Nine-man Diamonds lost their unbeaten home record as they were ruthlessly dispatched by Bromsgrove on Saturday afternoon.
The first half was a thrilling contest, with the visitors looking threatening everytime they went forward but with Rushden also looking dangerous. Bromsgrove took the lead in the 11th minute when Michael Taylor rolled Jack Ashton and, despite Patrick Casey’s best efforts, was able to coolly slot home past Ben Heath. After a couple of promising moves from the visitors which almost resulted in another goal, Diamonds levelled in the 21st minute when Ryan Dove’s shot from the left of the area was deflected past the keeper and into the back of the net. However, Bromsgrove soon retook the lead when full-back Jack Wilson drilled a low free-kick under the wall and past Heath from just outside the area. Rushden responded well and were level again within four minutes. Jack Bowen robbed the goalkeeper on the left touchline, and he clinically curled the loose ball home into the unguarded net for his second goal in as many games. The game was swinging back and forth, and it was the visitors who forged ahead again a minute before half-time. Taylor did the damage again as he superbly held off Alex Collard before cutting inside from the left and sweeping home an effort into the top corner. Two minutes into stoppage-time, Diamonds were reduced to ten men when the referee adjudged Zack Reynolds to have committed a studs-up challenge, and he was given his marching orders to end a frenetic first half.
The task for Diamonds was made even tougher when they received another red card early in the second period. This time Jack Ashton was dismissed for a high challenge on the halfway line, and Bromsgrove soon took full advanatge. Midfielder Nathan Hayward had a free header from an inswinging corner to make it 2-4 and, following a number of close efforts, they made it five when Taylor secured his hat-trick by flicking an effort over Heath. Home heads began to drop, but the visitors weren’t prepared to let up as they sensed more goals. They got them when substitute Shaquille McDonald swept home following unselfish play by Taylor, and Taylor himself grabbed his fourth when he strolled through to clip a finish into the net. There was still time for an eighth deep into stoppage-time when Charlie Dowd struck a low effort into the bottom corner, and that rounded off a clinical display by the visitors.
Manager Peaks made just the solitary change to the starting XI that had defeated Corby 3-2 in the Southern League Challenge Cup on Tuesday night as Ben Heath returned in goal to replace Niall Cooper. This meant a first league start for Jesse Akubuine on the right of midfield, and only a second league start for Patrick Casey at left-back. The only further change came amongst the substitutes as Ben Farrell and Sam Johnson returned to the bench.
The two sides stepped out onto the Hayden Road playing surface for the first-ever clash between the teams. Diamonds sat sixth in the table having drawn their last four league games 1-1, and they were unbeaten at home so far in the campaign. Bromsgrove had achieved remarkable recent success having won three straight promotions to play at step three for the first time, and they came into the contest 16th in the table. Although they had only won one of their last six league matches, they had only lost one of their away games so far and had faced most of the teams in the top eight in a tough start to the season. After the pre-match formalities were completed, referee Greg Rollason got the game underway.
Both sides looked threatening from the get-go, and they both exchanged chances in the opening five minutes. The hosts won a free-kick after Ben Acquaye was brought down by Nathan Hayward, and the resulting delivery from Matthew Slinn found Ryan Dove at the far post only for the striker’s header to land on the roof of the net. Moments later, the visitors broke through Joshua Quaynor. The midfielder’s strike from distance saw Ben Heath parry it away, and the offside flag was raised against an onrushing striker looking to get onto the rebound.
Acquaye was involved for Rushden again when he was brought down for a second time, this time around 30 yards out in a central position. Exactly a week before he had bent in a sumptuous set-piece in the draw at Hednesford, but this time his kick sailed well over the target.
In their next attack, Bromsgrove took the lead. A long kick forward was flicked on into the path of striker Michael Taylor, and the powerful centre forward used his strength to turn Jack Ashton. Casey got back and slid in to get a touch on the ball, but it was unable to stop Taylor running through to slip an effort past Heath and into the back of the net to put the visitors ahead.
