AFC Rushden & Diamonds 5-1 Bugbrooke St. Michaels
AFC Rushden & Diamonds recorded a new record league victory as a stunning second half performance saw off Bugbrooke St. Michaels at Kiln Park.
The visitors had silenced the Diamonds’ support by taking a first half lead, which they held onto until 10 minutes into the second half, but the home attack eventually found a way through and finished the game in style.
Mark Starmer had started the day with a full squad to choose from, but was dealt a late blow when Adam Ziolkowski was injured during the pre-match warm up. James Harrison had returned from a recent injury however to take a place on the bench, alongside new signing Fred Devereaux who made his first appearance in the squad for a competitive game. Starmer continued with the same 3-4-3 formation which had worked so well against Olney in the last league game prior to Christmas.
Rushden started the game brightly with a Louis Smith free kick and a snap shot from Jeron Thompson testing Ben Clarke inside the opening minutes, but the Bugbrooke ‘keeper dealt comfortably with both efforts. The Badgers were struggling to get many touches on the ball with the Diamonds midfield controlling possession, and Lewi Williams looking very dangerous on the left hand side of the front three. His pace and trickery almost led to a couple of openings inside the first 15 minutes, but the Bugbrooke defence were quick to clear any balls coming into the box.
It was completely against the run of play then, that the visitors opened the scoring after 18 minutes, but their goal was one of real quality. A quick counter attack saw the ball cleared to Lewis Marriott, who cleverly flicked it on into the path of Dan George. The winger used his blistering pace to burst clear of the AFC defence before hitting a sweetly struck shot across Ashley Foulger and into the bottom corner. The setback seemed to stun the Diamonds and lift the Badgers, and for a short while it looked as though the visitors might extend their lead.
With 24 minutes gone they came within inches of a second goal. George again used his pace to good effect down the left wing before crossing to Marriott, whose shot beat Foulger but was hacked off the line and onto the post by Zach Farden. Nick Woods got to the rebound first and looked to have a simple tap in, but was denied by a great block from Foulger.
Rushden gradually regained their confidence and went close to an equaliser on 31 minutes. Smith won a good header in midfield with Mason Thomas flicking the second ball into the path of Williams, who spun past a defender and into the penalty area only to see Clarke race quickly from his line to smother the ball just ahead of the Diamonds’ striker.
Two minutes later Williams again turned well after being set up by Blake Helsdown, this time opting to play in Thomas, but after holding off his marker the powerful striker could only shoot into the side netting. Shortly after, a great run from the back by Farden saw him win the Diamonds a corner, which Ashley Meeks delivered into the middle where Thomas rose above the defence only to head high over the bar.
With 38 minutes gone Thomas broke clear down the right flank before knocking a dangerous cross into the penalty area, which was cleared behind for corner. Meeks deep delivery this time found Bird whose far post header was cleared off the line for another corner. Smith’s delivery from the opposite side found Bird again, but for the second time his goalbound header was cleared off the line.
As the first half drew to a close, Meeks left wing cross found the head of Thompson who headed over the bar, before a Bird free kick looked to have presented Helsdown with a great chance from 10 yards out, but a great block from the Badgers’ defence saw the ball deflected behind for a corner.
HT: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0-1 Bugbrooke St. Michaels
Rushden controlled the opening stages of the second half as they had the first, but found the Bugbrooke defence still standing strong. The visitors actually had the first effort of note when, on 53 minutes, Marriott turned and shot from 25 yards but his well struck effort was too close to Foulger who made a fairly comfortable save.
Within three minutes, though, the Diamonds found their equalising goal. A Meeks free kick was only cleared as far as Bird, who hooked the ball back into the danger area. Thomas attempted an overhead kick but missed the ball completely with the ball bouncing off Smith and falling kindly for Thomas who prodded home from close range.
The young Diamonds’ heads were now up and they pushed forward to try and take the lead. Meeks went close on 59 minutes following good work from Thompson down the left, but after turning his man he curled his shot narrowly wide of the post. Meeks, who seemed to be involved in almost every chance for the home side, then turned provider, crossing to Bird who glanced his header wide.
