AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1-0 Daventry Town
AFC Rushden & Diamonds made it three games, three victories and three clean sheets against Daventry Town this season, but unlike the previous two games can count themselves very fortunate to have come away with the win on this occasion.
Blake Helsdown’s late goal was enough to see the Diamonds progress to the 3rd Round of the league cup, but not before the visitors had gone close on several occasions.
Mark Starmer kept faith with the same 3-5-2 formation that had started the match against Northampton Town, but there were recalls to the starting lineup for Lewi Williams, Blake Helsdown and Alex McDonald, while in goal Adam Batten made only his second competitive appearance at the expense of the injured Ashley Foulger.
With this match being the closest home game to the first anniversary of the death of Dale Roberts on December 14th, it was preceded by a minute’s applause in memory of the popular former Rushden & Diamonds goalkeeper.
The game began with the Diamonds shooting towards the A45 end of the ground, and they started brightly with Mason Thomas testing Ciaran Quinn after only two minutes, but his snap shot from the edge of the penalty area was well held by the Daventry ‘keeper. Two minutes later, the visitors went close to taking a fortunate lead when Sam Ahrens raced onto a ball down the right flank from what looked like an offside position, but as the assistant’s flag stayed down the striker mishit his cross with it just clearing the bar, much to Adam Batten’s relief.
Rushden forced Quinn into another save on 7 minutes, as a curling shot from 20 yards by Louis Smith found the target, but his effort was too close to the ‘keeper who made a routine save. The lively start to the game continued as a good Daventry move saw Lewis Quinn cleverly flick the ball into the path of Charlie Davies 20 yards from goal, but the winger seemed to snatch at his shot with the ball flying well wide of the post.
The game then settled down and the following 15 minutes saw both sides struggle to make any impact into the opposition defence. The action sprung back into life on 26 minutes however, as the visitors almost took the lead completely out of the blue. A long ball over the AFC defence saw Batten race from his goal to clear the danger, but he only managed to find Kyle Young some 40 yards from goal. The Daventry striker controlled the ball well before firing in a terrific effort which cleared the Rushden goal by inches, with Batten well beaten. The Diamonds responded immediately with Blake Helsdown sprinting clear down the left flank before pulling the ball back to Thomas whose shot on the turn was unfortunately too close to Quinn, and the Daventry stopper made a comfortable save.
The home side created another half chance on the half hour mark, as a good ball from Smith found the feet of Lewi Williams just outside the penalty area, but his first time shot was narrowly wide of the post. 6 minutes later it was the visitors turn to go close again. A left wing corner was punched back to the corner taker by Batten, and the subsequent cross saw the ball find Young, ten yards from goal, who had two attempts blocked with the second falling narrowly wide of the post.
As the first half drew to a close it was the Diamonds who looked the more threatening side. Firstly, Matti Ellis tried his luck from 25 yards after a great free kick delivery from Ashley Meeks had only been half cleared, but his volley flew wide of the post. Then, in stoppage time, a superb ball over the visiting defence from Smith saw Thomas run through with only the ‘keeper to beat, but despite finishing well he was denied by an offside flag from the assistant on the far side.
HT: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0-0 Daventry Town
The half time interval saw the presentation of a special pair of limited edition Dale Roberts goalkeeper gloves from Glen Johnson of Pro-GK, while former Rushden & Diamonds’ goalkeepers Joe Day and Michael Emery held up the commemorative Dale Roberts banner. The limited edition gloves are available to purchase from the AFC Shop at all Diamonds’ games.
The second half got off to a slow start with both defences very much in control. The only chance in the opening 15 minutes was a free header for Davies from Adam Creaney’s free kick, but he miscued his effort and the ball was easily cleared.
It was 59 minutes before the Diamonds managed to threaten the opposition goal again. A dangerous cross by Helsdown from the left wing was half cleared to Alex McDonald just outside the box, but after taking the ball down well his shot under pressure was skewed wide of the post. Daventry immediately went up the other end of the pitch and went within inches of opening the scoring. Great footwork from Ahrens saw him turn away from three Rushden players before playing an exquisite ball over the defence for Nathan Humphrey to run onto, and as Batten came to close him down the midfielder lifted the ball over him and, to the relief of the home side, just over the bar as well.
