AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2-1 Coalville Town FC

Diamonds dramatically struck in stoppage time to claim their first win of the season and consign the visitors to their first defeat.

The hosts led after only four minutes when captain Liam Dolman touched in from close range following Ben Diamond’s header across, and they almost doubled their lead when Gyasi lobbed just over. Coalville upped the pressure though, with danger-man Thomas Mcglinchey being denied by the excellent Dean Snedker and Luke Shaw also drawing a save from the Diamonds stopper. Following some further close moments, the visitors won a penalty when Tim Berridge was brought down, and Billy Kee stepped up to convert. Berridge was then played in on goal, but Snedker made a crucial save, and then Rushden almost grabbed the lead again when a back-pass slipped away from the visiting keeper but it ran just wide.

The second half was quieter, with Coalville applying pressure and having most of the chances. Berridge was thwarted by Snedker, a number of efforts were blocked and Shaw had a deflected strike fly millimetres wide. The Diamonds defended strongly throughout though and, just as it looked like the contest would end in a draw, they broke through Joel Gyasi. The winger sprinted away from the visiting defence before coolly slotting a low effort past the keeper to spark rapturous scenes amongst the home faithful.

First half

Manager Peaks made two changes to the starting XI that has been defeated by Banbury in their opening league fixture on Tuesday. Paddy Casey replaced the injured Alex Collard in the heart of defence, and Tom Lorraine came in for Lorrell Smith who took a place on the bench alongside the returning Fernando Bell-Toxtle and Nat Gosnal-Tyler.

Coalville had started the season well, winning their opening encounter and drawing their second, and had finished the cancelled campaign last year top of the table without losing a league game. They had emerged victorious in each of their last four contests against the Diamonds, but it was the hosts who started this match the brighter in forcing a couple of early corners. From the second of these, Claudio Dias’ delivery found Casey at the back post and his header back across found fellow defender Liam Dolman to nudge home from close range.

Moments after the visitors were forced into an early change when Stuart Pierpoint replaced the injured defender Chris Robertson, Rushden almost doubled their advantage when Joel Gyasi latched onto a Lorraine flick to loop an effort goalwards. It sailed over Saul Deeney in the away goal, but it landed onto the roof of the net rather than the back of it.

Coalville then started to get a foothold in the game, with Thomas Mcglinchey seeing an effort fly wide from 25 yards and Ben Diamond being forced into an important clearance to stop the dangerous winger getting in on goal. After 18 minutes, they should have equalised when Tim Berridge cleverly skipped past Dolman and fed Mcglinchey. However, his low effort was brilliantly blocked by Dean Snedker, who would go on to have another impressive and commanding display following his competitive Diamonds debut last time out.

Moments later, fellow away winger Luke Shaw sprinted forward on the left and unleashed a strike goalwards that Snedker parried away diving to his left. Mcglinchey then had a shot charged down as the visitors continued to build pressure and force Diamonds back.

The hosts were also forced into a change when Dias hobbled off following an earlier challenge to be replaced by Bell-Toxtle. Coalville continued to press and, after Mcglinchey had skimmed two efforts wide of the post, they won a penalty. A through ball saw Casey slip on the wet surface, and Berridge ran through on goal. In his attempt to get back and stop the chance, Gyasi brought down the striker and referee Joshua Crofts had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Striker Billy Kee stepped up and confidently placed the spot-kick past Snedker to level the scores.

Diamonds almost re-established their lead immediately when Sam Warburton was set free down the left, and his low ball was only partly parried away. Gyasi got onto the rebound but was slipping and also quickly surrounded by a couple of defenders, so his effort was smuggled away. Coalville swept down the other end in what was proving a very entertaining half, Berridge was played in on goal but Snedker spread himself superbly and made a crucial save.

The visitors created some further half-chances as the half drew towards a close, with Shaw striking wide and then having a shot blocked, midfielder Joe Doyle-Charles having a long-range effort comfortably held, and defender Jake Eggleton hooking an improvised effort over the bar. It was Diamonds who came closest though when, in the fourth minute of additional time, a pass was played back to Deeney only for it to race past the keeper. Lorraine tried to sprint onto it to tap home into the unguarded net, but it ran out of play for a corner that was cleared.

