AFC Rushden & Diamonds tasted league defeat at the Dog & Duck for the first time in their history as they slipped to a 3-2 defeat by Peterborough Northern Star on Tuesday evening. Some poor defending allowed the visitors to take an early lead, and then go 3-1 ahead in the second half after Russ Dunkley had got them back on level terms shortly before the break. Although an Aaron King shot that was flicked home by Fazel Koriya gave the Diamonds hope of retaining their proud record in League and FA Competitions at home, some poor finishing contrasted with the sharpness of the visitors who were able to celebrate victory.
Manager Mark Starmer made two changes to the side that had performed so creditably in the FA Cup tie at Dover, with Jake Gillingwater replacing Joe Merrill and Jack Wisniewski starting ahead of Nat Liburd.
The visitors won early possession on their left, and with only 3 minutes on the clock they were ahead as Arron Parkinson saw a ball deflect off him for a corner, and then the Diamonds defence failed to close down the threat on the left and the ball was worked to Matt Sparrow who fired home.
This early “wake-up-call” was a catalyst for the Diamonds to dominate the remainder of the half. A low Dunkley cross narrowly eluded Alfie Taylor before keeper Conroy was fortunate to see a poor punch of a Gillingwater cross drop back down into his arms. Jack Wisniewski found time and space in the area, but tried to engineer a better position before hitting a shot and could only force a corner.
Jake Gillingwater was getting forwards regularly, firstly crossing a ball which Taylor volleyed over, then hitting the bar with a shot from the edge of the area, with Jamal Clarke forcing an excellent save from Conroy as he tipped the attempt over the bar. Gillingwater then shot just wide from 40 yards before the Diamonds won a free-kick on the left. Aaron King’s well-hit free-kick was flicked home by Russ Dunkley after 40 minutes.
Half-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 Peterborough Northern Star 1
Any thoughts that the Diamonds might build on their improving performance in the first half were quickly dispelled as the visitors once again threatened going forwards. Within ten minutes Star had taken the lead, with an excellent move running at the Diamonds defence with Billy Smith setting up Nick Davey for an effort that thudded against the crossbar, but Luke Avis was on hand to fire home the rebound.
One of the main talking points of the game came with an hour on the clock, when Avis hauled down Jack Wisniewski just outside the area. As the visitors started to assemble their defensive wall, leaving the ball unattended, Fazel Koriya clipped a shot at goal, which Conroy fumbled into his net. Referee Jarrett disallowed the goal with the suggestion he had told the players to wait for his whistle – so there was concern he might show a second yellow card to Koriya – but he didn’t. The Diamonds were then further punished as Star broke quickly through Sparrow, and he was able to square to Luke Avis for his second goal of the evening after 62 minutes.
Aaron King had wasted several attacking opportunities with long range efforts that were either wayward or blocked, but after 77 minutes he played a part in the goal that reduced the Diamonds deficit. Sam Brown took a quick throw which found Russ Dunkley who laid the ball into the path of King whose shot was flicked by Fazel Koriya to wrong-foot Conroy.
As expected, the Diamonds pressed for an equaliser, and were denied a penalty as the ball struck the arm of a defender before late chances for Koriya and Allen failed to test the keeper.
Full-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2 Peterborough Northern Star 3
The Diamonds will now focus on their trip to face Woodford United in the FA Carlsberg Vase on Saturday.
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Peterborough Northern Star
17. Tom Cross
2. Jake Gillingwater
3. Sam Brown
4. Brad Harris
5. Arron Parkinson (c)
6. Jamal Clarke
7. Jack Wisniewski
8. Aaron King
9. Russ Dunkley
10. Alfie Taylor
11. Fazel Koriya
12. Sean McBride (for Harris 84)
13. Alex Deakin
14. Lance Allen (for Clarke 89)
15. Matt Gearing (for Wisniewski 68)
16. Joe Merrill
1. Nick Conroy
2. Matt Porter
3. John-Paul Duncliffe
4. Luke Hunnings
5. Jonny Clay
6. Billy King
7. Luke Avis
8. Luke Kennedy (c)
9. Nick Davey
10. Matt Sparrow
11. Billy Smith
12. Dan Woods (for Sparrow 69)
14. Billy Oliver (for King 82)
15. Dan Lawlor (for Avis 75)
16. Dan George
Goals: Dunkley (40), Koriya (77)
Goals: Sparrow (3), Avis (55, 62)
Yellow Cards: Koriya
Yellow Cards: None
Referee: Mr David Jarrett
Assistant Referees: Mr Richard Armitage & Mr Daniel Johnston