Diamonds snatched a winner four minutes into stoppage time to clinch a come-from-behind victory over Bedworth United on Saturday afternoon. 

The hosts had much the better of the opening half as they chased and harried Rushden into mistakes and always posed a threat going forward. They came close to opening the scoring in as early as the sixth minute when Iyseden Christie latched onto a flick-on and crashed a shot off the crossbar, and then the ex-Kettering man cut inside to flick a shot towards the far post that went narrowly wide of Matt Finlay’s goal. The best Diamonds could muster was Taylor Orosz almost latching onto a weak home defensive header which would have found him clear through on goal, and a Liam Dolman free-kick that sailed over the goal from 30 yards out. Striker Daniel Creaney almost put the home side ahead when he found himself in acres of space in the box, but he could only produce a weak header that Finlay easily saved, and then Christie saw a goalbound effort brilliantly blocked away by Brad Harris. However, Bedworth eventually forged ahead in the 31st minute when full-back Daniel Kavanagh latched onto a loose ball and smashed a dipping effort into the top corner from distance, with a possible slight deflection leaving Finlay rooted to the spot. In response Fazel Koriya almost reached a through ball ahead of the advancing Bedworth goalkeeper and Nabil Shariff saw a header drop wide of the post, but the half-time break was reached with the midtable hosts still ahead.

Diamonds returned to the field five minutes before Bedworth did ready for the second period, and within five minutes they were handed a major boost. Home midfielder Marcel Simpson led with his elbow in an aerial duel with Harris, and referee Simon Brown issued a red card after a brief discussion with one of his assistants. Orosz shortly afterwards drove in from the right before seeing his daisycutter parried away, but the pressure wasn’t truly raised until Tom Lorraine entered the fray. Shortly following this alteration Koriya was fed through on goal but produced an awry touch and the chance went begging before Shariff burst onto a ball inside the box, rounded the keeper and was surely about to net until Mark Albrighton got back to win a crucial challenge. The visitors did not have to wait much longer for an equaliser though, with substitute Joe Curtis’ free-kick dropping for Lorraine to hammer home a close-range shot into the roof of the net. The momentum was now undeniably with Diamonds, with Brown seeing a shot deflected narrowly wide and Koriya diverting a lob onto the roof of the net, but it appeared that they may have to settle for a draw as the minutes ticked down. However, they were to find a winning goal deep into additional time. A diagonal ball from the left by Brown was headed back across the box by Lewis Leslie for Koriya to precisely volley home into the far corner. After two further minutes of stoppage time largely spent defending the full-time whistle was blown to crown the excellent Rushden fightback, and to extend their unbeaten league run to nineteen games.

Manager Andy Peaks made only the solitary change to the starting XI that had drawn at home to Stamford on Boxing Day, with Taylor Orosz being introduced into the fold at the expense of Jake Newman. Rory Winters made a welcome return as a substitute after his unavailability for the previous fixture, and he joined a strong-looking bench that also included Joe Curtis, Lewis Wilson and Tom Lorraine. 

There was barely a cloud in the sky as the two teams emerged onto The Oval pitch, but although the sun was beaming onto the 4G surface there was still a distinct chill in the air. Diamonds came into the contest looking to extend an eighteen game unbeaten league record and away form that boasted seven wins out of ten, whilst the hosts had won their last two consecutive home domestic matches and had only failed to score in three out of twenty-two league fixtures prior to this affair. 

After the two captains had shook hands and the coin-toss had resulted in a switching of ends, referee Simon Brown blew his whistle to signal the beginning of the contest. It was the inconsistent hosts, who had the fourth best goalscoring record in the league but had also conceded over 40 goals thus far in the season, who threatened first as Diamonds’ Kyal McNulty tried to head back to Matt Finlay, but only ended up giving a corner away. The resulting delivery ricocheted briefly around the area before an away red shirt managed to intervene and clear the ball upfield. 

Shortly afterwards, in the fifth minute, they were centimetres away from taking the lead. A long ball towards the edge of the Diamonds area was flicked neatly into the path of Iyseden Christie in space, and he quickly thrashed a shot goalwards that beat Finlay but crashed off the bar and out to safety. Two minutes later the visitors posed a threat for the first time, and it stemmed from a home mistake. Goalkeeper Josh Barnes came haring out of his goal to clear a ball forward away, but his rushed clearance was weak and only fell as far as Lewis Leslie. However, with several Bedworth players between him and the unguarded goal, he shifted the ball out of his feet but saw his effort back towards the net easily collected by a home defender. 

