Diamonds recorded their second straight home win as they defeated rock-bottom Bedworth on Saturday afternoon at Hayden Road.
The opening twenty-five minutes were short on action and quality as both sides struggled to get into a rhythm or tempo, with the visitors having a couple of efforts from range that flew off target. Diamonds took the lead in the 25th minute with the first real chance of the afternoon when Sam Brown drilled a diagonal cross into the box, and Jack Bowen leapt with the away keeper to win the header as it rolled into the unguarded net. The visitors, who were winless in the league coming into the fixture, equalised moments later when a long throw from the left found Alexander Troke to flick a header off the far post and into the net. Aside from Bedworth winger Kai Tonge running free into the area and shooting wide of the near post, and seven yellow cards being issued by the referee, the rest of the half was competitive but lacking in clear-cut opportunities.
The beginning of the second half was also quiet and passed without much action, but the introduction of Declan Rogers seemed to galvanize Rushden and contributed to them taking the lead again in the 71st minute. His corner from the left found the rising Tom Lorraine, and he powered a header past the keeper and a man on the line into the back of the net. Ben Farrell almost sealed the game when his curling shot flicked off the crossbar, but the visitors cane close to levelling again shortly afterwards when captain Luke Rowe had a free-kick excellently saved by Ben Heath, and then the following corner was somehow hacked away from close to goal. Diamonds did confirm the win in the 85th minute when Zack Reynolds was brought down in the area, and Farrell stepped up to confidently dispatch the penalty into the net to rubber-stamp the three points that takes them to one point off the play-offs.
Manager Andy Peaks named the same starting XI that had overcome Hitchin Town at Hayden Road on Tuesday evening. The only alteration came amongst the substitutes where Albie Hopkins returned on the bench at the expense of Patrick Casey as he lined up alongside John Dean, Dan Clifton, Declan Rogers, and Nathan Pickworth.
The two sides emerged from the changing rooms with Diamonds entering the contest in 9th position in the table, and having only lost one of their last 7 league games plus having only lost one of their last twelve home league fixtures dating back to March. In stark contrast, Bedworth came into the game rock-bottom having not won a league game so far this season following their promotion last season, and having lost five of their seven away league games thus far. The two sides had met before during the 2016-17 Northern Premier League First Division South season with Rushden winning both games, 2-0 at home and 2-1 away courtesy of a 94th minute Fazel Koriya winner.
After both sets of players had shaken hands and the coin-toss had been conducted, referee Gareth Davis got the game underway. Diamonds started quickly and threatened in only the 2nd minute when Nathan Hicks advanced down the left before his cross in almost found Jack Bowen. However, the away keeper Adam Harrison beat the striker to the ball to punch clear, and the offside flag had also been raised.
Aside from that, and some other fleeting moments, the opening exchanges were quite scrappy with neither side really able to build a sustained period of possession and momentum to threaten their opponent. In the tenth minute ex-RDFC man Owen Story had a shot from range easily blocked away, and moments later Diamonds countered with Tom Lorraine embarking on a powerful run down the right only for his dangerous low ball across the area to be cleared away.
Quite often both Diamonds’ and Bedworth’s final passes in potentially dangerous areas lacked precision and accuracy. This was the case in a couple of home attacks when firstly Ben Farrell’s cross towards the back post was easily cleared, and then a good searching ball by Sam Brown down the line looking for Bowen or Ben Diamond was halted by an offside flag.
The visitors were threatening sporadically, and in the 17th minute a long free-kick was headed away by Liam Dolman only as far as a lurking yellow shirt on the edge of the area. His strike flew harmlessly high and wide though. This signalled an upturn in action and chances as firstly Diamond drove inside from the right before attempting a slipped pass through that was intercepted and cleared away. Shortly afterwards away winger Kai Tonge was released down the right before flashing a low cross across goal that no fellow Bedworth man gambled on, and then from the next phase of play full-back Daniel Summerfield struck a shot well over the bar.
