AFC Rushden & Diamonds slipped to their first defeat in their pre-season campaign as they went down 3-1 to a Luton Town XI. The Hatters’ striker Dan Walker scored all three goals, but when Deven Ellwood scored with a looping header to make the score 2-1 it was the Diamonds who looked like they might force a draw before Walker completed his hat-trick with a break-away goal.
Ex-R&DFC assistant manager Paul Driver had brought along a youthful Luton XI that included ex-R&DFC players Jerry Nash and Jake Woolley, but it was Dan Walker and his central defensive pairing of Chabata and Ann that really shone during the game. 21-year-old Walker had spent part of the 2011-12 season on-loan at Southport, playing and scoring at Football Conference level.
AFC R&D Manager Mark Starmer put out an attacking side for their final home pre-season game, with Sam Brown pushed forwards. Lee Gotch took a place in the centre of home defence alongside Chris Hope with Aynsley McDonald taking a wider role opposite Jamie O’Grady.
With Luton Town first-team manager Paul Buckle watching from the stand, and Kettering Town manager John Beck watching from the sidelines it was the visitors that had the best of the early exchanges, with Jake Woolley firing a chance just over, then Dan Walker missed from a couple of good openings.
With Chabata and Ann dominant in the air in the Hatters defence, the Diamonds started to get some joy with clever interchanges between Ellwood and Taylor, and one of these saw a powerful shot from Taylor shovelled around the post by keeper Barnes. Ellwood fired over after a good turn to make himself space.
Quincy Shorunmu was the busier keeper, and he made a number of confident saves, catches and punches to keep the visitors at bay, but just as it looked like he might help his side hold out until half-time, a good-looking Diamonds break was thwarted and with defenders out of position the Hatters worked the ball forwards quickly, threading the ball into the path of Dan Walker who had an easy task of slotting the ball home.
Half-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0 Luton Town XI 1
Mark Starmer brought on Joe Merrill for Jack Wisniewski at half-time, and again saw an early chance fall to Jake Woolley but his effort flew across Quincy Shorunmu’s goal. At the other end a Diamonds free-kick bounced around the area before being headed towards goal by Deven Ellwood and saved by Barnes.
Both sides made further changes and substitute Jake Gillingwater went close after Elliot Dent was fouled and a Taylor free-kick was blasted into the Hatters’ wall and then chipped towards goal, with Gillingwater firing wide after Barnes was unable to hold onto the ball.
After 67 minutes it looked like the result was decided when Dan Walker scored his second goal with a shot from the left, but the Diamonds quickly went to three at the back and immediately got a goal back on 70 minutes when a long throw from Gillingwater fell to Deven Ellwood who looped a header over the hands of Barnes and into the net.
Louis Smith was causing the Hatters problems with his delivery from set pieces, with Chris Hope going close as a result, but the nearest the home side came to an equaliser was when Alfie Taylor lashed a shot in from the right which Barnes did really well to tip onto a post, and Deven Ellwood was unable to convert the rebound.
At the other end the Hatters went close when the hit a post before Dan Walker made the game safe when he broke away while the Diamonds had pushed several defenders forwards as the game entered added time.
Full-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 Luton Town XI 3
The Diamonds now have two final pre-season games on the road, starting with a trip to Long Buckby on Tuesday evening.
Photographs courtesy of Mal Swinden.
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Luton Town XI
17. Quincy Shorunmu
2. Jamie O’Grady
3. Aynsley McDonald (Capt)
4. Elliot Dent
5. Chris Hope
6. Lee Gotch
7. Jack Wisniewski
8. Troy Johnston
9. Alfie Taylor
10. Deven Ellwood
11. Sam Brown
22. George Cox for Johnston (32)
20. Joe Merrill for Wisniewski (HT)
21. Ben Morgan for Brown (63)
19. James Allcock for O’Grady (63)
18. Jake Gillingwater for Gotch (63)
13. Ashley Foulger for Shorunmu(71)
1. Ben Barnes
2. Nick Burtenshaw
3. Isaac Galliford
4. Ian Rees
5. Tinashe Chabata
6. Alasan Ann
7. Jake Woolley
8. Calum Cobb
9. Dan Walker
10. Matt Robinson
11. Jerry Nash
GK. Craig King
13. Zane Banton
14. Charlie Smith
15. Dewonte Stanley
16. Marcus Lumb
Goal: Ellwood (70mins)
Goals: Walker (42, 67, 90+1)
Cards : None
Cards : None
Images courtesy of Mal Swinden