AFC Rushden & Diamonds moved to the top of the Southern League Division One Central after a comeback victory over lowly North Greenford on Saturday afternoon. 

 Diamonds struggled for the majority of the opening period and deservedly fell behind in the 20th minute when a short Sam Brown backpass saw Matt Finlay’s attempted clearance charged down by George Moore and the ball roll into the unguarded net. The hosts looked dangerous with the interplay between their forwards and midfield and they created a couple of half chances from this, but Rushden equalised four minutes before the break as Tommy Berwick latched onto a Brown long throw and cushioned a volley into the far corner of the goal. 

 The Diamonds flew out the traps in the second half and were ahead within a minute of the whistle, as Lamb-Johnson latched onto a clearance on the edge of the box and slammed a shot into the top corner with the aid of a slight deflection. The tempo and rhythm were notably intensified and more fluent in this second period for Diamonds, and they managed to avoid a nervy final few minutes when Scott Joseph flicked home a Claudiu Hoban goalbound volley after 83 minutes to seal the win. 

 Manager Andy Peaks made two enforced changes to the side which had defeated Bedford Town 2-0 on Bank Holiday Monday, as Delroy Gordon and Courtney Herbert missed out. Brad Harris came into the side at right back and Elliot Lamb-Johnson just ahead of him on the right wing. Alongside this, captain Richard Bunting made his 50th league appearance for the Diamonds and Scott Joseph retained his place after his first goal of the season last time out. 

 On an initially cloudy and slightly overcast day in West London, it was the home side who were able to dictate the early stages of the game. Buoyed from their 5-1 FA Cup victory over Wembley FC in midweek, they closed Diamonds down at quick speed and at every opportunity, stopped the visitors settling into any rhythm and also represented a threat when pressing forward. Joint top goal-scorers George Moore and Jeyson N’Zambi were combining well, and it was Moore who had the first two opportunities. In the second minute he dragged a 20 yard left footed shot wide of the mark after being allowed room on the outside of the box, and then five minutes later he flashed another effort over the goal and the stand behind when picking up the ball beyond the Diamonds midfield.

 The Blues were also looking dangerous down both flanks, and one run by the right winger Suleiman Djalo saw him skip beyond Sam Brown and pull the ball across the edge of the area looking for N’Zambi. However the ball ran past the Greenford number 9 and fell perfectly into the path of the onrushing Josh Brown, but thankfully for the visitors the midfielder scooped his shot over the top of Matt Finlay’s crossbar.

 Aside from a brief five to ten minute period just past the quarter hour mark where the Diamonds forced a couple of corners and built up a couple of promising moves, Cristian Pal was largely untroubled in the North Greenford goal. The away side’s midfield in particular was unable to get their foot on the ball regularly and were having to attempt to stop Greenford attacks rather than help to create their own.

 After 20 minutes had elapsed, the hosts’ pressure eventually told and they took the lead in slightly bizarre circumstances. A cleared Diamonds corner led to a counter attack and N’Zembi attempting to link up with his strike partner Moore. It appeared the danger had been nullified when Richard Bunting stepped in to win possession, fed the ball to Brown and he in turn tried to play the ball back to Finlay, but the full-back’s pass was underhit and it allowed George Moore to charge down the goalkeeper’s attempted clearance with the ball rolling into the unguarded net. This goal appeared to rock the Diamonds to start with rather than galvanise them into an instant response, and they easily could have fell two goals behind four minutes after the opening goal. Jack Ashton was this time guilty of a misplaced pass, and Brown seized on the ball, advanced forward on the Rushden defence and flashed an effort over the goal when he seemingly had other options available. This highlighted North Greenford’s apparent shoot-on-sight policy that was evident in the first half, and coming up to the half hour stage the lead they held was fully deserved.

 There was a further blow to hit the Diamonds after 35 minutes when influential skipper Bunting hobbled off after a challenge in midfield. Ollie Wilkinson took his place, and he moved into the right-back berth with Harris slotting into the centre of midfield. Ironically, this coupled with the sun just starting to shine around Berkeley Fields signalled a change in momentum of the game, and one key facet of this shift saw Harris put in a couple of steely sliding challenges to win possession back for the Diamonds and help them to build some pressure.

 Rushden managed to fashion an equaliser in the 41st minute, and akin to the goals scored against Petersfield Town and Kings Langley, a Sam Brown long throw was at the heart of it. His catapult-like pitch into the penalty area saw Dolman attempt to flick the ball across goal, but the ball looped to the middle of the box where Tommy Berwick was on hand to caress a volley into the right side of the goal.

 Claudiu Hoban had shown the odd glimpse of his undoubted quality in the opening half, and on the stroke of half-time he stole possession on the half-way line, sprinted down the left channel and as he just advanced into the penalty area he attempted a shot across goal, but the ball sailed harmlessly over.

 This proved to be the final action of the half as referee Tim Donnellan called time on a half where the home side could count themselves slightly unfortunate to be heading to the changing rooms on level terms.

