Diamonds kept a 7th home clean sheet in 9 but were unable to score against hardworking Marlow FC at Hayden Road on Saturday afternoon.
Liam Dolman returned to the starting line-up alongside old pals Sam Brown and Jack Ashton and Diamonds were predictably solid defensively all afternoon. They started brightly with a dynamic Ryan Robbins having half-chances himself and setting up Joel Gyasi for a superb effort from the edge of the box that away keeper Simon Grant held at full stretch. Jack Westbrook and Luke Fairlamb also had had good long range efforts at the end of decent passing moves on a pitch that understandably started to cut up. Marlow were always dangerous on the break and created good shooting chances for Holder-Spoon and Bossman. The closest for Diamonds was a Tom Lorraine close 8 yard flick that produced a full length save with Robbins unable to turn in the rebound. Kameron English came closest in a good closing spell for the half from Marlow as his turn and snapshot went just wide.
Marlow had a number of good long range efforts in the second half without really testing Ben Heath but it was Diamonds who pressed to the end of the game. Joel Gyasi danced through the midfield muddy sections to nearly set-up Ben Farrell, Farrell then whipped in a brilliant effort that beat the away keeper but also the far post. Luke Fairlamb and Sam Brown showed great footwork to create a chance for Brown only to see it blocked close to the line. Ryan Robbins then set-up Tom Lorraine for an edge of the area effort and Luke Fairlamb fired across goal and just in front of Tom Lorraine. Diamonds were tiring and making the occasional poor choice in the final third but Marlow were working so hard to block and harry to the end with heroic efforts for their team. Sam Brown so nearly created another potential moment of glory coming onto a 25 yard effort that flew well over and a 93rd minute almost goal line cross was somehow cleared by the away side.
Marlow were ultimately good value for their point despite a tiring Diamonds pressing to the end in what was an entertaining 0-0 draw. It came off the back of a 9 game winning league run so you have to accept it won’t always be your day. Not a bad Saturday afternoon and they go again on Tuesday night against Hitchin Town in the 3rd round of the Southern League Cup at Hayden Road.
One change to the starting line-up for manager Andy Peaks with Liam Dolman returning to a very familiar looking back three alongside Sam Brown and Jack Ashton. Cameron Gilchrist dropped to the bench joining Blaize Punter, Ben Diamond, Callum Westwood and the returning Darryl Smith.
The Hayden Road pitch was understandably heavy after so much recent rain which prompted a morning pitch inspection but the teams started with plenty of energy and willingness to get the ball forward at the earliest opportunity.
Marlow had some good early pressure prompting Liam Dolman to make an important headed clearance on 3 minutes but Diamonds soon hit back with half-chances for Ryan Robbins from some patient build-up play.
Robins then showed a great touch to set-up Joel Gyasi to run at the 18 yard box and fire a curled effort that away keeper Grant held at full stretch. Gyasi then returned the favour running the length of the field after Ben Heath quick throw-out from a collected corner to set-up Robbins via Ben Farrell to see his effort smothered away by Grant.
Diamonds were passing the ball well over the cutting-up surface and came very close to the early breakthrough their play deserved. Luke Fairlamb worked down the left and into the box to drive the ball towards Tom Lorraine 8 yards out whose flick at goal pulled a tremendous full length save from Grant. Ryan Robbins just failed to convert the rebound from close range.
Jack Westbrook hit a 25 yard effort just over, Luke Fairlamb saw his 18 yard effort deflected over and Joel Gyasi dragged another edge of the area effort wide as Diamonds pressed but were kept to shooting chances rather than close in chances. Luke Fairlamb was then felled right on the edge of the area but struck his free-kick wide in Diamonds last real chance of the half.
Marlow finished the half strongly with a good period of pressure following a chance on the break that saw a 20 yard effort tipped wide by Ben Heath. Kameron English then struck a superb effort after a great touch and turn just wide and then forced an acrobatic Tom Lorraine 6 yard box clearance from another corner.
Half-time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0 Marlow FC 0
Marlow had the first chance of the second half as Jack Ashton was penalised for a challenge right on the edge of the box just a minute in. The impressive Jordace Holder-Spoon rather wasted the chance though not managing to beat the home wall.
Luke Fairlamb then forced Grant into a low save from a 20 yard effort and Joel Gyasi just failed to put Ben Farrell away after dancing through the midfield mud as Diamonds tried to up the tempo but couldn’t find the fluidity of their first half passing.
A series of corners and long throws were the biggest danger in the middle period of the half apart from a brilliant angled whipped effort from Ben Farrell that beat Grant but also the far post….just.
There was no shortage of effort from Diamonds but they occasionally made poor choices in the final third that denied momentum and the opening they were striving for.
Sam Brown and Luke Fairlamb showed tremendous footwork on 70 minutes to create space deep in the box for Brown to fire along the 6 yard line meeting yet another Marlow block. Ryan Robbins then set-up Tom Lorraine to get a 20 yard shot away on 74 minutes but he was slipping as he struck it and saw it go well wide.
Marlow responded with 2 great long distance efforts that just evaded the goal if not the boarding on the Peter De Banke Terrace.
The final minutes saw Diamonds press solidly but Marlow were consistently getting in blocks and clearances to frustrate the home side. Luke Fairlamb whipped in a ball that just evaded Tom Lorraine on the far post, Sam Brown came onto a ball 25 yards out as you thought one of his special moments was due but he struck well over, and in the 94th minute a ball fired virtually along the goal line was somehow kept out by Marlow.
Full-time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2 Marlow FC 0
After 9 straight wins this wasn’t a bad result against a Marlow side who belied their lowly league position. Diamonds performed pretty well particularly in the first half and you felt the early goal they deserved would have made for a very different game. Both sides understandably tired in the second half on the increasingly cutting up pitch but it was an entertaining game that stayed open right to the end.
Diamonds face Hitchin in the League Cup on Tuesday night before a long trip to Fleet Town next Saturday.
Man of the Match: Sam Brown (selected by Match Sponsors and big Diamonds supporters Harts Family Brewery – look out for their great new pub in Wellingborough, The Old House)
Match Summary: Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
13. Ben Heath
2. Joe Curtis
3. Sam Brown
4. Jack Westbrook
5. Liam Dolman (C)
6. Jack Ashton
7. Joel Gyasi
8. Ben Farrell
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Ryan Robbins
11. Luke Fairlamb
12. Callum Westwood
14. Darryl Smith (for Robbins 76)
15. Ben Diamonds (for Curtis 63)
16. Cameron Gilchrist
18. Blaize Punter
1. Simon Grant
2. Curtis Chapple
3. Fabian Etienne
4. Jack Kerrigan
5. Calam Gallimore
6. Chris Ovenden (C)
7. Jordace Holder-Spoon
8. Junaid Bell
9. Kelvin Bossman
10. Jay Welch
11. Kameron English
12. Daniel Bailey
14. Josh Francis
15. Harry Rush
16. Charlie Barton (for Holder-Spoon 83)
17. Luke Farrugia
Yellow Card: Ashton, Westbrook
Yellow Cards: Grant, Etienne
Referee: Paul Buck
Assistants: Reece Scott, Aidan Murphy