Diamonds comfortably defeated rock-bottom Redditch on Saturday afternoon to move into the play-off places.
On Duane Darby’s return as away manager, the result wasn’t in doubt once Rushden broke the deadlock in the eighth minute. Tom Lorraine drove a low effort from outside the area into the bottom corner of the net to set the hosts on their way, and it was one-way traffic from there. After Jack Ashton went close twice and Jesse Akubuine was denied by a fine save, they doubled their lead when captain Liam Dolman swept home a loose ball following a corner that wasn’t cleared. Zack Reynolds soon had a long-range strike brilliantly tipped away, but Diamonds soon made it three when Nabil Shariff looped a header home following a Sam Brown long-throw and defensive hesitation. Nat Gosnal-Tyler had two efforts well saved before the half was out, one in which Redditch had struggled to break over the halfway line.
The tempo of the game dropped in the second period as Diamonds took their foot off the gas, though they still created a handful of opportunities. Patrick Casey, who came on in an enforced change for Dolman, looped a header onto the roof of the net before seeing a shot on the turn tipped over. Gosnal-Tyler had a couple of headers off target, Shariff had a shot well parried, and Akubuine saw a low daisy-cutter roll wide. Redditch, aside from a couple of deflected efforts and a couple of corners, failed to threaten and Diamonds comfortably saw out the match to move into the top five in the table.
Manager Peaks made three changes to the side that had suffered their first defeat of 2020 on Tuesday night at the hands of Needham Market. Jack Ashton returned to the starting XI to replace Patrick Casey, Nat Gosnal-Tyler came in for the unavailable Jordan Macleod, and Greg Kaziboni’s loan spell had come to an end meaning Tom Lorraine took his place in a continuation of the 4-3-3 formation. Joel Gyasi, who had re-signed for the club earlier in the day, took a place amongst the substitutes.
Despite the defeat in midweek, Diamonds still entered the contest in the heart of the play-off chase. They sat in seventh in the table two points off the top five, and only five points off Bromsgrove who topped the league standings. Contrastingly, the visitors came into the match on a run of 22 consecutive league defeats, with their last point coming against Rushden at the end of August. Ex-RDFC legend and fan favourite Duane Darby manages Redditch, and he was understandably given a great ovation by all of the home faithful before referee Greg Rollason got the game underway.
Lorraine began on the right, and Gosnal-Tyler on the left, as the hosts looked to get at the shorn-of-confidence away side in the early stages. After he had a good opening only to be denied by a last-ditch challenge, Tom Lorraine gave the hosts the lead in the eighth minute. After Hicks won a 50-50 challenge high up the pitch, the loose ball broke for Nabil Shariff. He poked a pass across to the Diamonds all-time leading goalscorer outside the area, and Lorraine took a touch before hitting a low strike across away keeper Kieran Boucher and into the far corner of the net. It was the striker’s seventh goal of the campaign, and put him on 97 career goals for the club.
That set the Diamonds on their way, and they would go on to comprehensively dominate the rest of the half. Ashton headed onto the roof of the net following a long-throw by Sam Brown, and then he had a downward header saved by Boucher after a cross in from the left. Jesse Akubuine then did excellently to win possession back in a promising position, and he drove forward before striking an effort from outside the area that Boucher parried away.
Redditch struggled to get over the halfway line as Rushden camped in the attacking half, and they looked dangerous everytime they went forward. Lorraine went close to a second when he had a header saved, and then Ashton had a header of his own that drifted wide of the post. Ben Farrell came close to extending his recent scoring run, three goals in his last four matches, when a neat move saw him move away from one challenge before his resulting effort was held by Boucher.
However, Diamonds didn’t have to wait much longer to extend their lead. They won a corner on the left, and Farrell whipped it in towards the six-yard box. Boucher and Ashton challenged for the ball, and ultimately the keeper could only parry it as far as the lurking Liam Dolman who confidently swept home the loose ball. It gave the defender his fourth goal of the calendar year, and moved him to only three away from 50 goals for the club.
The hosts kept up the pressure, and they were millimetres away from adding a third just after the half-hour mark. Brown took a quick throw on the left right across the middle of the pitch, and it sat up perfectly for Zack Reynolds to lash a half-volley towards goal from around 35 yards out. It flew towards goal, but Boucher showed tremendous reflexes to leap to his left and tip the ball behind for a corner.
A minute later, Diamonds were able to make it 3-0. It was a Brown long throw from the left that, just like the previous opportunity, was the catalyst for the chance. The delivery bounced over a couple of defenders and found Nabil Shariff who was able to head the ball over the stretching Boucher and into the net.
It looked like the floodgates were well and truly open, and that Diamonds could score with every attack. Redditch had effectively resorted to damage limitation as they often looked nervy and uncomfortable in possession, meaning the hosts were dictating the ball, territory and chances. Reynolds flashed a cross from the right that almost caught Boucher out at his near post, and then Gosnal-Tyler threatened twice at the end of the half. Firstly, he skipped away from his marker down the left to jink inside and curl an effort towards the far corner, but Boucher got across to hold the attempt. Three minutes later, on the stroke of half-time, he sprinted forward on the counter-attack down the left before cutting inside onto his favoured right foot. He spotted a gap at the near post and tried to exploit it by hitting an effort goalwards, and Boucher did well to get a fingertip on the strike to turn it onto the outside of the post. Shariff turned the resultant corner narrowly wide of the near post.
