AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1-2 Hinckley United
A young AFC Rushden & Diamonds side lost narrowly in an entertaining friendly against Hinckley United. The Diamonds lined up with only two players from the starting XI in the previous week’s Cup Final victory over AFC Kempston Rovers, namely Elliot Ames and Ben Roche. There was a debut for trialist Ben Clarke between the sticks, while another trialist, Tom Ward, made his second appearance in the AFC defence.
The visitors started the game brightly and took the lead on 4 minutes with the first shot of the match. Harry Solomon broke down the left wing before picking out Joe Lyne with a low cross into the penalty area, and his shot took a slight deflection with the ball ensconcing itself in the bottom corner of the net.
The Diamonds responded well and equalised just 3 minutes later with their first attack of the game. Ben Roche won possession on the half way line before finding Jake Reynolds on the right flank. Reynolds beat his man and got to the byline before pulling the ball back to Jeron Thompson 6 yards from goal. Thompson’s shot was well saved by Jack Skelton from point blank range, but the loose ball fell invitingly for Blake Helsdown who smashed it home from 10 yards.
The Knitters almost regained the lead immediately, as Ben Clarke raced from his line to intercept the ball just ahead of the onrushing Jake Abbott. He couldn’t hold onto it however, with the loose ball falling to Liam Canovan just outside the penalty area, and his attempted lob was tipped around the post by the recovering Clarke. From the resulting corner, Jarod Acton headed narrowly over the bar.
Rushden did have the ball in the back of the net again on 10 minutes, as Reynolds raced onto a through ball from Noah Bryant before neatly sliding past Skelton, but he was denied by an offside flag.
The visitors then began to take control of the game, although the Diamonds on several occasions were the orchestrators of the Hinckley chances.
On 12 minutes a cross from the right by Joe Elliot was completely missed by Elliot Ames, with Solomon stabbing the ball towards goal, but his effort was straight at Clarke. Shortly after, Zaak Moon lost possession cheaply just outside his own box, allowing Canovan a shooting chance from 20 yards, but again Clarke came to the rescue, tipping the ball around the post.
The impressive Canovan was involved in much of the Knitters’ good attacking play, and on 20 minutes he turned well inside the Diamonds’ penalty area before curling a shot towards the top corner, but Clarke denied him once again with a fingertip save. Three minutes later the visitors went within inches of taking the lead once more, as a left wing corner was played in towards the near post, where Helsdown sliced it against his own crossbar before the defence scrambled it clear.
With the half hour mark approaching Moon again lost possession in a dangerous area, allowing Abbott a chance to cross from the right wing. His excellent ball in picked out Canovan, but his simple header from 10 yards went narrowly wide of the post. Seconds later, Sam Munton found Canovan with a good through ball, but Clarke was quickly off his line to save bravely at the feet of the Hinckley striker.
A rare chance for the Diamonds on 34 minutes almost saw them take an undeserved lead. Harry May was caught offside just inside the Hinckley penalty area, and the resulting free kick from Skelton was scuffed straight to May, 35 yards from goal, but his attempted lob was too close to the Hinckley ‘keeper who recovered just in time.
The remainder of the first half petered out with little attacking action of note. The visitors were still controlling possession better, but found the Rushden defence far more resolute than they had been up to that point.
HT: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1-1 Hinckley United
The Diamonds’ first half performance hadn’t been up to the high standard they have set over the course of the season, but they looked to put that right at the start of the second half.
Two minutes after the restart, Matti Ellis picked out Reynolds with a great through ball, but for once his finishing let him down as he lifted the ball over the bar with only the ‘keeper to beat.
On 51 minutes May burst forward down the right wing, before finding Noah Bryant with a low cross. The ball was just behind Bryant, but he managed to bring it under control before swivelling and hitting a left foot shot just wide of the post. Two minutes later May was the provider once more, this time picking out substitute Adam Ziolkowski with a corner, but the defender’s header was wide of the goal.
The visitors came back into the game more as the half went on, and Roche had to be at his sharpest to cut out a dangerous cross from Lyne on 65 minutes. From the resulting corner Alex Beeby crashed a header against the bar.
On 68 minutes Helsdown set off on a great run down the left flank, getting to the byline before pulling the ball back to May, whose shot was well saved by Skelton. Two minutes later the Diamonds almost edged ahead in stunning fashion. A long crossfield pass found Reynolds on the corner of the penalty area, and he hit a rasping first time shot which flew inches wide of the far post with Skelton well beaten.
On 72 minutes however, it was the visitors who took the lead. A right wing corner caused panic in the AFC defence, with Beeby’s header being scrambled off the line, only for Macauley Anthony to follow up and smash the ball home from a tight angle.
The goal was followed by a series of substitutions which seemed to break up the rhythm of the game with chances at a premium thereafter. The only one of note fell to Anthony once more who was firstly denied by a superb challenge from Zach Farden, and from the resulting corner the same player saw a volley deflected just wide of the upright.
FT: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1-2 Hinckley United
The Diamonds’ will see out the next few weeks with a series of friendlies, the next one being a game against Milton Keynes College Academy next Thursday at the Dog & Duck, match preview HERE.
Man of the Match: Ben Roche
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
|24. Ben Clarke
4. Elliot Ames (c)
5. Ben Roche
17. Tom Ward
11. Harry May
8. Zaak Moon
12. Matti Ellis
13. Noah Bryant
7. Blake Helsdown
10. Jeron Thompson
14. Jake Reynolds
|1. Jack Skelton
2. Joe Elliot
3. Nathan Astill
4. Josh Smith
5. Jarod Acton
6. Alex Beeby
7. Jake Abbott
8. Sam Munton
9. Joe Lyne
10. Liam Canovan
11. Harry Solomon
2. Ashley Meeks (for May, 82 mins)
3. Zach Farden (for Thompson, 60 mins)
6. Alex McDonald (for Moon, 72 mins)
9. Fred Devereaux (for Ellis, 72 mins)
13. Louis Smith (for Ward, 82 mins)
15. Adam Ziolkowski (for Roche, 46 mins)
16. Toby Robinson (for Helsdown, 82, mins)
86. Mozza Roberts (for Clarke, 67 mins)
12. Charlie Bird (for Abbott, 46 mins)
14. Macauley Anthony (for Munton, 46 mins)
15. Nathan Root (for Elliot, 33 mins)
Helsdown (7 mins)
Lyne (4 mins)
Anthony (72 mins)