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AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3-4 Nuneaton Town
Photos courtesy of Malcolm Swinden email : firstname.lastname@example.org
AFC Rushden & Diamonds ended 2011 on a disappointing note, throwing away a three goal lead to succumb to defeat at the hands of Nuneaton Town in an enthralling encounter at the Dog & Duck. Nonetheless, it was another good overall performance against strong opposition, and a useful workout for the entire squad following two weeks without a game.
The Diamonds lined up with the same 3-4-3 formation which had worked so successfully against Olney Town a fortnight earlier, but made two changes from the side that had started that game. Jeron Thompson returned in place of Conor Bell, while there was a debut on the right hand side of midfield for Fred Devereaux, in place of Ashley Meeks.
It was the home side who started the game brighter, with Mason Thomas almost getting through on goal in the opening minutes, but the Nuneaton ‘keeper was quickly off his line to clear the ball following an excellent flick on from Blake Helsdown.
The first good chance fell to the visitors however, as Zach Farden’s pass was intercepted by Jamie Newton who played in JC Jarman, but with only Foulger to beat the Nuneaton striker dragged his shot narrowly wide of the post.
Two minutes later though Rushden took the lead with a terrific solo effort. Helsdown received the ball just inside his own half and set off on a run through the middle. The defence backed off him allowing him to burst into the penalty area, away from two defenders before calmly slotting the ball past the helpless Elliot Powell.
On 16 minutes Nuneaton registered their first shot on target from a Sam Carter free kick after Carter himself had been fouled, but his effort from the corner of the area was straight at Ashley Foulger.
With 23 minutes played Fred Devereaux was presented with a half chance to mark his debut with a goal, but his 20 yard effort on his weaker left foot was easy for Powell. Four minutes later the visitors had a great chance to level the scores when Jarman broke clear down the right flank and teed up Dan Creaney, but the striker completely mishit his shot with only Foulger to beat. Elliot Ames was on hand to clear the danger, but only found the feet of Jarman who fired into the side netting from a tight angle.
On the half hour mark the Diamonds doubled their lead, thanks to another excellent goal. A Danny Bird free kick towards the Nuneaton penalty area didn’t look too threatening at first, but the defence failed to deal with the ball allowing it to bobble around on the edge of the box, where Jeron Thompson was on hand to lash it into the top corner giving Powell no chance.
Three minutes later Nuneaton went within inches of netting a spectacular goal of their own. The tricky Carter cut in from the left flank, away from three AFC defenders before firing in a powerful shot from 25 yards which cannoned back off the crossbar. Creaney was on hand to tap home the rebound, only to see his effort ruled out for offside.
The game was proving to be a real end to end battle with numerous chances at either end, and Rushden went close to making it 3-0 on 35 minutes. Thompson cut in from the right flank and burst into the penalty area but was dispossessed just as he went to shoot, with the ball cleared only as far as Louis Smith 20 yards from goal, but his curling effort went inches wide of Powell’s right hand upright.
A minute later it was the visitors who went close again, when a quick free kick 30 yards from goal caught out the Rushden defence and found Jarman in space, but his shot from around 10 yards out flew into the side netting. As half time approached Nuneaton created another great scoring chance, as George Washbourne’s sublime through ball found substitute Callum Sankey with only Foulger to beat, but he too failed to hit the target, prodding the ball just wide of the post.
There were further half chances from long range for both sides in first half stoppage time. Washbourne tried his luck first from 25 yards, blasting the ball narrowly wide, before Zaak Moon replied from similar distance, but his effort was straight at Powell.
HT: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2-0 Nuneaton Town
There were a number of changes made by Rushden at the break, with Ashley Meeks, Lewi Williams, Matti Ellis, Ryan Ellmer, Mark Rust and Conor Bell all taking to the pitch. The changes seemed to upset the Diamonds’ rhythm as, bar one 20 yard effort from Helsdown straight after the restart, the visitors dominated the opening stages of the second period.
Their first effort came on 48 minutes when a deep free kick from Sam Rogers saw Creaney outjump the Rushden defence, but his header went just wide of the post. Two minutes later, Tom Mangan found Creaney again who held off a defender before firing in a shot which was deflected behind for a corner. The resulting ball in found the feet of Jordan Stain whose first time shot was superbly saved by Foulger, with the ball cleared behind once more. Stain was again the target from the second corner, but this time his powerful header was just too high.
