AFC Rushden & Diamonds recorded their second victory of the holiday period with a 3-0 win over AFC Kempston Rovers at the Dog & Duck. A tight first half saw Matt Gearing give the Diamonds the interval lead, and in an improved second half performance goals from Alfie Taylor and Fazel Koriya secured the points.
The game went ahead against the odds after sterling efforts by a team of volunteers to get the pitch playable after the recent rainfall.
Diamonds manager Mark Starmer made two changes from the side that won on Boxing Day. Matt Gearing had fully recovered from his knock at Boston, so he returned in right midfield, with Fazel Koriya switching to the left in place of Greg Ling who was rested to the bench. With Brad Harris needing to avoid picking up a yellow card before the 31st December deadline he was also rested, with the versatile Joe Henderson taking his place in central midfield, as Aaron King was absent due to illness, and Richard Bunting still on the injured list. With Alex Deakin unavailable due to work commitments, and Deven Ellwood also unavailable, Ben Morgan and Rashid Koriya took places on the bench alongside Harris and Ling.
Both sides had to adjust to the difficult conditions, but despite that it was an open game with the visitors causing the Diamonds problems via Stephane Kemoagna on their right. The main Diamonds threat was also down the right, with Taylor and Gearing linking up in a quick break down the right after nine minutes, with a cross finding Fazel Koriya on the left side of the area. Rather than shooting immediately he checked inside before attempting to curl the ball into the top right of the goal, but his effort was headed clear by Tom Guiney.
Russ Dunkley blazed over a free-kick given just outside the area when Joe Henderson was fouled, while at the other end Jordan Jarrold might have done better with a good shooting chance.
After 15 minutes the Diamonds took the lead with Matt Gearing hitting a dipping shot that gave keeper Mann no chance. Gearing then had a chance to extend the lead after a neat one-two with Russ Dunkley, and then linked with Joe Merrill, who could not celebrate his birthday by finding the back of the net.
Tom Cross was called into action to save from Kemoagna, and the Walnutboys striker Scott Joseph was allowed to turn in the area, but his shot could not match the quality of his turn.
Jamal Clarke was having one of his best games for the club, and he was unlucky to see a flick of a Gearing free-kick narrowly miss the target.
With Séan McBride being as industrious as ever in central midfield, assisted by Joe Henderson, both sides were getting little joy trying to play through the very sticky centre-circle area.
After 34 minutes the Diamonds could have extended their lead as a ball forward from defence set Alfie Taylor clear on goal, but he shot wide. Taylor had an equally good chance a minute later, as a sublime flick from Russ Dunkley set him clear, but his effort was too close to keeper Mann.
The half ended as a Diamonds cross from the left was cleared as far as Joe Merrill, but his effort threatened to clear the carpark as well as the Peter De Banke terrace.
Half-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 AFC Kempston Rovers 0
The Diamonds fans who went to Boston a week earlier were reflecting that the visitors had threatened far more in the first half than the Poachers had done, and yet were a goal behind rather than a goal ahead.
The visitors were forced into a change in defence at the break with Alex Stoyles joining the action, and he was quickly put under pressure by runs from Alfie Taylor. Russ Dunkley then found space on the left, and his cross was side-footed home by Alfie Taylor. That was one of Dunkley’s last contributions to the game as he limped off with a recurrence of a strain that might have kept him out of this game – he was replaced by Ben Morgan.
Although the visitors were visibly tiring after the Diamonds second, they did still create a number of chances with Joseph having a shot saved, and Lucas Kirkpatrick firing two good opportunities wide.
After 77 minutes the Diamonds third was scored by Fazel Koriya who was able to fire home a loose ball after good work by Morgan, Taylor and Gearing. Koriya picked up a yellow card immediately after the goal after a confrontation during the goal celebration, and he was replaced by Greg Ling.
The final chances of the game fell to the Diamonds substitutes. Rashid Koriya, who impressed in a late cameo appearance, had an effort hit the side-netting and Greg Ling had a well hit effort saved by Mann.
With other games falling victim to the weather, the Diamonds victory takes them up to second place in the UCL Premier table.
The Diamonds are due to host Wellingborough Town on New Year’s Day.
Alfie Taylor’s goal takes his career total at the Diamonds to 48.
Diamonds Man of the Match chosen by Match Sponsors The Brown Family: Joe Henderson
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
AFC Kempston Rovers
17. Tom Cross
2. Joe Merrill
3. Sam Brown
4. Sean McBride
5. Arron Parkinson (c)
6. Jamal Clarke
7. Matt Gearing
8. Joe Henderson
9. Russ Dunkley
10. Alfie Taylor
11. Fazel Koriya
12. Brad Harris
13. Adam Whybrow (GK)
14. Rashid Koriya (for Henderson 85)
15. Ben Morgan (for Dunkley 55)
16. Greg Ling (for Koriya 79)
1. Matt Mann
2. Tim Clarke
3. Seb Simpson
4. Dean Dummett
5. Simon Carmichael
6. Tom Guiney (c)
7. Stephane Kemoagna
8. Sam Johnson
9. Scott Joseph
10. Lucas Kirkpatrick
11. Jordan Jarrold
12. Joel McCormick (for Jarrold 63)
14. Alex Stoyles (for Carmichael 46)
15. Dan Winfield (for Kirkpatrick 80)
16. Bill Roberts
17. Dave Hulman (GK)
Goals: Gearing (15), Taylor (50), Koriya (77)
Yellow Cards: Koriya
Yellow Cards: None
Referee: Mr Mark Connolly
Assistant Referees: Mr Keith Lawrence & Chris Sheppard