AFC Rushden & Diamonds claimed their second league
victory of the season as they delivered a controlled display to overcome a
revitalised Hednesford Town.
Andy Peaks reverted to a back four formation which, as he
later described in his post-match interview, fluctuated between a 4-3-3 and
4-4-2 depending on the circumstances of the game. The Diamonds manager also
made two personnel changes to the side which lost at Bromsgrove; Lorrell Smith
and Ryan Hughes came in to replace Matthew Slinn and the suspended Jack Ashton.
The ever-present Richard Walton was in goal. Alex Collard
was partnered alongside Patrick Casey in central defence with Ryan Hughes and
Zack Reynolds making up the back four. Fernando Bell-Toxtle and Jesse Akubuine
were the predominant midfield pairing with Luke Fairlamb and Tom Lorraine
lining up on the wings. Chris Wreh and Lorrell Smith lead the attack but often
interchanged with their wingers.
The hosts carried on where they left off in Worcestershire
as they created multiple chances in the early stages – most notably when Tom
Lorraine forced his way through on goal with his effort cleared off the line.
After enduring a period of sustained pressure, Hednesford forged an opportunity
of their own. Samuel Griffiths delivered a wicked cross which flashed across
goal but nobody in a neon shirt was there to convert.
A manic minute saw Diamonds strike the woodwork and win a
penalty! Chris Wreh rattled the bar from close-range just moments before Jesse
Akubuine was tripped in the box to earn his side a spot-kick. Lorrell Smith
stepped up and dispatched the ball into the corner to give Diamonds a 16th
minute lead – his fourth goal of the season.
Hednesford responded by taking initiative in possession and
managed to conjure up two big opportunities for their efforts. Taylor Allen’s
effort from range ricocheted off the post and a lopping header smacked the top
of the bar.
Diamonds soon regained control of the match and put the
visitors on the back foot once again. They thought they had doubled their lead
when Zack Reynolds’ cross was powered home by Tom Lorraine only for the flag to
go up for offside. Not long after, Luke Fairlamb raced in on goal but was
denied by Cameron Gregory.
HALF TIME: AFC RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS 1-0 HEDNESFORD TOWN
Diamonds went in with the lead at the interval but there can
be no doubt that Hednesford had their moments. A feeling of content radiated
across Hayden Road but with the sides separated by a single goal, it would have
been naïve to think that the hosts already had the job done.
Hednesford started the second half with the lion’s share of
possession but it was Diamonds who forged the biggest opportunities to score.
Lorrell Smith skipped away from his man and ran in on goal but Gregory stood
tall to make another key save. Chris Wreh found himself a chance in similar
fashion but was the latest to be denied by the Shrewsbury Town loanee in goal.
It was becoming increasingly clear that Diamonds needed a
second goal and they managed to do just that with 70 minutes onto the clock.
Luke Fairlamb beat the offside trap to latch onto a through ball, shifted the
ball onto his left foot and sent a sizzling strike into the top right.
Hednesford weren’t fazed by the second goal and continued to
build possession with the ambition of getting back into the game. Daniel
Sweeney picked up the ball in between the lines, drove into space and fired a
long-range effort in off the crossbar to halve the deficit.
Hednesford continued to control the possession but failed to
create any significant opportunities from here on in – much to the credit of
the Diamonds shape which offered the Pitmen very little space to work in. Andy
Peaks’ side remained true to their manager’s principle – solid and hard to
break down as they managed to see out the win.
FULL TIME: AFC RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS 2-1 HEDNESFORD TOWN
This result was Diamonds second league win from their
opening six matches and sees them march into fourth position – a rise of eight
places from the start of the day. There are seven sides who have accumulated
nine points but, thanks to their emphatic win over Hitchin last month, it is
Diamonds who sit top of that group and firmly in the play-off places.
Next up for the Diamonds is a trip to Leicestershire to face
a Coalville side who top the table with 13 points. The Ravens will no doubt
provide a tough test for Diamonds, but Andy Peaks’ side have proved they can
compete with the best…
MAN OF THE MATCH: FERNANDO BELL-TOXTLE
MATCH REPORT: JOSEPH MCCORMACK
|AFC Rushden & Diamonds||Hednesford Town|
|17. Richard Walton|
2. Zack Reynolds
3. Ryan Hughes
4. Patrick Casey
5. Fernando Bell-Toxtle
6. Alex Collard
7. Luke Fairlamb
8. Jesse Akubuine
9. Tom Lorraine (C)
10. Lorrell Smith
11. Chris Wreh
12. Matthew Slinn (Smith, 73′)
13. Ben Heath
14. Prince Mutswunguma (Wreh, 84′)
15. Joel Gyasi
16. Ross Oulton (Akubuine 60′)
|1. Cameron Gregory|
2. Samuel Griffiths
3. Taylor Allen
4. Ben Bailey (C)
5. Callam Mendez-Jones
6. Jack Hallahan
7. Daniel Sweeney
8. Rhys Thompson
9. Daniel Glover
10. Louis Dodds
11. Daniel Turner
12. Carter Lycett (Glover, 72′)
14. Reece Flanagan (Thompson, 60′)
15. Kyle Rowley
16. George Cater (Dodds, 74′)
17. Jose Veiga
|Goals: Smith PEN (16′), Fairlamb (70′)||Goals: Sweeney (76′)|
|Yellow cards: None||Yellow cards: Bailey|
|Referee: Ruebyn Ricardo|
Assistants: Abdul Kadir, Cameron Smith