AFC Rushden & Diamonds ran out strong and comfortable winners over lowly Aylesbury United at a windy Meadow View Park on Wednesday evening.

The hosts found themselves reduced to ten men as early as the 12th minute when goalkeeper Zaki Oualah brought down Tommy Berwick as he rounded him outside the penalty area, and Diamonds made the man advantage count in the 21st minute when Claudiu Hoban struck a beautiful shot from 30 yards which sailed into the back of the net. Berwick doubled the lead shortly after when he latched onto a cross from Andy Hall to sweep a finish home from six yards, and the away side were well in control throughout the half.

The second period followed a similar pattern of quick, dominant Diamonds attacking, and Richard Bunting was effectively able to seal the victory in the 48th minute when he tapped home following a Hoban shot which had come back off the post. The Ducks created a couple of opportunities late on as they sought a consolation: the closest they came was when a bullet header from eight yards out somehow saw Matt Finlay save the effort and prevent it from crossing the line. There was just enough time at the end for two young substitutes to combine for Rushden to great effect as Matt Pinder ran through and squared the ball for Joe Ackroyd to net from close range, thus rounding off a very rewarding night for the away side.  

Diamonds manager Andy Peaks made just the solitary change to the team that had suffered their first league defeat of the season at Godalming on Saturday. Brad Harris came into the centre of the midfield to replace Dan Quigley who had limped off at half-time at the weekend, though he was on a youthful looking bench which also contained Alex Vitue, Matt Pinder, Joe Ackroyd and new signing Lynval Da Costa.

The pitch had survived a 4pm pitch inspection in order for the game to go ahead, and the surface did look in good condition as the match got underway with a strong wind blowing in the Diamonds’ favour. The away side were on the front foot immediately and could have been ahead in the very first minute as Tommy Berwick latched onto a ball down the right from Ollie Wilkinson, but his shot from the right side of the area was saved by the keeper’s legs.

Berwick, fresh from his man of the match performance on Saturday, was involved again four minutes later when he played a short free-kick to winger Andy Hall, and he had time to look up and drill an inviting ball into the centre which was just out of the reach of the rising Delroy Gordon.

In the early stages the Diamonds were monopolising possession well and looking particularly dangerous with balls out to wingers Claudiu Hoban and Hall and in behind the Aylesbury defence, and this was highlighted in the 12th minute. Wilkinson cleared the ball from the right-back area downfield and Berwick was able to break the offside trap to find himself one-on-one with Zaki Oualah in the home goal. The Diamonds number 10 danced around him and would have had an open goal to aim at if he wasn’t brought down by the Aylesbury stopper 25 yards from goal. The referee had little other option than to send Oualah off, and with no recognised goalkeeper on the bench midfielder Greg Williams donned the gloves in his place. The resultant free-kick from Hoban was only partially blocked, and the ball fell for Berwick to thrash a shot over the bar.

With the Ducks now only having nine outfield players, Rushden frequently found themselves with even more time on the ball in midfield to dictate and orchestrate the match. One ball into Hoban saw the winger glide effortlessly through the middle and slip a delicate ball into Hall in plenty of space in the right channel. He moved into the penalty area and saw his shot with the outside of his right foot saved, with the rebound falling agonisingly out of the reach of the sliding Tom Lorraine. Lorraine then forced a save from the replacement goalkeeper as he received the ball with his back to goal on the left of the box, but after a swift swivel his shot was straight at Williams.

It wasn’t long before the Diamonds took the lead though as they forged ahead in the 21st minute. An Aylesbury goal-kick was slightly help up in the strong wind and was headed forward into the feet of Claudiu Hoban. He turned, moved forward and looked up to unleash an unerring strike from 30 yards over Williams and into the roof of the net. Memories immediately sprang back to his similarly brilliant strikes against Chalfont and Potters Bar, and this was another example of the Diamonds number 11 being capable of such moments of magic.

The advantage was doubled four minutes later as Hoban this time was involved in the build-up to the goal. An excellent and accurate diagonal ball from Liam Dolman to the right wing found Hall, though the move looked to be over after he jinked to the byline and saw his low cross blocked, with the ball seemingly about to run through to the advancing goalkeeper. However Hoban quickly nipped in ahead of Williams to seize on the loose ball, and his lay-back to Hall allowed the number 7 to find Tommy Berwick free six yards out to slide a shot home.

Hoban was causing the home defence plenty of problems with his direct, quick running and ability for skill and dribbling, and he and Hall linked up again on the half-hour mark as a one-two led to Hall having a shot deflected behind for a corner. Hoban himself had a shot also blocked away after he had received a pass from full-back Sam Brown in the middle of the pitch, and Lorraine saw a rising near-post shot find the side netting after he had galloped into the area on the left side.

Aylesbury had a couple of neat passing exchanges in the Diamonds half which the away side did well to deal with, and up the other end they were finding lots of time and space in the midfield areas to drive at the home back four whenever they had possession. Hoban was the main illustrator of such runs in the opening period, and he was able to feed Hall on the right a minute from the interval after another slaloming jink forward. He laid the ball back into Hoban just inside the area and though his attempted shot was blocked, the ball fell for Berwick to curl an effort over the far post. Brown then was able to cross the ball in from the left touchline after a throw of his had been cleared, and his ball in found Liam Dolman to glance it on and then skipper Richard Bunting to lift a reactionary and instinctive shot over Williams’ goal.

