AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3-2 Potters Bar Town

AFC Rushden & Diamonds battled their way to a narrow victory over mid-table Potters Bar Town on a chilly afternoon at the Dog & Duck on Saturday.

After an inauspicious opening half-an-hour in which both teams struggled to find any tempo or rhythm to their play, Claudiu Hoban delivered a sumptuous 30 yard free-kick into the top corner six minutes from the end of the half to give the Diamonds the lead. This one piece of real quality lit up a first half which was short on quality, chances and real noteworthy action.

The visitors equalised in the 57th minute as full-back Luke Warner-Eley curled an effort into the back of the net from the edge of the area, but the introduction of debutant winger Andy Hall seemed to swing the game in the Diamonds’ favour. Firstly he latched onto a Tom Lorraine flick and raced through to clip a return ball for the Diamonds number 9 to glance home, and then he lobbed a cross into the box for Dan Quigley to direct a header that was tipped onto the bar, with Lorraine powering home the rebound for his second.

Potters Bar were then awarded a penalty with a minute of normal time remaining as Brad Harris mistimed a tackle in the box, and skipper Garry Jones converted to set up a nervy final few moments for the home side. Despite a couple of close shaves, Rushden held out to stretch their unbeaten Southern League record to 9 games.

Diamonds manager Andy Peaks made eight changes from the experimental side which had been defeated in the Red Insure Cup at home to Histon on Tuesday evening. Only Ollie Wilkinson, Brad Harris and Courtney Herbert retained their places from that side, and there was a very welcome return for Claudiu Hoban who had been sidelined with a knee injury for the past few weeks.

With this being the Diamonds’ first league outing since the home clash with Aylesbury on 19th September, there was a keen sense of intrigue about getting back to the domestic ‘bread and butter’ as they looked to extend their unbeaten league run.

The opening 10 minutes saw a number of half-chances for the hosts all created by Sam Brown long throws, which have already proved to be an important weapon in the Diamonds’ artillery so far this season. Firstly visiting goalkeeper Connor Sansom flapped at one of the deliveries as he punched the ball against one of his own defenders, but the ball was eventually cleared. Following that another pitch into the box found Tom Lorraine to flick onto Brad Harris, though the resultant header was simply held, and Lorraine again got his head to the next throw only for his backwards header to drop over the top of the goal.

In between these opportunities for Rushden were a couple of moments of danger from Potters Bar, as Chris Doyle saw a near-post effort turned behind for a corner by Finlay and joint top goalscorer Dave Lawrence flashed a header over the bar after finding himself free from a right-wing corner. Midfielder Karim Assaoui also flashed a shot wide from the edge of the box as the visitors shaded the early exchanges.

Diamonds were struggling to string a succession of passes together and work up a tempo which has seen them dominate recent league fixtures, and the contest was very scrappy and stop-start, with clear-cut chances very much at a premium.

In an effort to change this, Hoban moved through the gears on the left wing as he accelerated into space and fed the ball to Tommy Berwick, but the Diamonds man was clipped as he attempted to slip a ball into the area. A free-kick was awarded, and Berwick took the inswinging set-piece to find Delroy Gordon whose header was blocked behind for a corner.

Hoban has shown so far this season his ability to turn a game with flashes of inspiration, and never has this been evidenced more perfectly than by him breaking the deadlock in the 39th minute. Lorraine was fouled 30 yards from goal as he advanced on the Scholars’ back four, but there seemed to be little danger with the distance between the kick and the goal. Cue Claudiu Hoban. He moved up to the ball and pinged a perfectly placed peach of a kick into the top corner of the goal in front of the Peter de Banke terrace, and the majority of the crowd erupted in elation and disbelief at what had just happened in front of them.

