AFC Rushden & Diamonds recorded their biggest and most memorable victory in their short history when they defeated Cambridge City 3-2 in the Second Qualifying Round of the FA Cup with Budweiser. An Alfie Taylor goal in added time sparked a huge celebration by the players, management staff and the bulk of the 815 fans in attendance at the Dog & Duck on Saturday afternoon.
Alfie Taylor had given the Diamonds an early lead with a well hit shot following a long ball upfield from Tom Cross, but after the Diamonds had dominated the first quarter the visitors hit back with two goals. The first of these appeared to be a Diamonds own goal, and the second was from the penalty spot. In the second period the Lilywhites had another penalty, but ex-Norwich City player Josh Dawkin slipped and missed the chance to perhaps make the game safe for his side – who are two levels above the Diamonds. The home side didn’t squander this lifeline, and a magnificent 25 yard strike by Aaron King after 68 minutes pulled them level, and appeared to have earned his side a replay. The Diamonds pushed on though, bringing on an extra striker, Lance Allen, and it was his mazy run past several defenders that found Russ Dunkley in space on the left, and he clipped the ball across the area for Alfie Taylor to fire home in the second minute of added time.
Mark Starmer made two changes, both in defence, to the side that had won the most recent FA Cup and FA Vase games. The suspended Joe Merrill was replaced by Jake Gillingwater at right back, and Arron Parkinson was now fit to take a centre-back role, and the captain’s armband. City were without top scorer Adam Marriott, but after their 5-1 victory away at Step 3 Kings Lynn they were clear favourites for the game.
The Diamonds had an early setback when Brad Harris picked up a yellow card for a foul within 2 minutes, but they were quickly into their stride and after six minutes were ahead. A long ball forwards from Tom Cross was deflected back into the path of Alfie Taylor who was able to work the ball onto his right foot and fire into the left side of the goal. Sam Brown was causing problems with his long throw from the left as the Diamonds dominated play, although Fazel Koriya received a yellow card as he went down as he ran across the front of the area. Nat Liburd was getting up and down the pitch to help Gillingwater at the back, and was then in action at the other end after a good run down the right gave him a chance to shoot with his weaker left foot which was gathered by keeper Barrett.
After 19 minutes the Diamonds might have extended their lead, when a Brown throw was headed on by Russ Dunkley to Alfie Taylor whose header looked goalbound until Barrett tipped it over the bar.
Nat Liburd saw a shot saved after a Brown cross was only cleared to him, and then Aaron King shot wide after a neat interchange with Fazel Koriya. Alfie Taylor then beat keeper Barrett to a loose ball on the left, and saw a cheeky shot hit the base of the post.
At this stage the only problem for the Diamonds defence had been a challenge on Jamal Clarke that appeared to impede his movement for a while. After 29 minutes the visitors saw a corner worked out to the right side of the Diamonds area and Josh Dawkin was able to hit a low ball across the six-yard box, where it appeared the outstretched leg of Jamal Clarke had knocked it into the net – although other reports credited the goal to Chris Bacon, despite the lack of celebration by the City players.
If the Diamonds had been somewhat unlucky to concede an equaliser, their early dominance had counted for little when they went behind four minutes later, to a Josh Dawkin penalty after Arron Parkinson had brought down James Brighton – with the Diamonds captain accepting it was a correct decision in his post-match interview.
Both goalkeepers were having good games, and both were called to tip efforts over the bar before the break, but the Diamonds would have gone in at the interval reflecting on the first 25 minutes when they clearly matched their opponents.
Half-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 Cambridge 2
An early Diamonds chance in the second half came when Fazel Koriya was fouled on the edge of the box but Alfie Taylor wasted the free-kick by blazing over. At the other end Cross saved well from Luke Allen, before what was perhaps the turning point of the game. Referee Cooke pointed to the penalty spot for the second time, and again it looked a reasonable decision as Clarke appeared to bring down Ramm. Josh Dawkin stepped up to take it, but as Cross moved to the left side Dawkin appeared to miskick completely and the ball trickled towards the right of the goal, but Cross was able to regain his balance and field the rolling ball.
