An unfamiliar looking AFC Rushden & Diamonds side, featuring no fewer than 9 trialists, won a tight game against Stamford AFC at the Dog & Duck on Monday night. The game proved to be a useful workout for both sides, with the visitors looking to enter a side in the Northants Senior Youth League again next season after a year’s absence.
The Diamonds lined up with a combination of first team players, fringe players and trialists in the starting XI, with midfielder Zaak Moon taking the captain’s armband. They immediately looked to stamp their authority on the game, with the new look line-up building up a good understanding in the opening minutes, and controlling possession well.
The first goal threat however came from the visitors on 4 minutes, as a deep right wing corner was met by the head of Kieran Arthur, but he couldn’t direct his effort on target. Two minutes later the Diamonds went close to breaking the deadlock with what would have been a fantastic goal. Kai Robertson picked the ball up just inside the Stamford half, skipping past two players before sliding a perfectly weighted through ball to trialist Mason Thomas. The striker burst past his marker, took the ball around the ‘keeper and looked to roll it into the net, but was denied on the line by a Stamford defender who had just got back in time to hack the ball clear.
With 11 minutes gone, Thomas showed good strength to hold up the ball on the edge of the Stamford box before laying it back to Moon, but the captain’s 20 yard strike was well wide.
After a dominant opening 15 minutes by the Diamonds, Stamford started to get themselves into the game a bit more. A good break on 16 minutes saw Marciello Schivoney play in the overlapping Ollie Duffen, but Robertson showed terrific determination to get back and rob the ball just as the Stamford left back reached the Rushden penalty area. Two minutes later, the visitors appeared to have worked a great chance to open the scoring as Liam Parish ran onto a through ball and attempted to lob the advancing Adam Batten, however his shot went wide of the post, but would not have counted anyway as the assistant referee on the far side had flagged for offside.
There then followed a period of almost 15 minutes with very little action from either side, as the game was predominantly played out in the midfield. Rushden had more of the possession but just couldn’t make the final ball count, while Stamford were getting the ball to their strikers much better, but found the Rushden defence impenetrable, particularly the excellent Adam Ziolkowski who was in commanding form. The monotony lifted briefly just after the half hour mark when the visitors won a free kick around 30 yards from goal, but Arthur’s ambitious effort cleared not only the goal but also the 20 foot high netting behind it.
It took until the 41st minute before the Diamonds really threatened the Stamford defence again, as more good link up play between Robertson and Thomas saw the latter get to the byline and send over a dangerous looking cross which had to be headed behind by a visiting defender. From the resulting corner though, the Diamonds’ final ball problems continued as a weak cross was gathered easily by John Swailes in the Stamford goal.
Stamford then had two decent scoring chances in the final minutes of the first half. Firstly a soft free kick was awarded to the visitors on the half way line, with the referee allowing them to take it some 10 yards further forward. The ball was played in to Parish on the right hand side of the penalty area, but after turning away from Rushden trialist Riccardo Knight he couldn’t keep his shot down with the ball sailing just over Batten’s crossbar.
Then, with almost the final kick of the half, Ziolkowski made just about his only mistake of the match, gifting possession to Dion Dicataido 20 yards from goal, but the Stamford striker’s attempted lob also cleared the bar.
HT: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0-0 Stamford AFC
The Diamonds made three changes at the interval, with trialists Conor Sellers and Dean Giglio taking to the field, along with the more familiar face of Dan Paterson.
Giglio had a chance to make a real name for himself within minutes of the restart, as a scuffed clearance by Swailes presented him with an empty net to aim at, albeit from 35 yards, but the winger couldn’t quite direct his effort on target.
A minute later though the deadlock was broken. Mason Thomas latched onto a ball into the right hand side of the penalty area, burst past his marker and hit a stunning drive from a difficult angle which went in off the underside of the bar.
Stamford almost hit back straight away when a deep cross into the area caused problems for the Diamonds’ backline. Batten was forced to tip the ball away from the striker lurking at the back post with it being cleared only as far as Arthur on the edge of the box, but once again his shot failed to trouble the Rushden ‘keeper.
The game was then disrupted for the next 10 minutes with both sides making a number of substitutions. Just before the hour mark, however, the visitors were presented with a great chance to equalise when Parish ran onto a long ball down the middle, but his effort from 10 yards found only the side netting. On 67 minutes defender Mark Shrewsbury went close for Stamford with a near post header from a right wing corner, but Batten was across quickly to make his first real save of the game, deflecting the ball around the post for another corner kick.
The game really came to life as it entered the final 20 minutes, with chances coming and going for both sides. Zaak Moon tried his luck from all of 30 yards with a rasping shot that dipped late and stung the fingers of Swailes as he tipped it over the bar. From the resulting corner Bjorn Kleinhans, a 55th minute substitute for Kai Robertson, should have found the back of the net with a glancing header from 6 yards, but he didn’t get enough on the ball and it sailed well wide of the goal.
With 76 minutes gone Stamford almost fluked an equaliser from Dicataido’s left wing cross, but the ball just cleared the bar much to Batten’s relief. Two minutes later, his strike partner Parish went close with a 20 yard shot after the Rushden defence had failed to deal with a long ball, but his effort flew narrowly wide.
With just 10 minutes remaining, substitute striker Hebditch should have done better when unmarked 12 yards from goal, but he couldn’t control the excellent right wing cross and the danger was gone. A minute later and Parish was once again guilty of missing the target when well placed, volleying wide from inside the Rushden penalty area.
The Diamonds managed one further chance to make the game safe, hitting the visitors on the break with a great crossfield pass to diminutive winger Tom Graham, but after cutting inside and beating his marker, the trialist could only shoot over the bar. The final effort of the game fell to Stamford’s Hughes, who hit a decent volley from 25 yards, but it was too close to Adam Batten who made a comfortable save.
FT: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1-0 Stamford AFC
The match gave Rushden manager Mark Starmer a good opportunity to cast his eye over a number of potential signings, with one or two likely to have made an impression. It also served to provide a decent run out for some of the Diamonds’ fringe players who are no doubt desperate to fight their way into the starting XI for a competitive game.
AFC R&D are next in action on Thursday 3rd November, when league leaders Cogenhoe United visit Kiln Park. Details for that game can be found HERE.
Man of the Match: Adam Ziolkowski
Photos courtesy of Malcolm Swinden email : firstname.lastname@example.org
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
|24. Adam Batten
2. Mark Rust
5. Ryan Brown
22. Adam Ziolkowski
3. Riccardo Knight
19. Kai Robertson
4. Louis Smith
10. Liam Bright
11. Tom Graham
8. Zaak Moon (c)
9. Mason Thomas
|1. John Swailes
2. Harry Fitzjohn
3. Ollie Duffen
4. Luke Wheeler (c)
5. Mark Shrewsbury
6. Jack Yule
7. Tom Horton
8. Kieran Arthur
9. Liam Parish
10. Dion Dicataido
11. Marciello Schivoney
12. Conor Sellers (for Smith, 45 mins)
14. Shaun Broughton (for Rust, 65 mins)
15. Dean Giglio (for Thomas, 45 mins)
16. Dan Paterson (for Brown, 45 mins)
17. Bjorn Kleinhans (for Robertson, 55 mins)
20. Ryan Hodgkin (for Bright, 55 mins)
14. Leftley (for Horton, 54 mins)
15. McIerney (for Fitzjohn, 69 mins)
17. Hughes (for Yule, 54 mins)
18. Hebditch (for Dicataido, 77 mins)
Thomas (50 mins)