AFC Rushden & Diamonds recorded a narrow victory over Rushden & Higham United on Tuesday evening. On a heavy and slippery Dog and Duck pitch, and on a wet evening, Alfie Taylor scored the winning goal after 4 minutes, with the Lankies keeper seeing the ball squirming through his arms and into the net.
Diamonds manager Mark Starmer was forced into a late change when Quincy Shorunmu declared himself unfit a few minutes before kick-off, due to the groin injury he received on Saturday, despite having assured the manager he was ready for the game on several occasions. This meant that Ashley Foulger would start a UCL game for the first time. Peter Okechukwu was given a start for the first time since September, with Lance Allen dropping to the bench, and upfront Alfie Taylor returned in place of Ben Morgan.
With the game approaching four minutes old, the Diamonds took the lead, when Alfie Taylor picked up an incisive through ball from Séan McBride in the right channel, and although his shot was well hit, visiting keeper Nigel Bedford saw the ball squirm past him and into the net.
The Diamonds looked like increasing their lead three minutes later when a corner from the left was cleared as far as Alfie Taylor, whose powerful shot looked to be heading inside the right hand post until it struck Jake Newman who was standing near that post, and bounced away to safety.
After a quiet period in the game Newman and Taylor combined to create a chance for Newman midway through the half, but the striker’s effort went into the side-netting, and he went on to head over the bar after finding space at a corner.
Referee Dobbs’ whistle was frustrating the crowd, not helped by the official’s unwillingness to take action after a rugby-tackle from Aaron Campion, or when Matt Gearing was taken down in full flight towards the corner of the box by Campion, with replays suggesting the offence was inside the penalty area. The resultant free kick was headed over by Jake Newman after he had again found space in the area.
The main threat from the visitors was on the break, and Daryl Lawman might have done better when he outstripped the covering players after a corner at the other end, but fired wide. He had also missed a similar opportunity earlier when he was forced wide by Foulger.
Half-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 Rushden & Higham United 0
After the frustration of failing to extend their lead, the Diamonds continued to struggle to create clear-cut chances after the break, with the best chance falling to Alfie Taylor after a Chris Hope flick on from a Brown throw fell to him in the area, but he scuffed his shot. Sam Brown then crossed for Matt Gearing who connected well with his shot, but keeper Bedford was able to parry.
Another Brown cross saw Alfie Taylor denied by a combination of keeper and defender. Referee Dobbs again took a lenient approach when Gearing was felled in full flight for the second time in the game. Some assured catches by Ashley Foulger and some solid defending limited the chances for the visitors.
A final chance for the Diamonds to seal the game came from a solo effort from Alfie Taylor, and the striker was unfortunate to see his shot strike the post. There was still time for two more chances for the visitors, with both Hope and Brown helping Ashley Foulger to earn his first clean sheet in the league.
Full-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 Rushden & Higham United 0
The Diamonds host Northampton ON Chenecks on Saturday (KO 3pm).
Diamonds Man-of-the-Match: Alfie Taylor
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Rushden & Higham United
13. Ashley Foulger
2. Jake Gillingwater
3. Sam Brown
4. Séan McBride
5. Chris Hope(capt)
6. Alex Deakin
7. Peter Okechukwu
8. Brad Harris
9. Alfie Taylor
10. Jake Newman
11. Matt Gearing
12. Ben Morgan (for Gearing 81)
14. Joe Merrill (for Harris 81)
15. Louis Smith
16. Lance Allen (for Newman 89)
17. Deven Ellwood
1. Nigel Bedford
2. Ben Lord
3. Aaron Campion
4. Chris Walton (capt)
5. Glen O’Connor
6. Tyler Merries
7. Lewis O’Dell
8. Darren Farrar
9. Craig Lawman
10. Craig Harrower
11. Daryl Lawman
12. Aaron Cormack (for Farrar 69)
14. Jory Mann (for Harrower 79)
15. Ashley Green (for Campion 52)
16. Stuart Goosey
17. Aaron Doherty
Goals: Taylor (4)
Cards : McBride
Cards: Merries, O’Dell
Referee: Paul Dobbs
Assistants: Chris Watkins, Mark Spelling
For video highlights click here.
Images courtesy of Mal Swinden ©2013 Malcolm Swinden Photography
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