It was an early blow for the Diamonds, but they looked to respond immediately. Acquaye was looking the most likely with his pace and direct running, and in the 20th minute he did excellently to skip past a couple of challenges before hitting a low effort at goal that Tony Breeden easily held. However, they were level only a minute later. A corner from Acquaye on the right was cleared only as far as Akubuine on the edge of the area, and his original effort was deflected to Ryan Dove on the left of the box. He hit an instant shot towards the far post, and it took a big deflection that wrong-footed Breeden to nestle into the back of the net. It was the striker’s first goal at Hayden Road, and a perfect riposte.
A few minutes later, referee Rollason had his first big decision to make after a heavy challenge from away substitute Joseph Hull, who had come on for the injured Leon Broadhurst, on the rampaging Zack Reynolds. The match official decided the challenge was only worthy of a yellow card, and the Rushden full-back was able to continue following some treatment.
The half-hour mark passed, and it had been a busy opening 30 minutes with plenty of threat shown by both sides. The referee gave another free-kick, this time for the visitors, after Alex Collard was penalised for a foul on the advancing William Shorrock. The set-piece was right on the edge of the area, and full-back Jack Wilson stepped up to fire a low effort underneath the wall and past the helpless Heath to re-establish the visitors’ lead.
Bromsgrove were looking likely to score everytime they went forward, and they went close to extending their advantage even further. A quick attack saw a ball played across the face of goal, and it just missed everybody until it reached Shorrock at the far post who shot into the side-netting.
The see-saw and end-to-end nature of the first half continued, and it led to Diamonds finding their second leveller in the 39th minute. A ball down the left looked innocuous as Breeden came out to try and see it out of play, but Jack Bowen had other ideas. He quickly closed the keeper down close to the byline, and he won possession before quickly whipping a curling shot towards the unguarded net and into the far corner. It was a superb strike from a tight angle, and the striker’s second goal in as many matches.
The frenetic nature of the half didn’t stop there, and Bromsgrove took the lead again five minutes later. A ball into the left channel saw Michael Taylor fairly barge Collard out of the way, and he swiftly strode into the area before confidently dispatching a rising shot past Heath into the top corner of the net.
To make things worse for the hosts, they were reduced to ten men on the stroke of half-time. Reynolds was dispossessed on the right wing, and he slid in to try and win the ball back. Quaynor went down, and the referee was quick to issue a red card to the full-back much to his and the home fans’ disbelief.
That was the final action of an action-packed half that had seen five goals, a red card, and plenty of dangerous attacking play that looked like may lead to more goals in the second period.
Half time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2-3 Bromsgrove Sporting
Much of the talk at the interval centred on how the Diamonds would approach the game now they were a goal and a man down, and if the frantic pace of the first half would be replicated in the second period. After the two teams emerged from the changing rooms, referee Rollason got the game back underway.
There had been a tactical re-shuffle for the hosts as Liam Dolman replaced Akubuine which led to Casey going across to right-back, and Ashton moving to left-back. They began the half well and on the front foot as they won a corner in the first minute of the half, and the resulting delivery looked dangerous until Breeden collected the ball just ahead of Bowen.
Moments after he had a marauding run forward halted in its track, Ashton became the second Diamonds man to be sent off. The ball was worked out to the right wing for away midfielder Charlie Dowd to collect, and the home full-back charged in with a high tackle in an attempt to nick possession. He missed the ball and caught the winger on the knee leaving Rollason in no doubt when issuing a red card and reducing Rushden to nine men.
If the task to get back into the game had been difficult before, it now became an almost impossible task. Peaks adjusted the side again by introducing Farrell in place of Bowen, and Hicks moved to right-back which allowed Casey to return to left-back in a 4-3-1 formation. The visitors were now able to monopolise possession and territory, and they quickly took advantage of the red card as they stretched their lead further. A driven corner from the left found the leaping Nathan Hayward at the far post, and he had the easy task of heading home from close-range.
Diamonds were digging in as they tried to limit the damage, but the visitors continued to look dangerous and capable of scoring with every attack. Captain Richard Gregory had a chance when he found to shoot across goal, but the attempt flashed wide of the post. Wilson, looking for his second goal of the afternoon, squeezed a shot at goal in another attack that forced Heath to make a good save down to his left. In between those two chances, Rushden did threaten as Acquaye superbly countered in running half the length of the field before firing an effort that went narrowly wide.
Gregory had a further opportunity when he generated room on the edge of the box, and his dipping effort was excellently tipped over the bar by Heath. The Diamonds keeper made another save when Taylor was played in on the left of the area, and the striker’s dinked effort was blocked away.
Peaks made his third and final change as Tom Lorraine was brought on to replace the tireless Dove, but Bromsgrove soon added to their lead. In the 82nd minute substitute Shaquille McDonald fed a neat ball into the path of Michael Taylor, and the front-man ran through before his effort was repelled by Heath. However, the ball cannoned off Taylor’s knee and rolled into the empty net for his hat-trick.
That goal ended the game as a contest, but Acquaye continued to strive for at least a consolation. Straight after the goal he latched onto a loose ball before powering forward and striking a thumping effort towards goal from over 30 yards out. It looked destined for the net until Breeden leapt up to get a crucial fingertip on the strike before it cannoned off the bar and back into play.
Soon after, Bromsgrove scored their sixth. An attack look to have broken down before a weak back-pass in Heath’s direction was latched onto by Taylor. He took it around the keeper and unselfishly squared it to Shaquille McDonald who clinically dispatched a strike into the far corner of the net past the despairing attempts of a home defender on the line.
The match ticked into stoppage time, and the full-time whistle couldn’t come quick enough for the Diamonds. However, some further action still remained. Michael Taylor claimed his fourth goal of the contest when he simply strolled past a couple of challenges before easily dinking an effort over Heath and into the net. Then, straight from the kick-off, Charlie Dowd got in on the act as latched onto a poor pass in midfield to run forward and hit a low effort into the far corner of the net from around 25 yards out.
From the next kick-off, referee Rollason signalled the end of the match to conclude Bromsgrove’s rout.
Full time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2-8 Bromsgrove Sporting
This was a contest that hung right in the balance a minute before half-time when the scores were level and both sides had 11 men. It was still all to play for when Diamonds were a goal and a man down, but Ashton’s red card made it an almost impossible task. Peaks will be concerned at the way Diamonds’ heads went down in the late contest, and the way in which they were exploited by a dangerous and clinical away attack. Credit must go to Bromsgrove for the way they looked like scoring with every attack, the way they performed as a whole, and the way in which they never gave up in their search for further goals. Rushden will learn a lot from the manner of the defeat, and they have always responded to adversity and setbacks in the past. They will look to do the same when they take on unbeaten Coalville Town at Hayden Road next Saturday (October 12th, 3pm kick-off).
Diamonds Man of the Match: Ben Acquaye
Match report by Ollie Mortimer
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
13. Ben Heath
2. Zack Reynolds
3. Patrick Casey
4. Jack Ashton
6. Alex Collard (C)
7. Ben Acquaye
8. Matthew Slinn
9. Jack Bowen
10. Ryan Dove
11. Nathan Hicks
14. Jesse Akubuine
5. Liam Dolman (for Akubuine HT)
12. Ben Farrell (for Bowen 60)
15. Tom Lorraine (for Dove 80)
16. Sam Johnson
17. Niall Cooper
1. Tony Breeden
2. Kieren Westwood
3. Jack Wilson
4. Nathan Hayward
5. Leon Broadhurst
6. Kyle Lincoln
7. Charlie Dowd
8. Joshua Quaynor
9. Michael Taylor
10. Richard Gregory (C)
11. William Shorrock
12. Joseph Hull (for Broadhurst 5)
13. Jonathan Brown
14. Tom Massey
15. Thomas Rankin (for Gregory 88)
16. Shaquille McDonald (for Shorrock 76)
Goals: Dove (21), Bowen (39)
Goals: Taylor (11, 44, 82, 90+2), Wilson (34), Hayward (62), McDonald (87), Dowd (90+3)
Yellow cards: Collard (34)
Yellow cards: Hull (29)
Red cards: Reynolds (45), Ashton (56)
Red cards: None
Referee: Greg Rollason
Assistants: Richard Booth, Jordan Griffiths