AFC Rushden & Diamonds fell to defeat in the Emirates FA Cup Third Qualifying Round after a 3-0 loss to Hendon at Silver Jubilee Park on Saturday afternoon.

Play was mainly even in the early exchanges as both teams threatened and showed promise when moving forward with the ball. Liam Dolman saw a free-kick go narrowly wide of the near post and then Tom Lorraine hit a volley over the crossbar for the Diamonds, and for the hosts Karl Oliyide sprinted into the box before hitting an effort that flicked off the bar. Nabil Shariff broke through with pace shortly afterwards for the visitors before seeing his shot across goal kicked away by the keeper, and Diamonds stopper Matt Finlay was called into action himself when a Niko Muir pull-back found Oliyide whosee resulting effort was beaten away, and though Andre Da Costa headed in the rebound, the offside flag had already been raised. The hosts were to take the lead in the 37th minute though when full-back Oliver Sprague determinedly ran forward and kept the ball in play for Casey Maclaren to cross towards the back post for Oliyide to volley home despite Finlay’s best attempts to keep it out. The striker could and should have doubled the lead when he missed a tantalising cross in from Muir on the left wing, and aside from a Shariff cross being held and a Lorraine shot also being collected the home side were able to maintain their lead and the advantage at the half-time break.

The fast-paced nature that had been evident for much of the opening 45 minutes continued in the second period, and Shariff was the first to threaten for Diamonds with a header that looped over the bar. The Greens responded with a Chris Seeby shot that was brilliantly parried away by Finlay when it appeared he would score, but Diamonds sprang back on the attack themselves and Nic Evangelinos was found free on the left side of the box before seeing his near-post effort tipped onto the post by goalkeeper Berkley Laurencin. Parsons shortly after saw a shot well held and then an attempted ball across the face of goal stopped by the keeper, and Hendon made the visitors pay for the missed opportunities in the 58th minute when Spencer McCall was found in space to slot a right-footed, precise effort past Finlay into the far corner of the net. Rushden now had to throw caution to the wind in the hope of finding a way back into the contest, but despite Taylor Orosz and Chris Wreh being summoned from the bench they struggled to create many more clear, goalscoring chances. Lively winger Da Costa had a shot saved for the hosts before the match was put beyond the Diamonds’ reach in the 80th minute when Muir jinked away from Harris and dispatched a clinical finish into the roof of the net. Orosz sliced wide after being fed by Shariff as Diamonds seeked a consolation, but it wasn’t to be forthcoming as Hendon closed out the victory and progression to the next qualifying round.

Diamonds manager Andy Peaks made two alterations to the side that had drawn with high-flying Romulus FC in midweek, Nic Evangelinos made a welcome return to the starting eleven as he replaced Taylor Orosz and Lewis Jackson was handed his first competitive start for the Diamonds at the expense of the ill Kyal McNulty.

With Hendon plying their trade a league above their opponents, in the Ryman Premier Division, and with the Diamonds having the likes of Jack Ashton, Ross Oulton, Joe Curtis, Jon Stevenson, Sam Brown and McNulty all out injured, the visitors knew it would be another big test as the two teams entered onto the Silver Jubilee Park artificial surface. Confidence was quite high though after only one defeat in the last nine games for Rushden, and with The Greens having picked up two impressive wins in their FA Cup run thus far, so the stage was set for an entertaining spectacle as referee Thomas Hancock got the action underway.

It was the away side who were the first to threaten inside the opening two minutes as they earnt a throw-in down the right wing. Aidan Bradshaw launched a long pitch into the box for Tom Lorraine to win a flick-on that caused initial panic in the home defence, but the ball was eventually cleared away upfield. Hendon themselves quickly broke away up to the other end, and a dangerous cross from the right fell for Andre Da Costa at the back post. Although his attempted pull-back was easily cleared it fell for full-back Oliver Sprague to hit a shot, but the thrashed effort was always rising and ended up comfortably clearing Matt Finlay’s crossbar.

The contest had begun at a quick and almost frenetic pace, with the ball swiftly worked into the Hendon defensive third again as Evangelinos almost broke through and clear on goal but a crucial clearance was made to avert the danger. The tricky winger then embarked on a jinking run as he drove in from the left flank, and he was upended in his efforts to move forward. Richard Bunting and Liam Dolman stood over the dead-ball that sat around 30 yards from goal, and it was the latter who stepped up to whip an effort over the defensive wall that hit the side-netting. For a brief moment the vocal Diamonds fans behind the goal thought it had nestled into the back of the net, but it hadn’t and the score remained goalless.

