AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2 – Biggleswade Town 0

AFC Rushden Diamonds enjoyed their best performance of this pre-season campaign in defeating Southern League Premier side Biggleswade Town 2-0 at the Dog and Duck on Tuesday night.

With Joe Merrill, Steve Spriggs, Richard Bunting and Courtney Herbert restored to the line-up Diamonds made a really positive start and took the lead after just 80 seconds. Courtney Herbert turning in Tom Lorraine’s low cross from 4 yards for his second Diamonds goal. It was a high quality game with both sides comfortable in possession and moving the ball forward quickly but without further goals in the first half.

Diamonds opened the second half in similar fashion to the first but this time Herbert was provider for Tom Lorraine.  Running at the Biggleswade back four after 50 minutes and working his way into the box his effort was blocked to Lorraine who smashed the ball home from 18 yards. Biggleswade had more probing possession in the second half and saw some good shooting positions wasted, and were denied by a brilliant one handed save by Matt Finlay. Diamonds continued good play was unbroken by a series of substitutions which included ex Diamond Nabill Sharif who showed real pace in his cameo appearance.

The game ended slightly early after a mass confrontation following a negative reaction to a challenge by a Biggleswade player, the referee consulting the managers and deciding to call an end early.

Next up for Diamonds is the visit of Wealdstone on Saturday afternoon.

Full Report

Manager Andy Peaks made four changes to his starting line-up. Joe Merrill joined Delroy Gordon, Liam Dolman and Ollie Wilkinson at the back, Steve Spriggs and Richard Bunting joined Brad Harris and Dan Quigley in midfield with Courtney Herbert playing between a wide left position and supporting Tom Lorraine up front.

Diamonds started very positively and took the lead after just 80 seconds. Tom Lorraine collected the ball on the edge of the box, surged past his defender and struck a fierce low cross that Courtney Herbert thumped into the roof of the net from 4 yards.

Steve Spriggs was as lively as he had been in his previous appearances and danced past his defender on 10 minutes and hit a superb low curling cross that just evaded the stretching Tom Lorraine.

Biggleswade were good in possession and passed the ball well around the box, one slick move between three players putting a striker into space inside the box only to see him flagged offside as his finish went just over Matt Finlay’s bar.

Herbert was playing a fluid left sided role with Diamonds otherwise without a left sided midfielder and was working hard for the team tracking back and getting challenges in, and being the outlet ball on the left when needed. He collected a great ball over the top on 18 and under pressure from defenders poked the ball under the keeper from the angle but just wide.

Liam Dolman had his trademark impact on the game on 26 as Richard Bunting fed a short free-kick to him just inside the Biggleswade half. He strode forward and fired in a exocet that the keeper was relieved to see damage the hoarding to the side of the goal and not his net.

Biggleswade were particularly dangerous out wide and worked a series of great crossing positions around the half-hour, one cleared well by Liam Dolman, one just skimming a strikers head, and one headed just wide from 10 yards.

Herbert fashioned another chance on 39 as he collected a ball out wide, danced past one man, cut inside and hit a firm curling effort but straight at the Biggleswade keeper.

Half-time:  AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 – Biggleswade Town 0

No changes were made for Diamonds at half-time and they continued their positive approach. An early free-kick from Steve Spriggs was driven towards the penalty spot where Delroy Gordon’s flicked header went just wide.

And they doubled their lead on 50 minutes as Courtney Herbert turned provider for Tom Lorraine. He picked up a Liam Dolman ball out wide, turned and ran at the Biggleswade defence right to the edge of the area before his shot was blocked into the path of Tom Lorraine who blasted home from 18 yards in front of a delighted Peter de Banke terrace.

Biggleswade reacted well and had period of probing possession in and around the Diamonds box with neat passing and movement that had Diamonds at full stretch to repel. They worked two excellent shooting chances inside the box, one Finlay pushed just wide when probably expecting to hold the ball, and one fired well over.

The expected substitutions came around the hour mark with Dom Lawless, Elliott Lamb-Johnson, Jake Gillingwater and Charlie Butt introduced. It didn’t seem to impact Diamonds positive play and after a quick break found Spriggs in space who was just unable to find Lawless they had a good penalty shout. Lorraine ran onto Brad Harris ball in the box and appeared to be barged off the ball but the appeals were waved away.

Biggleswade continued to create shooting chances with the full-back firing a 25 yard effort in open play well over and then after taking an age setting up a 30 yard free-kick repeating the end result.

The closest they came to scoring a deserved goal came on 77 as a free header from a corner was brilliantly saved one handed by Finlay on the line.

Further substitutions for saw ex Diamond Nabill Sharif introduced on 78 along with Harry May. Shariff had a couple of very pacey runs and did enough to suggest he could be a real threat at this level of football.

The final changes were made on 83 seeing Ben Heath coming on in goal and Kieran Fitzgerald introduced but they would have little chance to impact the game with their football.

After a Dan Quigley challenge infuriated a Biggleswade striker near the half-way line an aggressive confrontation ensued. Following a consultation with the two managers and further failed attempts to calm the key protagonists down, the referee sensibly decided to call an end to the game 5 minutes early.

Final Score: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2 – Biggleswade Town 0

The finish was a real shame as it took attention away from an excellent game and a very good Diamonds performance. They matched their higher ranked opponents and the whole squad put on an excellent team performance full of positive intent and good attacking play. It was an even game the only difference being Diamonds superior finishing.

Manager Andy Peaks spoke to his whole squad on the pitch for some time after the premature finish and will be hoping to get them focussed on the positive performance and on retaining their cool in challenging situations.  

Diamonds return to the Dog & Duck on Saturday for the visit for the Wealdstone before a ground share derby on Tuesday evening against Wellingborough Town.

Man of the Match: Courtney Herbert

Attendance: 233

Match Report by Paul Judd

 

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Biggleswade Town

17. Matt Finlay

2.   Joe Merrill

3.   Ollie Wilkinson

4.   Delroy Gordon

5.   Liam Dolman

6.   Dan Quigley

16. Brad Harris

7.   Steve Spriggs

8.   Richard Bunting

9.   Tom Lorraine

11. Courtney Herbert

 

Subs

10. Dom Lawless (for Herbert 62)

12. Harry May (for Spriggs 78)

13. Ben Heath (for Finlay 83)

14. Elliott Lamb-Johnson (for Bunting 62)

15. Charlie Butt (for Wilkinson 70)

18. Jake Gillingwater (for Merrill 70)

19. Kieran Fitzgerald (for Gordon (83)

20. Nabil Shariff (for Lorraine 78)

21. Joe Ackroyd

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Subs

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Goals: Herbert (2), Lorraine (50)

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 Match Gallery courtesy of Malcolm Swinden Photography (click on the link to access the Diamonds Photo Gallery for more images from this game and ecommerce options). Copyright Mal Swinden ©2015

 

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

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