Crawley Green 0-3 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
After a three day delay because of the inclement weather, history was finally made on the AstroTurf pitch at Crawley Green, as AFC Rushden & Diamonds contested their first ever senior game.
The match was originally scheduled to be played at the Diamonds’ adopted home at the Dog & Duck, but with the pitch still struggling to recover from the torrential rain which had plagued the country over the past week, it was decided to switch the game to Crawley Green’s all weather pitch. Despite the loss of home advantage, the new Diamonds impressed on their debut and ran out comfortable 3-0 winners.
The new era almost got off to the worst possible start as a routine back pass bounced horribly off the surprisingly uneven surface and deceived Quincy Shorunmu in the Diamonds’ goal, but the former Northampton Spencer ‘keeper managed to recover in time to hook the ball off the line. 30 seconds later the first of many strong challenges from the home side left AFC striker Alfie Taylor requiring treatment from Physio Colin Hodsden, but fortunately he was able to continue a minute or so later.
The Diamonds first effort of note arrived on 10 minutes, as a Peter Okechukwu cross was only cleared as far as Deven Ellwood, and the striker’s shot from the edge of the box was tipped around the post by home ‘keeper Dean Bull. The hosts’ first chance came two minutes later when Lewis Foster raced onto a long ball over Alex Deakin but hit a weak shot wide of the post.
After the lively start the game quietened down and became a rather scrappy affair. George Cox was presented with a half chance on 17 minutes when a loose ball fell to him 20 yards from goal, but those supporters who had watched him for Rushden & Diamonds youth side a few years ago were not surprised to see the ball fly high over the bar.
Sam Peverall had Crawley Green’s next effort with the half hour mark approaching, but his ambitious 30 yard effort failed to trouble Shorunmu. The home side then created their best chance of the half as a free kick played deep into the Rushden penalty area found the head of the unmarked Lee Lowsby, but he glanced the ball wide of the post.
Two minutes later the Diamonds opened the scoring, and it was Peter Okechukwu who ensured his name will go down in AFC R&D history. Cox picked up the ball 25 yards from the Crawley Green goal, and picked out Okechukwu with a good ball down the right flank. Okechukwu played in a dangerous low cross which evaded everyone and went in off the far post.
The home side went close to equalising just before the interval. Troy Johnston appeared to be fouled in the middle of the park, but the referee waved play on, with the ball being played through to Vinny Shrieves whose shot was well saved by the feet of Shorunmu.
HT: Crawley Green 0-1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
The visitors started the second half brightly, and Alfie Taylor tested Bull in the home goal inside the opening few minutes. The Rushden striker’s 25 yard free kick went through the wall, but Bull got down quickly to make a comfortable save.
Taylor’s pace and movement was starting to really trouble to Crawley Green defence, and he should have doubled the lead on 53 minutes. Jack Wisniewski flicked the ball onto Jamie O’Grady, who picked out Taylor with a great ball over the home defence, but Taylor opted to shoot first time and dragged his effort just wide of the far post.
Three minutes later and the Diamonds again went close. Aynsley McDonald took a quick free kick after a foul on Okechukwu, delivering a great ball into the area. Deven Ellwood managed to lose his marker but couldn’t quite get the telling touch that would have taken the ball past Bull.
Ellwood didn’t have to wait long though to net his first Rushden goal, as on 59 minutes he doubled the visitors’ lead. Johnston picked out Taylor with a terrific through ball, and although Bull saved his shot Ellwood was on hand to nod home the rebound.
With 63 minutes played, the home side had their best effort of the game. An Adam Reid free kick from near the corner flag found Lee Lowsby, whose well struck shot from the edge of the box cannoned back off the crossbar before being cleared to safety.
The game’s most controversial moment occurred on 74 minutes. A deep left wing cross from Okechukwu saw Wisniewski challenge Bull for the ball, with the home ‘keeper spilling it and Wisniewski tapping home from close range. The referee appeared happy to for the goal to stand, but changed his mind upon seeing his assistant flagging on the near side. Bull was clearly unhappy with the challenge from Wisniewski, and shoved the AFC winger in the face. After the situation had eventually calmed down, the referee decided to speak only to Wisniewski, allowing Bull’s misdemeanour to go completely unpunished.
With 77 minutes gone Wisniewski should have netted a third Diamonds goal, after being put clear by a great ball from Louis Smith, but Bull made a good stop to deny him. Crawley Green almost pulled a goal back with a similar chance, but Robbie O’Dell was brilliantly denied by Rushden’s substitute ‘keeper Ashley Foulger.
On 86 minutes the Diamonds put the game beyond doubt, as Alfie Taylor finally got the goal his performance deserved. Substitute Immanuel Soetan picked out Wisniewski on the right flank, and his low cross found the feet of Taylor who turned his marker and hit an excellent shot across goal and into the bottom corner.
The hosts had one final chance to get on the scoresheet when O’Dell raced onto another long ball, but his effort was cleared off the line by McDonald.
FT: Crawley Green 0-3 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Mark Starmer spoke exclusively to www.afcdiamonds.com after the match “It was great to get the first 90 minutes under our belts, a good work out for the lads, it really helped with their fitness and pre-season preparation. You could see the team bonding together and I couldn’t ask for more from a first game”.
Attendance: Approx. 100
Man of the Match: Aynsley McDonald
|Crawley Green||AFC Rushden & Diamonds|
|1. Dean Bull
3. Sean Downey
4. Chris Crook
5. Chris Harvey
6. Sam Peverall
7. Courtney Massey
8. Lewis Foster
9. Vinny Shrieves
11. Matt Baldry
14. Jamie Warne
17. Lee Lowsby
|17. Quincy Shorunmu
11. Jamie O’Grady
5. Alex Deakin
14. Aynsley McDonald (c)
8. Sam Brown
2. Peter Okechukwu
15. Troy Johnston
16. George Cox
6. Jack Wisniewski
4. Deven Ellwood
7. Alfie Taylor
4. Nicky Nolan (on 46 mins)
5. Craig Merrick (on 46 mins)
11. Robbie O’Dell (on 46 mins)
12. Stuart Strange (on 46 mins)
15. Adam Reid (on 46 mins)
16. James Chisholm (on 46 mins)
3. Immanuel Soetan (for Elwood, 61 mins)
9. Jamie Burrows (for O’Grady, 61 mins)
10. Matthew Brady (for Cox, 54 mins)
12. Lee Gotch (for Deakin, 51 mins)
13. Ashley Foulger (for Shorunmu, 75 mins)
18. Louis Smith (for Johnston, 75 mins)
Okechukwu (38 mins)
Elwood (59 mins)
Taylor (86 mins)
All Images courtesy of Mal Swinden