Moments after Bowen was denied by a superbly timed sliding challenge by an away defender, Diamonds took the lead. Jack Ashton won the ball well on the halfway line before running forward and lofting a high ball into the penalty area. Jack Bowen and away keeper Harrison leapt to challenge for the ball, and it was the Diamonds striker who got his head to it to flick a header into the unguarded net. It was the striker’s ninth goal of the campaign, and his fourth in home games.
However, Bedworth levelled only three minutes later. Shortly after Tonge wildly shot over from the right side of the area after getting in behind, a long throw-in from the left found Alexander Troke who flicked a header in off the far post from around 10 yards out. Rushden responded and looked to re-take the lead as soon as possible, with Zack Reynolds threatening on a couple of occasions. Firstly he sped down the right before crossing towards the far post for Bowen to leap, but the goalscorer was penalised for a foul on his marker. Then the full-back crossed on his left foot, a whipping and inviting delivery that just needed a touch but that ultimately flashed past a couple of Diamonds players and was collected by Harrison.
The visitors were still looking a threat from time to time though, chiefly through Tonge, and in the 37th minute the winger used his pace to get in down the right again to meet a ball played in behind. However, his low poked effort rolled harmlessly wide of the near post. Diamonds then received two yellow cards in as many minutes, the first one for Jack Westbrook and then for Reynolds, to add to the three that Bedworth had received. With five minutes of the half to go Farrell crossed in dangerously from the left only for the ball to be well cleared away ahead of Lorraine, and the striker then met a superb Nathan Hicks pass on the right to cut inside before his shot towards goal was blocked through to the keeper.
That was the final action of the half as the referee blew for half-time, a 45 minutes in which the play had been competitive but which had lacked cohesion and consistent pressure from either side.
Half Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1-1 Bedworth United
Both sets of players returned to the field of play, with much of the half-time talk focusing on who would be able to step up their performance and who would forge into the lead next. After a quick count of the teams, the referee got play back underway.
The half was less than five minutes old when the hosts fashioned their first opportunity. Brown pitched a long-throw in from the left that dropped off Lorraine and fell for Dolman to strike goalwards, but his effort was blocked away. The loose ball ran for the nearby Hicks, but his effort from outside the area flashed over the crossbar.
Apart from a cross in for each side that were both well defended, the opening stages of the second half were similar to those of the first in being quite stop-start and short on goalmouth action. After a couple of dangerous Bedworth crosses were well defended by the home backline, Peaks made his first change in introducing Declan Rogers for Hicks.
The creative midfielder’s impact was instant as, after an initial free-kick delivery was well defended, he moved across to take a corner from the right after a Bowen effort was blocked behind. His subsequent delivery was dangerous and found Dolman at the far post, but his header was deflected behind for another corner. This time it was from the left, and Rogers’ drilled delivery found the rising Tom Lorraine who got above his marker and planted a header over the defender on the line and into the top corner of the net. Like Bowen it was his ninth goal of the season, eight coming at Hayden Road, and crucially re-established Rushden’s advantage.
Albie Hopkins replaced Bowen moments after the goal, and that goal seemed to galvanise the hosts as they looked to add another to make the scoreline comfortable. In the 77th minute Reynolds was fed by Diamond down the right, and the full-back’s inviting cross saw Lorraine get in front of his marker only for his glancing header to flash wide of the far post. Reynolds had had an excellent game both defensively and offensively, and another powerful run down the flank saw him jink into the area before his cut-back found Rogers. However, the substitute’s flicked attempt was blocked behind for a corner, and from the resulting set-piece the loose ball fell for Farrell at the far post whose curling effort clipped the top of the bar and go behind for a goal-kick.