 Half Time: North Greenford United 1-1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

 There was a general feeling around the ground that the Diamonds would be much improved in the second half, and a strong signal of their intent saw them forge into the lead less than a minute after the restart. Again a Sam Brown long throw from the left caused trouble for the home backline, though the header clear by defender Orlando Rodrigues appeared to have dealt with the danger. Elliot Lamb-Johnson had other ideas. The Diamonds winger seized on the ball just outside the box, jinked onto his right foot and sent an unerring shot, albeit with the aid of a slight deflection, into the top right corner of Pal’s goal giving the Greenford stopper no chance.

 The visitors had a lot more purpose and flexibility about them in the early echelons of the half, and wingers Lamb-Johnson and Hoban were able to start getting on the ball more and help to dictate proceedings for the away side. One such move on the hour mark saw Hoban produce a neat piece of footwork to draw a foul on the left side from Vianney Kokolou, who was booked for his troubles. Scott Joseph stood over the dead ball but could only bend his effort wide of the far post.

 Lamb-Johnson appeared to hobble off the pitch moments later to be replaced by Tom Lorraine, and in a further re-shuffle Berwick went across to the right wing to allow Lorraine to partner Joseph up front. The Diamonds’ defence looked a lot more at ease throughout the 45 minutes, with Dan Quigley doing a prominent job of clearing up in front of the back four but Wilkinson, Dolman, Ashton and Brown all looking strong and confident when called upon themselves. One of the rare occasions on which they were troubled saw a neat and patient interchange outside the visitors penalty area lead to Moore slicing a shot wide of Finlay’s left hand post.

 With the contest entering the last twenty minutes, thoughts turned back to the games away at St Ives and Ware where Rushden lost their lead in the latter stages of both fixtures, and therefore the visitors continued with the high pressure in an attempt to find the clinching third goal. Brown played a sharp one-two with Joseph and latched onto the return pass down the left flank, but his drilled ball across goal was turned over the goal on the volley by the arriving Lorraine. Diamonds then won a free kick around 35 yards out, and Berwick curled an inviting delivery to the back post where a stretching Quigley could only flick his header wide of the post.

 However, in the 83rd minute, the visitors were able to find the crucial third goal. Hoban initially broke down the left and attempted to find Joseph in the middle, but home captain Yannis Ambroisine turned the ball behind for a corner with the Diamonds striker appearing annoyed that the ball hadn’t been crossed earlier. The resultant corner was unintentionally headed up in the air by Ashton, and the ball dropped just inside the penalty area for Hoban to strike a volley goalwards that Scott Joseph was able to nonchalantly flick home in the six yard box.

 This goal sucked any life out of a potential North Greenford fightback, and further gloss could have been added to the scoreline had Lorraine managed to keep his poked effort down after good work down the right by lively substitute Charlie Butt.

 After six minutes of added time had elapsed, the whistle was blown on a topsy-turvy contest which saw the Diamonds eventually run out worthy victors.

 Full Time: North Greenford United 1-3 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

 The Diamonds were very far from their best in a below-par opening period, but the clinical nature they showed by scoring with their only chance of the half along with their ability to raise the tempo and standard of performance in the second period was still pleasing. The three points was what the team set out to attain and that they did, and the importance of the victory was highlighted further by Aylesbury throwing away a two goal lead at home to Fleet which helps the Diamonds move into first place in the league table. They have also set a new club record for the amount of games unbeaten, which has now reached 28 in all competitions and dates back to the 10th January. North Greenford belied their second to bottom league standing with this performance and can be mightily pleased with their efforts, and Diamonds’ next game sees a similar length of journey to this one as they travel to Bedfont & Feltham FC in the FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round next Saturday.

 Diamonds Man of the Match: Tommy Berwick

 Attendance: Approx. 150

 Match Report by Ollie Mortimer

North Greenford United

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

1. Cristian Pal

2. Vianney Kokolou

3. Ramos Kalogirou

4. Orlando Rodrigues

5. Yannis Ambroisine (C)

6. Ahmed Mohammed

7. Suleiman Djalo

8. Josh Brown

9. Jeyson N’Zambi

10. George Moore

11. Charlie Mitchell

 

Substitutes:

12. Raphael Tepe (for N’Zambi 71)

14. Jessy Yoboue (for Brown 75)

16. Joelson Sany (for Djalo 59)

17. Ricardo Diniz

17. Matt Finlay

2. Brad Harris

3. Sam Brown

4. Jack Ashton

5. Liam Dolman

6. Dan Quigley

7. Elliot Lamb-Johnson

8. Richard Bunting (C)

9. Scott Joseph

10. Tommy Berwick

11. Claudiu Hoban

 

Substitutes:

12. Tom Lorraine (for Lamb-Johnson 63)

13. Rhys Redding

14. Charlie Butt (for Joseph 85)

15. Jake Gillingwater

16. Ollie Wilkinson (for Bunting 35)

Goals: Moore (20)

Goals: Berwick (41), Lamb-Johnson (46), Joseph (83)

Yellow Cards: Kokolou (60), Moore (78)

Yellow Cards: None

Referee: Tim Donnellan

Assistants: Ian Stewart, Mateusz Filipak

 

 

Updated player profiles with appearance and goalscoring details are now available.

Click here for video highlights and post-match interviews.

Match Gallery courtesy of Stephanie Webb Photography Copyright Stephanie Webb Photography ©2015

 

 
 
 

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