AFC Rushden & Diamonds won a fluctuating FA Cup Preliminary Round tie 4-3 against local rivals Northampton Sileby Rangers at the Dog & Duck on Saturday afternoon.

Sileby capped off an excellent opening to the game with the first goal on 9 minutes. Brian Farrell flicking home from close in after a long throw had been caught on the strong wind. Diamonds struggled to gain any momentum against a forceful Sileby side apart from through the powerful running of starter Robbie Parsons. And it was Parsons who earned the penalty that brought Diamonds level on 30 minutes. His run into the right side of the box was halted by Sileby captain Leon Simpson with Nabil Shariff converting confidently from the spot.

Diamonds were clearly energised by the equalizer and seemed to have taken a major hold on the game with two goals in 2 minutes just before half-time. Nabil Shariff swept home a brilliant curling effort on 39 and got his first half hat-trick on 41 as he seized on a loose ball from a long throw to force home.

When Diamonds added a 4th on 56 through Liam Dolman’s speculative cross that drifted over keeper Kristopher Bartle into the net it looked game over. But Sileby had been strong threat throughout and scored twice in 5 minutes to put the game back in the balance. First substitute Stuart MacMichael headed home a 62nd minute corner when unmarked, and then Brian Farrell added his second converting from close range after a Diamonds defensive mistake.

The game became classic end to end FA Cup football with chances at both ends but more of the pressure coming from an enterprising away side. A series of long throws, corners and free-kicks were repelled under extreme pressure to allow Diamonds to hang to their 4-3 win.

Manager Andy Peaks made two changes to the side beaten at home by Chasetown last week with Robbie Parsons and Nic Evangelinos coming in for Lewis Leslie and Kyal Mcnulty who dropped to the bench allowing the side to revert to a more familiar 4 4 2 formation.

Sileby are much improved from the side last encountered by Diamonds and sit unbeaten in United Counties League action this season. They took the confidence from that fine start into the opening stages of the game which they dominated particular in the midfield area.

Twice they forced Matt Finlay to punch clear under real pressure, and they created a good shooting chance for Mark Forbes 20 yards out his half volley rising just over the bar. The opening goal duly came for the visitors on 9 minutes as Lewis Burgess long throw-in again drifted in towards goal on the wind where Brian Farrell got the final touch from close in.

Diamonds were struggling to maintain much in the way of attacking momentum against a tigerish Sileby midfield. The exception was the enterprise of Nic Evangelinos coming in from his wide position to influence play and Aidan Bradshaw linking well with Robbie Parsons down the right side for Diamonds.

It was Evangelinos wining the ball and feeding Parsons on 11 that created the first danger for Diamonds, the lively winger beating his man but drifting his cross shot wide of the far post. The same pair combined again on 14 this time benefiting from good advantage played by referee Brian O’Sullivan as Evangelinos was clattered as he fed Parsons in space, the wide man turning inside and firing just over from 18 yards.

Although Tom Lorraine had the ball in the net for Diamonds on 20 only to see an offside flag deny him Sileby continued to dominate play and create more in the way of danger. They were no long ball team though playing neatly through midfield and out into the wide areas in confident style but did create most danger from corners and long throw-ins taking advantage of the very strong wind blowing towards Matt Finlay in front of the Peter De Banke terrace.

Twice on 26 minutes they came close from superbly whipped in corners forcing Richard Bunting and then Matt Finlay to make last ditch clearances after an earlier cross had nearly caught out Liam Dolman the ball just going wide from his attempted clearance.

Diamonds were always looking more dangerous and getting more space down the right hand side and it was another neat ball into Robbie Parsons that led to their equaliser. He was played into space on 30 minutes outpacing Sileby captain Leon Simpson whose desperate challenge drew the award of a penalty. Nabil Shariff stepped up to coolly slot the penalty to the bottom right corner to bring the home side level.

The reaction of the home players was to visibly puff out their chests and fire each other up to finally get a grip on the game and it was a much more energised home side that finished the half strongly. The ever willing Tom Lorraine got himself into space on 35 and fired a crisp low effort that was saved down low by Sileby keeper Bartles, and the keeper was called into action a minutes later as the lively Robbie Parsons fired another low effort that he held low down again.

The goal they had been threatening duly came on 39 as Robbie Parsons ran at the right hand side of the Sileby defence then found Nic Evangelinos on the left side of the box. He lay the ball softly into the path of Nabil Shariff who hit a beautiful first time curling effort over the keeper and in off the far post for 2-1.

And in a dynamic period of Diamonds dominance Shariff would have his first half hat-trick on 41. Sam Brown’s quick throw was flicked on into the area where Shariff forced home from close in.

There was still time for Sileby to show this game was far from over as a quick break saw the ball fall in space just inside the box where a fierce volley was fired off the bar.

