AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2-1 Nuneaton Borough

Diamonds beat high-flying Nuneaton Borough 2-1 at Hayden Road on Tuesday night with an excellent all round performance that delighted the home crowd.

A competitive first half saw the game level with Nuneaton shading possession but hard working Diamonds having the better half-chances. The second half burst into life with two Diamonds goals inside 6 minutes. Ryan Hughes headed home from a corner on 47 minutes and Jenson Cooper pounced on a goalkeeping error to slot home coolly on 51 minutes. Nuneaton pulled one back on 61 minutes and looked odds on to make their quality count but Diamonds defended superbly and continued to break and attack their illustrious opposition. The final 20 minutes was agony for Diamonds fans with the home side riding their luck but Diamonds held on for a vital win.

Caretaker manager Richard Maxwell made one change to his line-up with Hamilton Bunga coming in to replace Jesse Akubuine. It allowed Diamonds to line-up with three centre-halves – Man of the Match Bunga, Dante Grey and Ryan Hughes. Luis Pinto-Leite and Charlie Black played wing-back positions with Nathan Hicks, Fraser Corden and Connor Tee in a midfield three with Jenson Cooper and Miguel Ngwa up front.

After a bright Nuneaton start Diamonds had the first chance and it was a good one. Jenson Cooper burst clear into the right of the box but couldn’t control his effort back across the keeper from 15 yards. Prince Mancinelli then had a rasping effort from 25 yards for Nuneaton go just wide.

The away side shaded possession and moved the ball well but got little change from a well organised and hardworking Diamonds defence. Ryan Hughes headed away one dangerous free-kick at full stretch.

Diamonds weren’t getting in behind Nuneaton as they has done against Tamworth but were probing around the box and created a number of good shooting chances – for Nathan Hicks, Charlie Black and most notably Luis Pinto-Leite who forced a slightly fumbled save from the away keeper Tony Breedon.

Half-time: Diamonds 0 Nuneaton Borough 0

The second half got off to a flying start for Diamonds. Miguel Ngwa ran at Nuneaton and won a left wing corner. Connor Tee fired it in and Ryan Hughes headed home. The Peter De Banke erupted and the Radio Diamonds team nearly lost the plot!!

Incredibly it got better for Diamonds just 4 minutes later as Ngwa closed down Breedon forcing a rushed pass across his box. Jenson Cooper pounced but he still had plenty to do to hit a bouncing ball first time into the empty net beating the hastily retreating Breedon.

Nuneaton were stunned into a reaction and pushed more and more players forward as they tried to retrieve the game. As the 60 minute mark approached they had a series of corners and finally scored from one. Matthew Stenson rose highest to head firmly home.

It looked like Diamonds might be in trouble at this point but they knuckled down to some hard defending all be it last ditch at times. Luke Benbow saw an effort blocked from inside the box and Dean Snedker parried the follow-up.

Diamonds were determined to keep pressing Nuneaton when they could with Miguel Ngwa shooting well at the end of one run and Fraser Corden, Jenson Cooper and Nathan Hicks breaking the length of the field to see a shot blocked for a corner.

Jenson Cooper then came close to spectacular 3rd for Diamonds with a driven lob from near half-way that a retreating Tony Breedon pushed onto the bar before claiming.

Nuneaton piled forward in the last 15 minutes and threw everything at Diamonds. They did miss a number of chances as Diamonds rode their luck but by pressuring the ball as much as they could good chances were made that bit more difficult but it was such a relief to see the ball go wide or over the bar and not nestle in the bottom corner..

Impressive 2nd half substitute debutant Kartell Dawkins relived the pressure on 90 minutes by breaking well after a missed chance from Nuneaton and coming close to clinching it.

The final Nuneaton chance was a flicked header from a corner that went just over and the final whistle was greeted with relief and jubilation around most of Hayden Road.

Full-time: Diamonds 2 Nuneaton 1

Diamonds certainly rode their luck particularly in the final stages but the feeling around the ground was that they earned that luck by their performance and commitment to the cause and deserved that first home win of the season.

The win took Diamonds off the bottom of the league and within range of the places outside the relegation zone and should give them and the fans confidence that they can compete at this level.

Next-up another high flying side in Redditch United will visit Hayden Road on Saturday afternoon.

Man of the Match: Hamilton Bunga

Attendance: 309

Match Report: Paul Judd