The visitors were looking confident in possession and dangerous when they broke forward with pace as they continued to try and force the issue in the early stages. In the 11th minute a brief period of pinball in the Hendon penalty box led to the ball dropping invitingly for Lorraine, though his snapshot flew well over the bar. Only a minute later the striker had a further opportunity when a flick-on from him was headed back into his path, and he wasted no chance in hitting a first-time attempt that again disappeared over the top of Berkley Laurencin’s goal.

The hosts, who came into the match fourth-from-bottom in their league standings, then began to get an attacking foothold of their own in the game. After Sprague had seen a shot easily blocked away by the Diamonds defence, they were inches away from notching the all-important first goal when a quick break ended in Casey Maclaren feeding Karl Oliyide to run through on goal and hit a left-footed shot that beat Finlay but flicked off the crossbar and behind for a goal-kick. Rushden responded to that let-off with Evangelinos again posing a threat in sprinting forward to release a shot at goal that drifted wide of the near-post.

Both teams were finding space in the midfield areas as a pacey tempo and rhythm from both teams led to the game being slightly stretched, and this was exemplified in the 19th minute. The ever-working Nabil Shariff received possession on the left side and he purposefully ran into space before jinking away from a covering defender to run into the penalty area. His final touch forced him slightly wide however, but despite the narrowing angle he still hit a precise effort across goal that Laurencin had to kick away with his left foot. Shortly afterwards a loose clearance fell for Lorraine on the edge of the area and he was forced to toepoke the ball as a defender closed in, and though it was on target it represented an easy save for the goalkeeper.

In between these two opportunities Niko Muir had been allowed time and space to slash an effort over and wide for Hendon from the right, and as the contest ticked past the 25 minute mark nothing could separate the teams in what had been a largely even and well-fought period of the match. However, after Diamonds had won the first corner of the match, and then a free-kick, which both came to nothing, the hosts would go on to dominate the rest of the half. On the half-hour Muir powered past Jackson on the right and slipped the ball back to Oliyide in plenty of room 12 yards out; he in turn smashed a shot at goal that Finlay brilliantly beat away, but only to the lurking Da Costa who was able to head the rebound into the unguarded net. Fortunately for the Diamonds though, the offside flag had been raised and the goal was therefore disallowed.

Moments later Da Costa tricked inside from the left, and with no Rushden player coming out to meet the dangerous winger, he whipped an effort towards goal that initially looked like it may trouble Finlay but in the end sailed comfortably into his grateful grasp. The Hendon number 11 was beginning to cause plenty of problems on the left side with his quick feet and direct running, and he skipped forward a minute after his shot to fire a ball towards Maclaren on the edge of the box. He inadvertently missed his flick, but it still ran through to Oliyide to thrash a first-time shot over the bar.

The pressure eventually told though as The Greens took the lead in the 37th minute. Sprague galloped forward from left-back and kept going as he bypassed midfield and advanced on the Diamonds back-four. He reached Rory Winters and tried to knock the ball around him to carry on his run, but with the away defender and two fellow teammates there it appeared the danger would be quashed as the ball was about to run out of play. However Sprague reached it just before the ball ran for a goal-kick, and he was able to backheel it which in turn caught the nearby Rushden players off-guard. Maclaren latched onto the pullback and stood up an inviting cross to the back post where Karl Oliyide volleyed home despite Finlay’s best efforts. Sprague, who had ran into the barrier separating the pitch and stand behind the goal as he kept the ball in play, stayed down afterwards and was forced to come off to be replaced by Mayowa Balogun.

Hendon went very close to doubling their advantage as the visitors struggled to deal with the ever-increasing pressure that was coming their way. Muir ran into the left channel and span away from Winters to curl a cross into the middle of the box, and despite him being right in front of goal and seemingly on the verge of scoring Oliyide failed to make any contact and the ball ran out for a goal-kick.

Rushden needed a spell of possession and calmness to alleviate the Hendon forward momentum, and they got this in the 41st minute as a spell of pressure for them led to Shariff almost breaking through, but the ball was cleared before Bradshaw overlapped down the right before sending his attempted cross out of play. Lorraine then span well in the next attack and went close to finding Parsons in an advanced position, but the hosts stood firm again and hacked the ball upfield.

Shariff had found himself slightly isolated for spells of the half with Lorraine often dropping deep to help out the Rushden midfield, but the number 10 almost needed no-one else as he received the ball from Winters with his back to goal on the halfway line. Though there was no options ahead of Shariff he turned swiftly away from one challenge and ran determinedly down the left channel before reaching the edge of the box. He jinked one way, and then the other, to drive into the left side of the box, and his dangerous cross towards Lorraine was almost dropped by Laurencin but was eventually held.