Half time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3 Northampton Sileby Rangers 1

Diamonds started the second half as they had finished the first pressing the Sileby defence hard and taking advantage of the strong wind with dangerous corners and long throw-ins that forced Sileby to some excellent last ditch clearances.

Nic Evangelinos continued to have a strong influence on his new side running cleverly at the Sileby full-back on 55, breaking clear into the area and just seeing Bartles save at his feet as Diamonds looked to kill off then game.

The seemingly clinching 4th goal did come on 56 but from an unexpected source. Liam Dolman had supported a previous attack and picked up the ball wide right in front of Dales Bar. He looked up and hit what was surely an attempted cross right footed but struck firmly the ball curved in the wind and fell over the unfortunate Bartles for his second in two games.

Any thoughts that the game was effectively over at 4-1 were knocked on the head by a strong reaction from Sileby who noticeably pushed men forward to support their attacks. Brian Farrell burst into the box on 59 only to see the brilliant Jack Ashton with another last minute block but they then scored twice in 5 minutes taking advantage of Diamonds defensive errors.

It was 4-2 on 62 when MacMichael found himself completely unmarked from a right wing corner and glanced a firm header into the bottom corner. And then 4-3 on 67 as a mix-up in the Diamonds area created by good attacking pressure saw Farrell fire home from close range for his second in the game.

The game then became classic end to end FA Cup football with chances at both ends but more of the outright pressure coming from an enterprising away side. A series of long throws, corners and free-kicks were repelled under extreme pressure with second-half substitute Lewis Leslie heading away a number of times and Matt Finlay punching and pushing the ball away under pressure.

Diamonds had their chances in this period with some quick breaking football. Nic Evangelinos picking the ball up after one break on 70 cutting inside and hitting a curling effort that tested Bartles in the Sileby goal. And then on 80 Diamonds relieved a period of pressure the ball volleyed clear and into the path of Jack Ashton who was clear through just over the half way line. He managed to keep ahead of the retreating defenders but just dragged his effort wide as he reached the edge of the box.

But it was Sileby pressing hard for an equaliser in the latter stages. David Halliday volleyed over when well placed on 87, and Diamonds somehow surviving a long-throw mayhem 2 minutes into added on time as the ball bounced around the six yard box.

But Diamonds did hang on to take an entertaining game 4-3 and progress to the first qualifying round yet again.

Final Score: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 4 Northampton Sileby Rangers 3

Sileby deserve much credit for an enterprising confident performance from the off not allowing a Diamonds side low on confidence from getting an early grip on the game. Diamonds were uncharacteristically hesitant in central midfield and not able to hold on to possession to build pressure. The penalty gave them a lifeline and they reacted well with a dynamic half hour either side of half-time that saw them go 4-1 ahead. Sileby regained control though and Diamonds were in a desperate rear-guard action to hang on to their 4-3 lead.

There were some encouraging signs though with the wide men brought in – Nic Evangelinos and Robbie Parsons – a big influence on Diamonds attacking threat and Nabil Shariff showing his superior finishing skills.

Diamonds have reached the FA Cup Qualifying rounds in every season now and will take on AFC Hornchurch in the next round at the Dog & Duck in September.

Next up is a return to league action with a trip to Nottingham to take on Carlton FC on Saturday 27th.

Man of the Match: Nabil Shariff

Attendance: 347

Match Report by Paul Judd

 

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Northampton Sileby Rangers

17. Matt Finlay

2.   Aidan Bradshaw

3.   Sam Brown

4.   Jack Ashton

5.   Liam Dolman

6.   Brad Harris

7.   Robbie Parsons

8.   Richard Bunting

9.   Tom Lorraine

10. Nabil Shariff

11. Nic Evangelinos

Subs

12.  Ross Oulton

13.  Joe Haynes

14.  Lewis Leslie (for Bunting 72)

15.  Lewis Jackson

16.  Taylor Orosz

18.  James Harvey

19. Kyal McNulty (for Parsons 89)

1.   Kristopher Bartle

2.   Luke Stevens

3.   Lewis Burgess

4.   Leon Simpson

5.   Troy Johnson

6.   Paul Caswell

7.   Maki Merdy

8.   Mark Forbes

9.   Michael Byrne

10. David Halliday

11. Brian Farrell

Subs

12. Dalton Bettles (for Forbes 89)

13. Dominic Okanu (for Johnson 63)

14. Stuart Mac Michael (for Merdy 58)

15. Allie Jaward

16. Luke Uzoma

17. Scott Sandy

18. Robert Russell

Goals: Shariff (30, 39, 41), Dolman (56)

 

Goals: Farrell (9, 67), MacMichael (62)

Yellow Card: Lorraine

Yellow Cards: Halliday, Burgess, Okanu

Red Cards:

 Red Cards:

Referee:  Brian O’Sullivan

Assistants:  George Younger, Mark Conway

 

 
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