AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0-2 Alvechurch FC

A goal in each half condemned Diamonds to a fifth consecutive defeat.

Fresh from their excellent FA Cup run to the second round, the visitors forged ahead after only six minutes. Midfielder Jed Abbey found the net as he curled home from outside the box past a rooted Dean Snedker. Rushden struggled to handle the away pressure throughout the opening period and were forced into a number of last-ditch blocks and clearances. Several swift visiting attacks led to Abbey being denied twice and Jack Hallahan forcing a diving save with a thunderous strike.

The hosts improved at the start of the second half as Jack Connor hit the side-netting before a corner was almost bundled in from close range. Substitute Andy Kanga then broke through before confidently finishing, but the offside flag had long been raised. Alvechurch regained their authority though and, after defender Harry Williams sent a free header wide, they sealed the contest when Danny Waldron skipped past several challenges before finishing low through Snedker’s despairing dive.

First half

Interim manager Matt Vernon made three changes to the side that had been beaten at Rushall the Saturday before. Diamonds shifted to a 3-4-1-2 system which saw Courtney Lashley come in at left wing-back, Charlie Black joined Ryan Hughes and Harrison Bunga in defence, and there was also a welcome return from injury for Miguel Ngwa who joined fellow Northampton loanee Jack Connor up-front.

Diamonds came into the contest second-bottom having lost their previous four and sitting seven points off safety. Though Alvechurch only sat one place and three points above their hosts, they had played eight fewer games due to their FA Cup run which had saw them reach the second round only to be narrowly edged out by League One outfit Forest Green Rovers last weekend.

It was Jed Abbey, away midfielder who scored Alvechurch’s goal in that last FA Cup clash, who carried on where he left of by opening the scoring. Only six minutes had elapsed when a ball was played back to the visiting man, and he precisely curled an effort past the rooted Dean Snedker from around 25 yards out.

A regular feature of Rushden’s recent matches had been conceding inside the opening ten minutes, and the early strike left them with a mountain to climb already. Moments later the visitors almost had a second only for Hughes to make a crucial last-ditch block before the subsequent corner was just cleared away.

Alvechurch were dominating possession and quicker to any loose ball, with a host of quick attacks putting the hosts on the back foot. Eniola Agemoh-Davies was required to make a strong block at the back post from one such effort, and two other attempts were also charged down. Snedker made two saves to deny Abbey and, in between, stretched to turn a fizzing Jack Hallahan strike behind.

Diamonds tried to get a foot on the ball but were pressured into mistakes by the energetic visitors. Their best opportunity of the half saw Conor Tee have a free-kick from range easily held, and Ngwa almost generated space for a shot on a couple of occasions only to be eventually crowded out.

Half time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0-1 Alvechurch FC

Second half

The home side came out with more purpose and a greater intensity at the start of the second 45 minutes. An early corner was swung in by Lashley and met by Connor at the near post, but his flicked attempt found the side-netting. The striker then set up Peter Abimbola to shoot from range, but the loanee’s effort scurried harmlessly wide of the target.

After Ngwa had a strike blocked, Diamonds created their best chance of the game. A Tee corner from the left saw away keeper Daniel Jezeph put under pressure, and as a result the ball looped up near the line. Hughes and Bunga were nearby, but it was cleared just before either of the home men could turn it home.

Andy Kanga and Mitchell White were soon introduced, but Alvechurch were able to regain their earlier control and dominance despite Kanga seeing an effort ruled out for offside. A visiting corner found defender Harry Williams on his own, but his close-range header flashed wide.

They didn’t have to wait long to score again though as, after 74 minutes, they effectively sealed the three points. Danny Waldron cut in from the left before effortlessly skipping past several Rushden challenges, and his strike from just outside the area snuck under Snedker and into the back of the net.

Diamonds continued to work hard and try to find a way back into the game, but their attempts were in vain against a well-marshalled and comfortable away defence. Tyrell Skeen-Hamilton almost added another for Alvechurch but was easily denied by Snedker, and the closest Rushden came to a consolation was in stoppage-time when Kartell Dawkins’ effort from range was palmed away by Jezeph.

Full time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0-2 Alvechurch FC

Rushden showed plenty of willingness and application, but it was ultimately the away side who held the greater threat, quality and energy which led to their merited success. Diamonds are quickly back in action when they entertain league leaders Tamworth on Tuesday evening (6 December, 7.45pm kick-off).

Diamonds Player of the Match (as chosen by match sponsor Café Bangla): Conor Tee

Attendance: 278

Match report by Ollie Mortimer

Diamonds: Snedker, Agemoh-Davies, Lashley, Black (Pinto-Leite 81), Hughes, Bunga (C), Abimbola (White 71), Dawkins, Connor (Kanga 67), Tee, Ngwa (subs not used: Cooper, Empochontsif)

Alvechurch: Daniel Jezeph, Ben Cassidy, Bradley Burton, Aurio Neto Teixeira (Thomas Edge 73), Harry Williams, Ashley Carter (C), Jed Abbey, Jack Hallahan, Leo Brown (Jack Concannon 56) (Jamie Willets 90), Tyrell Skeen-Hamilton, Danny Waldron (subs not used: Harry Randle, Harry Bower)

Alvechurch goals: Abbey (6), Waldron (74)

Alvechurch yellows: Carter (90+5)

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

One Fan, One Vote, One Community, One Club