It was quite an entertaining start to the game, with both sides looking capable of causing problems for their opposing defences. In the 10th minute Sam Brown had his first opportunity to wind up one of his long throws, and his hurl found Leslie’s flick before it was cleared to Ben Farrell. His drilled shot from the edge of the area looked like it may trouble Barnes, but it was courageously blocked away before it could threaten the keeper. Farrell was then involved again moments later as he got the opportunity to shoot at goal from just inside the box, but again the attempt was charged down. This came less than a minute after a McNulty header back towards Finlay was almost anticipated by Christie, but the Diamonds keeper was quick to read the danger and collect the ball ahead of the striker. 

The Bedworth number 10 was proving a threat to the visiting backline with his clever knack of finding space and linking up the home play neatly, and he went close again in the 18th minute. He pulled away to the right channel before being found by a pinpoint pass, and he then stepped inside before flashing a shot towards the far post that went narrowly wide with Finlay beaten. Rushden countered with arguably their clearest opening two minutes later when a drilled diagonal pass by Dolman saw home full-back Luke Rowe attempt to head the ball back to his goalkeeper. However, his header dropped short and Taylor Orosz ran in behind to try to latch onto it, but as he slid in to control the dropping ball he missed it completely and the ball did end up with Barnes eventually. 

This provided the catalyst for Bedworth to redouble their efforts as they dominated the rest of the half. They won a corner on the right side minutes after Orosz’s chance, and it was cleared only to captain Richard Blythe whose half-volley zipped through a crowd of players, but also wide of the far post. They then worked their second major opportunity moments after when a whipped cross in found striker Daniel Creaney free and in plenty of space in the centre of the box. He was around 12 yards out from goal, but his subsequent header was rather weak and easy for Finlay to dive to his left to hold. 

There was no doubt that was a let-off for the away side, but still the hosts continued to have the better of proceedings as Diamonds struggled to build any momentum or periods of possession. A loose ball dropped for Elliot Parrott just inside the area and his effort was blocked away by Richard Bunting, with Creaney screwing the rebound wide of the mark. Another crucial Rushden block preserved the stalemate moments later when a deep free-kick by Barnes was headed out to Christie, and his well-struck shot looked to be travelling goalwards before Harris blocked it away for a corner. 

However, the pressure eventually did tell 60 seconds later in the 31st minute. The corner given as a result of Harris’ block was cleared away, but the ball was worked out to right-back Daniel Kavanagh who struck a dipping effort into the top corner of Finlay’s goal, with the goalkeeper left helpless by the brilliant 30 yard strike. A slight deflection may have helped it on its way in, but nonetheless the Diamonds were behind and had work to do. 

Rather than the visitors responding immediately, it was Bedworth who were the next to threaten. Christie received a ball on the left-side of the box with his back to goal, and he turned well before seeing his effort roll into the side-netting. Diamonds then began to come back into the contest as the minutes ticked down to the half-time break, and they created a few half-chances. Firstly Bunting was awarded a free-kick for a high foot against a home midfielder, and Liam Dolman stepped up to curl the ball up and over the wall, but up and over the crossbar also. Koriya went close to latching onto a ball over the home defence a minute later, but Barnes committed himself to hare out of his goal and kick the ball away. 

It seemed that the Bedworth goal had kickstarted the visitors into life as they began to get the ball forward quicker and started to look more creative as a result. This was exemplified by Orosz finding space in between the home defence and midfield, and he in turn fed the play out to Koriya on the left. He controlled before stepping inside and curling an inviting delivery to the far post for Nabil Shariff to reach, but his header dropped harmlessly wide of the near post. Another cross from the left looked like it may cause problems for Bedworth a minute before the interval as Brown drove the ball into the box, but his intended target in Leslie couldn’t reach it and a goal-kick was awarded. 

This proved to be the last meaningful action of the half as Brown signalled half-time, with Bedworth good value for their advantage and with Diamonds knowing they needed to respond in order to preserve their unbeaten run. 

Half Time: Bedworth United 1-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

The visitors returned to the field a full five minutes before their opposing numbers which was a clear sign as to what Peaks had thought of the first half performance, and the manager decided to make an alteration by replacing McNulty with Rory Winters. The centre-half slotted in alongside Dolman, with Harris moving to the right-back slot.

The sun had gone down and the temperature had markedly dropped as Brown blew for the commencement of the second half, and Diamonds immediately caused a problem in the home defence. A long ball down the left channel for Koriya initially appeared a simple one to be cleared, but miscommunication between a retreating defender and Barnes meant the ball rolled well into the eighteen-yard box and almost allowed the Rushden number 8 an opportunity at goal. However, a strong and effective tackle was made eventually and the danger was cleared.

Substitute Winters did not have to wait long to be involved in the action himself as in the 49th minute Christie received the ball just ahead of the halfway line and flicked a pinpoint first-time pass through to Creaney. The striker and Winters ran after the ball towards the penalty area, and the Diamonds man won a superb challenge to nick the ball away and out for a throw-in.

Five minutes later, arguably the game’s biggest turning point occurred. A Diamonds ball out towards the right-hand side saw Bedworth midfielder Marcel Simpson lead with his elbow into an aerial challenge with Harris, and the Rushden man went down as a result of the collision. After some deliberation and a brief discussion with the linesman on that side, Brown issued the player with a red card, and the hosts suddenly found themselves down to ten men. Away players and fans alike now had their tails up and sensed a shift in momentum and pattern of the game, with moments later Leslie flicking the ball into the path of Koriya who just failed to make a meaningful contact and the chance was gone. Barnes was then forced into his first save of the contest when Orosz purposefully drove down the right flank before he checked inside and saw a low daisycutter well parried away by the goalkeeper as he dived to his right.

The game ticked past the hour mark before Diamonds’ second change was made, with Joe Curtis entering the fray to replace Bunting. The armband was passed onto Dolman, and the away side’s formation and shape was left as it was at 4-3-3. Despite their numerical advantage, they were struggling for creativity in the middle of the pitch and also struggling to build any consistent period of pressure to trouble the Greenbacks’ defence, with ex-RDFC man Mark Albrighton in particular putting in a stout defensive performance for the hosts. Bedworth still carried a danger when they went forward though, and it was Christie again who could have doubled their advantage in the 65th minute. A dinked ball into the box found the forward man with his back to goal, but just as it looked like he was going to swivel and shoot he was crowded out by three Diamonds defenders and the danger was averted.

Shariff had found himself fairly isolated in attack up to this point, but he did manage to create a chance all through his own work two minutes after the Christie opportunity. He latched onto a loose ball and powered away down the left until he reached the byline and fired the ball across, but though the pull-back was not fully cleared, it wouldn’t fall for a red shirt and the hosts could complete the clearance. In one last throw of the dice, Peaks then summoned Lorraine from the bench to replace Orosz in Rushden’s final switch, with him going straight up front to provide some more support for Shariff and to add a different dimension to their attacks.

The substitution almost paid dividends straight away as a long ball forward, which had previously almost always been dealt with by the home back four, this time found an advancing Lorraine who sprinted towards the penalty area. Although it looked like he had lost control of the ball for a moment, he did well to sort his feet out and find Shariff to his left, and after a brief reshuffling of his feet also the ball was played out further left to Koriya who only had the keeper to beat. However, his first touch was slightly heavy and so his subsequent poked effort was blocked away by Barnes to keep the scoreline in the hosts’ favour.

Diamonds were now starting to get on the ball frequently and were dictating the tempo of the latter stages as Bedworth began to drop deeper in an attempt to preserve their lead. A levelling goal was so close to being found in the 75th minute when Shariff ran onto a bouncing ball to move into the penalty area, and he suddenly found himself through on the keeper. He did superbly well to skip around Barnes, and though there was one covering defender back on the goalline, it seemed inevitable that Rushden’s top scorer would be finding the back of the net. However, just as he was about to shoot, Albrighton got back in the nick of time to win a tremendously timed tackle and to put the ball out for a corner.

After those last two near misses thoughts easily could have turned to this not being Diamonds’ day, but they were quickly dispelled by an equalising goal twelve minutes from time. A handball was awarded against a Greenbacks midfielder around 30 yards from goal on the right side, and seven red-shirts piled into the box in a hope to meet Curtis’ delivery. The diminutive midfield man curled a tempting delivery towards the back post which Dolman narrowly missed, but it hit off a defender before bouncing up for Tom Lorraine to hook the loose ball home into the roof of the net.

The visitors now sensed a winner to help carry on their superb away form and to consolidate their play-off place, with Harris but Brown in particular effectively being deployed as wing-backs in an attempt to snatch a victory. Four minutes after the leveller Shariff managed to find the advancing left-back, who had seen a run forward stopped seconds earlier, in space on the left-side of the box, and his attempted shot across goal took a huge deflection before flying narrowly wide of the near post. The resulting corner was only cleared to Farrell on the edge of the area, and his shot was flicked by Dolman to Koriya whose lob dropped over Barnes but also over the bar and onto the roof of the net.

