AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0-1 Kings Langley

AFC Rushden & Diamonds slipped to defeat in their top-of-the-table clash with promotion rivals Kings Langley on Saturday afternoon.

The only goal of the game was scored in the 4th minute as midfielder Ryan Plowright was found after a surging run from winger Steve Ward, and he drove a low effort into the bottom corner leaving Matt Finlay helpless. Despite a couple of subsequent half-chances for the visitors soon after the goal, the Diamonds weren’t able to build up any sort of tempo or prolonged period of pressure, and all they could muster was a Tom Lorraine overhead kick which was straight at the keeper.

The second half was very similar to the opening period, with the away side naturally content to protect their lead and attempt to hit their hosts on the counter-attack, while the home side still struggled to create any clear opportunities. Substitute Shawn Richards did see a free-kick force goalkeeper Xavi Comas to scramble across his goalline and collect properly at the second attempt, and then moments later he hit a poked effort which took a couple of ricochets and was eventually cleared.

The Kings should have secured victory in the 73rd minute when top-scorer Mitchell Weiss ran through on goal from the halfway line, but after cutting inside Richards, he could only lift his effort over the bar. Rushden were however unable to conjure up any late pressure or alamoic effort by way of response, and it was Kings Langley who ran out deserved winners as the full-time whistle was blown.

Manager Andy Peaks kept the same starting XI that defeated St. Ives in midweek, with Delroy Gordon continuing at right-back despite Ollie Wilkinson’s return from unavailability. The right-back took a place amongst the substitutes at the expense of Lewis Leslie, and the match was to represent a landmark for goalkeeper Matt Finlay as he made his 100th appearance for the Diamonds.

With this being a 1st vs 2nd encounter and as the visitors were aiming for a seventh successive victory, there was a deep sense of intrigue in the air as the game got underway on a cool and windy day at the Dog & Duck.

It was Kings Langley who were to strike the first, and ultimately crucial blow, in their very first attack of the match. Steve Ward picked up possession just inside the Rushden half and set off on a direct and pacy run which took him past Diamonds full-back Luke Hipwell. As he approached the penalty area he intelligently squared the ball for the waiting Ryan Plowright, and he was able to control and then hit a low effort inside Finlay’s near post via a slight deflection. 

Diamonds, players and fans alike, appeared visibly shocked at the early sucker-punch from the visitors, and they created another couple of opportunities soon after the opener. Firstly a corner from the right side found the unmarked Plowright, but thankfully for the hosts he mistimed his header and Liam Dolman was able to make the block and then clearance. Shortly after this another set-piece caused problems for the Diamonds defence, with this time the free-kick being whipped in from the left for captain Stuart Deaton to glance a header over the bar.

Rushden hadn’t got going up to this point, with too many passes going astray and the build-up play being slightly laboured and ponderous. The Kings were defending well and dealing with any breaks forward from the home side, and for large periods of the first half the visitors were very comfortable. They threatened again in the 25th minute as another corner from the right fell for Plowright, and after he smartly turned away from Tom Lorraine in the penalty box, he pulled the ball back for a nearby teammate whose shot was charged down.

Diamonds still couldn’t attain or maintain any long periods of possession with their opponents closing them down quickly and efficiently all over the pitch, and the bobbly nature of the surface also wasn’t helping proceedings, though this was an issue for both sides and not just the Diamonds. Lorraine was putting in his usual hard-working shift as he worked the channels and attempted to generate an opening, and he had Rushden’s first shot of the half in the 43rd minute. A Dolman free-kick from in front of the dugouts was pitched into the area, Dan Quigley flicked it on and Lorraine slightly miscontrolled as he tried to find some room in the area. It looped up for Delroy Gordon, however, and his flicked header dropped at an ideal height for Lorraine to execute an overhead kick, though this was straight at the goalkeeper.

They had another opportunity on the stroke of half-time, and Lorraine was involved again as he sprinted onto a through ball from strike-partner Jon Stevenson down the left channel. Lorraine in turn fed it back to his fellow striker, but the number 8’s effort was tame and represented a simple save for Comas.

That proved to be the last action of the opening period, with the Diamonds heading for the changing rooms knowing that a much improved performance was needed in the second 45 minutes. 

 Half Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0-1 Kings Langley 

The two teams re-entered the fray for the second half with the wind having eased over the half-time break and the Diamonds now kicking towards the Peter de Banke terrace. No changes were made by either side, and everyone was eager to see how much of an effect Peaks’ words would have on the Rushden performance levels.

 However, there was still a rather flat and subdued feeling both on and off the pitch in the early stages of the half, with the Diamonds not able to make any inroads into the Langley back four. The visitors still posed a threat on the break with their neat build-up play, and one such moment led to Jack Ashton recklessly fouling an opponent and receiving a yellow card from referee Matthew Law. The resultant free-kick, which was around 30 yards out from Finlay’s goal, was well directed by David Hutton, but proved a rather routine save for the Diamonds stopper.

