AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 – Deeping Rangers 0

AFC Rushden & Diamonds took another big step towards the much hoped for promotion with a hard fought 1-0 win against Deeping Rangers in front of a 555 crowd at the Dog & Duck on Saturday afternoon.

Diamonds pretty much dominated the first half creating plenty of good attacking positions but struggled to create the killer chances against an excellent Deeping defence.  Tommy Berwick, Tom Lorraine, Matt Gearing had Elliot Lamb-Johnson fired in close efforts, while Deeping were dangerous from free-kicks with Levi Wright coming closest with a quick volley that Matt Finlay had to touch wide. The goal that would win the game finally came on 44 as Tom Lorraine lashed in from 10 yards for his 16th of the season. The windy blustery conditions worsened in a low key second half which saw Deeping pressing forward but unable to fashion much in the way of chances. Matt Finlay in the Diamonds goal held every swirling cross and got down well to save Goldson-Williams best chance for Deeping late on. Diamonds held on well to take a vital 3 points in their promotion campaign.

 

Manager Andy Peaks fielded an unchanged side from the come from behind win on Tuesday night at Kempston. Joe Merrill retaining the right-back berth and goal scoring hero Brad Harris in centre-midfield with Richard Bunting. Tom Lorraine retained his starting position up front alongside Tommy Berwick with Elliot Lamb-Johnson and Matt Gearing the out wide pairing.

A strong blustery breeze was rustling the players shirts as they kicked off in bright conditions and Deeping had the first chance to test defenders ability to handle the conditions with a swirling free-kick on 3 minutes. Palmer just failed to get his head on the ball having found space in middle of the box.

Joe Merrill was a prominent attacking weapon for Diamonds and he fired in a low cross on 7 minutes that Tom Lorraine just failed to turn towards goal from the near post having got free of his marker.

Elliott Lamb-Johnson continued the excellent form he had shown since his return to the team and fired in two excellent crosses within a minute having got away from his full-back. The first was heading towards unmarked Tommy Berwick before a stretching defensive boot just cleared it for a corner. The second was volleyed just over by Berwick after he forced himself in front of a defender 12 yards out.

Diamonds were dominating possession and moving the ball well but were choosing to try and beat the man in front them in the final third rather than find the through-ball and the Deeping back-four were consistently making the tackle and standing up well to the title favourites. Daniel Flack in particular at right-back had Gearing, Berwick and Sam Brown running at him but I don’t think was beaten all afternoon.

Tom Lorraine was full of running as ever for Diamonds and fashioned an unusual chance on 25 after chasing a lost cause that was blown out of the box forcing the keeper to chase it. Lorraine won the ball and turned and lobbed the retreating keeper only to see the ball cleared off the line by a covering defender.

Diamonds fashioned a number of efforts on goal around the half-hour mark as they increased the tempo. Matt Gearing firing in a trademark flying volley after good work by Tommy Berwick, Berwick himself attempting to lob the keeper from 35 yards just wide, Elliot Lamb-Johnson firing in a an exocet effort from 25 yards that Bircham held well in the Deeping goal, and Berwick again firing in a cross-shot that just evaded Lorraine after a flowing move involving Gearing, Harris and Brown.

Deeping were bright in possession with Mohammed Hamid regularly running at the Diamonds defence but it was free-kicks in swirling conditions where they created most danger. Levi Wright forced an excellent last ditch save from Matt Finlay having got his boot to a deep free-kick that curled viciously in the breeze forcing Finlay to touch it round the post.

When it looked like the half would end goalless Diamonds came up with the vital breakthrough. A Sam Brown short throw-in this time was collected by Tom Lorraine he exchanged passes with Brad Harris and surged into the box and lashed the ball home from 12 yards, peeling away for his trademark leaping and turning celebration that delighted the home faithful. It was his 16th of the season and 17th for Diamonds and saw his team into half-time with a one goal lead.

Half-time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 – Deeping Ranger 0

The conditions were if anything more blustery in the second-half and behind the Deeping players who pressed forward in search of an equaliser.

