AFC Rushden & Diamonds returned to winning ways with three first half goals wrapping up a 3-0 win over Raunds Town. A debut goal from Matt Gearing after 14 minutes was followed by a Jake Newman strike and a Chris Hope header in the first period at the Dog & Duck on Tuesday evening.
Diamonds manager Mark Starmer gave a debut to Matt Gearing, replacing the injured Deven Ellwood, playing in a wide-left role, with Morgan and Newman up-front. Joe Merrill had to settle for a place on the bench after his absence at the weekend, with Jake Gillingwater retaining his right full-back role. Lance Allen and Jake Reynolds took a place on the Diamonds bench for the first time.
The Diamonds started the game very brightly, and an excellent move might have seen them take the lead inside two minutes, with Ben Morgan linking up with Jake Newman on the left, and the Diamonds striker hit a perfect cross onto the head of Jack Wisniewski, forcing an excellent save from visiting keeper Kris King. Diamonds fans must have been wondering if King might repeat the feat of visiting keepers in recent games and keep them at bay all evening, but that was not to be the case.
After the Shopmates won a couple of early corners, the Diamonds got the breakthrough after 14 minutes when Jack Wisniewski picked up the ball on the right, and, aided by a run on his outside by Jake Gillingwater, was able to cut inside and hit a cross with his left foot to find Matt Gearing, whose shot eluded King and found the left-hand side of the goal.
Within two minutes the Diamonds doubled their lead, when Jamie Gilsenan dissected the Shopmates defence with a ball forwards that found Jake Newman who was able to control and then flick past King for the second goal.
The Diamonds were playing some attractive football, with neat flowing moves creating chances for Newman and Morgan who both put shots narrowly wide.
Just before the half-hour the Diamonds won a corner on the left which was easily dealt with, but Jake Gillingwater was able to latch onto a loose ball as he ran across the area and hit a cross from the left which Chris Hope headed home in-off keeper King.
There were further chances for Morgan and Newman before the break, but the Diamonds would have been happy with their domination of the first period, with McBride and Gilsenan running proceedings for much of those 45 minutes.
Half-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3 Raunds Town 0
The visitors brought on a substitute keeper for the second half, but there was less for him to do as the visitors looked better organised in defence.
The crowd were puzzled by referee May’s decision mid-way through the half, as he played advantage when Sam Brown was clearly fouled, only for Ben Morgan to be hauled down by Ash Hunt as he broke clear towards goal, but the decision was to take play back to where Brown was fouled.
Debutant Gearing thought he had netted for a second time as he appeared to have timed a run past his marker and then ran past a defender to produce a neat finish, only to be foiled by the linesman’s flag. Jake Reynolds and Lance Allen came on for their debuts with six minutes left, and Allen immediately made a run down the right and his cross almost gave Reynolds the chance to open his account as senior level for the club.
Full-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3 Raunds Town 0
The Diamonds host Harrowby United in the UCL on Saturday (KO 3pm).
Diamonds Man-of-the-Match chosen by Match Sponsor Moonlight Dry Cleaners: Matt Gearing
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
17. Quincy Shorunmu
2. Jake Gillingwater
3. Sam Brown
4. Séan McBride
5. Chris Hope
6. Alex Deakin
7. Jack Wisniewski
8. Jamie Gilsenan
9. Jake Newman
10. Ben Morgan
11. Matt Gearing
12. Joe Merrill
13. Domenico Roggerio (GK)
14. Louis Smith (for Gilsenan 88)
15. Lance Allen (for Morgan 84)
16. Jake Reynolds (for Wisniewski 84)
1. Kris King
2. Jim Le Masurier
3. Marc Harrison
4. Ash Hunt
5. Mike Pettigrew
6. Ricky Chambers
7. Nick Harrison
8. Josh Davis
9. Jason Taylor
10. Alex Wills
11. Danny Tarr
12. Karl King
14. Jay Fallaize (for Harrison 67)
15. Gavin Fitzgerald
16. Oli Patrick
17. Ben Bullen (GK) (for Kris King H/T)
Goals: Gearing (14), Newman (16), Hope(29)
Yellow Cards : None
Yellow Cards: None
Referee: Richard May
Assistants: Simon Cheney, Keith Lawrence
Images courtesy of AFCRDTV