That was the final action of the opening half, one in which Diamonds had fully controlled and held a comfortable lead heading in to the changing rooms.
Half time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3-0 Redditch United
Neither side made any changes at the break but, after four minutes of the second period, Dolman went down off the ball. With the scoreline being comprehensive, and a ready-made replacement amongst the substitutes, no chances were taken as Casey came on to replace the Rushden captain.
Aside from that, the half began pretty quietly and without too much action as Diamonds struggled to match the tempo they had exuded in the first period. In the 52nd minute Shariff turned excellently in the area before getting to the byline and attempting to play it across for the advancing Nathan Hicks. However, a last-ditch sliding challenge from a covering defender played it out, and the ensuing corner was caught by Boucher.
Shariff won another corner moments later after he forced his way into the area, and Farrell’s delivery to the far post found Casey whose looping header dropped onto the roof of the net. Shortly afterwards, a minute after Lorraine had played a superb ball across the six-yard box that had passed everybody, Gosnal-Tyler met a Reynolds cross only for his header to also loop onto the top of the net.
Redditch managed to force a corner following an attack down the right wing but, after the first delivery was cleared for a second corner, that cross went over everybody and out for a goal-kick. Peaks then made his second change as Matt Slinn came on to replace the busy and tenacious Farrell.
Though Diamonds weren’t creating as many chances and forcing Boucher into as many saves as the opening half, they were still controlling proceedings. In the 69th minute Brown almost had a rare goal as his long-throw from the right was initially cleared, but Hicks fed it back out to him on the corner of the area. The full-back whipped an effort towards the far post, but it curled too late and went wide of the target.
The hosts had been putting pressure on and harassing their opposing numbers throughout the game, and Akubuine displayed another example of this to win the ball in the home attacking half and power forward. His attempted through ball to Gosnal-Tyler was just intercepted, but Rushden kept up the attack and Shariff received the ball in the area. He quickly slammed a shot at goal, and Boucher did well to parry it away from danger.
The busy Redditch keeper was forced into action again in the 78th minute when a Diamonds corner from the left was cleared out to Hicks. The centre midfielder played it back into the area, and Casey hit an effort on-the-turn that Boucher tipped over the bar. The following corner was cleared away, and then young striker Will Jones was brought on in place of Lorraine.
Lorraine was announced as the matchball sponsor’s Man of the Match moments later, and Rushden had a couple of late chances to make the scoreline more emphatic. Firstly, a great cross in by Shariff found Gosnal-Tyler at the back post, but his glancing header flashed wide of the post. Then, in the first minute of stoppage-time, Akubuine sprinted forward before hitting a low effort wide from the edge of the area.
Moments later, referee Rollason blew his whistle to signal the end of the contest.
Full time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3-0 Redditch United
Though Redditch’s string of defeats coming into the contest made Diamonds the favourite for this game, no match can be taken lightly and Rushden turned in a professional performance to emerge victorious. They dominated the entirety of the match, raced into a commanding and ultimately unassailable lead before half-time, and they could have had several more only to be denied by an inspired performance by the Redditch keeper. Though the tempo did noticeably drop in the second period, Diamonds maintained control and comfortably closed out the match to seal the perfect response to Tuesday’s setback.
Following Coalville’s late loss at home to St Ives, Diamonds’ win moves them into fifth in the table. They have a free Saturday next weekend due to Royston’s involvement in the FA Trophy, and so their next match sees them take on fellow promotion hopefuls Peterborough Sports on Tuesday 11 February, 19.45pm kick-off, at Hayden Road.
Diamonds Man of the Match (chosen by matchball sponsors): Tom Lorraine
Match report by Ollie Mortimer
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
13. Ben Heath
2. Zack Reynolds
3. Sam Brown
4. Jack Ashton
5. Liam Dolman (C)
6. Jesse Akubuine
7. Nat Gosnal-Tyler
8. Ben Farrell
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Nabil Shariff
11. Nathan Hicks
12. Matt Slinn (for Farrell 67)
14. Patrick Casey (for Dolman 49)
15. Will Jones (for Lorraine 80)
16. Joel Gyasi
17. Luke Munro
1. Kieran Boucher
2. Tyreece Kennedy-Williams
3. Joshua Endall
4. Ben Stokes
5. Rudy Misambo
6. Benjamin Birch
7. Akeal Rahman
8. Thomas Rankin (C)
9. Jaden Owusu-Nepaul
10. Randane Larmond
11. Hostidio Santos
12. Moises Dominguez Castro (for Stokes 64)
13. Adam Marusiak
14. Joshua Harris-James (for Santos HT)
15. Lance Moyo
16. Joel Whittingham
Goals: Lorraine (8), Dolman (26), Shariff (32)
Yellow cards: None
Yellow cards: None
Referee: Greg Rollason
Assistants: Matthew Bond, Richard Booth