AFC Kempston Rovers 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2

AFC Rushden & Diamonds continued their quest for promotion, with an important three points against ten man AFC Kempston Rovers on Tuesday night.

Diamonds had fell behind two minutes into stoppage time at the end of the first half. Shane Bush had capitalised on poor Diamonds’ defending to tap in from six yards. Seb Simpson was sent off just after half time for two bookable offences. From then on the away side took control and a Brad Harris brace made sure that Diamonds’ run of 12 games unbeaten continued.

In Diamonds’ first mid-week league game in over two months, manager Andy Peaks shuffled his pack from his side’s dramatic late draw against promotion rivals Wisbech Town. Adam Confue was absent from the squad through injury, as Russ Dunkley and Declan Rogers were named among the substitutes. That earned recalls for Joe Merrill at right back, with Brad Harris back in central midfield, Elliot Lamb-Johnson wide right and Tom Lorraine up front. Diamonds knew that just four more victories would ensure finishing above Holbeach United.   

In the opening five minutes of the game, Kempston came out of the blocks the better team. Just thirty seconds in, a long throw by Tom Guiney on the right, was flicked on by Shane Bush to his striker partner Vinny Shrieves and his effort was tipped over the crossbar for a corner by Matt Finlay. The home side smelt blood and Shrieves, who turned out to be a handful all game, was involved. The tall striker found himself in some space on the right hand side, following a mistake by Liam Dolman, but fired over from a tight angle. 

Kempston’s quick start was short lived however. Diamonds began to find their rhythm and six minutes in, Jack Ashton could have put Diamonds one up. After captain Richard Bunting had been fouled, his free-kick found an unmarked Ashton at the far post but he couldn’t hit the target. Just three minutes later, Rushden had another chance from a free-kick. Bunting laid the ball to the side of a waiting Liam Dolman and he dragged his shot wide.

Rushden continued to press and Lamb-Johnson’s return to the starting XI had started to pay dividends. His pace and trickery was a key factor in this game and his hard work almost paid off in the 11th minute. The teenager had ran in behind the Kempston defence, got to the by-line and pulled it back to Lorraine. However despite the fans cheers, Lorraine had somehow put it wide from four yards out.

The Diamonds faithful were making noise again in the 17th minute, this time appealing for a penalty. Sam Brown put in a long throw towards the six yard box, Lorraine flicked the ball on to Berwick at the back post. As Berwick struck on the half volley, the ball had appeared to hit left-back Dan Winfield’s arm, however the young referee, who was officiating only his second UCL game, waved away protests. It was a big appeal, but it would have been a soft penalty had it been given.

The home side didn’t sit back by any means. They showed that wanted to win, having only been beaten twice previously at home this season. Their next best effort came from Shrieves again after 22 minutes. Ash Fuller had turned away from Brad Harris and found himself in space. The ball was then played into Shrieves, but it was easy for Finlay to smother.

The game was still in the balance with neither team really testing the goalkeepers. It was gritty, not pretty at times, with neither side wanting to give up their records easily. In the 34th minute, Lamb-Johnson had skilfully kept the ball away from three Kempston players before launching himself into a 50-50 tackle with Guiney. Lamb-Johnson had perfectly won the ball, but Guiney got straight back up and confronted the youngster to cue a mini confrontation between the two sides. This is the moment where the game turned a little sour.

Just three minutes after that, it seemed as though Ashton had been caught by an elbow from dangerman Shrieves but the referee didn’t even give a free-kick. The incident resulted in Ashton receiving treatment.

Diamonds looked to get a late first half lead, however it would be the home side who would go in front. Prior to the goal, Matt Gearing came close by hitting the crossbar in the 41st minute. He cut inside from the left wing and let go a blistering 25 yard strike which the keeper tipped onto the crossbar. Dolman also came close to breaking the deadlock from a Gearing corner, however his header lacked power.

But Kempston took the lead in only one of a few chances in the first half. Diamonds tried to play their way out of trouble with Brown going inside to Bunting, who played a hospital pass to the other full back Merrill. Perhaps lacking match practice, Merrill let the ball bounce which allowed Kempston winger Dom Marsala to nip in ahead of him. Marsala ran to the by-line before pulling the ball back to Shane Bush to convert on the half volley to give Kempston a 1-0 lead in the second minute of added time.

Although the first half wasn’t quite done there. Similar to the earlier challenge by Shrieves on Ashton, Seb Simpson’s name was taken by the referee for his arm being raised on Richard Bunting.

Half Time: AFC Kempston Rovers 1-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds.

No changes at half time, after Diamonds had gone a goal down once again for the third game in a row.

The opening stages of the second half were cagey once again with both teams unable to get a foothold on the game. Troublesome Lamb-Johnson had an early second half left-footed effort go wide before Ben Gallant saw his shot go just over the bar for Kempston.

Then the game turned on its head. Just seven minutes into the second half, Seb Simpson was given his marching orders for his second yellow card. The central midfielder had stupidly, knowing he had previously been booked, gone in high on Bunting and the referee had no other option than to send him off. 

So Diamonds had a great chance to go on and get the three points to get them closer to the United Counties Premier Division title. And they did just that. Following the red card, it settled the away side down and they began to pass the ball around the pitch, waiting patiently for the chances to come. The red card had forced Kempston onto the back foot, and this became more obvious when their manager had to take off the impressive Shrieves for a more pacey looking striker. It was clear what the home side wanted to do, counter-attack.

