Like a granny jabbing forlornly at a bingo card, AFC Diamonds pressed the self-destruct button repeatedly last night to gift a large victory to a strong Cogenhoe United side.

As Cogenhoe in their all-blue home strip huddled together just behind the centre circle and psyched themselves up for the game, AFC in their smart yellow and black away strip lined up in a 4-5-1 formation attacking the small terrace next to the clubhouse. Missing club captain Danny Bird and explosive winger Blake Helsdown through injury, Adam Ziolowksi partnered stand-in skipper Elliot Ames in the centre of defence whilst there was a first league start for Mark Rust at right back with Ashley Meeks pushing forward into a wide right position, Jeron Thompson playing on the left and new signing Connor Bell taking his place in central midfield leaving Lewi Williams as the lone striker.

In unseasonably chilly night air, Cogenhoe made their intentions clear from the start robbing the ball from their opposition almost straight from the kick-off and playing a long ball over the top which worried Foulger enough to bring him darting off his line, but found K. Morgan in an offside position. In what turned out to be a rather unusual occurrence in the first half, the next few minutes were ones of AFC pressure as the boys in yellow worked hard to find space against a tight-knit 4-4-2, but The Cooks were soon in the ascendancy again, first clearing the ball over the top well, leaving Zach Farden a difficult job to get back on level terms with his opponent and clear for a corner kick and then, on 7 minutes, winning a free kick on the edge of the 18 yard box which was hit over the bar. Just a minute later, they were almost in front as a short back-pass from Ziolowksi left Foulger with too much ground to cover ahead of an onrushing Cogenhoe forward. As the Diamonds keeper spread himself, the ball was flicked over him but ricocheted off the inside of the left upright and across the goal to be cleared away. AFC fans were still exhaling their sighs of relief, however, when Cogenhoe went in front from the resultant corner as K. Morgan got across his marker and thundered a header towards the near post, which a defender on the goal line could only head against his own bar and in.

The response to the home side’s early lead was certainly muted, but the Diamonds spent the next few minutes trying to inject some energy into their lacklustre performance and to give their large away following something to cheer about. First following good work on the left from the Diamonds midfield, a diagonal ball towards the edge of the area found a jumping Connor Bell, but his strong header was high and wide. Next a poor Cogenhoe clearance found an AFC foot and dropped to a lively Meeks with his back to goal. The diminutive winger turned his man with ease and hit a crisp low ball into the box for Thompson who checked it back to a waiting Bell 20 yards out, but the debutante’s sweetly-struck shot was easy for ex-R&DFC youth teamer Swailes in the Cogenhoe goal. At this stage it was certainly clear that the Diamonds were up for a battle, but nothing could have prepared the travelling faithful for what was to follow. First, on 15 minutes, a seemingly innocuous throw was not dealt with by the AFC defence and N.Doudu got across his man to bundle home to the sound of an icy wind blowing across the Northamptonshire countryside. Next, directly after the restart, J. Old on the Cogenhoe left found the ball at his feet and beat his man with ease, crossing the ball to the near post for K. Morgan to flick over Foulger and into the corner for his second.

As Diamonds heads began to drop, the side looked folorn and disorganised and they became their own worst enemy, giving the ball away repeatedly and allowing Cogenhoe to enjoy a long spell camped in the Diamonds half, a passage of play which culminated in a throw from the left in a similar position to the one which had caused the first goal. Again this was not dealt with and resulted in a melee in the penalty area with the ball finally falling to a Cogenhoe foot which fortunately blazed the ball over the bar from 8 yards out. On 22 minutes, there was hope for AFC once more, as Lewi Williams robbed the Cogenhoe left back as he was trying to shepherd the ball out for a throw. Swalies had come off his line to provide an option for his team-mate and was left back-tracking quickly as the Diamodns forward bore down on goal, but having done all the hard work, the number 11 was unable to add to his tally for the season as his attempted chip fell tamely into the arms of a grateful man in orange.