Dolman, who had a superb game, was then involved down the other end as the hosts also staked their claim for a winner. A good delivery from the left wing found Christie who had peeled into space at the back post, and just as he was about to bring the ball down and surely trouble Finlay from close range the Diamonds defender stepped in to importantly intercept. Aside from this moment though the play was camped in Bedworth’s half, and Brown was again found down the left before he did well to pick out Shariff in the middle. The striker only had one defender between himself and being in on goal, but after jinking to his right he slipped as he took the shot and flew well wide of the far post.

The play then moved into additional time, with Rushden still pressing and searching intently for what would have been regarded one half before an unlikely winner. They won a throw-in close to the corner flag on the right, and Brown trotted across to launch the delivery into the near post. Lorraine got to it first, but his flick-on was more upwards than across goal and Barnes was able to comfortably jump and collect.

It seemed like that would be the final action at the end of a pulsating final thirty minutes, but there was to be one final dramatic twist in the fourth minute of stoppage time. Harris sprayed the ball out to Brown who was in acres of space halfway inside the opposition half on the left wing, and he in turn looked up before drilling a cross into the middle looking for Lorraine. The kick missed its intended target, but coming in behind him was Leslie who did excellently to head the ball across the box and to Fazel Koriya. The winger, who had been limping for the previous ten minutes and whose movement had been severely hampered, had been left completely free in the middle of the area, and he swung his right boot to connect with a volley and send the ball past a static Barnes into the bottom right corner of the net.

Chaotic and frenzied scenes of celebration ensued amongst players, fans and management staff, with the seemingly long wait to see whether the effort was going to nestle just inside the post or wide of it adding to the euphoria shown afterwards. However, there was still a couple of minutes to be played, and so focus quickly switched to the Rushden defensive half as they pulled players back for the inevitable home pressure. A couple of left-wing crosses had hearts in mouths for a brief moment before being cleared, and a long-throw on the right saw a Bedworth man foul a Diamonds player to relieve the defensive strain. No sooner had the resultant free-kick been dispatched upfield and a few more seconds elapsed when the full-time whistle was blown to huge cheers from the away faithful, and to crown a spirited and determined fightback that hadn’t looked possible at the half-time interval.

Full Time: Bedworth United 1-2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

In five and a half seasons of existence Diamonds have built a bit of a reputation for plundering late goals (think back to Eynesbury, Cambridge City, Holbeach, Wisbech, Barwell, and Kettering), and they managed to enhance that fact with another one here. The first half performance was admittedly very below par and the sending-off undoubtedly changed the complexion of the game, but Rushden still showed resolve and character to dig in and snatch a victory from the jaws of initially defeat and then a draw. Credit must go to Andy Peaks for the three substitutions who all had a positive impact on the match, but praise must also go to Bedworth who, up to the dismissal of Simpson and the away changes, looked firmly in control and capable of ending Diamonds’ unbeaten league run. That stretch is now extended to nineteen games (ten wins and nine draws) though, and their eighth win from eleven away league fixtures gives them the honour of the current best away record in the league. Diamonds have a free weekend coming up, and so their next match is to be played next Tuesday (January 10th) as they travel to Rugby Town for their Integro League Cup Second Round tie.

Diamonds Man of the Match: Sam Brown

Attendance: 355

Match Report by Ollie Mortimer

Bedworth United

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

1. Josh Barnes

2. Daniel Kavanagh

3. Luke Rowe

4. Elliot Parrott

5. Richard Bryan

6. Mark Albrighton

7. Marcel Simpson

8. Richard Blythe (C)

9. Daniel Creaney

10. Iyseden Christie

11. Kieron Brehon

 

Substitutes:

12. Jack Jeys (for Creaney 87)

14. Ryan Smith

15. Marlon Walters (for Blythe 87)

16. Andy Penny

17. Lee Moore

17. Matt Finlay

2. Kyal McNulty

3. Sam Brown

4. Brad Harris

5. Liam Dolman

6. Ben Farrell

7. Nabil Shariff

8. Fazel Koriya

9. Richard Bunting (C)

10. Lewis Leslie

11. Taylor Orosz

 

Substitutes:

12. Tom Lorraine (for Orosz 70)

13. Ben Heath

14. Joe Curtis (for Bunting 63)

15. Rory Winters (for McNulty HT)

16. Lewis Wilson

Goals: Kavanagh (31)

Goals: Lorraine (78), Koriya (90+4)

Yellow Cards: Albrighton (70)

Yellow Cards: Curtis (70)

Red Cards: Simpson (54)

Red Cards: None

Referee: Simon Brown

Assistants: Daniel Pattison, Craig Thompson

 

 

 

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