AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3 Sleaford Town 0

AFC Rushden & Diamonds recorded their second 3-0 victory at the Dog & Duck this week, this time comfortably beating Sleaford Town. Two goals from substitute Scott Joseph and a returning goal from Russ Dunkley ensured that Diamonds remain top of the UCL by eight points.

Diamonds manager Andy Peaks named an unchanged side from the one that beat Harborough Town 3-0 on Tuesday evening. The wind and rain of Friday night made the pitch difficult and wet but this didn’t dampen the tempo, with the home side dominating much of the game.

With a chilly winter sun shining low on the Dog & Duck, Diamonds made a lively start to the game with an early chance for new man Declan Rogers, however his shot was blocked by the Sleaford defence after just two minutes. The away side also had a chance early on, with striker Ewan Clarke firing wide from 20 yards on eight minutes.

Rushden shifted up a gear, with a number of chances midway through the first half. Tom Lorraine flicked on a low Rogers free kick from the right, but could only divert his effort wide of the post on 11 minutes. 

Five minutes later, winger Elliott Lamb-Johnson curled a dangerous effort just past the far post from 18 yards. Moments later, Adam Confue sent a lovely ball over the top to Lorraine who was through on goal, but his shot was well saved by Sleaford keeper Phil McGann who came rushing out to meet him.

Unfortunately for Diamonds, Lorraine had to come off after seemingly pulling his hamstring. He was replaced by Scott Joseph on 21 minutes.

On 25 minutes, Sleaford had a strong case for a penalty waved away by referee Martyn Gospel. Clarke played the ball out wide to Ryan Parnell whose cross looked to have been blocked by Jack Ashton’s flailing arm.

With the game still goalless, Diamonds then broke away from the resulting corner. With three attackers surging forward against just two defenders, Jason Turner fed the ball to Rogers but the Sleaford defence did well to break up the attack.

On 33 minutes, Sleaford flung a threatening corner into the Diamonds box, with the ball falling kindly to Parnell but his shot was blocked by a wall of Rushden defenders. A minute later, Clarke had another shot from just outside the area straight at goalkeeper Matt Finlay, who managed to hold on to the ball despite it hitting a slight bobble on the pitch just in front of him.

Midfielder Neil King struck a powerful shot over the bar from outside the area on 38 minutes but it was a minute later when Rushden’s pressure finally paid off.

Lamb-Johnson found plenty of space on the right hand side to whip an inch perfect ball into the box to find the head of Joseph, who flicked the ball across the keeper into the corner of the net, sending Diamonds into the lead for half-time.

Half-time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 Sleaford Town 0

The first real chance of the second half fell to the away side. On the 51st minute, Parnell ran with the ball down the right and set up Liam Tunstall to turn and shoot but his effort was straight at Finlay.

However, Diamonds then doubled their lead a minute later. Rogers darted with the ball down the left wing and his cross met the boot of Joseph, whose side foot volley found the corner of the goal for his second of the game.

On 61 minutes, a goalmouth scramble from a corner found Liam Dolman whose shot was deflected wide for a corner. The resulting corner found Confue unmarked at the near post, but his header flew just over the crossbar.

Sleaford number one Phil McGann had a busy afternoon, and was made to work again on the 64th minute when Rogers tricked everyone by hitting a low left footed free kick from the right hand side towards the near post but McGann came across well to divert the ball away for a corner.

Sleaford manager and ex-Northampton Town midfielder Terry Fleming brought himself on after 65 minutes, replacing George Zwerner. Fleming was then booked two minutes later for dissent. Diamonds then made a change of their own, with fan favourite Russ Dunkley making his long awaited return, replacing Turner.

Dunkley got into the action immediately, flicking a low Rogers cross into the path of Confue who was well met by McGann, but was also caught offside.

Dunkley then got himself onto the score sheet on 72 minutes following a Rogers corner from the right. His initial header was blocked by the Sleaford defence, but he somehow managed to scramble the ball over the line to make the score 3-0 to the Diamonds.

Sleaford were awarded a free-kick from around 20 yards out on 74 minutes. Clarke curled a fierce shot inches wide of Finlay’s near post.

On 76 minutes, a long throw-in from Sam Brown was flicked on by Dunkley to Confue, who fired his volley over the bar. Matt Gearing was Diamonds’ final substitution, replacing the impressive Rogers on 77 minutes.

On 81 minutes, a good ball from Brown picked out Dunkley in the area but his effort was well saved by McGann.

Joseph then started the move which could have sealed his hat-trick. In the middle of Sleaford’s half, he flicked the ball into Lamb-Johnson, who then laid it off to Confue who seemed to lose the ball but instead it fell back to Joseph who  struck a powerful shot just over the bar.

With four minutes to go, the Peter De Banke Terrace cried out for a penalty for a foul on Confue, but it was a well timed tackle that broke up the move after some good link-up play between Confue and Dunkley.

The final chance of the game fell to Sleaford, and it was arguably their best chance. With just one minute to go, Luke Hollingworth flung the ball into the area from the left, and after being flicked on by a white shirt, Clarke found himself in plenty of space but his effort was well saved by Finlay.

Final Score: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3 Sleaford Town 0

A second comfortable win for the Diamonds this week, putting them eight points clear at the top of the table with second-placed Holbeach United in FA Vase action this weekend. Sleaford drop to 16th after Wellingborough Town won 1-0 away at Peterborough Northern Star. Diamonds go into next weekend’s massive game at Holbeach in good form, with six goals scored and none conceded in two games. With a good all round performance against both Harborough and Sleaford, and with all the goals coming from substitutes this weekend, Andy Peaks may find himself having a selection headache for next week’s trip to Holbeach.

Man of the Match: Elliott Lamb-Johnson

Attendance: 457

Match report by Adam Benney

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Sleaford Town

17. Matt Finlay

2.   Brad Harris

3.   Sam Brown

4.   Neil King

5.   Jack Ashton

6.   Liam Dolman

7.   Elliott Lamb-Johnson

8.   Adam Confue

9.   Tom Lorraine

10. Jason Turner

11. Declan Rogers


13. Rhys Redding

14. Scott Joseph (for Lorraine 21)

15. Matt Gearing (for Rogers 77)

16. Charlie Butt

19. Russ Dunkley (for Turner 68)

1. Phil McGann

2. Adam Underwood –Harley

3. Luke Hollingworth

4. Seb Firman

5. Adam Weston

6. Harry Millard

7. Ryan Parnell

8. George Zwerner

9. Ewan Clarke

10. Scott Coupland

11. Liam Tunstall


12. Sam Stokes

14. Brad Hockin

16. Terry Fleming (for Zwerner 65)

17. Tom McGann

18. Jamie Shaw

Goals: Joseph (39 & 52), Dunkley (72)


Yellow Cards:

Yellow Cards: Fleming (67)

Red Cards:

 Red Cards:

Referee: Martyn Gospel

Assistants: Chris Sheppard, Paul Desmond



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