Half Time: Aylesbury United 0-2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

 Many thoughts at the half-time interval centred around whether the Diamonds could maintain the level of domination that they had enjoyed in the opening half, and they started the half perfectly with another goal three minutes in. Berwick collected the ball in midfield and played it round the corner for Lorraine to run onto, and with a couple of players over he played it across to Bunting who in turn found Hoban outside of him. He brought the ball fully under control and saw his near-post effort hit the post, though it fell perfectly for Richard Bunting to pass in the rebound for his first goal of the season.

At some times during the contest it seemed the only way the home defenders could deal with Hoban was to foul him, and one such incident in the 51st minute led to a yellow card for Chris Crook and a free-kick right from centre 25 yards out. Hoban stood over the set-piece and curled it over the wall which required Williams to make a smart save and hold down to his left.

Aside from a speculative long-distance effort from Paul Lyon which sailed wide in the 54th minute, the Diamonds were wholly in control of possession, the tempo and the whole complexion of the match. Through Hall, Hoban and Berwick in particular they were still attacking with pace and verve, and it was Berwick who drew another diving save from the Aylesbury keeper after he had broken down the left and cut inside following a succession of stepovers. An almost identical move moments later in the 61st minute saw Dolman clip a ball down the left for Berwick to run onto, and he was again able to move inside onto his preferred right foot for him to hit a well-struck shot which had Williams scrambling to his right to parry the ball behind for a corner.

Andy Hall has settled into the Diamonds team with ease in recent weeks, and the consistent form that he has been showing since he signed on was again evident here throughout the evening. It was he who set off on another direct run, one of many he produced in the second period, through the middle and then lay the ball off to Berwick on his right. He twisted and turned away from an Aylesbury defender’s challenge and despite two options in the centre went for goal himself with a dinked effort that Williams was easily able to collect.

Matt Finlay, a virtual spectator for much of the contest, was eventually called into action for the first time in the 76th minute when the home side won the ball in midfield and half-time substitute Sonny French fed the ball to striker Sean Immanuel on the right. He faced up Gordon, moved onto his left foot and curled a shot towards the far post which Finlay did really well to get across to and palm the ball away from danger. Diamonds advanced up the other end a couple of minutes later and after Hall had played the ball into Berwick, his subsequent pass found Lorraine running through but his poked effort drifted across the face of goal.

Joe Ackroyd then entered the fray to replace the tireless Bunting in the middle of midfield nine minutes from time, and it was three minutes later when Finlay was forced into his second save of the night. Dolman gave a free-kick away twenty-five yards from goal after a push in the back from a long ball forward, and Immanuel whipped the dead-ball goalwards forcing Finlay to tip the ball over. This led to a succession of corners for the home side, and after the first two had just about been dealt with by the Rushden defence, the third one was delivered from the left and met with a firm header from point-blank range. The ball was brilliantly stopped by Finlay, though only partially so as it span towards the net, and he hooked the ball away just before it was about to cross the line for a goal.

Fellow youngster Matt Pinder and new signing Lynval Da Costa were brought on two minutes from the end of regulation time for some important time on the pitch with the first team, and Pinder especially was involved in a couple of purposeful runs and attacks. Hall advanced down the right and was just able to keep the ball in play on the right byline, and his ball across goal found Pinder whose goalbound shot was blocked and eventually cleared away.

There was still time for one last goal in the match, and it really was a case of the ‘icing on the cake’ as the two academy players combined to full effect. Pinder escaped down the right wing, skipped into the penalty box as the covering Ducks defender slipped to the ground and then found Joe Ackroyd to hit an effort past the helpless Williams from the edge of the six yard box.

Full Time: Aylesbury United 0-4 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

This was a very ideal response from the Diamonds to only their second league defeat of 2015 on Saturday, and although arguably the scoreline should have been heavier, the way the team controlled the entire game and frequently attacked with pace and directness were pleasing aspects of the performance. Claudiu Hoban and Andy Hall especially looked a handful to the Aylesbury defence throughout, though credit must also go the defence for keeping only their third clean sheet of the Southern League season so far. It was also very heartening to see an academy player in the form of Joe Ackroyd score his first goal for the senior team, and the brief cameos that he and Matt Pinder contributed show plenty of promise for the future. The Diamonds’ next league game is at home to Beaconsfield SYCOB on Saturday afternoon at the Dog & Duck, 3pm kick-off.

Diamonds Man of the Match: Claudiu Hoban

Attendance: 173

Match Report by Ollie Mortimer

Aylesbury United

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

1. Zaki Oualah

2. Paul Lyon

3. Jake Bewley

4. Jack Wood (C)

5. Alex Collard

6. Chris Crook

7. Luca Seminerio

8. Greg Williams

9. Sean Immanuel

10. Stacey Field

11. Lea Coulter

 

Substitutes:

12. Shaun Owens (for Field 45)

14. Taylor Collins

15. Sonny French (for Seminerio 45)

16. Ollie Hogg (for Coulter 77)

17. Lewis Osborne

17. Matt Finlay

2. Ollie Wilkinson

3. Sam Brown

4. Delroy Gordon

5. Liam Dolman

6. Brad Harris

7. Andy Hall

8. Richard Bunting (C)

9. Tom Lorraine

10. Tommy Berwick

11. Claudiu Hoban

 

Substitutes:

12. Dan Quigley

13. Alex Vitue

14. Matt Pinder (for Lorraine 88)

15. Joe Ackroyd (for Bunting 81)

16. Lynval Da Costa (for Hoban 88)

Goals: None

Goals: Hoban (21), Berwick (25), Bunting (48), Ackroyd (90+2)

Yellow Cards: Crook (51)

Yellow Cards: None

Red Cards: Oualah (12)

Red Cards: None

Referee: P. Forrester

Assistants: J. Panconi, R. Trinder

 

 

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