AFC Rushden & Diamonds emerged victorious from their first ever senior game as they recorded a 3-0 victory over Thrapston Town at the Dog and Duck. After an even first half, where the visitors had the better chances, the Diamonds played much better in the second half, and a brace from Alfie Taylor plus a deserved late goal from birthday-boy Jack Wisniewski sealed the victory.
Although the win will have been pleasing to everyone involved with the club, Mark Starmer was quick to stress that the result was a tribute to all those who made the return of senior football possible, and to all of those who had come along to support the club once more. There were many familiar faces who were sampling the atmosphere of the Dog and Duck for the first time, and with a splendid atmosphere from a crowd of 784, few will have gone away disappointed.
Before the game there was a ceremony to dedicate the new terrace at the Dog and Duck in memory of Peter De Banke.
Mark Starmer fielded a similar line-up to the one that started in the final friendly of the season at Lutterworth, with Elliot Dent joining George Cox and Séan McBride in midfield, with Jack Wisniewski playing on the wide left to make up the midfield 4. Sam Brown played behind Wisniewski at left-back, with Joe Merrill completing the back four alongside Hope and McDonald. Deven Ellwood and Alfie Taylor started up front, with Quincy Shorunmu having recovered from his injury to become the first name on the first AFC Rushden & Diamonds team sheet.
Thrapston Town were able to field the same starting XI that knocked UCL Premier side Cogenhoe United out of the FA Cup last weekend.
On a hot afternoon both sides contributed to a lively first period, and it was the visitors who had the best of the early exchanges. Dave Goodman was twice able to dissect the Diamonds back four with neat through balls, resulting in good chances for Jordan Cross, but on both occasions Quincy Shorunmu was able to get the better of the situation, palming one effort away for a corner after 14 minutes, and then seeing Freddie Ayears unable to capitalise when he blocked away another Cross effort after 20 minutes.
At the other end the Diamonds strikers weren’t seeing much of the ball in dangerous areas. Elliott Dent did well with a forward run through the centre past two defenders forcing Burrows to catch above his head, and George Cox had a chance for a close range strike on goal with his left foot, but he chose to try to turn to get the ball on his right. Alfie Taylor did strike one shot which looked goalbound before it struck Ellwood, and another that was beaten away with Ellwood almost getting to the rebound. A cross from Jack Wisniewski looked like it might be dropping over Burrows but this visiting keeper did well to reach the ball. Ellwood also forced a save from Burrows, but it was the visitors who might have felt they had the more clear cut chances in the first 45 minutes.
Half-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0 Thrapston Town 0
On such a warm afternoon the pace of the game might have been expected to slow in the second period, but the Diamonds had different ideas, and came out for the second half with a much more positive attitude, attacking towards their fans in the new Peter De Banke terrace.
Joe Merrill in particular was getting forwards more from full back, and this meant that with Wisniewski causing more problems on the left the game could be spread to either flank. A neat corner move between Merrill and Brown saw a chance for Dent, but his effort was saved, and then Ellwood shot wide after good work from Taylor. Merrill then set up Wisniewski with a clear run on goal, but his attempt to chip the keeper was not quite high enough, and then the Diamonds full-back saw an effort of his own strike the angle of post and bar.
At one stage it seemed as if Joe Merrill was involved in everything that happened, at either end of the pitch, as he set up a chance for Cox with a long throw, but after 58 minutes he was able to play his part in the historic first goal for the club. He took a long throw on the right that was flicked on by Chris Hope for Alfie Taylor to fire home the historic first goal in AFC Rushden & Diamonds history.
With the lead established it seemed that the Diamonds were able to relax and start playing the sort of football they had demonstrated in the pre-season games, with Jack Wisniewski linking well with the strikers to fire a shot that was well caught by Burrows, but the visiting keeper struggled to deal with a corner, and Alfie Taylor had found space on the edge of the box to latch onto the loose ball, but his shot was over the noisy Peter De Banke terrace.
After 76 minutes the Diamonds doubled their lead when Merrill crossed the ball in from the right where it was forced back into the danger area by Wisniewski for Alfie Taylor to fire home the second goal from close range.
The visitors made a triple substitution, but this seemed to make little difference, and shortly after the Diamonds brought on Ben Morgan they scored their third. Elliot Dent pounced on a loose ball in midfield and his ball forwards eluded the reorganised Thrapston back line allowing Alfie Taylor to break forwards and evade the challenge from Burrows before unselfishly squaring for Jack Wisniewski to clip home a birthday goal after 86 minutes, sealing the 3-0 victory.
Full-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3 Thrapston Town 0
Attendance : 784
Diamonds Man of the Match Sponsored By DK Concrete Limited : Joe Merrill
The Diamonds next fixture is a trip to Wootton in Bedfordshire next weekend to face Wootton Blue Cross.
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
17. Quincy Shorunmu
2. Joe Merrill
3. Sam Brown
4. Elliot Dent
5. Chris Hope
6. Aynsley McDonald (Captain)
7. Jack Wisniewski
8. Séan McBride
9. Alfie Taylor
10. Deven Ellwood
11. George Cox
12. Ben Morgan (for Ellwood 82)
15, Jamie O’Grady (for Cox 88)
16. Alex Deakin (for Hope 88)
Subs Not Used
13. Ashley Foulger
14. Jake Gillingwater
1. James Burrows
2. Aidan Bradshaw
3. Freddie Ayears
4. Daniel Pownall
5. James Cheatham
6. Daniel Pegg
7. David Goodman
8. Callum Noble
9. Ryan Gormley
10. Jamie Gilsenan (Captain)
11. Jordan Cross
12. Jake Thompson (for Ayears 79)
14. Oak Mapson (for Cheatham 79)
15. Ben Sunderland (for Cross 79)
Subs Not Used
16. Sammy Cobley
Alfie Taylor (58mins, 76mins)
Jack Wisniewski (86mins)
Cards : None
Cards : None
Referee: D Bullen
Assistants: J Clark, J Hedge
For Match Highlights click here.
Images courtesy of Mal Swinden ©2012 Malcolm Swinden Photography