Bedworth hadn’t threatened much in the second half, but with eight minutes to go they won a free-kick around 25 yards out left of centre. Captain Luke Rowe stepped up and whipped an effort over the wall, but Ben Heath got across to his right to make a superb fingertip save to flick it over the bar. The resulting corner zipped across the area before falling for an away man at the far post, but the ball was somehow scrambled away to safety and Diamonds could collectively breathe again.
Heath’s save, and the vital clearance, proved even more crucial moments later when Rushden won a penalty. They won a free-kick just inside their attacking half, and Rogers showed swift thinking to play a low pass in behind the away defence for Reynolds to run onto. He reached the ball at the same time as the sliding defender, and the full-back went down. The referee showed no hesitation in pointing to the spot despite some Bedworth protestations, and Diamonds had a chance to seal the game. Ben Farrell placed the ball and, with a short run-up, hit a low effort to the keeper’s right that Harrison got a hand to, but that was ultimately too powerful as it found the back of the net. It was the midfielder’s third penalty of the season, and put the result beyond any reasonable doubt.
After the goal Lorraine was named as the Sponsor’s Man of the Match, and then Dan Clifton replaced Westbrook in Diamonds’ final substitution. A minute before the end of the regulation 90 a Bedworth cross in from the right found Tonge with his back to goal and, though his hooked improvised effort was clever, it flashed comfortably wide of the post.
The home side still sensed more goals, and in stoppage-time Diamond latched onto a clearance on the left before his cross in looked destined to find Lorraine only for ex-Diamonds defender Delroy Gordon to importantly head behind for a corner. The first one led to another, and the ball was played short to Diamond who shot low from outside the area, but Harrison did well to hold onto the effort.
Moments later the referee signalled the end of the game, one which was delicately poised at half-time but one in which Diamonds took control in the second half and secured the three points.
Full Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3-1 Bedworth United
Though Diamonds weren’t at their free-flowing best, they took their chances when they arrived and got the job done. Earlier in the season some good performances weren’t rewarded in terms of results, and so it was pleasing for Rushden to gain the victory here without playing fantastically. Credit must go to Bedworth who battled well and created some good opportunities, but Diamonds dug in themselves and built up pressure and dominance in the second half that resulted in two goals and the three points. They now move up to seventh place in the table, only one point off a play-off place, and though there is still a long way to go in the season, such a statistic cannot be undervalued and underappreciated at how well Diamonds have adjusted to the new league and standard of football. Their next match sees them travel to Oxfordshire to take on Banbury United on Tuesday evening (November 20th, 19:45pm kick-off).
Diamonds Man of the Match: Tom Lorraine
Match Report by Ollie Mortimer
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
13. Ben Heath
2. Zack Reynolds
3. Sam Brown
4. Jack Ashton
5. Liam Dolman (C)
6. Jack Westbrook
7. Jack Bowen
8. Ben Farrell
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Ben Diamond
11. Nathan Hicks
12. John Dean
14. Declan Rogers (for Hicks 66)
15. Dan Clifton (for Westbrook 87)
16. Albie Hopkins (for Bowen 72)
17. Nathan Pickworth
1. Adam Harrison
2. Daniel Summerfield
3. Luke Rowe (C)
4. Alexander Troke
5. Ricardo Dudley
6. Delroy Gordon
7. Kai Tonge
8. Reece Blackmore
9. Levi Rowley
10. Owen Story
11. James Hancocks
12. Jacob Whitmore (for Hancocks 76)
14. Barry Fitzharris (for Troke 76)
15. Ryan Baldwin
16. Lewis Noon
17. Mark Albrighton
Goals: Bowen (25), Lorraine (71), Farrell (pen 85)
Goals: Troke (28)
Yellow Cards: Bowen (36), Westbrook (37), Reynolds (39)
Yellow Cards: Summerfield (11), Hancocks (36), Troke (40), Blackmore (45), Dudley (66)
Referee: Gareth Davis
Assistants: Adam Brierley-Lewis, Callum Parke
Updated player profiles with appearance and goalscoring details are now available.