Jack Wisniewski joined the action and he went close with an early chance after linking with Russ Dunkley.
Aaron King saw a shot deflect for a corner, and was then waiting about 25 yards from goal and hit an unstoppable shot on the half-volley as the ball was cleared to him. Although it was from a similar position to the goal King scored against Oadby last season, although somewhat closer, it required even more technical ability to keep the ball down, and will surely be an early contender for the Diamonds Goal of the Season. The goal was scored after 68 minutes, and the large crowd was left wondering which side would push hardest for a winner, and whether either would settle for a replay.
With Nat Liburd going close from a Brown cross, and Dunkley and Taylor continuing to threaten, it was clear the Diamonds still believed they could win the game. This was emphasised when Lance Allen was brought on as a third striker with five minutes left.
Russ Dunkley won a free-kick on the edge of the box as referee Cooke showed the first Cambridge yellow of the afternoon, but Aaron King wasted it in a similar way to Alfie Taylor earlier, this time trying a dipping shot which again did not trouble the keeper or defensive wall. Jack Wisniewski linked well with Sam Brown who had a storming game, and saw Lance Allen’s goalbound shot bounce off a defender and away to safety.
Just as it looked like the Allen effort might have been the last chance to avoid a replay, there was more drama to come. Lance Allen neatly controlled a Parkinson clearance midway inside the Lilywhites’ half and ran at their defence, with his mazy run taking him past the first line of defence before he laid the ball out to the left to Russ Dunkley. Dunkley has already shown how well he can find a man at the far post, and he executed a clipped cross perfectly to find Alfie Taylor on hand to fire home a dramatic winner and spark wild scenes of celebration on and off the pitch.
There was little opportunity for the visitors to threaten any reply as referee Cooke signalled the end of the game after almost five minutes of added time.
Full-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3 Cambridge 2
The Diamonds will now be waiting for Monday’s draw to find out who their opponents will be in the Third Qualifying Round of the FA Cup with Budweiser, as they are now the sole remaining UCL Premier team in the competition, and also have got the furthest of any of the FA Cup debutants this season – so still have an unbeaten FA Cup record, going into October. The next round of the competition is due to be played on the weekend of 12th October.
Diamonds Man of The Match: Arron Parkinson
The Diamonds will next host Wellingborough Town in the NFA Hillier Senior Cup on Tuesday evening before finally returning to league action next weekend when Harborough Town are the visitors in what will be the Diamonds sixth home game in succession.
Alfie Taylor’s brace in this game takes him level with Russ Dunkley on seven goals in the FA Cup this season. The updated Match Stats, Player Stats, and Attendance figures are found in the First Team stats area on this website here. Updated player profiles are also available. You can also find updated fixture lists in the main fixture and results grid as well as on the Fixture News page, where there is a downloadable version.
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
17. Tom Cross
2. Jake Gillingwater
3. Sam Brown
4. Brad Harris
5. Arron Parkinson (Capt)
6. Jamal Clarke
7. Nat Liburd
8. Aaron King
9. Russ Dunkley
10. Alfie Taylor
11. Fazel Koriya
12. Sean McBride
13. (GK) Quincy Shorunmu
14. Lance Allen (for Liburd 85)
15. Jack Wisniewski (for Koriya 56)
16. Alex Deakin (for Gillingwater 72)
18. Elliot Dent
1. Zac Barrett
2. Jackson Ramm
3. James Brighton
4. Will Lawton
5. Lee Chaffrey (Capt)
6. Ben Farrell
7. Ieuan Lewis
8. Josh Beech
9. Luke Allen
10. Chris Bacon
11. Josh Dawkin
12. Joey Abbs (for L Allen 87)
14. David Prada (for Bacon 87)
15. Adam Allen
16. Nick Beasant (for Beech 72)
17. Neil Midgley
20. Enol Ordonez (GK)
Goals: Taylor (6/90+2), King (68)
Goals: Clarke (OG 29), Dawkin (34pen)
Yellow Cards: Harris, Koriya, Clarke, Parkinson
Yellow Cards: Chaffrey
Referee: Referee: Mr Ben Cooke
Assistant Referees: Mr Louis Martin & Mr Simon Lane