AFC Rushden & Diamonds returned to winning ways in the ChromaSport & Trophies United Counties Premier Division with a 3-1 victory over Harborough Town at the Dog & Duck on Saturday afternoon. After their recent exploits in the FA Cup and Vase it was perhaps not too surprising they made rather hard work of defeating the team propping up the league. Second-half goals from Fazel Koriya (pen) and Aaron King looked to have made the game safe, before a late penalty for the visitors made for a few nervy moments until Lance Allen made the game safe in added time.
For the Diamonds sixth home game in succession, Manager Mark Starmer made a single change to the side that had defeated Cambridge City in the FA Cup the previous weekend, with the unlucky Jake Gillingwater being replaced by Joe Merrill on his return from a 3-game ban.
With Quincy Shorunmu having undergone an operation on his shoulder problem the Diamonds named five outfield substitutes, but this still didn’t leave room for Matt Gearing on his return from injury.
With a new management team, the visitors made a number of defensive changes, including giving goalkeeper Shaun Allen his debut, as well as enlisting Russ Burrows to help in defence, leaving Chawa Chinkhumba up-front.
Although the Diamonds had the lion’s share of possession in the early stages, they were resorting to passing the ball through the middle and too often being caught offside. The Diamonds width was often created by their impressive full-backs, but when wide players Koriya and Liburd did get involved a dangerous Liburd low cross almost caused a defensive mistake.
Both Diamonds strikers did have a chance when they managed to beat the offside trap and latch onto a long ball but saw their efforts clear keeper Allen but also the crossbar – as did a chip from Koriya. Allen also saved well from Taylor and King before picking up a knock which left him limping off at half-time.
Half-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0 Harborough Town 0
After the disappointing first half display the Diamonds came out with far more purpose in the second period, and within five minutes they were ahead. As Russ Dunkley tried to turn in the area he was fouled by Jack Burrows, and Fazel Koriya fired the spot-kick past Allen.
Although Harborough keeper was struggling with his leg injury, he was still mobile enough to save well from Sam Brown but he was a spectator to a 35 yard screamer from Joe Merrill that struck the crossbar near the angle of post and bar. Fellow Diamonds defenders Parkinson and Clarke also registered efforts on goal, with Clarke narrowly failing to convert a Parkinson flick from a corner.
After 59 minutes the Diamonds doubled their lead, and again it was a rare wide move that reached the byline that paid dividends as Fazel Koriya made a good run on the left before crossing for Aaron King to head home.
The Diamonds then had a number of chances to make the game safe, with Koriya just unable to reach a dangerous Liburd cross and Alfie Taylor also seeing a shot blocked.
Brad Harris had impressed in midfield, but he was replaced by Séan McBride after picking up a knock, and McBride impressed immediately with his effort and ability. However, after 88 minutes he appeared very unlucky to concede a penalty after a ball into the area bounced up and onto his hand. Ben Easson knocked home the spot-kick which looked like meaning there would be a nervy last few minutes for the Diamonds.
As the game entered added time the game was made safe as the brave efforts of Shaun Allen in the Harborough goal counted for little as he miscued an attempted clearance of a Liburd forward ball, and the ball span into the path of Lance Allen who was able to walk the ball into the net.
The Diamonds will now be able to focus on their trip to face Conference South Dover Athletic next Saturday in the FA Cup with Budweiser.
Diamonds Man of the Match chosen by Match Sponsor Tectrailers Limited: Joe Merrill
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
17. Tom Cross
2. Joe Merrill
3. Sam Brown
4. Brad Harris
5. Arron Parkinson (c)
6. Jamal Clarke
7. Nat Liburd
8. Aaron King
9. Russ Dunkley
10. Alfie Taylor
11. Fazel Koriya
12. Sean McBride (for Harris 68)
13. Jake Gillingwater
14. Lance Allen (for Dunkley 84)
15. Jack Wisniewski
16. Alex Deakin (for Parkinson 77)
1. Shaun Allen
2. Ben Easson
3. Harry Calver
4. Amadeus Clements
5. Sam Baines
6. Craig Jacobs
7. Taras Petranyuk
8. Dave Goodman
9. Chawa Chinkhumba
10. Jack Burrows (c)
11. Joe Wright
12. Gary Clarke (for Wright 79)
14. Cameron Starsmore (for Chinkhumba 68)
15. Keiran Perkins
Goals: Koriya (50p), King (59), Allen (90+3)
Goals: Easson (88p)
Yellow Cards: Liburd, Clarke
Yellow Cards: Baines
Referee: Mr Paul Gregory
Assistant Referees: Miss Sarah Grundy & Miss Louisa Thorold
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