AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2-0 Bedworth United

AFC Rushden & Diamonds recorded a thoroughly deserved victory over previously unbeaten Bedworth United in the Northern Premier League First Division South at the Dog & Duck on Bank Holiday Monday.

After Ross Oulton and Nabil Shariff had sseen efforts well saved by the visitors’ goalkeeper James Martin Diamonds forged ahead in the 9th minute as Shariff neatly flicked a pass into the path of Robbie Parsons, and the winger ran through on goal before chipping a delicate finish over the onrushing stopper. Liam Dolman then saw a curling free-kick well held and fellow central defender Jack Ashton climbed well to drift a header wide, and Rushden were wholly dominant in these early exchanges with quick link-up play and incisive passing. They doubled their lead in the 32nd minute when Taylor Orosz knocked the ball past Martin and from a  tight angle hit a skidding effort that hit the near post, but the ball rebounded for Nic Evangelinos to volley home. Brad Harris almost made it three when he saw a shot blocked behind, but Bedworth then had the best of the final ten minutes of the half as Daniel Creaney saw a header tipped over and Elliot Parrott was only denied by a goalline clearance by Evangelinos. Oulton had the final opportunity of the half when he had a near post shot parried behind by Martin, and this chance signalled the end of a frenetic and entertaining 45 minutes.

The second half was markedly quieter in comparison, with Diamonds defending strongly to nulify any Bedworth threat. Away skipper Luke Rowe had a shot blocked behind by Ashton, but aside from this the hosts were still creating chances as Dolman saw a stinging effort well held, Shariff turned and had a shot blocked by Martin’s body and Parsons dragged a shot wide of the far post. Jordan Archer almost halved the deficit when he met a corner to direct a header golawards, but Matt Finlay clawed the ball away brilliantly, and this proved to be Bedworth’s last real chance of note. Though Rushden substitute Tom Lorraine saw three efforts saved and Shariff and Parsons fired off target, the job was done by the home side in the first half as they recorded their first home league victory of the new season.

Diamonds manager Andy Peaks stuck with exactly the same starting XI and substitutes that had lined up in the 3-1 victory over Carlton Town two days previously, and as the two sides entered the field of play there was a sense of intrigue as to whether Rushden could maintain their high performance level shown in that last win against a Bedworth side that sat 6th in the league table after a win and two draws from their opening three games.

The sun was high in the sky on a gloriously hot day in Wellingborough as referee Abbas Khan blew his whistle to signal the start of the contest, and it was the hosts who were onto the front foot immediately. As early as the fifth minute they created an opportunity when Sam Brown launched a long throw-in from the left into the penalty area, and though it was cleared it only fell to the lurking Ross Oulton. He collected the loose ball and curled a shot goalwards, but James Martin in the Bedworth goal was able to hold collect down to his right side. Less than a minute later Taylor Orosz slipped a neat through ball into the path of strike-partner Nabil Shariff, and he ran into the right side of the box to hit a shot that Martin again was required to save.

This was an early example of what was to come for the majority of the half from the home side as their link-up play, close control and energy in the attacking third created huge problems for the visitors. Another example resulted in the opening goal of the game in the 9th minute as Liam Dolman coolly intercepted an intended long ball forward by The Greenbacks and played it to full-back Kyal McNulty. He in turn chipped a ball down the right touchline into the path of Shariff, and he was able to perfectly control, swiftly turn and precisely flick a pass onto the marauding Robbie Parsons. The Diamonds number 8 touched the ball forward for himself to run onto beyond the Bedworth defence, and as Martin advanced out of his goal to try and close the angle Parsons delicately chipped the ball over him and into the back of the net, albeit via a slight touch by the goalkeeper.

In their last home league game against Chasetown Rushden had taken the lead but then surrendered it later on in the contest, but here there was no sign of them letting up and trying to protect the lead as they seeked a second goal immediately afterwards. Orosz and Nic Evangelinos showcased the Diamonds’ quick pressing of their opposing numbers in the early exchanges by pressuring Aaron Stringfellow into miscontrolling, and he could only foul Evangelinos as a consequence. Dolman stepped up to take the resultant kick, and despite curling it on target Martin was able to move to his right and hold the ball well. Orosz was involved further in the 17th minute when he made a positive run down the right flank before seeing his ensuing cross blocked behind for a corner, and the deep kick found Jack Ashton who could only loop a header well wide of goal. Another set-piece from the right wing threatened to cause issues for the visiting defence four minutes later as Oulton pitched a long throw over a Bedworth defender, but fortunately for the away side Martin seized on the ball before it could drop for the nearby Evangelinos.