Half time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1-1 Coalville Town

Second half

Less than 30 seconds had elapsed in the half when Berridge got in down the left for the visitors, he cut inside but his strike was well tipped away by Snedker. Berridge then headed over before Dolman did likewise for Rushden after Diamond had done well to win a corner following a strong run down the left.

Coalville continued to have more of the ball and press forward, though they were struggling to create clear-cut chances against an organised Diamonds defence. Kee struck an effort from the edge of the area following a cleared corner, but it was straight at Snedker, and then Mcglinchey had another effort blocked before full-back Kian Taylor hit a 35-yard free-kick over the bar into the Peter de Banke terrace.

With 15 minutes to go, Diamonds made their first change as Will Jones replaced the ever-willing and hardworking Lorraine. Following a rising effort from Mcglicnhey that flew well over the bar, Gyasi did well to skip in from the right before having an effort strongly blocked by Pierpoint. The away defender went down as did Jones, and the home striker unfortunately wasn’t able to continue as Smith came on in his place.

The half was less eventful and quieter in goalmouth action than in the first period but, with the match firmly in the balance as the time ebbed away, both sides sensed the possibility of grabbing a late winner. Diamond did well defensively again to block a cross at the expense of a corner, and the following set-piece dropped for Shaw on the edge of the box. His dipping strike, via a slight deflection, left Snedker rooted to the spot, but thankfully for the hosts it flew millimetres wide of the far post.

Warburton then broke down the left for Rushden, and his low ball in almost fell for Gyasi but did for Smith. He tried to generate some space but was quickly closed down, and the danger was eventually nullified. Coalville broke again in an end-to-end conclusion to the match, and Eggleton had a downward header held by Snedker.

Four minutes of stoppage time was signalled and, in the first of these, Jesse Akubuine was booked for a sliding challenge. Then, in the second minute, Diamonds struck. Slinn cleared an away attack, and Smith did well to win a flick-on ahead of the halfway line for Joel Gyasi. The winger’s first touch was perfect to get away from a nearby defender, but he still had plenty to do with just under half of the pitch away from goal. He sped forward though, took a couple of touches into the area to set himself and then showed tremendous composure to roll a low effort through Deeney’s legs and into the back of the net.

There was still time for Snedker to deny Coalville an equaliser as the Diamonds keeper showed strong reflexes to tip a header over following a right-wing cross, but Crofts soon blew his whistle to signal the end of the gripping encounter.

Full time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2-1 Coalville Town

Following the disappointment of Tuesday night, Diamonds showed great resolve and strength of character to bounce back with this courageous display. Though Coalville had lots of possession and created a number of chances, especially in the first half, the hosts dug in and clinically took their opportunities at the start and end of the match. They were helped by a terrific defensive display, in particular from Snedker again and also full-back Ben Garwood. The euphoria and jubilant scenes that greeted the late winner were made even more special after the uncertain last 17 months that everybody has experienced, and to have another great memory created at Hayden Road truly was a moment to never be forgotten for all present.

Diamonds are on the road for the first time this season in their next match as they travel to Bromsgrove Sporting on Saturday (28 August), 3pm kick-off.

Diamonds Man of the Match: Ben Garwood

Attendance: 387

Match report by Ollie Mortimer

Diamonds: Snedker, Garwood, Warburton, Casey, Dolman (C), Dias (Bell-Toxtle 22), Gyasi, Slinn, Lorraine (Jones 75) (Smith 85), Akubuine, Diamond (subs not used: Gosnal-Tyler, Nixon)

Diamonds goals: Dolman (4), Gyasi (90+2)

Diamonds yellows: Gyasi (33), Akubuine (90+1)

Coalville: Saul Deeney, Kyle Tomlin, Kian Taylor, Jake Eggleton, Chris Robertson (Stuart Pierpoint 7), Steve Towers (C), Luke Shaw, Joe Doyle-Charles, Tim Berridge, Billy Kee, Thomas Mcglinchey (subs not used: Kyle Jardine, Connor Smith, Alex Dean, Dave Assuncao)

Coalville goals: Kee (pen 34)

Referee: Joshua Crofts

Assistants: Aimee Kier, James Cliffe

Images courtesy of Stephanie Webb Photography ©2021