Shortly after, Creaney fired wide from a 30 yard free kick, before both managers made their first substitutions of the game; Kevin Sonnenschein replacing Quinn for the visitors, before Williams made way for Jeron Thompson for the Diamonds. As play restarted following the Rushden change, Meeks delivered a terrific cross to the unmarked Helsdown at the far post, but the wing back failed to hit the target with his header.
On 69 minutes another good pass from Smith found Thomas on the edge of the box, but after turning away from his marker the Diamonds’ striker shot tamely with his weaker left foot. Three minutes later a great run and cross from Helsdown looked to have set up Thompson with a great scoring chance, but he couldn’t bring the ball under control. McDonald was quick to pick up on the loose ball, getting a cross in to the far post, but it was just too high for Thomas and the danger was cleared.
Mark Starmer then made a double substitution on 73 minutes, replacing Thomas and McDonald with Conor Bell and Zaak Moon, with Bell playing in an unfamiliar striker’s role. Within a minute the visitors had gone close again, as a deep free kick into the AFC penalty area found Ahrens unmarked, but his well struck volley flew inches wide.
The double substitution sparked a renewed energy in the Rushden attack, but they still struggled to break down the resolute visiting defence. A 20 yard shot from Bell was well blocked, before two efforts from similar range by Smith were saved comfortably by Quinn. With 10 minutes remaining Daventry once again went close, as Ahrens latched onto a good ball from Creaney before attempting to lob Batten from the left hand side of the area, but the Diamonds’ ‘keeper made an excellent save under pressure from Geoff Obeng.
With extra time beckoning, the home side seemed to step up a gear in the final 5 minutes. Meeks was tripped following a good run down the right flank, and picked himself up to deliver a superb cross to the back post, where Danny Bird rose to win the header, nodding the ball inches wide of the post. Two minutes later though the opening goal finally arrived, and it was perhaps fitting that a scrappy game was sealed with the scrappiest of goals. A deep right wing corner saw Bell and Smith challenging for the same ball, although between them they managed to force the ball towards goal. Helsdown, stood right on the line, couldn’t get out of the way in time and blocked the effort, but did manage to swivel and lash the ball into the bottom corner much to the delight of the home support and his teammates.
The Diamonds managed to see out the remaining minutes without any further threats from the visitors, and in fact went close to netting a second deep into stoppage time. Another Meeks free kick picked out Thompson who had got in behind the Daventry back line, but after taking the ball down well he was denied by a superb diving challenge from a recovering defender.
FT: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1-0 Daventry Town
Mark Starmer conceded that his side had performed below par, but was pleased to have progressed to the third round of the league cup. The Diamonds’ opponents in Round 3 will be ON Chenecks, who defeated Rushden & Higham on the same night.
Next up for AFC R&D is an away trip to Olney Town a week on Thursday, as they return to league football following back to back cup ties. Click HERE for the match preview.
Man of the Match chosen by Stacey & Darren at the AFC Shop: Blake Helsdown
Photographs courtesy of Mal Swinden.
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
|24. Adam Batten
4. Elliot Ames
5. Danny Bird (c)
15. Adam Ziolkowski
2. Ashley Meeks
7. Blake Helsdown
6. Alex McDonald
12. Matti Ellis
13. Louis Smith
11. Lewi Williams
16. Mason Thomas
|1. Ciaran Quinn
2. Ryan Cugini
3. Dan Childs (c)
4. Alex Green
5. Nathan Humphrey
6. Geoff Obeng
7. Sam Ahrens
8. Adam Creaney
9. Lewis Quinn
10. Kyle Young
11. Charlie Davies
3. Zach Farden
8. Zaak Moon (for McDonald, 73 mins)
9. Conor Bell (for Thomas, 73 mins)
10. Jeron Thompson (for Williams, 63 mins)
23. Riccardo Knight
12. Joe Taplin
14. Kevin Sonnenschein (for L. Quinn, 62 mins)
Helsdown (86 mins)