AFC Rushden & Diamonds played out a keenly-fought goalless draw with National League South side Wealdstone FC at the Dog & Duck on Saturday afternoon. 

The first half saw one good chance fall to either side: Tom Lorraine’s long range effort for the Diamonds was cleared off the line in the sixth minute after the Stones’ goalkeeper had miscontrolled a long ball forward and found himself exposed 30 yards from his goal. The visitors responded with pacey winger Shaun Lucien rattling the crossbar after he had jinked his way past Brad Harris, and his teammate Josh Hutchinson saw a vicious half-volley shave the far post later in the half. The second period saw Wealdstone holding more possession and territory, but aside from substitute Rhys Redding saving well from Hutchinson on two occasions, Rushden matched their Step Two opponents and defended stoutly to preserve a clean sheet.

Two changes were made to the Diamonds side who secured an impressive victory over Biggleswade Town on Tuesday night. Ben Heath came into the team in goal to replace Matt Finlay, and Elliot Lamb-Johnson stepped into the left-back berth, with Ollie Wilkinson moving across to right-back. The same 4-3-3 formation was again utilised, with a strong Wealdstone side arriving in Northamptonshire to provide them with a good pre-season test.

It was the Diamonds who started the game the sharpest, with the ball being comfortably worked from back to front and the midfield retaining possession well. Their first chance arrived in the sixth minute as a long ball forward over the Wealdstone backline caused the Stones goalkeeper Tim Brown to come out in an attempt to clear the danger. However, he miscontrolled the bouncing ball, and Courtney Herbert seized onto it 30 yards from his goal. He laid the ball off to fellow striker Tom Lorraine, but his curling effort was cleared close to the line by the covering Wes Parker. 

The contest had started at a fast pace, with both teams looking to spread the play to the wide areas in an attempt to make full use of their quick and direct wingers. One such move from the visitors led to Dan Brown feeding Shaun Lucien, and after he jinked and dummied his way past Brad Harris, he slammed an effort goalwards which hit the top of the crossbar and went behind for a goal-kick. Diamonds went straight up the other end in slightly more direct fashion as Elliot Lamb-Johnson’s long ball found Lorraine chesting it down and running through on goal, and it took a vital sliding challenge from Carl Martin to deny the Diamonds front-man the shooting opportunity. 

Shortly afterwards Herbert was forced to withdraw from the action after receiving treatment, and Charlie Butt was his replacement. He went straight to left-back, enabling Lamb-Johnson to push further forward into his more natural role on the wing. 

The front three of the visiting side proved to be a menace in the first period whenever they picked up the ball and ran at the Rushden defence. In the 21st minute, Matt Ball generated some space for himself by cutting in on his left foot, but his curling effort was easy for the Diamonds stopper Ben Heath to collect. Three minutes later, Ball was involved again as he delivered a tempting cross from the left wing, and Josh Hutchinson glanced a header towards the far corner which required Heath to make a fine reflex save in tipping the ball onto the roof of the net. 

Both team’s defences were dealing with any forward threat, whether it be aerially or on the ground, and the midfield areas saw the largest amount of action as the two teams sought to win the ball back quickly if possession had been lost. Ollie Wilkinson was guilty of giving the ball away just after the half-hour mark, though the ensuing run and shot by Dale Binns resulted in a simple save for the Diamonds stopper. Play quickly swung back up the other end, and after Lamb-Johnson had drawn a foul by skipping inside from the left wing, Steve Spriggs curled the free-kick narrowly over the top with the Stones’ goalkeeper scampering across desperately. 

There was time for one final chance before the half-time whistle sounded as Elliott Godfrey seized possession following Ball’s blocked shot. He looked up and drifted the ball to the right side of the box, and Hutchinson running in to meet it slammed a half-volley narrowly wide of the far post. 

Half Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0-0 Wealdstone FC 

It was the Diamonds again who fashioned the opening opportunity of the half as Lamb-Johnson collected the ball, sped down the left wing and hit a shot after drifting inside which drew a save from Brown at his near post. Lamb-Johnson was representing a danger to the visitors with his direct running and willingness to run at the Wealdstone defence, and this was exemplified with two further chances. 