Three minutes later, Cogenhoe had a fourth as an A. Phipps-Norton corner from the left sailed over everyone and into the top right-hand corner and, whilst this reporter was still making a note of that incident, the fifth followed as M. Styles, found himself with the ball at his feet on the left hand-side and yet again with space in front of the opposing defense. As the Diamonds scrambled to get in front of him, Styles hit a powerful shot which was charged down, but when the ball fell to him a second time another which ricocheted off two Diamonds players sending Foulger the wrong way as the ball bounced into the back of the net for a fifth. A minute later, the defence was undone yet again by a ball over the top and Foulger had to be off his line smartly to clear the danger. This set the theme for the next few minutes as on several occasions Cogenhoe were presented with opportunities to extend their lead, with a combination of good luck and Ashley Foulger keeping the score at five. To my knowledge Christmas isn’t generally in October, but for the Cogenhoe boys seemed to be getting all of their presents so maybe this is some kind of South Northamptonshire tradition to which I have not been initiated as on 38 minutes, Diamonds gave away posession very cheaply on the left hand side to J. Olowoyu who picked up the ball and after taking it a few yards towards the AFC goal hit a relatively tame effort which for some reason seemed to catch Foulger out and the young stopper will be disappointed to reflect on the ball squirming its way through his hands for number six.

In the remaining minutes of the first half, after a brief Diamonds foray into the opposing penalty area where Lewi Williams managed to get a shot off, there were still more chances for the home side to add to their tally and the frame of the AFC goal was rattled twice more. A well-worked move from the Cogenhoe midfield presented the ball for a forward 20 yards from goal with his effort striking the right-hand upright and rebounding away and then, seconds later as the Diamonds failed to clear the ball it fell in centre of the pitch for another player who fizzed an effort against the left hand up-right. In the final meaningful attack before half-time, Cogenhoe’s K. Morgan decided to show off his skills beating several AFC defenders with the ball at his feet before finally beating himself and playing the ball harmlessly wide of goal. The referee’s whistle which signalled the end of the first half could not have come a second two soon for the Diamonds boys and as they trudged off the field, AFC fans were certainly fearing that another similar forty five minutes could spell double figures for The Cooks.

HT Cogenhoe United 6 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0

I think its fair to say that the AFC manager Mark Starmer had a few words to say at half time and as he strode out of the dressing room with a face like thunder it was a different Diamonds team that walked out behind him, both literally as there had been three substitutions, but also in attitude as the opening exchanges of the second half would prove. The changes saw Ryan Ellmer replace Mark Rust at right back, with Louis Smith coming on for Ashley Meeks to take up a position in left midfield and Levi Freeman replacing Alex McDonald in the middle. Zaak Moon, who had found the first half heavy going, was pushed out to the right hand-side with Jeron Thompson playing inside him.

Suddenly it seemed that a different team had taken to the field as they were competing for the ball and finding each other more regularly with short, crisp passing. This certainly quelled the flow of Cogenhoe attacks, but there were few opportunities for AFC at the other end of the field, with a free kick on the left hand side with 54 minutes on the clock the only one with noting. Two minutes later, Cogenhoe had a decent chance of their own as a beautifully delivered corner found a big centre-back with a free header at the far post, but fortunately for the Diamonds he couldn’t keep his effort down. Back at the other end, Diamonds had their best effort of the match. With the midfield now competing for possession, Williams was finding himself with a lot more time on the ball and on 58 minutes, as it broke to him 25 yards out in front of the Cogenhoe back four, the AFC top scorer made space for himself before hitting a blistering effort towards the top of the goal. This was tipped to safety very well by the outstretched arm of a jumping Swailes but still made a loud ‘thwack’ as it sailed off the bar and over the fence into the blackness behind.

Despite this upturn in their fortunes, the AFC side still seemed to be their own worst enemy at times and this almost proved to be their undoing a couple of minutes later as they gave the ball away on the right-hand side of the pitch to a Cogenhoe midfielder who played the ball in for his striker to hit towards to bottom left-hand side of the goal. Foulger in the Diamonds goal had clearly taken his manager’s words at half-time to heart and, keen to make amends for his earlier mistake, produced what is probably his best save of the season so far, diving to his right to parry the initial shot away and then getting straight back to his feet. As the ball fell for the other Cogenhoe striker to volley at the bottom right hand corner of the goal, the number 86 flung himself to his left and beat the ball away at full-stretch for a throw-in. As time ticked on, there seemed a growing urgency in the Cogenhoe side to extend their lead and they enjoyed a period of good possession (broken up only by a wasted Lewi Williams free kick at the other end), drawing the best out of Foulger once more on one occasion as he dived out to grab a low cross and winning a couple of free kicks which, happily for AFC, were not on target.

