AFC Rushden & Diamonds returned to winning ways with a 4-1 victory over Northwich Victoria at Wincham Park on Saturday afternoon. Nabil Shariff created the Diamonds opener for Jack Bowen and then scored a hat-trick, as well as missing a penalty in the first half.

The Diamonds opening goal came after a surging run by Nabil Shariff into the right-hand side of the penalty area saw a low cross converted by Jack Bowen after 11 minutes. Six minutes later a long throw from Sam Brown was met by an angled header from Shariff. The Diamonds were dominant in the first quarter, and had a chance to go further ahead from a bizarre penalty incident. Jack Bowen was breaking down the right channel, and was clearly being fouled as he went, with the linesman flagging vigorously. Bowen managed to get in a cross, and this was caught by defender Matthew Clarke, who was assuming the referee had stopped play – and hence a penalty was given for handball. Nabil Shariff saw his spot kick saved.

This seemed to inspire the hosts, and as the game entered the second quarter they started to get into the Diamonds area, and a long free kick saw the ball hit Brad Harris on the arm and a penalty awarded, which Stuart McDonald converted four minutes before the break.

The Diamonds had goals disallowed in both halves, and had to wait until the hour mark for the crucial third goal. Ollie Brown-Hill threaded the ball through to Nabil Shariff wide on the right, and he cut inside and into the area, and after a stepover he fired home. The Diamonds striker’s hat-trick came in the fourth minute of added time when a defensive error saw a clearance go straight to him and he coolly slotted home.

Andy Peaks had started with Ollie Brown-Hill, Shawn Richards and Nabil Shariff returning to the side at the expense of Joe Curtis, Tom Lorraine and Taylor Orosz, with Dan Quigley partnering Ben Farrell in central midfield, with Ben Ford slotting in at right back as Brown-Hill and Richards took the wide roles on the left and right respectively. Brad Harris moved into the centre-back role once more as Shariff partnered Jack Bowen up front for the first time.

The pitch was rather dry and sandy, but didn’t have a major impact on the quality of football on offer.

The pattern of the game was established early on, with some of the most attractive football the Diamonds have produced this season. They were closing down quickly, competing for and winning second balls, and threading their passes through the Vics defence. Both Quigley and Farrell had options on either flank, as well as being prepared to move forward themselves, with the 4-4-2 shape allowing them to do this. After three minutes Quigley threaded the ball thorough the defence for Shariff to break clear, but his effort was blocked for a corner. After 11 minutes of pressure it was no surprise when Diamonds got the opening goal. Nabil Shariff burst into the area on the right, almost reaching the byline before a low cross was headed home by Jack Bowen.

Another positive feature of the Diamonds performance was the improved quality of delivery at free kicks and corners, with Ben Ford and Shawn Richards to the fore, and it was a Ford freekick that was worked out for a throw on the Diamonds left. Sam Brown took the throw, and with the Vics defence occupied by Quigley, Dolman and Harris it was left to Nabil Shariff to produce an angled header past keeper Forth after 17 minutes.

Four minutes later the Diamonds had the ball in the net again, but the impressive Shawn Richards had seen the ball strike his arm as he took a long ball from Quigley in his stride before firing home.

The game entered its second quarter before the hosts were able to exert any pressure, getting several players into the area on the left, and it took a great covering header from Sam Brown to clear the danger. A corner shortly afterwards could have produced more for the Vics as John Bennett was unable to make the most of a free header.

After another Diamonds chance from a freekick 25 yards out in front of goal, Shariff was unlucky to see a cross from the raiding Ford end up just too far behinf him to allow him to get sufficient power on his header.

The Diamonds then had a chance to go further ahead from a bizarre penalty incident. Jack Bowen was breaking down the right channel, and was clearly being fouled as he went, with the linesman flagging vigorously. Bowen managed to get in a cross, and this was caught by defender Matthew Clarke, who was assuming the referee had stopped play – and hence a penalty was given for handball. Nabil Shariff made a slow approach to the spot kick, seeing his effort saved as keeper Forth read his intentions.

This seemed to inspire the hosts, and as the game entered the second quarter they started to get into the Diamonds area, and a long free kick saw the ball hit Brad Harris on the arm and a penalty awarded, which Stuart McDonald converted four minutes before the break.

There was still time to see a Ben Ford effort well-saved by Forth at his near post, and a Shariff effort from a corner blocked on the line.

After such domination the Diamonds fans were disappointed to see their team only a single goal ahead at the break, but would have been pleased with the general play and levels of commitment.

Half-Time: Northwich Victoria 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2

The second half started with the Diamonds camped in the hosts’ half, winning a succession of corners, which were mostly well delivered, although the Vics defence were able to deal with them well, with this being one of their strengths. Both Shawn Richards and Ollie Brown-Hill were having good games, with Brown-Hill firing just over before a Richards free-kick was met by Dan Quigley but the effort was caught by the busy Forth.

The two wide players had switched flanks by the hour mark, so it was Brown-Hill on the right who threaded the ball through to Nabil Shariff wide on the that flank, and he cut inside and into the area, and after a stepover he fired home across keeper Forth.

Ten minutes later the Diamonds produced a quality move that deserved better. Ben Farrell won the ball under pressure and flicked on to Dan Quigley who was also being closely marked, but he quickly worked the ball into the path of Nabil Shariff who burst clear and deceived Forth to fire home at the near post, but the linesman was flagging for offside.

The Vics were having rather more possession, and started to find holes in the Diamonds defence, culminating with a goal chalked off for offside, shortly followed by substitute Imade failing to covert when unmarked in front of goal.

Nabil Shariff was still working hard, striving for his hat-trick, but saw an effort go over the bar as time was running out. The Diamonds striker’s hat-trick finally came in the fourth minute of added time when a defensive error saw a clearance go straight to him and he coolly slotted home.

Full-Time: Northwich Victoria 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 4

The Diamonds now have a break from League action as they host Buxton FC in the Integro League Cup on Tuesday Evening, before hosting Leek Town in a league game on Saturday 18th. Brad Harris was the only Diamonds player to receive a yellow card during the game, but that was his tenth of the season (received the day before the deadline for such bans), meaning he faces a two game ban starting with the Leek game.

Attendance: 131

Diamonds Man of the Match: Nabil Shariff

 

Northwich Victoria

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

1. Dylan Forth

2. Matthew Clarke

3. George Mannion

4. Andrew Fitzgerald

5. Reece Lyndon

6. John Bennett

7. Stuart McDonald

8. Cesaire Lingouba

9. Jack Kelleher

10. Yaw Gyimah

11. Drew Matthews

Subs

12. Matty Shaw (for Bennett 67)

14. Favour Imade (for Matthews 62)

15. Adam Lawrence (for Lyndon 72)

17. Ben Heath

2. Ben Ford

3. Sam Brown

4. Brad Harris

5. Liam Dolman

6. Ben Farrell

7. Shawn Richards

8. Dan Quigley

9. Jack Bowen

10. Nabil Shariff

11. Ollie Brown-Hill

Subs

12. Taylor Orosz (for Richards 88)

13. Matt Finlay

14. Joe Curtis (for Farrell 74)

15. Fazel Koriya

16. Tom Lorraine (for Bowen 86)

Goals: McDonald ( (pen), 41)

Goals: Bowen (11), Shariff (17, 60, 90+4)

Yellow Cards: Clarke, Fitzgerald, Lyndon, Bennett, Kelleher

Yellow Cards: Harris

Red Cards:

Red Cards:

Referee: Ben Atkinson

Assistant Referees: Mark Ryder, James Service

 

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

 

 
 
 

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