The quality of Nuneaton’s set piece delivery was causing big problems for the Rushden defence, and another corner on 54 minutes looked to be curling in the near post, but was hacked off the line by a well positioned defender. A minute later Washbourne’s low cross from the left found Creaney who turned and shot, but with Foulger beaten the visiting striker was denied by the upright.
The onslaught continued, and Bird gifted Sankey a great chance with an under-hit back pass, but with only Foulger to beat the substitute fired wide. Shortly after, another Nuneaton corner presented Stain with a good chance, but he glanced his near post header just over the bar.
With three quarters of the game now gone and the visitors looking like they were never going to find the back of the net, the Diamonds appeared to make the game safe with a third goal against the run of play. Lewi Williams battled well to win a 50-50 ball ahead of a Nuneaton defender, and in trying to turn was tripped inside the penalty area with the referee immediately pointing to the spot. Williams stepped up to take the spot kick himself, and despatched it calmly into the ‘keeper’s bottom right hand corner.
With only 20 minutes of the match now remaining, it looked like there was no way back for the visitors, but an incredible end to the game saw them stage an unlikely comeback. The first goal arrived on 74 minutes, and it was no surprise that it came from a corner kick. The ball in was headed towards goal but was cleared off the line by Bird, with the loose ball falling perfectly for Corey Falconbridge who hooked it over Foulger’s head and into the far corner.
Rushden almost restored their 3 goal lead inside a minute, as a dangerous corner kick of their own was cleared only as far as substitute Dan Paterson on the left hand side of the penalty area, but his vicious shot was superbly blocked by Powell.
A few minutes later Nuneaton netted their second goal, and once again it came from a set piece. A deep free kick from Newton found the head of Lewis Edwards who glanced the ball home with the merest of touches.
The now inevitable equaliser almost arrived within a minute, as Newton fed Creaney from the left wing, but the striker was bravely denied by Foulger. From the rebound, Mangan fired in a shot only to see it cleared off the line by Bird, and then reacted quickest again but placed his effort just wide.
The goal arrived just 3 minutes later though, as a great move down the right flank saw Newton set up Creaney who blasted the ball past Foulger from close range.
And with just a minute of normal time remaining, the visitors completed their remarkable comeback. Elliot Ames replicated Danny Bird’s earlier error as he under-hit his back pass straight into the path of substitute Jack Watkins, who calmly slotted the ball past Foulger.
Rushden did have a half chance to salvage a draw in stoppage time as Ashley Meeks burst through the middle and tried his luck from 20 yards, but his left foot shot flew narrowly wide.
FT: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3-4 Nuneaton Town
Despite the defeat and the disastrous final 16 minutes, there were plenty of positives to take from the game, which bodes well for the remainder of the season. Although Nuneaton deserved their victory given the number of chances created, particularly in the second half, the Diamonds competed well and more than matched them in the first half.
AFC R&D’s next game is the rearranged friendly against Rushden & Higham, which takes place at Hayden Road on Thursday 5th January, match preview HERE.
Man of the Match: Danny Bird
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
|86. Ashley Foulger
4. Elliot Ames
5. Danny Bird (c)
15. Adam Ziolkowski
9. Fred Devereaux
8. Zaak Moon
13. Louis Smith
3. Zach Farden
7. Blake Helsdown
10. Jeron Thompson
16. Mason Thomas
|1. Elliot Powell
2. John Shannon
3. David Tonks
4. George Washbourne
6. Jordan Stain
7. Jamie Newton
8. Tom Mangan
9. JC Jarman
10. Dan Creaney
11. Sam Carter
2. Ashley Meeks (for Farden, 45 mins)
6. Dan Paterson (for Devereaux, 65 mins)
11. Lewi Williams (for Thompson, 45 mins)
12. Matti Ellis (for Smith, 45 mins)
14. Ryan Ellmer (for Ziolkowski, 45 mins)
17. Mark Rust (for Moon, 45 mins)
18. James Harrison (for Helsdown, 65 mins)
19. Conor Bell (for Thomas, 45 mins)
12. Corey Falconbridge (for Tonks, 34 mins)
14. Sam Rogers (for Newton, 37 mins)
15. Callum Sankey (for Jarman, 37 mins)
16. Luke West (for Shannon, 65 mins)
17. Lewis Edwards (for Trialist, 44 mins)
–. Jack Watkins (for Creaney, 87 mins)
Helsdown (12 mins)
Thompson (30 mins)
Williams (70 mins, pen)
Falconbridge (74 mins)
Edwards (79 mins)
Creaney (83 mins)
Watkins (89 mins)