AFC Rushden & Diamonds memorable first season in the FA Cup with Budweiser came to an end on Saturday when they lost 3-1 to Dover Athletic at the Crabble Athletic Ground in Kent on Saturday afternoon. After winning through four rounds of the competition, the Diamonds went out to Conference South opponents, three levels above them in the football pyramid – although did have the honour of being the last UCL team and the last debutant left in the competition. After impressing early in the game, they had to battle back from a goal behind to go in level at 1-1 at the break via an Alfie Taylor goal, as he fired home a Russ Dunkley flick from a long clearance by Tom Cross. Any thoughts of a cup upset began to fade early in the second period when Tom Cross fumbled a high ball which found its way into the net off the leg of Arron Parkinson to give the hosts a 2-1 lead. Although the Whites of Dover missed a penalty they wrapped up the game after 75 minutes when Barry Cogan drilled in a low shot, but the large travelling contingent of Diamonds fans stayed behind at the end of the game to show their appreciation for such a fine run in the premier cup competition.
The Diamonds kept the same starting XI that had faced Harborough Town last weekend, which meant a single change to the side that had faced Cambridge City in the previous round. Recent signing Adam Whybrow took a place on the bench as the Diamonds substitute goalkeeper.
After a bright start from the Diamonds with Koriya and Taylor forcing home keeper Walker into action the hosts won a series of corners. The first two on the right were dealt with, but after Joe Merrill was adjudged to have conceded a corner on the left Sean Raggett was given room to head home the Cogan corner after 14 minutes. The Diamonds continued to concede a number of corners, and the main Dover threat was from these, especially those taken by Cogan on the left, with Richard Orlu also heading narrowly wide.
After a period of being dominated by their opponents, the Diamonds struck back after 34 mins when a long clearance from Tom Cross was flicked on by Russ Dunkley for Alfie Taylor to score the equaliser – his eighth goal in the competition this season. The impressive travelling army of Diamonds fans celebrated the goal in style – but they had been backing their team with passion throughout the game.
The battling Diamonds then held out until half-time, but the hosts two goals in the second period wrapped up a deserved win. The first came immediately after the restart, when a high ball into the area was mishandled by Tom Cross and bounced into the net, possibly off the foot or knee of Arron Parkinson. The Diamonds struggled to get back to the levels that they had shown in the first half, and might have gone further behind after 50 minutes when a Koriya trip led to a Dover penalty that Tom Murphy blazed over the bar. After 69 minutes substitute Michael Bakare ran through a gap in the Diamonds defence before seeing his shot thud against the post, but the game was made safe after 75 minutes when Barry Cogan received the ball back after he had taken a corner on the left, and he drilled a low shot between several players and into the net.
Although the Diamonds rarely threatened in the second period, they continued to battle in order to ensure that the final scoreline was a fair reflection of the game.
Dover Athletic (White / Black): Mitch Walker, Michael Kamara, Tom Wynter, Craig Stone (c), Sean Raggett, Richard Orlu, Ricky Modeste, James Rogers, Nathan Elder, Barry Cogan, Tom Murphy. Subs: Elliott Charles (for Elder 84), Michael Bakare (for Modeste 64), Moses Ademola, Ashley Carew, Terrell Forbes, Lee Hook, Liam Bellamy.
AFC Rushden & Diamonds (Sky Blue / Navy Blue): Tom Cross, Joe Merrill, Sam Brown, Brad Harris, Arron Parkinson (c), Jamal Clarke, Nat Liburd, Aaron King, Russ Dunkley, Alfie Taylor, Fazel Koriya. Subs: Séan McBride (for Liburd 84), Adam Whybrow, Lance Allen (for Koriya 76), Jake Gillingwater, Alex Deakin, Jack Wisniewski, Matt Gearing.
Yellow Card: Sam Brown
Goals: Raggett (14, 1-0), Taylor (34, 1-1), Parkinson (OG) (46, 2-1), Cogan (75, 3-1).
Referee: Mr David Rock.
Diamonds Man of the Match: Alfie Taylor
The Diamonds return to league action on Tuesday evening when Peterborough Northern Star visit the Dog & Duck – preview here.
For video highlights and post-match interviews click here.