Hutton was involved again two minutes later in the 57th minute as a ball reached him on the edge of the Diamonds box, and he produced a deft pass through to find winger Matt Bateman in oceans of space. Finlay came out to narrow the angle, and he got a vital touch on the shot via his trailing leg to divert the ball onto the post and out for a corner kick.

This seemed to act as a warning to the Diamonds as they made a couple of substitutions in an effort to get back into the contest. One was enforced as Gordon limped off to be replaced by Connor Kennedy, and Shawn Richards also joined the field in place of the peripheral Andy Hall.

Richards was straight into the action as he slotted into the right of midfield with a couple of sharp, determined runs briefly troubling the Kings’ defence. Claudiu Hoban then embarked on a mazy dribble of his own over the space of 40 yards, and though it appeared like he had gone one step too far with four visiting players surrounding him, the referee pulled the play back for an earlier infringement on the Diamonds winger. Richards stepped up to curl the free-kick goalwards, but Comas read the flight of the ball perfectly and was able to collect the shot.

The home side were now starting to get a touch of momentum in their forays upfield, and this coincided with Kings Langley beginning to sit deeper in their plan to soak up any pressure that was to come their way. The Diamonds won a corner on the left side, and Hoban’s inswinging delivery was flapped at by Comas but wouldn’t drop for a white-shirted player, and the danger was eventually hacked away before another corner was earnt by the home side. This time the delivery was cleared more efficiently and it led to an attempted break-away from the visitors, though it appeared Kennedy had read and intercepted the danger on the halfway line. However, he inadvertently trod on the ball and thus allowed Mitchell Weiss, the division’s joint top-scorer, a clear run at goal. He drew Finlay from his line, then cut inside the covering Richards and, with a large portion of the goal to aim at, contrived to lift a poor effort over the top of the goal.

There was a sense that if the Diamonds were going to find a way back into the game and get that all-important leveller, it was going to come from a set-piece. In the 79th minute they won a free-kick just inside the Kings’ half, and Dolman launched a diagonal ball towards Lorraine. He managed to flick the ball on well, and though Richards got the ball under control and attempted to jink away from two nearby challenges, his poked shot was blocked, and the rebound just wouldn’t fall kindly for Hoban to have an effort on target himself.

New signing Robbie Parsons was brought on at the expense of Stevenson as Rushden went for the proverbial last trick up their sleeve, but he was unable to have much impact as the away side ran down the clock rather easily and with very infrequent alarm. Despite their being five minutes added on at the end of the regulation 90, the Diamonds still didn’t look like troubling the Langley defence, and Law’s whistle to signal the end of the game put the cap on a miserable day for the Diamonds.

Full Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0-1 Kings Langley

This result simply has to be filed under the ‘bad day at the office’ category for the Diamonds, who struggled throughout to build any urgency, tempo or style of football that truly would trouble the Kings Langley defence. Credit must not be taken away from the visitors, however, who were well marshalled by their skipper Stuart Deaton, looked dangerous when they did attack and fully merited the end result. It’s back to the drawing board for the Diamonds, though positives can be taken from the fact that they still remain top of the Southern Football League Division One Central table and Egham dropped points also in a 2-2 draw at home to Uxbridge. The gap at the top is now down to one point, and Rushden have a chance to bounce back next Saturday as they make the journey south to play Potters Bar Town away.

Diamonds Man of the Match (Reporter’s choice): Jack Ashton

Attendance: 613

Match Report by Ollie Mortimer

 

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Kings Langley

17. Matt Finlay

2. Delroy Gordon

3. Luke Hipwell

4. Jack Ashton

5. Liam Dolman (C)

6. Brad Harris

7. Andy Hall

8. Jon Stevenson

9. Dan Quigley

10. Tom Lorraine

11. Claudiu Hoban

 

Substitutes:

12. Shawn Richards (for Hall 62)

13. Alex Vitue

14. Robbie Parsons (for Stevenson 84)

15. Ollie Wilkinson

16. Connor Kennedy (for Gordon 62)

1. Xavi Comas

2. Emmanuel Folarin

3. Callum Adeiyi

4. Dean Hitchcock

5. Stuart Deaton (C)

6. Connor Toomey

7. Steve Ward

8. Ryan Plowright

9. Mitchell Weiss

10. David Hutton

11. Matt Bateman

 

Substitutes:

12. Jack Stevens

13. Rob Partington

14. Gary Connolly (for Bateman 73)

15. Lorenzo Ferrari (for Hutton 89)

16. Oran Swailes (for Weiss 90+3)

Goals: None

Goals: Plowright (4)

Yellow Cards: Ashton (54)

Yellow Cards: Toomey (30), Folarin (40), Weiss (45+2)

Referee: Matthew Law

Assistants: Aidan Murphy, Anthony Quinn

 

 Updated player profiles with appearance and goalscoring details are now available.

Click here for post-match interviews.

Match Gallery courtesy of Malcolm Swinden Photography (click on the link to access the Diamonds Photo Gallery for more images from this game and ecommerce options). Copyright Mal Swinden ©2016

 

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