Lawrence glanced a header wide for Potters Bar shortly following the goal after Ashley Nathaniel-George was allowed to cross the ball, but the Diamonds seemed invigorated by taking the lead and almost extended it before the half-time whistle. Richard Bunting stepped in well to intercept and win possession in the centre-circle, and he set Courtney Herbert away down the left. The ex-Northampton man bundled his way through a couple of challenges on his way into the penalty area, and Sansom advancing out of his goal allowed the winger to lob the ball towards the back post. Fortunately for the visitors however, Luke Warner-Eley was able to head the ball away and to safety.

Half Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1-0 Potters Bar Town

The general feeling around the ground seemed to be that Diamonds would pick up their level of performance in the early exchanges, but this didn’t prove to be the case initially. The game carried on with both teams’ defences dominating and the need for the home side to try and turn the visitors’ back four around being evident.

This was shown in the 55th minute when a long drop-kick by Finlay was flicked on by Berwick for Lorraine to run through on goal, but after nudging the ball past the onrushing Sansom, the angle became more and more difficult and his eventual effort was put behind for a corner by the covering Liam Fowler. The resultant corner saw the ball inadvertently directed back towards the goal by Scholars ‘ number 5, but his blushes were spared as the ball was headed away off the line.

Despite this chance for the Diamonds and the away side not threatening in the second half up to this point, Potters Bar grabbed an equaliser in the 57th minute. A deep corner from the left-side was glanced clear to Lawrence who was on the right edge of the box, and he managed to slip the ball back to the edge of the box for Luke Warner-Eley to latch onto. He had time to shift the ball onto his favoured left foot and curl an effort up and over Finlay into the far corner of the net.

The game was now very much all to play for and the general play started to open up as both teams sensed the chance of a victory. Hoban almost restored the lead six minutes after the leveller as a ball forward broke into the Rushden number 11’s path when the ball was nicked away from Bunting, but his left-footed shot cleared the bar from 20 yards out.

New signing Andy Hall from Stamford was then introduced into the action at the expense of Herbert, and he was almost involved immediately as he just failed to connect to a Hoban corner-kick from the right. Bunting had begun to push further forward as a result of Dan Quigley replacing Gordon earlier in the half, and he had a chance when the ball found its way into his path through the middle on the edge of the area, but his shot was weak and easy for Sansom to collect.

The home side didn’t have to wait much longer to take the lead again though as they reclaimed the advantage in the 70th minute. Tom Lorraine received a ball just past the halfway line and volleyed a ball over his shoulder for Hall to run onto, and Warner-Eley missed an interception allowing the substitute to run in on the right side of the box. He dinked a perfect cross into the middle as he approached Sansom for Lorraine to power a header home into the middle of the goal.

Diamonds doubled their advantage three minutes later, and it was again Hall at the heart of the approach play. A drilled diagonal ball from Liam Dolman appeared to be running out of play on the right side, but Hall showed quick pace to reach it and lob a cross into the area. Arriving like a steam-train was Quigley, and though his bullet-like header was superbly tipped onto the bar by Sansom, there was no defender on hand to assist him and Tom Lorraine was able to head home the rebound for his second of the afternoon.

The whole complexion of the game had been changed in the space of three action-packed minutes, and Hall’s constant width and direct running had made a huge impact on the contest. The home side were now content to sit a little deeper in an attempt to soak up any pressure and danger from the Scholars, and fellow new signing Tom Liversedge was also given his debut by Andy Peaks. The tall front-man showed a couple of neat touches and good link-up play as the Diamonds seemed on course to see out the game comfortably and without alarm.

Potters Bar however had other ideas, and the final five minutes of normal time saw them create a flurry of chances. Evandro Delgado fizzed a shot wide of Finlay’s right-hand post after a purposeful and jinking run from Nathaniel-George, and they went agonisingly close in the 87th minute. A corner from the right was flicked away from initial danger by Brad Harris, but Fowler was able to seize on the ball, move into a small pocket of space and hit a shot which was charged down. The ball cannoned through for Doyle eight yards out, and Finlay was out as quick as a whippet to block the shot, with the follow-up from Garry Jones somehow going across goal. The ball was then helped back into the middle and Ollie Wilkinson crucially headed away under his own crossbar.