A ball in from Levi Wright really caught the breeze and evaded Matt Finlay but fell safely for Joe Merrill to clear, and a series of corners kept the pressure on the Diamonds back four but everything was rebutted.

Diamonds created little in the way of chances in the second half trying to move the ball across the pitch and down both wings but found little space behind a resolute Deeping defence.

Joe Merrill created his own chance on 48 minutes winning a block tackle in midfield moving forward and seeing Bircham off his line fired in a Beckham style effort that the retreating keeper saw fall just over the bar.

Tom Lorraine did find rare space in behind the Deeping back four on 57 after a great one-two but his cutback to the free Tommy Berwick was just intercepted.

Deeping fired in a deep free-kick around the hour mark which Finlay held superbly, and he got down to another free-kick effort and held the ball well under pressure.

As Deeping were running hard at the Diamonds defence on the break they were halted by first Joe Merrill and then Jack Ashton who both received yellow cards on 65 and 75 respectively. Then on 76 they had their best chance for a deserved equaliser. Goldson-Williams found himself clear on the edge of the box drawing a gasp from the home faithful. His firm low effort was saved at full stretch by the excellent Matt Finlay.

Dunkley, Rogers and then Joseph were introduced for the last 20 minutes and it did brighten Diamonds going forward. Rogers was particularly lively down the left and he was involved in the move which led to Tom Lorraine nodding the ball through for Scott Joseph to sweep the ball wide from 6 yards.

He fired in a series of good crosses one finding Russ Dunkley which the big man couldn’t quite control, and another which just evaded Scott Joseph on the stretch.

When it looked like Diamonds had held on for the win the Deeping keeper went up for a twice taken free-kick 4 minutes into added on time which had hearts in mouths. But it was repelled and referee Robert Stanley who had an excellent game blew the final whistle to the relief of the home faithful.

Final Score: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 – Deeping Rangers 0

Diamonds weren’t at their best in testing conditions and found Deeping just as tough an opposition as up in Market Deeping at the beginning of February. They just had the better of the first half and Tom Lorraine’s vital goal was another important contribution from the big striker. Deeping deserved more from the game but Diamonds defended well in the second half with Matt Finlay secure in swirling conditions and he must have been a contender for man of the match. Joe Merrill was excellent though and his return to the team and great form has been a massive boost to the side.

Diamonds have a big cup semi-final on Tuesday against title contenders Wisbech at the Dog & Duck and don’t return to UCL prem action until Bank Holiday Monday against Long Buckby also at the Dog & Duck.

Man of the Match Chosen By Match Sponsor Edward Bailey: Joe Merrill

Attendance: 556

Match Report by Paul Judd

 

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Deeping Rangers

17. Matt Finlay

2.   Joe Merrill

3.   Sam Brown

4.   Jack Ashton

5.   Liam Dolman

6.   Brad Harris

7.   Matt Gearing

8.   Richard Bunting

9.   Tom Lorraine

10. Tommy Berwick

11. Elliott Lamb-Johnson

Subs

12. Charlie Butt

13. Rhys Redding

14. Scott Joseph (for Merrill 77)

16. Declan Rogers (for Gearing 72)

19. Russ Dunkley (for Berwick 68)

1.   Daniel Bircham

2.   Daniel Flack

3.   Tom Smith

4.   Spencer Tinkler

5.   Tom Palmer

6.   Ben Lewis

7.   Levi Wright

8.   Scott Ginty

9.   J Goldson-Williams

10. Mohammed Hamid

11. Jordan Avis

Subs

12. Matt Sparrow (for Goldson-Williams)

 

 

Goals: Lorraine (44)

Goals:

Yellow Cards: Merrill (65), Ashton (75), Lamb-Johnson

Yellow Cards:

Red Cards:

 Red Cards:

Referee: Robert Stanley

Assistants: Kevan Atkins, Martyn Allen

 

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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 ©2015

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

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