There was to be one final chance of the opening half, and this came for the Diamonds in stoppage time. Da Costa played an errant pass that ran for Lorraine, and he in turn was able to run positively forward before poking a shot quickly that the Hendon keeper was able to drop onto. The half-time whistle was blown a minute later, with only one goal separating the two teams and therefore the tie still being very much in the balance as the two sides headed for the changing rooms.

Half Time: Hendon FC 1-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

The visitors re-entered the pitch a couple of minutes before their opposing numbers, and with Hendon having failed to win a home league match so far this season and them also having not kept a clean sheet at Silver Jubilee Park there was still optimism amongst the travelling Diamonds support that they could get back into the contest.

Less than a minute after referee Hancock had signalled the beginning of the half Rushden earnt a free-kick wide on the right wing after Parsons had been felled. Evangelinos jogged across to drill a tempting delivery into the area, but Shariff was leaning back as he tried to generate power on the header and the resultant effort looped comfortably over the bar. The Greens responded with a neat interchange between Muir and Oliyide leading to Spencer McCall being found, and his shot would have troubled Finlay more if it hadn’t have been straight at the away stopper.

They then were able to draw a free-kick of their own around 25 yards from goal, though Da Costa’s curling attempt was partially blocked by the defensive wall and then easily collected by Finlay.

The home danger and menace of the opening half had carried on into the early exchanges of the second 45 minutes, and in the 51st minute they went narrowly close to extending the lead. A corner from the right was flicked on at the near post to full-back Chris Seeby who found himself all alone, and he dispatched a shot back across goal that Finlay somehow got a finger to from close-range to tip it past the post.

Moments later Diamonds were millimetres away from scoring the all-important equaliser. Shariff was again at the heart of the attacking foray as he controlled a bobbling ball on the halfway line and powered forward to face the Hendon defence. With Evangelinos on his left and Lorraine on his right the striker had supporting options, and although it initially appeared that he had taken too long in making his decision, he fed a precise ball out to the former who was in space. Evangelinos set the ball and, with Seeby closing, hit a shot towards the near post that Laurencin was able to get a hand to to tip it onto the near post before the ball was smacked upfield away from danger.

This proved the trigger for a spell of Rushden pressure as they forged onto the front foot and seeked a leveller. Shariff adroitly flicked a ball forward into the path of Lorraine, and he in turn found Parsons on his outside who flashed an effort towards goal from the right, though Laurenicn was able to save and hold onto the ball. Shariff and Parsons were involved again when quick and efficient pressing from the front-man saw him win possession high up the pitch and then feed Parsons running through into the right side of the box. With options available in the middle Laurencin raced out of his goalmouth to try to narrow the angle and prevent an attempted ball across, and this he was able to achieve as the ball hit his body and ran close enough for him to dive on.

A well-known cliché in football is that if you don’t convert your chances when they arise you’ll often get punished, and this proved to be the exact case when the hosts doubled their advantage in the 58th minute. A quick throw on the right was pitched into the path of Oliyide, and he chested down into space before neatly flicking a ball around the corner for Spencer McCall to run onto. He stole a march on his marker to take a touch into the box and then drive a precise shot past the despairing dive of Finlay and into the back of the net.

Peaks responded to this setback by introducing Taylor Orosz at the expense of Parsons, and then shortly afterwards Chris Wreh came on for Bunting. This prompted a small reshuffle as Lorraine dropped back into the centre of midfield, and Wreh went up front to play alongside Shariff. It didn’t have much impact though as the hosts confidence grew with the two-goal buffer, and substitute Balogun delivered an inviting cross from the left flank that the pacey Muir was just failed to get a touch on and it ended up running across goal. A threat was then posed from the other side and from the other home full-back as Seeby skipped into the right side of the area and left two Rushden players floundering. He drew Finlay and then whipped the ball past him and across goal, but though the Diamonds goal was temporarily unguarded the visitors managed to smuggle the ball away and clear.

The clock ticked to less than twenty minutes remaining as Hendon continued to shut out the game effectively whilst looking dangerous when they broke away with pace, and Rushden were struggling to build any period of possession or threatening tempo that would pose a problem to the home defence. They did win a free-kick just ahead of the halfway line, and it was taken quickly to Dolman who delicately clipped it into the middle where several away players were waiting, but Bradshaw’s subsequent flick ran out for a goal-kick. The visiting defence was then caught slightly off-guard when a long clearance forward from the Hendon backline allowed Muir to run in behind and reach ahead of the covering Dolman, but his attempted lob after seeing Finlay off his line sailed harmlessly over the crossbar.

