AFC Rushden & Diamonds came from behind to defeat a spirited Bedford side at The Eyrie on a blustery Boxing Day afternoon.

The Diamonds, coming into the game on the back of two straight league defeats, fell behind in the 18th minute when debutant striker Afolobi Obefemi slotted home after strike partner Sergine Mor Diop had seen an initial shot blocked. Aside from a Tom Lorraine half-volley which cleared the crossbar, both sides struggled to create any meaningful chances in a half dominated by midfield skirmishes.

However, the away side returned for the second half with renewed vigour and found an equaliser within four minutes of the restart. Shawn Richards fired in a free-kick from the left side which was initially flicked on by a Bedford player and then hit another home man on its way into the back of the net. Rushden were playing with a higher tempo and urgency, and it bore its results further when they scored the winning goal in the 66th minute. Richards again was the provider as he latched onto a loose ball in the Bedford box, clipped a ball to the far post and found Tommy Berwick to fire in a half-volley leaving the goalkeeper no chance. 

Diamonds had to withstand a late spell of pressure from the Eagles, as Obefemi first blazed over under strong pressure from Ollie Wilkinson and then saw an effort well blocked behind by Finlay after he had been released in behind the visitors defence. A late corner, deep into stoppage time, then somehow ended up going over the bar despite it being a free header from close in, but Rushden managed to hold on to an important away success.

Manager Andy Peaks made two changes to the starting 11 that had been beaten by Egham Town on Tuesday night as Lewis Leslie and Tom Lorraine came in to replace the injured Richard Bunting and Tom Liversedge respectively. This meant defender Liam Dolman took the captain’s armband, and new signing Luke Hipwell from Wisbech was named amongst the substitutes.

There was a strong wind blowing around Meadow Lane as the two teams entered the fray, and with the home side unbeaten in their last four home league games, Diamonds knew that they would have a tough test on their hands.

The opening fifteen minutes of the game were very closely contested and short on goalmouth action, with both sides struggling to maintain and sustain possession and each defence dealing competently with any attack that came their ways. The opening chance of the game fell to the blue-shirted Eagles in the 16th minute as the ball fell for winger Josh Bamford to drive a shot at goal, and though fellow midfielder Josh Beech attempted to flick the ball goalwards the effort drifted wide of Matt Finlay’s left post.

In their next attack, however, they were to take the lead. A long ball forward from defence found tall front-man Sergine Mor Diop who brought the ball down on his chest and expertly turned away from Liam Dolman. He had space ahead of him as he drove to the edge of the penalty area, and his shot was well blocked by a covering Delroy Gordon. The ball spun back to the striker though, and despite Gordon poking the ball away from him it ran across to new signing Afolobi Obefemi to slide the ball inside the near post.

At this stage of the contest the Diamonds couldn’t get much of a rhythm or tempo involved in their attacking play, and though they were restricting the home side to a limited amount of chances themselves, their own forward play was often spoilt by an overhit pass or a heavy touch in a promising position.

The best opportunity for the visitors arrived exactly on the half-hour mark. Full-back Sam Brown received the ball on the left wing, and with a lack of options ahead of him he pitched a diagonal ball into the penalty area. Tom Lorraine controlled the ball expertly, spun away to his left and as the ball seemingly bounced up kindly for him, he hit a stinging half-volley which unfortunately for the away side cleared the crossbar and the terrace behind the goal.

Any ball and delivery into the Bedford box was being dealt with effectively by the home defence, and despite Diamonds bossing the majority of the possession after the early goal, they played at a pace that was largely unthreatening and relatively easy for the hosts to defend against. A couple of half-chances were created five minutes before the half-time break, as first Lewis Leslie rose well to meet a right-wing cross but could only loop a tame header into Tyler Reading’s hands, and then moments later Lorraine did well to flick the ball onto Berwick and allow the Diamonds number 10 to advance towards the box. He jinked one way and then the other, but he slipped as he was about to shoot and so his resulting attempt represented little threat to the Bedford stopper.

Half Time: Bedford Town 1-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

The second half got underway with a keen breeze still swirling around the stadium, and on the back of the lacklustre first half combined with it being the first time that the Diamonds had found themselves losing at the interval this season in the league, the visitors knew they had to make a quick start to the half.

And within four minutes of the restart Rushden had their equalizer. Claudiu Hoban, who had been relatively quiet and peripheral in the first period, was fouled down by the left corner flag as he looked to generate some space for a cross. Fellow winger Shawn Richards came across to take the set-piece; his pacey delivery saw the ball flick off a Bedford head inadvertently at the near post and then seemingly cannon off another home defender for an own goal with Reading helpless to stop the effort.

It was clear to see that the Diamonds had returned for the second period with a higher intensity and tempo, and the front four of Hoban, Richards, Lorraine and Berwick in particular began to look much more of a threat to the Eagles’ back four with their neat link-up play and ability of running in behind. Bedford were also being closed down quicker than in the opening 45 minutes, and as a result the away side began to move more into the ascendancy as the half wore on.

However, the home side still looked dangerous themselves, and in particular the goalscorer Obefemi. In the 58th minute a chipped ball forward fell behind the Diamonds defence for the striker to run onto, and as he faced Gordon up he shifted the ball onto his left foot and drew a sharp stop from Finlay down low to his left side.

The visitors were still looking the more likely to take the lead though, and a free-kick in a very similar position to the set-piece leading to their leveller almost brought about a further goal. Richards again took the kick, and the dangerous delivery was superbly headed away at the far post to the edge of the penalty area. Hoban was unable to bring the ball under control, but it ran onto Lorraine to take in his stride and hit a stinging effort which just cleared the crossbar.

