AFC Rushden & Diamonds produced one of the best performances their fans have seen to record a 3-1 victory in their FA Vase replay against AFC Dunstable at the Dog & Duck on Tuesday evening. The Diamonds had to play for 50 minutes with 10 men after Joe Merrill was shown a red card following a challenge near the tunnel. The visitors equalised from the resultant free kick after Russ Dunkley had given the dominant Diamonds the early lead. The 10-man Diamonds then went on to score two goals from Alfie Taylor and Russ Dunkley early in the second half, and then rarely looked troubled after that.
The win means the Diamonds progress to the Second Round Qualifying of the FA Carlsberg Vase, where they will host Hoddesdon Town in a tie scheduled for Saturday 21st September KO 3pm (TBC).
Mark Starmer brought in Aaron King and Fazel Koriya to start the game after they had appeared as substitutes on Saturday, and Sam Brown passed a late fitness test to regain his place in the side. AFC Dunstable were able to restore their main striker BJ Christie to the starting line-up.
The Diamonds quickly established their domination of the game, and, as on Saturday, Nat Liburd was causing real problems early in the game, producing three dangerous crosses from the right that could not be converted by the Diamonds strikers, with Alfie Taylor volleying over, Russ Dunkley firing wide and the third being cleared.
After 10 minutes the Diamonds got the goal their performance deserved, but this time the threat was down the left, with Sam Brown getting forwards before cutting the ball into the path of Russ Dunkley who fired home.
Keeper Darby could then only shovel wide an Aaron King free kick, with the Diamonds midfielder producing one of the best performances seen in a Diamonds shirt as he got involved in so many of the Diamonds moves, as well as working with Brad Harris to blunt their opponents’ midfield threat.
Joe Merrill was having another good game following his Man Of The Match performance on Saturday and he saw a well struck shot deflect off a defender and over the bar.
There was little threat from the visitors at this stage, apart from when a slip from Alex Deakin allowed BJ Christie a clear run on goal, but Tom Cross did really well to save. He then quickly punted the ball downfield and Alfie Taylor was just unable to get to the ball before Darby.
An excellent move involving King, Dunkley and Taylor saw King try to dink the ball over the keeper, but the ball narrowly cleared the bar.
Nat Liburd had switched flanks but he was still presenting a threat on the left, and after linking with Sam Brown saw his effort hit the post.
Just as the Diamonds fans were starting to think that their domination should have given them a bigger lead at the break, they were stunned to see referee Hardie brandish a red card after what looked a routine foul by Joe Merrill towards the byline on the Diamonds right, but there may have been additional contact that followed the initial challenge, so the Diamonds were down to 10 men after 40 minutes.
Salt was then rubbed into the wounds as the resultant free-kick ended up in the Diamonds net, with Jonathan Barnett initially credited with the goal – and then Craig Butler – although it appeared it may have been an own goal off Aaron King.
Half-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 AFC Dunstable 1
To their immense credit, the Diamonds did not rely on sitting back behind a lone striker whilst being a man down. Instead they went to three at the back and preserved their attacking threat. They were quickly rewarded with 49 minutes on the clock as a long throw on the left from Sam Brown was flicked on by Russ Dunkley to Alfie Taylor who nodded home. A minute later and the visitors were left reeling as Russ Dunkley powered home a low shot after Taylor turned provider.
With the 3-1 cushion the Diamonds did allow the visitors to take the game to them rather more, but this allowed further chances for Brad Harris, who hit a powerful shot wide, and Aaron King, who linked well with Fazel Koriya but saw his effort blocked. Some Diamonds fans thought they had seen the Diamonds fourth goal when a move involving Dunkley and King saw a defender put the low King cross into his own net, under pressure from a clearly offside Alfie Taylor (who was thus deemed to be interfering with play). Jamal Clarke, Alex Deakin and Sam Brown had formed a good understanding as a back three, and were getting good support from their midfield and their captain Dunkley as they made sure there was no late scare by allowing the visitors a second goal.
Alfie Taylor had helped to create the Diamonds vital third goal, and he might have repeated the feat when he and Aaron King broke into space, but rather than squaring the ball to the unmarked King he attempted a 25 yard shot that was easily dealt with.
Referee Hardie confused a number of fans after sounding two blasts on his whistle with the game in added time, but he did not signal the end of the game until two minutes later, signalling the end of an excellent game.
Full-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3 AFC Dunstable 1
The Diamonds will next travel to face Cockfosters in the FA Cup First Qualifying Round on Saturday 14th August. The next FA Vase game will be at home against Hoddesdon Town the following weekend.
The updated Match Stats, Player Stats, Form Guide and Attendance figures are found in the First Team stats area on this website here. Updated player profiles are also available. You can also find updated fixture lists in the main fixture and results grid as well as on the Fixture News page, where there is a downloadable version.
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
17. Tom Cross
2. Joe Merrill
3. Sam Brown
4. Brad Harris
5. Alex Deakin
6. Jamal Clarke
7. Nat Liburd
8. Aaron King
9. Russ Dunkley (Capt)
10. Alfie Taylor
11. Fazel Koriya
12. Séan McBride (for Liburd 90+3)
13. Quincy Shorunmu
14. Jake Gillingwater
16. Elliot Dent (for King 90+1)
18. Ben Morgan (for Taylor 87)
1. Ryan Darby
2. Courtney Massey
3. Kyle Lincoln
4. James Baldry (Capt)
5. Dan Ryan
6. Gareth Harnaman
7. Chris Francis
8. Craig Butler
9. BJ Christie
10. Jonathan Barnett
11. Richard Harker
12. Jonathan Cooper (for Harker 55)
14. Jack Lauder (for Barnett 55)
15. James Bishop
16. Carl Ibbotson (for Francis 83)
17. Dan Edwards
Goals: Goals: Dunkley (10/50), Taylor (49)
Goals: Barnett (41)
Yellow Cards: King, Harris
Red Card; Merrill (40)
Yellow Cards: Baldry
Referee: Will Hardie
Assistants: Piotr Roj & Daniel Glazewski
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