Bedworth had shown very little in the way of being an attacking force in the opening 25 minutes as Rushden pressed and harried their unbeaten opponents high up the pitch, but they did fashion a half-chance when an inswinging cross from captain Luke Rowe would have found a team-mate at the back post if it hadn’t have been for good defending from McNulty as he used his strength to block the run and allow the ball to drift out for a goal-kick.

And in their next foray forward the Diamonds were able to extend their lead. A precise volleyed ball forward by Oulton dropped over the Bedworth defence for Orosz to run in behind, and as he challenged Martin for the ball as the goalkeeper came out the ball ran in favour of the attacker. He seized on the spinning ball on the left of the area, and though he was faced with a back-tracking goalkeeper and a tight angle he did brilliantly to flash an effort at goal towards the near post that bounced back off the upright. The ball fell for Nic Evangelinos though, and he was on hand to volley home the rebound right-footed despite the best efforts of a covering Greenbacks defender on the goal-line.

Any initial thoughts that Diamonds would be content to hold the two goal advantage until half-time were dispelled almost immediately as their dominance and high performance levels continued. Four minutes after Evangelinos’ goal a ball forward by Brown was met by a sumptuous backheeled flick from Shariff into the advancing Harris, and it was only a last-ditch challenge that stopped the Rushden midfielder from getting a decent attempt off at goal. The subsequent corner went very close to finding a leaping Ashton, and the ball just wouldn’t drop for a lurking home player as the ball was scrambled to safety, before Evangelinos volleyed wide from range moments later.

 However, after being relegated from the Southern League Premier Division last season and enjoying a strong start to this campaign, Bedworth could not be written off by any means and so it was proved as they went on to dominate the final ten minutes of the half. They mustered their first real effort of note in the 39th minute when Daniel Creaney, who had scored seven goals in all competitions thus far, met a right-wing cross and saw a looping header require Finlay to tip the ball over his crossbar. A minute later and they went mightily close to halving the Diamonds’ advantage as a corner from the right flank found a Bedworth head at the back post. Despite there being appeals for a push on a home defender, the ball was nodded back across goal similarly to how Chasetown scored their equalising goal a couple of weeks ago, and this time it fell for Elliot Parrott in the middle of the box. It looked for all the world that he was about to score, but Evangelinos superbly cleared his effort off the line before further pressure led to Stringfellow launching a shot over the Peter de Banke terrace to signal an end to the mini onslaught.

There was just enough time for a Diamonds riposte to this sustained period of attacking by the visitors as Harris calmly knocked a pass into Parsons’ path on the left, and he was allowed time and space to run at the backpedalling Stringfellow. Oulton made an intelligent overlapping run and was found by Parsons, and Oulton showed good skill to jink inside and hit a strong effort that forced Martin into a tidy parry to his right-hand side. Time was then called shortly afterwards on a half full of entertainment, energy and endeavour from the home side especially.

Half Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2-0 Bedworth United

The sun was still beaming down onto the Dog & Duck surface and a very warm temperature surrounding the ground as first Bedworth and then Diamonds re-entered the fray after the half-time break. With the hosts having conceded six of their eight goals shipped in the second halves of matches so far this season, the home fans knew it was key that Rushden carried on their impressive showing of the opening half and not allow Bedworth any chance of a way back into the contest.

It was the visitors who were the first to threaten in the second period, as in the 47th minute a right-wing cross found Rowe in a little pocket of space, but his shot was blocked behind by Ashton and the resulting corner kick sailed harmlessly over everyone in the area and out for a goal-kick. Oulton, who after his man-of-the-match performance on Saturday was again having an effective game, then retorted by gaining possession and playing the ball to Dolman, making his 100th appearance for the club, who had popped up on the right-side. He was allowed to step a couple of steps forward and then thump a fierce effort that Martin did well to hold onto as he moved to his left to field the ball.

Shariff had enjoyed an excellent start to the season with three goals and four assists in his five and a half games so far, and he almost had another goal to add to his season tally in the 55th minute. A ball was played into him on the edge of the area, and though he had his back to goal he quickly swivelled and span away from two covering defenders to suddenly find himself running into the area and in on goal. Martin came to the rescue again, however, as he denied the following shot with a strong save.

There was a clear and evident sign that the Bedworth management team’s words at half-time had had little effect as they made two alterations just short of the hour mark, with the more offensive change seeing Justin Marsden replace Rowe in midfield. This seemed to have little impact to begin with though as the Diamonds carved out another opportunity shortly afterwards, and it was a quick break forward again that produced the chance. The ball was swiftly played into Shariff after a Greenbacks’ attack had broken down up the other end, and he showed plenty of strength to outmuscle his marker and dart into the right side of the box. He intelligently pulled the ball back for the unmarked Parsons, but unfortunately for the hosts he could only meekly drag his effort wide of the far post.

