AFC Rushden & Diamonds won 2-1 against Newport Pagnell Town at the Dog & Duck on Tuesday evening. The win is the Diamonds eighth in a row, seven of which have been in the UCL Premier. During that run the Diamonds had also recorded 2-1 wins against Yaxley and Sleaford Town, and, as with those two games, it took a late winner from the Diamonds to break the deadlock and seal victory in a game that might have ended even.
The Diamonds took an early lead when Alex Deakin headed home a Gillingwater free kick with five minutes on the clock, but the Swans levelled shortly before the break. After a fairly even third quarter the Diamonds got back on top in the last 15 minutes, and Russ Dunkley headed home the winner from a Merrill cross after 83 minutes.
The Diamonds had to reshuffle their back four once again for this game. Jamal Clarke was serving the third of his four game ban, Arron Parkinson was absent due to illness, and Sam Brown was missing his first league game of the season as he prepares for important exams. Fortunately Joe Merrill had recovered from the knock he took on Saturday to take his place at right back, with Jake Gillingwater at left back and a centre back pairing of Brad Harris and Alex Deakin. Fazel Koriya was fit to take a place on the bench.
The game started with a bang for the Diamonds, as after five minutes Greg Ling tried to burst forwards and was fouled about 35 yards from goal. Jake Gillingwater powered a well hit free-kick into the area, where Alex Deakin rose to head home.
The next half-hour was fairly quiet, although a slick Diamonds move involving neat flicks from both Dunkley and Taylor saw Matt Gearing burst into the area, but a fine tackle denied a shooting opportunity. The best chance for the Swans came when Tom Cross saved a Ieuan Riley effort after good work from Ben Shepherd.
Aaron King was not as involved as in recent games, but he did lay a ball into the path of Gearing as he burst towards the by-line on the left, but the effort on goal was wide.
As the game neared the break Alfie Taylor had a shot saved by McAdoo, but after 43 minutes the visitors were level. Jamie Nicholls picked up the ball on the right and turned inside to fire home the equaliser, and then celebrate with passion.
After a Gearing free kick went just wide Referee Chalmers signalled half-time.
Half-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 Newport Pagnell Town 1
With the visitors having drawn level before the break, it spurred them to even greater effort, as they won the lion’s share of “second ball” in the third quarter, although they rarely tested Tom Cross.
As the game entered the final quarter there was a blow for the Diamonds when Alfie Taylor pulled up as he chased a ball down the left flank, and he was replaced by Ben Morgan. Morgan narrowly missed getting on the end of a ball across the area with his first touch as the Diamonds started to get on top. Joe Merrill was having a fine game, and a neat 1-2 with Matt Gearing saw him fire the ball low across the box, but somehow nobody got the touch needed.
Séan McBride had been the Diamonds mainstay in midfield, and he fired a shot that looked goalbound until deflected over the bar.
After 83 minutes the Diamonds retook the lead. Joe Merrill ran forward in a more central position to try to pick up loose ball, and although it then bounced off a defender he was able to loop outside Matt Gearing and then clip a cross onto the head of Russ Dunkley who made no mistake and found the back of the net.
The Swans had a good travelling contingent, and they would have been disappointed to concede a late winner after such a battling performance.
Fazel Koriya joined the action, and quickly had two efforts on goal, the second a well-hit shot that forced a good save from Josh McAdoo.
Full-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2 Newport Pagnell Town 1
Diamonds Man of the Match: Sean McBride
The Diamonds now prepare for the big FA Vase game at the weekend when Graham St Prims visit the Dog & Duck.
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Newport Pagnell Town
17. Tom Cross
2. Joe Merrill
3. Jake Gillingwater
4. Sean McBride
5. Brad Harris
6. Alex Deakin
7. Matt Gearing
8. Aaron King
9. Russ Dunkley (c)
10. Alfie Taylor
11. Greg Ling
12. Ben Morgan (for Taylor 64)
13. Adam Whybrow
14. Fazel Koriya (for Ling 83)
15. Rashid Koriya
16. Deven Ellwood (for Gearing 90+3)
1. Josh McAdoo
2. Lewis Smith
3. Rob Tapp
4. John Thorpe (c)
5. Matt Brady
6. Ieuan Riley
7. Sam Parrish
8. Jamie Nicholls
9. Craig Ralph
10. Ben Shepherd
11. Luca Semeniero
12. Scott Mulkern (for Semeniero 72)
14. Jack Croxford (for Ralph 83)
15. Matt Broomes (for Nicholls 68)
16. Darren Lynch
Goals: Deakin (5), Dunkley (83)
Goals: Nicholls (43)
Yellow Cards: None
Yellow Cards: Riley
Referee: Mr Wayne Chalmers
Assistant Referees: Mr Chris Brawn & Mr Craig Fowler