AFC Rushden & Diamonds slipped to a 2-1 defeat to Market Drayton Town in Shropshire on Saturday afternoon. After an impressive first half performance the Diamonds went two goals behind early in the second period, both goals resulting from penalties, although Ben Heath had saved the second spot kick, home striker Andre James netted the rebound. In between those two goals the Diamonds had gone down to ten men, when Callum Westwood had received a red card. A late Nabil Shariff goal gave the Diamonds some hope, but they were unable to get an equaliser.

Diamonds Manager Andy Peaks was able to bring back Dan Quigley after he was unavailable to start against Leek, but he was required at Centre Back alongside Liam Dolman. Ben Ford dropped to the bench, with Matt Finlay absent as he continues to recover from a leg injury picked up in a recent game.

On a pleasant spring-like afternoon the Diamonds started brightly, with a early free kick on the corner of their own area seeing Ben Heath ping the ball across the field over 50 yards to Shawn Richards who controlled the ball well on the left, cutting inside, but fired over the target.

The hosts had their best spell of the first half in the opening 10 minutes as both sides carved out chances, the long throws and dead ball kicks of James O’Neill adding to the threat of the impressive striker Andre James and wide player Joe Cuff who forced Heath to block a shot with his legs.

Once settled down the Diamonds dominated much of the remainder of the half. A neat move on the left saw Shariff, Richards and Brown combine to win a corner that Liam Dolman met with his head, glancing the ball just wide. Jack Bowen was providing a threat through the centre, and after 13 minutes he broke clear only to see his shot across goal strike the far post, and he was unable to strike home the rebound.

Four minutes later Nabil Shariff was also able to break free of his marker, lifting the ball over the advancing keeper, but a covering defender was able to clear the ball before it crossed the line. There were also a couple of penalty claims from the Diamonds during the first period, one in particular seeing a shot blocked by the arm of a defender at close range but the referee decided the contact was unavoidable.

Dan Quigley then did well to find space to latch onto a corner won by Ben Farrell, but his header bounced down and over the bar.

As the game moved into the second quarter, the two Diamonds strikers then combined for Bowen to flick on a long throw from Sam Brown, but Nabil Shariff couldn’t get sufficient power on his header to trouble Rawlins. Shariff then volleyed over when good work from Taylor Orosz near the byline created another chance. Shawn Richards was finding room on the Diamonds left, and his cross found the head of Jack Bowen, but his effort was caught by Rawlins.

Ben Farrell and Richard Bunting were both working hard in the Diamonds midfield. Bunting was showing his skills in reading the game to be latching on to many of the loose ball, whereas Farrell made a 40 yard run after breaking up a home attack to feed Shariff who was fouled on the edge of the area, but the resulting free kick was wasted.

Richards set up Bowen for a further chance before his team had perhaps their best chance of the half just before the interval, as Orosz raided down the right, finding Bowen who set up Shariff who turned and shot but Rawlins was able to fend the effort away for a corner.

The first half ended goalless, and perhaps this was the most disappointing aspect of a Diamonds performance that saw all four midfield players impressing – Bunting with his passing and interceptions, Farrell with his tackling and forward bursts, and both Richards and Orosz were active at both ends of the pitch, with incisive runs and crosses.

Half Time: Market Drayton Town 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0

After playing so well without reward in the first half, there was always the concern that the home side might take advantage, and although an early Diamonds free kick on the corner of the area came to nothing, the emphasis of the game was to change quickly five minutes into the second period. Liam Dolman was turned by the impressive Andre James, leaning on him as he moved towards goal, and the referee pointed to the spot, allowing James to get up and fire home.

Within a couple of minutes the Diamonds should have equalised and taken the sting out of the home side’s revival – but a neat 1-2 between Shariff and Bunting saw the Diamonds striker in the sort of position towards the left side of the area he might have been expected to score, but he sidefooted across the goal and wide.

That proved to be a costly miss, as a couple of minutes later the Diamonds were down to 10 men, as Callum Westwood tangled with Glyn Coney and the contact was worthy of a red card for the Diamonds defender. Things then got worse, as a cross from Cuff hit Sam Brown on the arm at close range, but this time the referee decided a penalty was in order – indeed he even booked Brown for deliberate hand-ball. Ben Heath did well to save the spotkick down to his right, but Andre James followed up to angle the ball into the net.

These few minutes had effectively decided the game, as the Diamonds were unable to re-establish the dominance they had in the first half, not helped by Richard Bunting picking up a knock shortly after Ross Oulton had been brought on for Shawn Richards.

The Diamonds struggled to create further chances, with a Ben Ford corner being cleared off the line perhaps the nearest they came before Nabil Shariff was able to turn and fire home after 85 minutes.

There were further calls for a Diamonds penalty when Shariff appeared to be tripped in the area, and Sam Brown fired an effort wide, but the hosts were able to resist the late pressure and hang on to the three points.

Full Time: Market Drayton Town 2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1

 The Diamonds face another trip ip the M6 on Tuesday when they travel to face title challengers Witton Albion.

Diamonds Man of the Match: Richard Bunting

Attendance: 234

Market Drayton Town

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

1. Ash Rawlins

2. Simon Gregory

3. Kevin Burton

4. Judd Ellis

5. James O’Neill

6. Andrew Hartlebury

7. Joe Cuff

8. Daniel Beddows

9. Andre James

10. William Whieldon

11. Glyn Coney

Subs

12. Nicholas Porter (for Hartlebury 10)

14. Benjamin Osei (for James 76)

15. Shaquille Whittingham (for Buxton 73)

16. Thomas Edge

17. Martyn Davies

17. Ben Heath

2. Callum Westwood

3. Sam Brown

4. Dan Quigley

5. Liam Dolman

6. Ben Farrell

7. Shawn Richards

8. Taylor Orosz

9. Jack Bowen

10. Nabil Shariff

11. Richard Bunting

Subs

12. Fazel Koriya

14. Ben Ford (for Orosz 58)

15. Tom Lorraine (for Bunting 73)

16. Ross Oulton (for Richards 60)

18. Ollie Brown-Hill

Goals: James (51 (pen), 63)

Goal: Shariff (85)

Yellow Cards:

Yellow Cards: Brown, Dolman

Red Cards:

Red Cards: Westwood (55)

Referee: Sam Mulhall

Assistant Referees: Jonathan Maskery, Paul Stonier

 

 
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