AFC R&D 3 Yaxley FC 2

 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3-2 Yaxley

An entertaining friendly game at the Dog & Duck eventually saw AFC Rushden & Diamonds run out narrow victors against Yaxley. The Diamonds, featuring a number of young trialists, twice fought back from a goal down as they warmed up for the start of the Jaymann Shield next week.

After a reasonably inauspicious opening, the game sprang to life with 10 minutes on the clock as the visitors took the lead. A delicately chipped pass from midfield cleared the AFC defence and allowed Josh Rosser to run on and fire the ball past Sean Littlejohn. The debutant ‘keeper managed to get a hand on the ball but was very unfortunately to see it dip below the crossbar rather than looping up and over it.

The Diamonds hit back just 6 minutes later however. A good move down the left flank saw Zach Farden release Alex McDonald with a great pass, and the latter burst into the area before hitting a shot which was clearly blocked by the arm of a Cuckoos’ defender, leaving the referee with no option but to point to the spot. Zaak Moon stepped up to take the penalty and saw his effort well saved by Jason Smalley, but the ball fell kindly for Jake Reynolds who calmly stroked it into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.

Yaxley had looked the better side prior to the Rushden equaliser, but the goal seemed to lift the Diamonds and they began to look the more dangerous side. On 22 minutes they went within inches of taking the lead when Conor Bell skillfully beat his man down the right flank before teeing up Fred Devereaux on the edge of the box, but Devereaux’s first time shot with his left foot flew just the wrong side of the upright.

A minute later however, the Cuckoos regained their lead. Kieran Evans’ right wing corner picked out Herbie Panting in the middle, and the defender rose above the AFC defence and planted an excellent header past Littlejohn, giving the ‘keeper no chance. Rushden almost equalised again straight away as Bell latched onto a loose ball on the edge of the Yaxley box, but his left foot volley was just wide of the post.

On 26 minutes Reynolds burst away down the right flank, showing great pace to get away from his marker, before firing in a shot from a tight angle which whistled across the face of goal, missing the far post by a matter of inches. Shortly after the half hour mark Devereaux treated the Diamonds’ supporters to a superb display of skill, embarking on a Maradona-esque run past four visiting defenders, but he delayed his shot slightly too long allowing the defence to recover and get in a block. The loose ball fell to Farden who volleyed towards goal but his effort was hacked clear.

With five minutes to go before the break a great ball from midfield cleared the Cuckoos’ defence allowing Reynolds to get in behind them, but his first touch was slightly too heavy allowing Smalley to smother the ball at his feet. In stoppage time, however, the Diamonds got the equaliser they deserved, with a classy team goal. McDonald picked up a loose ball in the middle of the park and picked out Harry May with a good ball to the right flank. May burst forward, playing a one-two with Bell before smashing a first time shot past Smalley from close range.

HT: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2-2 Yaxley

The Diamonds made three changes at the interval with Mozza Roberts, Noah Bryant and Anthony Ottaway replacing Littlejohn, Moon and Roche respectively.
The home side started the second half brightly with Devereaux testing Smalley from 25 yards, but the Yaxley stopper was equal to his effort.

After that effort though the visitors took control and dominated most of the second half. It took them until almost the hour mark to really threaten the Diamonds’ goal however, but when the chance did come they should have taken the lead for a third time. A driven cross from the right wing was laid off into the path of James Nespoli 15 yards from goal, but with time to pick his spot the Yaxley striker opted for power over placement and blazed the ball high over the bar, clearing not only the goal but also the Dog & Duck car park.

The Cuckoos had another great chance shortly after, when Jones Desousa’s right wing free kick was headed back across goal by Panting, only for Chris Pope to head over the bar from close range. Rushden had a rare second half chance a few minutes later, as a good move down the left flank saw Reynolds set up Ottaway just inside the Yaxley penalty area, but the wing-back’s shot was just wide of the post. The impressive Reynolds was then replaced by Lewi Williams.

With 20 minutes remaining Courtney Pierr outpaced Elliot Ames down the Cuckoos’ right flank and hit a shot from a tight angle that was easily dealt with by Roberts. A minute later Nespoli cut in from the left wing and picked out Chris Pope with a good cross into the box, but the Yaxley captain headed well wide of the post.

Against the run of play, the Diamonds took the lead on 79 minutes. Bell picked out Williams with an excellent ball over the top of the Yaxley defence, and he in turn found May at the far post who bundled the ball home from close range. Ottaway went close to extending the lead two minutes later as he latched onto a loose ball inside the penalty area, but fired narrowly wide from 10 yards out.

The Cuckoos twice went close to equalising in the final five minutes. Firstly, Nespoli played in Pierr with a great through ball, but Roberts was quickly off his line to clear the danger just ahead of the Yaxley striker. Then, with injury time approaching, Pierr set up Nespoli on the left hand side of the area, but his powerful shot was well held by Roberts.

FT: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3-2 Yaxley

The Diamonds’ victory may have been rather iniquitous on their opponents, but nonetheless it was a very good performance given the number of young trialists in the squad. There were some particularly encouraging performances which will give the management team something to think about ahead of the Jaymann Shield games which start next week. Click HERE for details.

Attendance: 120

Man of the Match: Harry May


AFC Rushden & Diamonds


86. Sean Littlejohn
4. Ben Roche
5. Elliot Ames (c)
16. Adam Ziolkowski
7. Harry May
6. Alex McDonald
8. Zaak Moon
9. Fred Devereaux
3. Zach Farden
17. Conor Bell
20. Jake Reynolds
1. Jason Smalley
2. Herbie Panting
3. Kieran Evans
4. Chris Pope (c)
5. Jack Flintoft
6. Jake Gear
7. Jones Desousa
8. Jordan Fiddes
9. Josh Rosser
10. James Nespoli
11. Courtney Pierr
2. Toby Robinson (for Devereaux, 57 mins)
11. Lewi Williams (for Reynolds, 67 mins)
12. Matti Ellis (for McDonald, 57 mins)
19. Anthony Ottaway (for Roche, 46 mins)
21. Noah Bryant (for Moon, 46 mins)
24. Mozza Roberts (for Littlejohn, 46 mins)
12. Ashley Clipston (for Desousa, 23 mins)
14. Jason Dunn (for Flintoft, 20 mins)
15. John Pipe (for Nespoli, 23 mins)
Reynolds (16 mins)
May (45 mins)
May (79 mins)
Rosser (10 mins)
Panting (23 mins)
Sent Off:
Sent Off: