A late goal from Nat Liburd gave the Diamonds victory in the final home pre-season game with a 2-1 victory over Bedford Town, with the visitors having equalised a Matt Gearing opening goal.
With many of his squad having played a full game in 80 degree heat on Thursday evening, Mark Starmer gave starts to several others in his squad, with a back four of Merrill, Gillingwater, Clarke and Brown. Across midfield were Gearing, McBride, triallist Maddox and Koriya, with Alfie Taylor and Russ Dunkley up front. Clarke, Koriya, Maddox and Dunkley had played 90 minutes on Thursday, with McBride and Taylor also playing for extended periods in that game.
The Diamonds had the better of the first half, with Gearing and Taylor particularly prominent. A good move between Dunkley and Taylor saw Koriya played in for a great chance, but his effort was too close to the keeper. Matt Gearing had received treatment for a knock early on, but he was able to outpace his marker to fire home the Diamonds opening goal lashing the ball into the far corner of the net after 26 minutes.
Koriya had a clear-looking penalty shout turned down for the second game running as he caused problems down the left. Matt Gearing had to be replaced after his earlier knock continued to cause problems.
The star of the first half was Quincy Shorunmu, whose saves ensured his side went in ahead at the break, with two diving saves in particular showing his shot stopping abilities.
The half ended with Taylor going close twice and a Dunkley chip floating just wide as the Diamonds narrowly failed to get the second goal their attacking performance merited.
The second half was rather a tale of which team was fielding the fresher players on the warm afternoon. With Bedford changing more than half their team at half-time they had the better of the third quarter, forcing Quincy Shorunmu into a couple more saves before getting an equaliser through Andrew Phillips after 59 minutes.
The Diamonds responded by bringing on their own quota of substitutes, and having the fresher players put them back in the driving seat, with Lance Allen being at the heart of the action, although he might have done better with his finishing. One incident suggested the match officials might have been applying the new clarifications to the “gaining an advantage” part of the offside rule, as Allen was clearly in an offside position when the ball was knocked forwards, and flagged as such by the linesman, but the referee didn’t give a clear indication of what would have happened after Allen let the ball run past him, and Ben Morgan broke clear, but seeing the fluttering flag might have compromised his application of the “play to the whistle” adage.
One of the most encouraging aspects of the game was the contribution of Joe Merrill for the full 90 minutes as he recovers from illness, moving into a left back role after Sam Brown was substituted, and as he battled for the ball just outside the area he created a good chance for Allen. Shortly afterwards he created the Diamonds winner as he hit a dipping shot which went over the keeper’s head and crashed off the angle of post and bar, with Nat Liburd alert to this possibility, and he was able to lash the ball into the net from a narrow angle, with 87 minutes on the clock..
A dipping shot from Allen then went narrowly over the bar as he continued to cause the Eagles’ defence problems.
Joe Merrill was then able to make a vital interception to head back to the safety of Shorunmu’s arms at the other end to ensure the Diamonds picked up their first win at the Dog & Duck in pre-season.
Diamonds Team: Quincy Shorunmu, Joe Merrill, Sam Brown, Séan McBride, Jake Gillingwater, Jamal Clarke, Matt Gearing, Robbie Maddox (triallist), Russ Dunkley, Alfie Taylor, Fazel Koriya. Subs: Jack Wisniewski (for Gearing 40), Elliot Dent (for McBride 61), A Triallist (for Taylor 71), Lance Allen (for Dunkley 71), Nat Liburd (for Brown 75), Louis Smith (for Maddox 79), Ben Morgan (for Koriya 79).