Diamonds made it three 2-0 wins in a week with this hard fought win against Hartley Wintney FC.
It was an even open entertaining game with the visitors testing Ben Heath in the home goal with a number of stinging efforts in the first half. Diamonds flying wing-backs Luke Fairlamb and Joel Gyasi were a massive threat all afternoon with Ben Farrell supporting brilliantly from midfield. Fairlamb came close to setting up Tom Lorraine after a great run and Gyasi fired an effort just wide after his own great run. Vine had the best first half-chance for the visitors when he failed to convert a whipped in cross from close range.
The second half continued in the same vein with Diamonds starting to push their opponents back with some quick breaks when the visitors were reduced to 10 men. Steve Nokes was penalised for bringing down Tom Lorraine on another flying break and were fortunate not to concede a penalty as the challenge looked to be made inside the box.
Diamonds continued to flood forward and finally made the vital breakthrough on 72 minutes. Luke Fairlamb got to the byline and fired in a low cross that Hartley failed to clear. Ryan Robbins pounced and gleefully fired home to the delight of the home crowd. Ben Farrell added a second on 85 minutes to crown a man of the match performance as Diamonds managed the later stages well.
A 5th straight win sees Diamonds top on 38 points level with another AFC…. Dunstable. Beaconsfield and Moneyfields dropped back with a draw and another defeat but Cambridge City bounced back from midweek Diamonds defeat with a 6-1 home win against Diamonds next opponents Aylesbury United.
Manager Andy Peaks named an unchanged side for this third top 7 battle in a week as he looked to build on two important 2-0 victories his side had earned against tough opposition. Without goalkeeping cover he brought Darryl Smith back onto the bench alongside the Ben’s – Ford and Diamond – Cameron Gilchrist and Jack Westbrook.
Hartley & Wintney are one of the genuine promotion contenders in this league and started really brightly. Jake Baxter, Steve Duff and Rowan Vine all tested Ben Heath in the opening stages and Vine had a chance to hit an open net from distance after a clearance fell to him but he put it wide.
Diamonds responded with some dangerous running by Joel Gyasi who was tumbled down for a penalty appeal, saw a dangerous cross shot deflected wide for a corner and supported Sam Brown and Luke Fairlamb who came close to setting up Ryan Robbins.
Hodges then had a useful effort for the away side that again tested Heath in what was becoming quite an open game. Ryan Robbins earned a free-kick right on the edge of the area that saw Richard Buntings effort blocked and then fired in his own fizzing effort that arched wide.
Tom Lorraine was then brought down very close to the edge of the box with the homes side demanding a penalty but again a free-kick was given right on the edge of the box. Liam Dolman was the taker this time his effort was part blocked by the wall and his rebound effort also cleared away.
In the closing stages of the half Baxter then Huff and snap shots for Hartley and Joel Gyasi had possibly Diamonds best chance controlling Sam Browns cross and firing wide.
The final action of the half saw Richard Bunting finally withdrawn having picked up a knock with Jack Westbrook his replacement.
Half-time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0 Hartley Wintney 0
The second half had a slow start only enlivened by an incident where the referee ended up speaking to numerous players over a protracted period with no action taken.
It burst into life however on 61 minutes as Tom Lorraine seized on a loose pass in the Hartley back four and surged clear. He was brought down on the edge of the box in a last man tackle and it earned Steve Nokes a red card. There was some debate again whether the challenge was inside the box but eventually Liam Dolman struck the free-kick towards the top corner where keeper held comfortably.
Ryan Robbin was involved in much of Diamonds danger in the following period as they surged forward against the 10 men. He fizzed another excellent effort wide, set-up Fairlamb who did the same thing, and then inadvertently handballed as he was looking to collect Fairlamb’s ball into the box.
And he relieved the tension building around the ground in great style with the vital opening goal on 71. Gyasi fired in a dangerous cross down the right that was only cleared out to Fairlamb down the left, he beat his man and crossed low, the ball fell to Robbins back to goal but he turned and struck home all in one movement from 8 yards to the delight of most of the 483 crowd.
Diamonds managed the closing period of the game well against the 10 men continuing to probe for a second. Luke Fairlamb was electric in this period and he came close to setting up Tom Lorraine with another great run and cross, and was involved in an inventive corner routine that Ben Farrell fired over from the edge of the box.
After two more Ben’s were added to the side – Ford and Diamond – to make it 4 on the pitch the second clinching goal finally came on 84 minute. Ben Diamond who had been energetic since his introduction played a 1-2 with Ben Farrell for the midfielder to fire home across the keeper from 18 yards.
There was time for one more very close Diamonds effort as Fairlamb skipped past his man again and found Lorraine whose effort was blocked from just 5 yards out.
Full-time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2 Hartley Wintney 0
Diamonds had to work hard to win this game against very good opposition who will surely be at the top end of the table where Diamonds hope to remain by the end of the season. An open first half was just shaded by the visitors in terms of efforts at goal, but Joel Gyasi and Luke Fairlamb were always dangerous for Diamonds who competed well in the game.
The sending off did change the game but Diamonds were started to dominate good possession with an improved second-half display that Jack Westbrook played a full part in. Ryan Robbins and Ben Farrell finished good chances to clinch the points and keep Diamonds top of the league.
Next up an Aylesbury double header with United on Wednesday (at Chesham United ground) and Aylesbury on Saturday.
Man of the Match: Ben Farrell
Match Summary: Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Hartley & Wintney
13. Ben Heath
2. Blaize Punter
3. Sam Brown
4. Joe Curtis
5. Liam Dolman
6. Ben Farrell
7. Joel Gyasi
8. Richard Bunting (C)
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Ryan Robbins
11. Luke Fairlamb
12. Jack Westbrook (for Bunting 42)
14. Darryl Smith
15. Ben Diamond (for Curtis 69)
16. Cameron Gilchrist
18. Ben Ford (for Robbins 81)
1. Paul Strudley
2. Dean Stow
3. Nick Hutchings
4. Josh Webb
5. Liam Eagle
6. Steve Nokes
7. Paul Hodges
8. Jack French
9. Jake Baxter
10. Rowan Vine
11. Steven Duff
12. Callum Eagle (for Hodges)
14. Louis Paget
15. Adam Everiss
16. Anthony Millerick
Goals: Robbins (72), Farrell (84)
Yellow Cards: Eagle
Red Cards: Nokes
Referee: Scott Chalkley
Assistants: David Hinton, Luis Martin
Updated player profiles with appearance and goalscoring details are now available.
Video highlights and post-match interviews are available here.
Match Gallery courtesy of Stephanie Webb Photography Copyright Stephanie Webb Photography ©2017