A good move on 69 minutes almost saw Rushden take the lead. Smith won possession with a great tackle in midfield, with Thomas, Williams, and Thompson exchanging passes, but as the ball was played back in to Thomas, Clarke raced from his line and smothered the ball at the feet of the onrushing striker.
A minute later however, the second goal finally arrived. A great pass from midfield by Zaak Moon saw Williams race clear of the Badgers’ defence, and with only Clarke to beat he unselfishly squared the ball for Thomas to tap home his second goal of the game. That goal was Thomas’ fifth in only five league games for the club so far.
With Rushden now in front, the performance went from strength to strength as they looked to make the game safe. Fred Devereaux and Conor Bell replaced Thompson and Smith respectively, with the former making his competitive debut.
On 74 minutes Danny Bird came close to netting a goal of the season contender with a blistering strike from 25 yards, but he was denied by a terrific one handed save from Clarke. The ball was cleared only as far as Moon who tried his luck from even further out, but Clarke again came to the visitors’ rescue with another smart save.
James Harrison replaced the impressive Lewi Williams on 77 minutes, before Bugbrooke threatened to score an equaliser with their only real chance of the half. Elliot Ames misjudged a header, flicking the ball into the path of substitute Sim Thomas whose sliced cross almost deceived Foulger, but the Rushden stopper managed to react in time to get back and grasp hold of the ball much to the relief of the Diamonds faithful.
Shortly after this scare, the home side made the game safe. A Helsdown free kick from the right flank was headed back across goal by Thomas, where Meeks controlled the ball before swivelling and smashing a spectacular volley into the top corner, for his first goal in an AFC shirt.
Two minutes later, 3-1 became 4-1 and Meeks was once again involved. His low right wing corner picked out James Harrison who lost his marker and thumped home a volley at the near post, to also net his first goal for the club.
With two minutes of normal time remaining a dangerous Helsdown cross was palmed away by Clarke, with the ball falling just behind Harrison who would have been left with a simple tap in. He inadvertently flicked the ball up for Moon who headed towards goal, but couldn’t get enough power in his effort to trouble Clarke. A minute later Helsdown again crossed from the right, with Dan Wakelin almost turning the ball into his own net.
The scoring was completed two minutes into injury time. Harrison pressured Wakelin into conceding a corner, which Meeks delivered to the far post. Devereaux headed the ball back into the middle for Bird to nod past Clarke from close range.
FT: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 5-1 Bugbrooke St. Michaels
The result was the perfect way to start 2012, a year which promises to be an exciting one for our fledgling club.
Supporters only have to wait two days to see the team in action again, as they take on Histon at St Neots Town on Saturday morning, match preview HERE.
That game is followed on Sunday afternoon by another match at St Neots Town, as Mark Starmer’s Ex-Diamonds XI take on a St Neots Town XI. Match preview HERE.
Man of the Match: Ashley Meeks
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Bugbrooke St. Michaels
|86. Ashley Foulger
4. Elliot Ames
5. Danny Bird (c)
3. Zach Farden
7. Blake Helsdown
8. Zaak Moon
13. Louis Smith
2. Ashley Meeks
10. Jeron Thompson
11. Lewi Williams
16. Mason Thomas
|1. Ben Clarke
2. Chris Bayles
3. Jake Roberts
4. Dan Wakelin
5. Jack Lee
6. Jake Burnett
7. Dede Weston
8. Liam Saunders
9. Lewis Marriott
10. Nick Woods
11. Dan George
6. Alex McDonald
9. James Harrison (for Williams, 77 mins)
12. Fred Devereaux (for Thompson, 71 mins)
14. Ryan Ellmer
15. Conor Bell (for Smith, 71 mins)
12. Casey Kiernan (for Burnett, 62 mins)
14. Ryan Vale (for Woods, 32 mins)
15. Sim Thomas (for Marriott, 74 mins)
Thomas (56 mins)
Thomas (70 mins)
Meeks (83 mins)
Harrison (85 mins)
Bird (90+2 mins)
George (11 mins)
all photographs courtesy of Mal Swinden
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