The visitors did reduce the arrears a minute from the end of normal time when substitute Jerry Maja was able to skip away from Dolman on the right-side of the box and play the ball across for Lawrence. As he attempted to shift the ball onto a teammate free on his left Harris slid in to try and intercept the pass, but the tackle was too late and a penalty was duly awarded. Skipper Garry Jones confidently rolled the ball to Finlay’s right, with the Diamonds stopper already having committed to diving the other way.

A nervy final few minutes were now ensured for the home fans, and the six minutes of stoppage time that was added on led to a couple of opportunities for Potters Bar to snatch an equaliser. A long throw from the right was flicked on to Maja, but he couldn’t get the ball under complete control and the ball was hacked away downfield, and then a free-kick was awarded to the visitors in the 94th minute as Quigley felled Delgado. With a five-man wall set up and the set-piece appearing to be in an ideal position to have a shot at goal, there was much surprise to see the ball played to the left where Warner-Eley was in swathes of room. He put a dangerous ball across the front of the six-yard box, and to the huge relief of the home side there was no-one on hand at the back post to slide the ball home.

The final whistle was then sounded by referee Rob Smith to signal the end of a game which had exploded into life in the final twenty minutes after being a slow-burner for the majority.

Full Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3-2 Potters Bar Town

Although the visitors didn’t create a huge amount in terms of chances, the Diamonds can count themselves slightly fortunate to come away from this game with the three points. There was a lack of urgency and too many attempted balls forward came straight back at them from a well-organised Potters Bar defence. The main thing at the end of the day though is the three points, and not only does this continue the Diamonds’ unbeaten start to the Southern League Division One season, it also extends their unbeaten league run overall to 26 games. They move up to 6th position in the league table, and the next league fixture is at home to Fleet Town on Tuesday evening. Thoughts then focus again on the Emirates FA Cup as the Diamonds will take part in the 4th Qualifying Round for the first time in facing Barwell FC at Kirkby Road on Saturday October 24th.

Diamonds Man of the Match chosen by sponsors AFC Rushden & Diamonds Community: Andy Hall

Attendance: 572

Match Report by Ollie Mortimer

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Potters Bar Town

17. Matt Finlay

2. Ollie Wilkinson

3. Sam Brown

4. Delroy Gordon

5. Liam Dolman

6. Brad Harris

7. Courtney Herbert

8. Richard Bunting (C)

9. Tom Lorraine

10. Tommy Berwick

11. Claudiu Hoban



12. Dan Quigley (for Gordon 52)

13. Alex Vitue

14. Dom Lawless

15. Tom Liversedge (for Hoban 79)

16. Andy Hall (for Herbert 64)

1. Connor Sansom

2. Joe Bennett

3. Luke Warner-Eley

4. Garry Jones (C)

5. Liam Fowler

6. Karim Assaoui

7. Ashley Nathaniel-George

8. Chris Doyle

9. Charlie Nelson

10. Dave Lawrence

11. Evandro Delgado



12. George Boot

13. Harry Smart

14. Jerry Maja (for Nelson 64)

15. Jack Lyons

16. Jordan Lawal

Goals: Hoban (39), Lorraine (70, 73)

Goals: Warner-Eley (57), Jones (pen 89)

Yellow Cards: Wilkinson (78), Finlay (90+4)

Yellow Cards: Fowler (66)

Referee: Rob Smith

Assistants: Mark Simmons, Doug Steele



Updated player profiles with appearance and goalscoring details are now available.
The updated Match Stats, Player Stats and Attendance figures along with league stats are found in the First Team stats area on this website here. You can also find updated fixture lists in the main fixture and results grid.

See here for the match video and post-match interviews.

Match Gallery courtesy of Stephanie Webb Photography Copyright Stephanie Webb Photography ©2015

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

One Fan, One Vote, One Community, One Club