Firstly, a good ball down the right wing from Richard Bunting allowed Spriggs the opportunity to run in behind and pull the ball across goal for Lamb-Johnson. His goalbound shot was blocked, and he couldn’t quite force the rebound home with the ball rolling agonisingly out of Lorraine’s reach also. Then a cross from the right wing seemed destined to find an unmarked Brad Harris, but a stretching Lorraine inadvertently took it off his teammate’s head by glancing the ball across goal.

The archetypal raft of substitutions for a friendly then occurred, with both sides making use of all of their options on the bench. Dom Lawless took the place of Steve Spriggs for the home side, with Lorraine moving to a position down the right channel, and former Northampton player Scott McGleish also entered the fray for Wealdstone in the latter stages.

Rhys Redding had arrived onto the pitch for some experience-benefitting game time, and it was he who pulled off two important saves to keep the contest scoreless. In the 69th minute, Binns ran quickly at the home defence and threaded a through ball in behind for Hutchinson to run through on goal. He hit an effort early on his left foot and Redding was down quickly to his near post to divert the ball away for a corner. Shortly after a neat interchange had led to away substitute Ryan Hope curling over from the edge of the box, Luke Ifil was able to work space behind Charlie Butt and pull the ball back for Hutchinson. Although he initially miskicked, the ball fortuitously fell back into his path and his left-footed shot on the turn was crucially held by the Diamonds goalkeeper with Wealdstone players lurking nearby.

Despite the increased intensity and tempo from the visitors, the Rushden defence coped admirably with any danger and worked tirelessly with the midfield to deny Wealdstone time and space. One break-away after a Liam Dolman block saw Harry May link with Butt on the left wing, stride forward and drill a strike goalwards, but Brown was equal to it and managed to gather at the second attempt. 

The full time whistle was sounded shortly after by referee Rob Evans, with the two sides having equally contributed to an interesting spectacle and one where a draw was a fair result.

Full Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0-0 Wealdstone FC 

The Diamonds can be heartily pleased with their efforts against a side who ply their trade two divisions above them, and the fact that they matched them all over the park is one that will please manager Andy Peaks when he returns from his holiday. Coupled with the positive result earnt against Biggleswade in midweek and every player in the 16-strong squad getting some important time on the pitch, Rushden appear to be heading into their Southern Football League Division One Central campaign strongly and with confidence. Before the league season commences again on Saturday August 8, Diamonds have two further first team friendlies: the first of which comes against their landlords Wellingborough Town on Tuesday evening. 

Diamonds Man of the Match chosen by Match Sponsor Henry Tumbridge: Delroy Gordon 

Attendance: 260

Match Report by Ollie Mortimer

 

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Wealdstone FC

17. Ben Heath

2. Ollie Wilkinson

3. Elliot Lamb-Johnson

4. Delroy Gordon

5. Liam Dolman

6. Brad Harris

7. Steve Spriggs

8. Richard Bunting (C)

9. Tom Lorraine

10. Dan Quigley

11. Courtney Herbert

 

Substitutes:

13. Rhys Redding (for Heath 66)

14. Charlie Butt (for Herbert 18)

16. Kieran Fitzgerald (for Lorraine 78)

18. Dom Lawless (for Spriggs 66)

19. Harry May (for Lamb-Johnson 80)

 

 

1. Tim Brown

2. Matt Bevan

3. Ryan Watts

4. Wes Parker (C)

5. Carl Martin

6. Elliott Godfrey

7. Shaun Lucien

8. Dan Brown

9. Josh Hutchinson

10. Matt Ball

11. Dale Binns

 

Substitutes:

12. Jonny Wright (for Lucien 59)

14. Ibrahima Diallo

15. Luke Ifil (for Bevan 69)

16. Sean Bonnet-Johnson

17. Ryan Hope (for D. Brown 66)

18. Scott McGleish (for Binns 81)

Goals: None

Goals: None

Yellow Cards: None

Yellow Cards: None

Referee: Rob Evans

Assistants: Richard Armitage, Kevan Atkins

 

 

 Match Gallery courtesy of Malcolm Swinden Photography (click on the link to access the Diamonds Photo Gallery for more images from this game and ecommerce options). Copyright Mal Swinden ©2015

 
 
 

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