And it worked for them. The substitute, Ekene Amadi found himself in space in the 63rd minute. He was around 22 yards out and Finlay had to tip the shot round the post for a corner. From the resulting corner, the ball was cleared as far as goalscorer Bush whose shot was wickedly deflected off Ashton and almost caught Finlay out. The ball was dipping but once again, the goalkeeper was on hand to tip over for a corner.

Richard Bunting was once again in the wars, this time in the 65th minute. He appeared to be clattered by the oncoming goalkeeper Martin Conway, making his 150th appearance for Kempston. Bunting had been put in the clear by Tommy Berwick before Conway cleared the ball ahead of the Diamonds captain. The referee called play on and Bunting soon got back to his feet to have a ‘polite’ word in his ear.  

But Diamonds were to get their equaliser in the 68th minute. Lamb-Johnson made the goal, and Brad Harris was on hand to score it. Lamb-Johnson had held onto the ball as Merrill made an overlapping ran, however instead of playing the ball to his full-back, he waited. Then he found the run of Tommy Berwick towards the goal, the striker fired the ball towards the back post where Harris couldn’t miss from no more than two yards out. Harris’ goal was Diamonds’ 100th league goal of the season.

Diamonds’ second shortly followed ten minutes later. Scott Joseph had been introduced against his former club in place of Berwick as Lamb-Johnson was using his pace, once again, to good effect. He had knocked the ball passed full back Winfield who took him out recklessly, and got a yellow card for his troubles. With 12 minutes to go, Diamonds pressing for a winner, Harris converted once again from the resulting free-kick. Gearing’s in-swinging cross found an unmarked Harris to head home inside the penalty area for his third goal in two games, and to give Rushden a 2-1 lead.

The confidence was flowing following the red card and the two quick goals. Joseph almost got in on the act after Lorraine had won the ball in midfield, found Bunting and squared to the former Kempston man, but he had just ran ahead of the ball and was unable to control it.

Then on 80 minutes, Diamonds had a fantastic opportunity to go further in front with their best move of the match. Lorraine was clattered into the back of on the half way line, by previously booked Carmichael, but instead of staying down like most footballers these days, he was straight back on his feet and the referee called play on. Using it to his advantage, Lorraine carried the ball forward and drove towards the goal, he played a clever one two with substitute Joseph to get clear of the final defender, however he was unable to control the final pass. It would have been a superb flowing move.

Clever management by Kempston refrained Lamb-Johnson from having any further joy on the wing. They brought off yellow carded Winfield. Then Lamb-Johnson himself was giving a rapturous ovation when he was replaced by Declan Rogers.

Diamonds had a couple of final chances to cap off an impressive second-half performance. Rogers’ left-footed free-kick was tipped just wide by the goalkeeper in the 89th minute and Joseph had a tame effort on goal in the 90th minute. But Diamonds saw out the final few minutes on the front foot and fully capitalised on the Kempston sending off.

Full Time: AFC Kempston Rovers 1-2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds.  

Diamonds weren’t at their best in the first half and the game certainly would have been tougher had Kempston not been reduced to ten men. But Rushden remained professional and waited for the opportunities to come in the final half an hour and the goals came from an unlikely source. This was only Kempston’s third defeat at home all season, so it shows what a vital win this way. Brad Harris scored his third goal in two games, which will help the burden of Diamonds’ strike force. A special mention has to go to Elliot Lamb-Johnson who seems to have matured following his break from the starting XI. He didn’t react to a tussle in the first half and he was a constant threat all night with his pace. Another positive for Rushden is that Joe Merrill got through the 90 minutes unscathed after a long absence from the game. Following this important victory, Diamonds now need just three wins to secure finishing above Holbeach United.

Diamonds Man of the Match: Brad Harris

Attendance: 323

Match Report by Hayden Pott 

AFC Kempston Rovers

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

1. Martin Conway (C)

2. Tom Guiney

3. Dan Winfield

4. James Hirst

5. Simon Carmichael

6. Ben Gallant

7. Dom Marsala

8. Seb Simpson

9. Vinny Shrieves

10. Shane Bush

11. Ash Fuller



12. Ekene Amadi (for Shrieves 62)

14. George Shrives

15. Brandon Macrae (for Marsala 90+1)

16. Orlando Joao (for Winfield 81)

17. Alex Stoyles

17. Matt Finlay

2. Joe Merrill

3. Sam Brown

4. Jack Ashton

5. Liam Dolman

6. Brad Harris

7. Matt Gearing

8. Richard Bunting (C)

9. Tom Lorraine

10. Tommy Berwick

11. Elliot Lamb-Johnson



12. Charlie Butt

13. Rhys Redding

14. Scott Joseph (for Berwick 75)

15. Declan Rogers (for Lamb-Johnson 85)

16. Russ Dunkley (for Lorraine 89)

Goals: Bush (45+2)

Goals: Harris (68 and 78)

Yellow Cards: Carmichael (27) Simpson (45+4 and 52) Winfield (76)

Red Cards: Simpson (52)

Yellow Cards: None.

Referee: Joseph Karram

Assistants: Michael Chalkley, Piotr Kwak.


Attendance: 323.


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