AFC Rushden & Diamonds returned to winning ways at the Dog & Duck with a 2-1 victory in Andy Peaks’ first game in charge as Caretaker Manager. During a dominant first half, a well-taken goal from Fazel Koriya gave his side the lead after 8 minutes. Matt Gearing saw his penalty saved after Greg Ling had been tripped in the box, but he made amends when he chipped the Fenmen’s keeper after 35 minutes. Although Wisbech did start to influence the game in the second period, the Diamonds had several chances to close the game before losing Russ Dunkley and Jamal Clarke to injury. This allowed Paul Cousins to head home from a corner after 80 minutes, and it took an excellent save from Matt Finlay in added time to give the Diamonds the win their performance merited.
With the midweek departure of manager Mark Starmer, Andy Peaks had stepped into a Caretaker Manager role. He was able to welcome back Russ Dunkley and Jamal Clarke on their return from injury, and could also bring in centre-back Jack Ashton to partner Clarke after he arrived on dual-registration terms the day before the game. He switched Fazel Koriya to play in a more central role alongside Russ Dunkley and moved Joe Henderson to partner team captain Richard Bunting. Arron Parkinson and Brad Harris took places on the bench.
The Diamonds started the game brightly, with Wisbech struggling to get out of their own half. The best early chance fell to the lively Fazel Koriya, who ran clear in the left channel, after being set up by Dunkley, but the pressure from his marker was enough to make him mishit his effort too close to keeper Lea Jordan. Koriya was able to make amends for his miss within a minute. Joe Henderson stooped to head the ball forwards in the right channel and again Fazel Koriya outwitted his marker with a deft turn inside before slotting past Jordan with 8 minutes gone.
The Diamonds chances were coming thick and fast, with a claim for a penalty after Matt Gearing was pulled back near the goal-line. Three minutes later they were awarded their spot-kick when Greg Ling was felled in the box, but Matt Gearing did not connect as well as he had done with recent penalties, and Jordan was able to make a save, although the ball did threaten to squirm across the line.
The Diamonds would have been good value for a two goal lead, and after 35 minutes that was the case. Good work by Koriya allowed Greg Ling to flick the ball over the defence in the path of Matt Gearing who took the chance to make amends, by heading the ball on and then chipping over Jordan for the Diamonds’ second. They went close to a third when a Ling cross seemed destined for a Koriya tap-in, but Jordan did well to cut the ball out, and another Ling cross flashed across the face of goal.
The Diamonds were also looking solid at the back, with Jack Ashton having an impressive debut, marshalling the back line on only his second day with the club.
Half-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2 Wisbech Town 0
The Fenmen were able to get into the game rather more in the second period, with the Diamonds midfield no longer having things all their own way, but there were chances for Ling, Bunting and Dunkley before Joe Merrill forced an excellent save from Jordan after a fine one-two with Fazel Koriya. Dunkley had two further chances as the game entered the final quarter, but with the second of these he took the chance to turn and shoot, and with the effort going into the carpark he signalled he could not continue, with Alfie Taylor deputising
A rare attack from the visitors saw Jamal Clarke helping clear a dangerous low ball across the box, but in doing so he picked up a knock, and Arron Parkinson deputised. Although Finlay dealt with the resultant corner by tipping a Cousins’ header over the bar, conceding a second corner, and from this one player-manager Paul Cousins was able to head home to make the score 2-1 with ten minutes left plus added time.
The visitors pushed more men forwards, but, just as it was looking like they wouldn’t get a chance in the final minutes, a neat move saw an initial scramble in the Diamonds goalmouth, with the ball falling to Adam Millson who looked sure to equalise, but Matt Finlay pulled off an excellent save in the second minute of added time to cement the Diamonds victory.
Full-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2 Wisbech Town 1
Diamonds Man of the Match chosen by Match Sponsor Edward Bailey: Jack Ashton
The Diamonds travel to face Harborough Town on Saturday.
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
17. Matt Finlay
2. Joe Merrill
3. Sam Brown
4. Joe Henderson
5. Jack Ashton
6. Jamal Clarke
7. Matt Gearing
8. Richard Bunting (c)
9. Russ Dunkley
10. Fazel Koriya
11. Greg Ling
12. Ben Morgan
13. (GK) Adam Whybrow
14. Alfie Taylor (for Dunkley 70)
15. Brad Harris (for Gearing 90+3)
16. Arron Parkinson (for Clarke 79)
1. Lea Jordan
2. Neal Spafford (c)
3. Steven Reid
4. Paul Cousins
5. Jon Fairweather
6. Adam Millson
7. Callum Reed
8. Danny White
9. Tony Battersby
10. James Tricks
11. Matt Lunn
12. Shane Green
14. Luke Whyatt
15. Lewis Clayton
Goals: Koriya (8), Gearing (35)
Goal; Cousins (80)
Yellow Cards: Bunting
Yellow Cards: Millson, Reed
Referee: Mr Paul Cooper
Assistants: Mr Gary Gurney & Mr Wyndham Trusler