AFC Rushden & Diamonds recorded a second 3-1 victory over Holbeach United to complete a league double over the Tigers in the past fortnight. The Diamonds went ahead through Fazel Koriya who got on the end of a slick Diamonds move involving Alfie Taylor and Matt Gearing, started by the quick thinking of keeper Finlay and the direct play of Gearing. The visitors capitalised on a defensive slip to equalise just before the break, but Matt Gearing made it 2-1 from the penalty spot just after the hour mark, after Greg Ling had been felled. Joe Henderson made the game safe with around 10 minutes left as he volleyed home a pass from Jake Gillingwater.
Diamonds manager Mark Starmer had to cope with a number of absentees as he changed things around in his starting line-up in what was the Diamonds’ first game at the Dog & Duck since the FA Vase disappointment eight weeks earlier. New signing Ryan Walker lined up at centre back alongside Arron Parkinson, with Joe Henderson pushed forwards into midfield. Joe Merrill had recovered from his knock at Cogenhoe to take his normal right back berth. Richard Bunting, Greg Ling and Matt Gearing made up the midfield, and up-front Alfie Taylor was rested to the bench to allow Fazel Koriya to start alongside Russ Dunkley. Of the Diamonds absentees, Brad Harris was recovering from a toe operation, Séan McBride is still recovering from the knock at Cogenhoe and Jamal Clarke has faced suspension, injury and holiday commitments.
As with the game at Carter’s Park, the Diamonds started very brightly and might have been ahead inside two minutes. When Matt Gearing fired across goal after good work from Joe Merrill to pick up a clearance from an early Diamonds free kick.
Both Russ Dunkley and Greg Ling picked up early knocks, with Dunkley being replaced by Alfie Taylor with 15 minutes gone. Taylor quickly picked up the pace of the game, and his cross from the right allowed Greg Ling to fire on goal, but his effort was blocked.
Ryan Walker slotted in well at the back for the Diamonds, and he appeared very unlucky to pick up a yellow card when during a 50/50 challenge his opponent appeared to slip.
Joe Merrill was having an excellent game and he made a couple of storming runs on the right that might have produced a goal, but the right-hand channel did produce the Diamonds opener after 24 minutes. Matt Finlay fielded the ball as a Tigers’ attack broke down and quickly threw the ball 35 yards into the path of Matt Gearing. Gearing drove forward at pace before linking with Alfie Taylor and then his cross from the right found Fazel Koriya on the left side of the area and he fired confidently home.
There was still danger at the other end, and Tommy Treacher missed what looked a simple chance to head home a cross from the left but he could not find the target from close range.
Joe Henderson was able to get forwards more as he and Bunting shared the midfield workload and he fired wide an effort created by Matt Gearing.
With the game starting to get rather niggly, referee Evans had to spend time debating decisions with the Tigers’ players, but was content to issue a couple of warnings rather than yellow cards after heavy challenges.
As half-time approached the Tigers scored a surprise equaliser, as there appeared little threat when Arron Parkinson received the ball in the centre of his half, but he dwelt on the ball and Tommy Treacher was able to nip in and lift the ball over Finlay who had been anticipating a backpass.
Half-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 Holbeach United 1
The visitors started the second period more brightly, but the Diamonds took over to dominate the remainder of the game. Just after the hour mark Greg Ling ran into the left side of the area and was hauled down by Ian Dunn for a clear penalty, although the Tigers’ player spent time arguing with the referee and his assistant about an incident that had happened a lot earlier in the move.
Matt Gearing is Diamonds’ “Mr Dependable” and he duly fired home his fourth penalty of the season. Greg Ling was having one of his best games for the club and he set up Sam Brown for a chance that was blocked.
Alfie Taylor found the target with a well-hit free kick when Ben Morgan was tripped (Morgan having replaced Gearing), but was denied his 50th Diamonds goal by keeper Overton, and shortly afterwards the Tigers’ stopper denied Joe Henderson.
Although the Tigers had threatened early in the game, their energy now seemed to be more focussed on the match officials than their team mates, and they rarely threatened to level the scores for a second time.
The final Diamonds change had seen Jake Gillingwater replace a limping Richard Bunting, and he was able to link with a Fazel Koriya burst down the right before firing the ball to Joe Henderson who volleyed home his debut Diamonds goal, the effort going in-off the underside of the bar.
The Diamonds now prepare to host another team from the Fens on Tuesday evening when third placed Deeping Rangers visit the Dog & Duck – the victory having ensured the Diamonds remain in second place in the UCL table, although other results mean that Spalding are now effectively only two wins from the UCL Premier title.
Full-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3 Holbeach United 1
Diamonds Man of the Match chosen by James Anker and Risdene Rovers FC: Joe Merrill
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
17. Matt Finlay
2. Joe Merrill
3. Sam Brown
4. Joe Henderson
5. Ryan Walker
6. (c) Arron Parkinson
7. Matt Gearing
8. Richard Bunting
9. Russ Dunkley
10. Fazel Koriya
11. Greg Ling
12. Ben Morgan (for Gearing 64)
13. Connor Brown
14. Jake Gillingwater (for Bunting 73)
15. Noah Bryant
16. Alfie Taylor (for Dunkley 15)
1. Leigh Overton
2. Niall Delahoy
3. Matthew Warfield (c)
4. Nick Bishop
5. Max Mattless
6. Ian Dunn
7. Adam Rothery
8. James Reed
9. Fraser Bayliss
10. Tommy Treacher
11. Luke Holllingworth
12. Pedro Sevilha (for Hollingworth 81)
14. Jordan Keeble (for Bishop 84)
15. Chris Shipley (for Treacher 89)
16. Luke Allen
Goals: Koriya (24), Gearing(62 pen), Henderson (81)
Goal: Treacher (44)
Yellow Cards: Walker, Henderson
Yellow Cards: Reed, Treacher, Warfield
Referee: Robert Evans
Assistants: Anthony Griffiths, Andrew Burston