Yet in their next foray forward moments later, the Diamonds were able to take the lead. Brown decided to take a short throw down the left flank into Lorraine, and though the front-man was unable to keep possession, the loose ball fell for Richards who was able to trick his way into some space. He dug out a cross which found Tommy Berwick completely on his own at the far post, and he cracked a perfectly executed half-volley into the far corner of the goal.

Any thoughts that the away side might let up and relent in their attacking play were dispelled over the next ten minutes as they could have added to their advantage. It was Shawn Richards again who was able to whip in a pinpoint delivery from a dead ball, this time a corner kick, and it found the head of a leaping Gordon whose header was well held by a diving Reading. The effort wouldn’t have counted if it had found the net though, as referee Law had deemed there to have been a foul committed by the Diamonds defender as he challenged for the ball. Lorraine then cut in from the right flank and ran into the box, but his bobbling left-footed shot was wide of the near post.

That proved to be Diamonds’ last real chance of the contest as the home side upped the ante and the pressure in the closing stages. An away corner in the 81st minute was well cleared leading to a four-on-three break in the home side’s favour, and Gordon halted the attack 25 yards out from Finlay’s goal with a crunching challenge which led to a yellow card. Left-back Matt Clifford stepped up and lofted the resulting free-kick over the wall but over the goal also. A minute later Obefemi was found with a precise ball through the Rushden defence, and he charged into the penalty box only to be brilliantly hassled and put under pressure by Ollie Wilkinson, and the subsequent shot also went over the crossbar.

Tom Liversedge had been brought on to replace Claudiu Hoban, and although he poked wide from a Richards pull-back whilst being off-balance, the Diamonds were naturally dropping deeper and deeper in an attempt to hold onto their lead and so found their attacks less frequent.

Two minutes remained of normal time when Obefemi was slipped in on the right side of the box, and Finlay did excellently to rush out of his goal, narrow the angle for the striker and make a key save to turn the ball behind for a corner. The game entered stoppage time, and the Diamonds seemed to have done an effective job in limiting Bedford to little possession in this time, but there was still to be an almost agonizing and heart-wrenching twist deep into the added-on time. Gordon was forced to glance a long ball pitched into the visitors box behind for a corner, and with eight Eagles players piled into the box, the inswinging delivery found two men in oceans of space unmarked, but Finlay seemed to put the pair off and the header somehow dropped over the bar and not into the back of the Rushden net.

There was a slight moment of controversy when Andy Hall, on in place of Berwick, pounced on possession and drove towards goal only to be stopped in his tracks by Clifford. A yellow card was awarded rather than a red one, though it mattered little when the whistle was blown very shortly afterwards to signal an important win for the Diamonds.

Full Time: Bedford Town 1-2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

This represented an impressive comeback for the Diamonds especially when the underwhelming first half is taken into account, and though they were very short of their full potential, they showed commendable spirit and togetherness to recover from the early setback and close out the victory in the end. The victory caps off a highly positive 2015 for the team, with promotion from the United Counties League Premier achieved and the UCL Knock-Out Cup also secured, and then a very encouraging start to Southern League life also made from August onwards. Memories will naturally flood back to Holbeach away, Wisbech at home and Barwell away in terms of defining and memorable moments that occurred during the year, but come the end of this 2015/2016 season, this game could be looked back on as a crucial moment also. Rushden stay second in the Division One Central table after Chalfont St Peter also came from behind to claim victory, and Diamonds return to league action in the New Year when they take on Arlesey Town at the Dog & Duck on Saturday January 2.

Diamonds Man of the Match: Shawn Richards

Attendance: 667

Match Report by Ollie Mortimer

Bedford Town

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

1. Tyler Reading

2. Will Wright

3. Matt Clifford

4. Ollie Peters

5. James Peters

6. Kyal McNulty (C)

7. Josh Bamford

8. Josh Beech

9. Sergine Mor Diop

10. Afolobi Obefemi

11. Bilal Yafai

 

Substitutes:

12. Jordan Cleghorn

14. Daril Ngwala (for Yafai 76)

15. Spencer Forte (for Bamford 76)

16. James Hillsdon (for O. Peters 89)

17. Matt Finlay

2. Ollie Wilkinson

3. Sam Brown

4. Delroy Gordon

5. Liam Dolman (C)

6. Brad Harris

7. Shawn Richards

8. Lewis Leslie

9. Tom Lorraine

10. Tommy Berwick

11. Claudiu Hoban

 

Substitutes:

12. Connor Kennedy

13. Alex Vitue

14. Luke Hipwell

15. Andy Hall (for Berwick 85)

16. Tom Liversedge (for Hoban 82)

Goals: Obefemi (18)

Goals: OG (49), Berwick (66)

Yellow Cards: Clifford (90+4)

Yellow Cards: Gordon (80)

Referee: M. Law

Assistants: S. Parberry, M. Manyange

 

 

Updated player profiles with appearance and goalscoring details are now available.

The updated Match Stats, Player Stats and Attendance figures along with league stats are found in the First Team stats area on this website here. 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.

For video highlights and post-match interviews see here.

Match Gallery courtesy of Malcolm Swinden Photography (click on the link to access the Diamonds Photo Gallery for more images from this game and ecommerce options). Copyright Mal Swinden ©2015

 

 

 
 
 

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