The breakthrough, which it might be fair to say was coming, finally happened on 72 minutes but in very disappointing fashion for the Diamonds. A corner from the right hand side of Foulger’s goal was floated towards the far post and should have been easy for him to claim by his normal high standards. However, on this occasion the ball didn’t stick in the young keeper’s gloves and he dropped his catch straight at the feet of J. Chamberlain, leaving the centre back the simple task of prodding the ball into an empty net. If being six down wasn’t enough to inspire the boys in yellow to try and get one back, then seven definitely seemed to as, with renewed urgency after the restart, Jeron Thompson robbed the Cogenhoe left winger. The Diamonds number 10, who had been working hard throughout the game, then beat the full back easily but unfortunately hit his powerful shot straight at Swailes. A couple of minutes later, AFC almost registered on the scoreboard once more, this time from a more unusual source. Lewi Williams had won a free kick in the left-hand channel but had gone down injured, allowing his team-mates to push right up. Following the delay, the set piece was played out to Adam Ziolowski in an advance position who looked up and floated a superb effort towards the top of the goal, producing another one-handed save from Swailes as he tipped the ball over the bar. There was also a good shout for a penalty from the corner that followed as it looked like Jeron Thompson was impeded inside the Cogenhoe box, but the referee waved play on allowing the home side to break strongly down the right and cross the ball with a superb last-ditch tackle from Ryan Ellmer saving another guilt-edged chance on goal.

In the final few minutes the game started to peter out, as Cogenhoe began to seem content with their seven goal lead whilst AFC looked forlornly for a consolation goal, but the mundanity was broken up by a chance at each end. The first was for Cogenhoe when a long ball over the top fell invitingly for their substitute striker who shot wide of goal and then it was AFC’s turn when a good move down the left-hand side resulted in Zach Farden breaking into the box, but unfortunately his cross came to nothing. As the final whistle blew there was definitely a certain amount of appreciation and encouragement from the Diamonds supporters for a much better second half performance while the team were left to rue their first half mistakes which, despite the superior quality of the opposition who thoroughly deserved their win, allowed what could have been quite a close game to turn into one which was very much one-sided.

FT Cogenhoe United 7 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0

Manager Mark Starmer now has a week in which to pick up the spirits of his deflated Diamonds who will be looking to re-gain their lustre as they entertain Northampton Spencer at Kiln park next Thursday 20th October on the back of the opposition’s creditable 2-2 draw against the free-scoring Northampton ON Chenecks. Kick-off is at 7:45pm.

Diamonds Man of the Match: Jeron Thomson

Att: 205

Photographs courtesy of Mal Swinden

Teams:

Cogenhoe United

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

1. K. Swailes
2. J. Wilson (c)
3. M. Styles
4. C. Wiles
5. K. Furnis
6. J. Henderson
7. A. Phipps-Norton
8. L. Roache
9. N. Doudu
10. K. Morgan
11. J. Olowoyu
86. Ashley Foulger
13. Mark Rust
3. Zach Farden
4. Elliot Ames (c)
15. Adam Ziolkowski
6. Alex McDonald
2. Ashley Meeks
10. Jeron Thompson
11. Lewi Williams
5. Conor Bell
8. Zaak Moon
Subs:
12. L. Bond
14. A. Wiley (for Henderson)
15. J. Chamberlain (for Doudu)
16. R. Moss
17. T. Jones (for Wiles)
Subs:
24. Adam Batten
14. Ryan Ellmer (for Rust)
9. Levi Freeman (for McDonald)
20. Kai Robertson
21. Louis Smith (for Meeks)
Goals:
Morgan (9 mins)
Doudu (15 mins)
Morgan (16 mins)
Phipps-Norton (25 mins)
Styles (26 mins)
Olowoyu (38 mins)
Chamberlain (72 mins)
Goals:
None
Bookings:
None
Bookings:
None
Sent Off:
None
Sent Off:
None

 

 
 
 

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