The Greens were capably dealing with any pass, run or move forward from the away side as the Diamonds began to commit more men upfield, and one brief chance saw Orosz feed Shariff whose quick footwork allowed him to move into space on the right of the penalty area. He looked up and tried to dink a cross in to the lurking Orosz at the back post, but Seeby confidently headed the ball away before it could reach the substitute. They were forced into their final substitution moments later as Dolman limped off to be replaced by midfielder Jordan Holmes, which meant Brad Harris moved back to partner Winters and Holmes slotted straight into the middle of the park.

Space was continuing to open up in the midfield areas as the contest was stretched, with Diamonds desperately searching for a way back into the tie but consequently leaving themselves susceptible to Hendon counter-attacks. One such instance saw the hosts move swiftly forward into their attacking third, and the lively Da Costa found room to dispatch a shot goalwards that Finlay was able to hold, and in the next example the game was put beyond any reach of Rushden. A few yards ahead of the halfway line Winters attempted to win an aerial duel but came off second best as Niko Muir flicked it on and ran onto the bouncing ball. He sprinted forward and upon reaching the penalty area quickly shifted the ball onto his left foot which allowed him to escape away from Harris and then bury an unerring finish past Finlay into the roof of the goal.

A minute later Diamonds should have had a goal back when Shariff picked up on a Jackson slide tackle, turned and ran forward before feeding the marauding Orosz on his right side, but despite the striker finding himself through on goal sufficient pressure was put upon him by a defender for him to slice his shot wide of the near post. Moments after Da Costa saw another shot held by Finlay Orosz launched into a sliding challenge of his own, and he was booked alongside home skipper Kevin Maclaren for the reaction to the tackle that had seen tempers briefly flare.

One final opportunity fell to each side in stoppage time at the end of the entertaining clash, with firstly Holmes standing up a cross for Wreh to chest down and then thrash over for the visitors, and then Seeby galloping forward down the right before slamming his resultant shot wide of the near post. The full-time whistle was sounded after five additional minutes to call time on a fast-paced and highly attack-minded affair that the hosts deservedly emerged victorious in.

Full Time: Hendon FC 3-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Diamonds’ FA Cup run comes to an end one round short of the stage that they reached last season, but they can take great pride and heart from the matches that they played in reaching the Third Qualifying Round, none more so than the Concord Rangers victory in the previous round and the opening 20 minute salvo that will live long in the memory of every Rushden fan who was there to witness it. Facing higher league opposition with a raft of injuries and players missing was always going to be a tough assignment, but they still battled manfully till the very end and held their own for parts of the contest. The main ‘what if’ moment that will be looked back upon was Evangelinos’ shot that came back off the upright when the score at the time was 1-0, but that is to take nothing away from Hendon who consistently posed problems for the Diamonds backline, were clinical when their chances came along and deserved the win. They progress to the last round of FA Cup Qualifying, but for Rushden their attentions now turn to the Buildbase FA Trophy in their next match as they host Histon FC in the Preliminary Round of the competition at the Dog & Duck on Saturday October 8th (3pm kick-off).  

Diamonds Man of the Match: Nic Evangelinos

Attendance: 417

Match Report by Ollie Mortimer

Hendon FC

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

1. Berkley Laurencin

2. Chris Seeby

3. Oliver Sprague

4. Arthur Lee

5. Alfie Young

6. Kevin Maclaren (C)

7. Spencer McCall

8. Casey Maclaren

9. Niko Muir

10. Karl Oliyide

11. Andre Da Costa

 

Substitutes:

12. Luke Tingey

14. Mayowa Balogun (for Sprague 39)

15. Aaron Morgan (for Muir 83)

16. Keagan Cole

17. Dave Diedhiou

18. Omar Vassell

19. Finbarr Robins (for Oliyide 72)

17. Matt Finlay

2. Aidan Bradshaw

3. Lewis Jackson

4. Rory Winters

5. Liam Dolman

6. Brad Harris

7. Richard Bunting (C)

8. Robbie Parsons

9. Tom Lorraine

10. Nabil Shariff

11. Nic Evangelinos

 

Substitutes:

12. Jake Newman

13. Joseph Haynes

14. Luke Gardner

15. Taylor Orosz (for Parsons 61)

16. Chris Wreh (for Bunting 63)

18. Jordan Holmes (for Dolman 78)

Goals: Oliyide (37), McCall (58), Muir (80)

Goals: None

Yellow Cards: McCall (75), K. Maclaren (89)

Yellow Cards: Harris (50), Shariff (87), Orosz (89)

Referee: Thomas Hancock

Assistants: Gavin Jolley, Laurentiu Hantea

 

 Match Gallery courtesy of Stephanie Webb Photography Copyright Stephanie Webb Photography ©2016

 
 
 

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