Diamonds won this NLP League Cup tie 2-1 in a dramatic finish as Corby came close to coming back from 2-0 down.
Liam Dolman opened the scoring just on half time with a looping header from a Ben Ford corner after what had been an even half after a good Diamonds start. Dolman doubled the Diamonds lead from the penalty spot on 56 after Jake Newman pounced on a poor clearance and was tripped in the box. Corby looked out of the tie at that stage but rallied in the last 15 and Connor Kennedy hit a screamer from 30 yards on 86 to give them hope. They pressured Diamonds hard in the final stages and somehow failed to grab an equaliser on 89 as Ben Heath’s save fell just yards from goal but couldn’t be turned over the line but the Corby frontmen.
Diamonds will travel to Rugby Town in the second round of the competition on January 10th.
The Diamonds starting line-up looked pretty strong from the team sheet despite only containing 3 players that started the hard fought win at Gresley on Saturday. Liam Dolman was joined in defence by Ben Heath, Kyal Mcnulty, Ben Ford and Jason Lee. Ben Farrell and Joe Curtis held centre midfield, and Lewis Leslie and Lewis Wilson were joined across the front four by Jake Newman and Taylor Orosz.
The anticipated fog never really materialised but the much re-arranged game was impacted by a short delay due to a floodlight issue. Kicking-off less than 15 minutes late Diamonds had a bright start with an early corner swung dangerously across the Corby 6 yard box, and Jake Newman so nearly getting onto a super bouncing cross by Kyal McNulty on 5.
Steven Leslie responded for a lively Corby side striking a fierce effort straight at Ben Heath from the right side of the box on 7. They were hampered on 11 when Danny Draper failed to recover from an early knock and had to be replaced by Jordan Crawford who would go on to have a good game for the visitors.
Diamonds upped the intensity in response and had a half penalty appeal on 14 as Taylor Orosz controlled well in the box but then fell back off the ball under pressure, and then another whipped in cross from the right just evaded Lewis Wilson.
Wilson connected with the next dangerous ball into the box from a Joe Curtis free-kick but on the stretch put the ball well wide.
Corby responded again it what was becoming an entertaining game as the impressive early sub Crawford got into a good position in the box after some neat passing only to shoot wide of Ben Heath’s left hand post. Jordan Smith then worked a great position for himself with some excellent control seeing his shot take a dangerous flick off a defender and forcing a good save from Ben Heath.
5 corners followed in quick succession which didn’t lead too much in the way of chances but forced Jason Lee and Liam Dolman in particular to clear. Then Corby set-up a 40 plus yard free-kick that encouraged Steven Leslie to strike at goal but it never truly threatened Ben Heath curling wide into the Peter De Banke.
A quite spell into half-time seemed to see the game to a goalless score but Jake Newman’s tenacity won a corner on 44 in front of the river end. Ben Ford swung it to the far post where Liam Dolman guided a looping header back across goal and over Corby keeper Farrell to give the home side the 1 0 lead.
Half time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 Corby Town 0
Gary Mills looked to have fired up his Corby side at half-time who will have felt a tad hard done by with that late first-half goal. They had the ball in the net on 48 as the impressive Jordan Smith worked a good shooting chance and saw Ben Heath save but Connor Kennedy swept home the rebound only to see the offside flag.
After Lewis Wilson broke for Diamonds only to see his low effort well blocked Corby crafted another great chance on 52. Jordan Smith persisted in his challenge in the box and manged to lay the ball back to Stefan Moore who had the goal gaping but fired wide from 15 yards his effort clipping the outside of the post.
Ben Heath then touched a Steven Leslie’s effort over the bar and cleared with his feet as Nathan Fox latched onto Stefan Moore’s neat ball.
Diamonds were playing on the break at this point and saw Jake Newman nearly break clear on 54 before the same player made what would be the vital intervention in the match. A poor clearance from Corby keeper Farrell was well controlled and after heading out wide he cut back inside the box only to be tripped for what seemed a fairly soft but pretty clear penalty award.
With 100% from the spot Nabil Shariff not playing there was no danger that Liam Dolman would claim the kick and he duly struck it hard low and left of Farrell for his second of the night and to give the home side a 2-0 lead.
Jake Newman did his best to produce a killer third for the home side as he capped an impressive display first pouncing on a loose ball in the box but being harshly penalised, then getting the ball in the net as more great hounding of the Corby back four was penalised with the off-side flag and then finally sliding in to get an effort on goal that tested Farrell in the Corby goal.
He was replaced to generous applause on 70 by new signing Merdi Maki who slotted into a wide right role for the home side.
Corby could have settled for honourable defeat at this point but the introduction of Marshall and Milnes had energised them and they really upped their attacking intent and pretty much dominated the last 15.
Ben Heath was forced to punch clear allowing Milnes to get an effort in that was blocked, Stefan Moore saw his close range effort cleared off the line on 83, and Liam made a great block as Corby so nearly got through.
The pressure told but in unexpected fashion as ex Diamond favourite Connor Kennedy seized on a loose ball on 86 and crashed a superb effort into the roof of the net from 30 yards. It was an absolute screamer and led to a frantic last 10 minutes as Corby pressed for an equaliser.
Just 3 minutes later they really should have had that equaliser as an effort from the edge of the box was batted away by Ben Heath but fell close to goal. Somehow the Corby forwards were unable to force it home as Heath finally pounced again.
It was a big let-off for the home side and allowed Diamonds to see the 5 minutes of added on time out with some comfort to seal a place against Rugby Town away in the next round.
Final Score: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2 Corby Town 1
This was an entertaining game on a chilly night that showed both sides in a positive light, both managers inspiring their sides to have a real go in the game.
Diamonds won the game thanks to two Liam Dolman goals and looked to have the game won with 15 minutes to go but Corby fought hard to get back in and possibly deserved that late equaliser denied them by Ben Heath.
Diamonds will travel to Rugby Town in the next round on 10th January looking to improve on the draw achieved on the league visit in November.
Next up for Diamonds is the visit of in-form Lincoln United on Saturday afternoon.
Man of the Match: Liam Dolman
Match Report by Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
17. Ben Heath
2. Kyal NcNulty
3. Ben Ford
4. Jason Lee
5. Liam Dolman
6. Ben Farrell
7. Lewis Leslie
8. Taylor Orosz
9. Jake Newman
10. Lewis Wilson
11. Joe Curtis
13. Matt Finlay
14. Ryan Baird (for Leslie 82)
15. Brad Harris
16. Chris Wreh (for Orosz 82)
20. Merdy Maki (for Newman 75)
1. Dan Farrell
2. Ryan Bell
3. Nathan Fox
4. James Jepson
5. Jamie Anton
6. Phil Trainer
7. Danny Draper
8. Connor Kennedy
9. Stefan Moore
10. Jordan Smith
11. Steven Leslie
12. Brad Marshall (for Bell 69)
14. Ben Milnes (for Jepson 57)
15. Louis Connor
16. Jordan Crawford (for Draper 11)
17. Adam Frisch
Goals: Dolman (44, 56 Pen)
Goals: Kennedy (86)
Yellow Card: Orosz
Yellow Cards: Leslie, Crawford
Referee: Gareth Hubbard
Assistants: Andrew Ellis, Steve Durnell