There then followed the first relatively quiet period of the game for the next ten minutes, with Marsden especially looking to find ways through the Diamonds midfield and defence, but Rushden were standing strong and limiting any threat. There was a worry for the hosts when Oulton went down following an aerial duel and after a couple of minutes of treatment he hobbled off to be replaced by Richard Bunting, but there was confirmation after the game that he had only sustained a dead leg in the challenge.

Bedworth’s best chance of the second half came in the 71st minute when a deep corner from the right found a rising Jordan Archer at the back post, and his clever floated header back towards the opposite corner of the goal required Finlay to brilliantly claw the ball away before it was cleared upfield. Ashton then fouled substitute and ex-Kettering striker Iyseden Christie around 25 yards out from goal, but the subsequent kick from full-back Craig Kelly was weak and easily blocked away.

Tom Lorraine was then introduced into the action at the expense of the hard-working and impressive Taylor Orosz, and the substitute immediately made an impact as he met Parsons’ clipped free-kick into the box, but his header slightly lacked power and the ball easily bounced into the goalkeeper’s arms. Shariff then had an excellent opportunity to seal the match and to get the goal that his performance deserved when he reached a bouncing ball and flicked it over a defender for him to run onto, but despite having time and space in the area he curled a left-footed effort narrowly wide of the far post.

Diamonds were closing out the game on the front foot just as they had started the match, and it was looking more likely that they would find a third goal rather than Bedworth finding a riposte. Parsons, who again impressed throughout, jinked down the right side two minutes before the end of the regulation 90 minutes, did a couple of stepovers and then flashed a quick effort just over the top of Martin’s goal.

There were two final chances for the hosts to add to their lead as the match ticked into stoppage time, and these both fell to Lorraine. Firstly he collected the ball in an advanced position, traversed the edge of the box and then hit a right-footed shot that Martin easily held to his right, and then minutes later he found himself in a two-on-two situation as he sprinted forward, with him running past a defender on the left and striking an effort that the goalkeeper this time held down to his left-hand side.

That was to be the final action of the match as referee Khan blew the full-time whistle, with the Diamonds fully deserving of the result.

Full Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2-0 Bedworth United

This result very much felt like a jump back in time for Diamonds fans to exactly a year ago when they defeated Bedford Town 2-0 in the Southern Premier League Division One Central. Not only was the sun shining throughout that fixture also, but Rushden dominated their opponents and turned in a performance of pace, incision, creativity and energy that Bedford couldn’t deal with, and the same could be said of this fixture especially in the opening 35 minutes. Not only does this represent Diamonds’ third consecutive victory in all competitions, but it also marks their second straight strong performance and also their first clean-sheet of the new season. The swift link-up play and pace when attacking particularly were pleasing aspects of this fixture against a strong Bedworth side who will undoubtedly be there or there-abouts come the end of the campaign, and all-in-all it was a near perfect day. Rushden move up to 10th in the league table, and high confidence and belief will be taken into the next fixture against AFC Hornchurch on Saturday (September 3rd) in the Emirates FA Cup First Qualifying Round.

Diamonds Man of the Match: Taylor Orosz

Attendance: 488

Match Report by Ollie Mortimer

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Bedworth United

17. Matt Finlay

2. Kyal McNulty

3. Sam Brown

4. Jack Ashton

5. Liam Dolman (C)

6. Brad Harris

7. Ross Oulton

8. Robbie Parsons

9. Taylor Orosz

10. Nabil Shariff

11. Nic Evangelinos



12. Aidan Bradshaw

13. Joseph Haynes

14. Lewis Leslie (for Evangelinos 84)

15. Richard Bunting (for Oulton 70)

16. Tom Lorraine (for Orosz 77)

1. James Martin

2. Aaron Stringfellow

3. Craig Kelly

4. Marcel Simpson

5. Elliot Parrott

6. Nathan Haines

7. Kieron Brehon

8. Richard Blythe

9. Jordan Archer

10. Daniel Creaney

11. Luke Rowe (C)



12. Justin Marsden (for Rowe 59)

14. Andrew Westwood

15. Daniel Kavanagh (for Stringfellow 59)

16. Iyseden Christie (for Archer 73)

Goals: Parsons (9), Evangelinos (32)

Goals: None

Yellow Cards: Orosz (45)

Yellow Cards: None

Referee: Abbas Khan

Assistants: Naji Nati, Shaun Barry



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