formation change in an attempt to inject some life back into his struggling side. Harrison picked up a slight knock and was replaced by Jeron Thompson, while Zach Farden made way for Zaak Moon. The Diamonds reverted from their now regular 3-5-2 formation to a 4-3-3.
With 15 minutes remaining Roche was brought down just inside the S&L half, with a foul no different to the two that McDonald and Roche himself had been booked for earlier in the game. To the crowd’s amazement the referee waved play on, allowing the visitors to attack down their left flank, in the space where Roche would have been had he not just been fouled. Gormley burst into the penalty area and hit a good shot across Foulger towards the far corner, but the Rushden ‘keeper made a superb fingertip save.
With 80 minutes on the clock the Diamonds forced McGovern into a rare save, as a ball over the top by Smith allowed Thompson to race clear, but his well hit shot was matched by a good block by the S&L ‘keeper.
With five minutes to go Foulger again had to be at his best to prevent a third goal for the Foundrymen. Ames’ mishit clearance fell kindly for substitute Jordan Cross, who fired in a shot across goal only to see Foulger produce another fine fingertip save. The visitors did manage to beat Foulger once more as injury time approached, but Dean’s well struck shot from the edge of the box cannoned back off the post.
FT: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1-2 Stewarts & Lloyds Corby
S&L Corby were deserving winners, but the defeat will hopefully act as a motivator for the Diamonds ahead of their League Cup Final next week. Click HERE for the match preview.
With Rushden & Higham United dropping out of the Jaymann Shield, the game between S&L Corby and Rothwell Corinthians on Monday 23rd April will decide which club progresses to the semi-finals. A 1-0 win for Corinthians is the only result which will see the Diamonds top the group and go through. A 2-1 win for Corinthians would see all 3 sides level on points, goal difference and goals scored, and at this stage it is not known how the group would be decided if that happened. Any other result would see the Diamonds eliminated.
Man of the Match: Ashley Foulger
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Stewarts & Lloyds Corby
|86. Ashley Foulger
2. Ben Roche
4. Elliot Ames (c)
5. Danny Bird
7. Blake Helsdown
6. Alex McDonald
8. Fred Devereaux
13. Louis Smith
3. Zach Farden
9. James Harrison
14. Conor Bell
|1. Corey McGovern
2. Steven Hadden
3. Brane Djuic
4. Aaron McKay
5. Adam Saunders (c)
6. Ryan Britton
7. Conor Duncan
8. Macauley McBride
9. Ryan Gormley
10. Sam Hodges
11. Jon Dean
10. Jeron Thompson (for Harrison, 68 mins)
11. Lewi Williams
12. Matti Ellis
15. Zaak Moon (for Farden, 68 mins)
16. Ashley Meeks (for Helsdown, 58 mins)
12. Jordan Cross (for Gormley, 77 mins)
14. Kieran Jakes
15. Colt Barratt
16. Greg Connor
17. James Rutter (for Britton, 85 mins)
Bell (41 mins)
Bird (o.g., 5 mins)
Dean (62 mins)
Roche (55 mins, foul)
McDonald (62 mins, foul)
Saunders (34 mins, foul)
Match Highlights are available Here
All Images courtesy of Mal Swinden