Despite valiant efforts, A.F.C. Rushden & Diamonds could not conjure a win against Kidsgrove Athletic, as the visitors progressed to the first qualifying round in the Buildbase FA Trophy. The Staffordshire-based club took the lead after just eight minutes through Tom France’s strike, and frustrated the Diamonds for the entire first half. This escalated soon after the interval as Athletic’s danger man, Anthony Malbon, volleyed past Matt Finlay. As the rain poured, Rushden’s day dampened in more ways than one when Kyle Diskin’s 20-yard effort deflected off Dolman and into the net via the cross bar, summing up the Diamonds’ luck. Substitute Tom Lorraine scored a late consolation to lift the spirits of both fans and players sporting white and blue, with the latter finally clicking into gear and creatively stretching the visiting defence in the final few minutes. However, it was a case of too little too late for the Diamonds as the resilient Kidsgrove defence stood firm.
Andy Peaks rotated the starting line-up from Tuesday’s 1-0 over St Neots Town, with Nabil Shariff, Chris Dillon, Luke Fairlamb and Joel Gyasi forming an exciting attack in front of Richard Bunting and Joe Curtis. However, the manager named the same back five that kept a clean-sheet in midweek, with Matt Finlay being protected by Callum Westwood, Ben Ford, Sam Brown and Liam Dolman. With Dillon also having started on Tuesday, Peaks made a total of five changes for today’s game, seeing Farrell, Heath, Lorraine, Hoban and Bell-Toxtle take places on the bench.
With bundles of talent in a potentially electric strike-force, the Diamonds started well and looked most likely to score in the opening stages. However, the visitors had other ideas.
The Grove’s Tom France found himself in possession with acres of space on the corner of the box, and noticing Finlay charging towards him, steered the ball around the Diamonds keeper with his left foot into the far corner on the eight minute mark.
The away goal came directly from a Diamonds chance at the other end, with Ryan Austin poaching Shariff’s low cross from the foot of Dillon, who looked all set to score.
However, five minutes after the opener, Dolman almost reset the scoreline. ‘Bully’ rose highest to a corner from the right, and his bullet header flew just over the bar.
Throughout the first half, the Diamonds continuously looked more dangerous, but Kidsgrove seemed more than happy to let the home side have possession and wait for their opportunities to arrive.
And when the Diamonds did find small cracks in the wall of orange and black, the Staffordshire-side survived every scare. Gyasi’s header from Brown’s cross sailed high and wide in the 27th minute, just before Westwood’s cross unexpectedly bounced off Shariff’s thigh and rolled agonizingly wide.
The Diamonds’ last real chance of the first half came in the 33rd minute. Westwood out-paced his man and squared an inviting cross, only for Shaun Rhodes to poke away at the last second. Bunting and Shariff had follow-up chances but neither could test the goalkeeper.
After referee Richard Walker waved away desperate hand-ball appeals from the home side, frustrations seemed to take their toll on the Diamond’s footballing quality, with Kidsgrove putting a little pressure on the hosts before the interval.
HT: A.F.C. Rushden & Diamonds 0-1 Kidsgrove Athletic
Hayden Road remained optimistic for improvements in the second half, however the Grove deflated the moods of the Diamonds faithful within just 4 minutes after the restart.
Tom France set Kyle Diskin loose on the right, who crossed perfectly for skipper Anthony Malbon. The dangerous striker, who had previously scored a hat-trick against the Diamonds, had been fairly quiet until he neatly volleyed home the Grove’s second.
Dolman denied Malbon from exactly the same position as the visitors looked to further exploit the host’s frustrations. And as both sides continued to create half-chances, the luck fell in favour of the visitors.
Kyle Diskin completed the victory after collecting the ball in the middle of the Diamonds half and unleashing a shot from distance. Diskin and his teammates reeled away in celebration after watching the ball cannon off Dolman and loop over the helpless Finlay.
By this point, Andy Peaks started to ring the changes… and they paid off. Tom Lorraine looked dangerous after replacing Dillon and became the man who scored the Diamond’s consolation goal.
In the 87th minute, Dolman whipped a cross into the area and Lorraine peeled away from his marker to volley into the bottom corner. A smart finish from a lively centre forward.
This late goal sparked a flurry of Diamonds chances as Gyasi hit the side-netting and Bunting headed wide. In the final few minutes, Rushden looked more like a side worthy of being an EVO-STIK League Southern Club of the Month. Yet, on the whole, today just wasn’t their day.
FT: A.F.C Rushden & Diamonds 1-3 Kidsgrove Athletic
A.F.C. Rushden & Diamonds:
17. Matt Finlay
2. Callum Westwood
3. Ben Ford
4. Sam Brown
5. Liam Dolman
6. Richard Bunting
7. Joel Gyasi
8. Joe Curtis (C)
9. Chris Dillon
10. Nabil Shariff
11. Luke Fairlamb
12. Ben Farrell
13. Ben Heath
14. Tom Lorraine (Dillon 56’)
15. Claudiu Hoban (Westwood 75’)
16. Fernando Bell Toxtle (Curtis 72’)
1. David Parton
2. Rhys Thompson
3. Lee Pickerill
4. Shaun Rhodes
5. Ryan Austin
6. Ross Davidson
7. Tom France
8. Daniel Skelton
9. Lee Cropper
10. Anthony Malbon (C)
11. Kyle Diskin
12. Leon Ashman (Pickerill 90+1’)
14. Daniel Cocks
15. Tim Sanders (Diskin 77’)
16. Dillon Bath (France 80’)
Tom France (8’)
Anthony Malbon (49’)
Kyle Diskin (70’)
Bookings: Ross Davidson (Kidsgrove)
Referee: Richard Walker
Assistant Referee: Ryan Allison
Assistant Referee: Alan Cox
Diamonds MOTM: Sam Brown