What a cracker!! Jack Ashton’s 87th minute goal won this 5 goal thriller at Hayden Road as Diamonds ran our 3-2 winners against Stourbridge FC on Saturday afternoon.
Diamonds were reeling from the shock of losing Liam Dolman to injury and were outplayed for large periods of the first half against a confident Stourbridge side. The Glassboys were playing only their 2nd league game in 10 games after recent cup heroics and were bright from the start and put Diamonds under pressure. Credit to Diamonds for keeping their slick opponents to long range efforts in the early stages but they will be disappointed in the manner of the opening goal. A near post corner was flicked on to debutant Jamie Willets to smash home at the far post unmarked.
Diamonds were a different side in the second half and had threatened three times – Ashton, Brown. Shariff – before a penalty on 56 minutes got them level. Ben Acquaye was brought down and Jordan Macleod stepped up, his penalty was saved but Tom Lorraine was there to slide home the rebound. Just a minute later Diamonds were ahead. Ben Acquaye collected a bouncing ball just inside the area and fired beautifully home across the impressive away keeper James Wren. Just when it looked like they had the game under control Stourbridge bounced back and equalised from another set-piece, Aaron Lloyd crashed a header home from a corner.
The game became end to end for a period before Diamonds started to press and the crowd sensed something special was about to happen. Nathan Hicks cut inside and hit a belter that produced a quite stunning save from James Wren. The anticipation levels grew and as the corner came in it fell to the far post it was slid back across the goal and there was local hero Jack Ashton to force the ball home. Ryan Dove might have added another in the final minutes but Diamonds ran out 3-2 winners in style.
Regular readers will know this reporters lifetime affiliation to the Glassboys and he was genuinely sitting on the fence most of the afternoon. The way I reacted to those 2 goals in a minute and that brilliant brilliant late winner says it all about where my loyalties really lie. Stourbridge have plenty of games in hand to make up a top 6 position but these three wins in three keep Diamonds in that same race.
Next up a hopefully more relaxed Southern League Challenge Cup tie against Needham Market on Tuesday night.
Manager Andy Peaks was forced into two significant changes to the line-up that had beaten Lowestoft on Tuesday night. Captain and talisman Liam Dolman and wide runner Nat Gosnal-Tyler were out and replaced by Patrick Casey and Tom Lorraine. Stourbridge included new signing Jamie Willetts in their line-up and were playing only their 2nd league game in 10 thanks to recent cup heroics.
Stourbridge with plenty of travelling support behind them started brightly dominating early possession with good passing and movement. Diamonds defence with youngster Patrick Casey prominent held them largely to long distance efforts in a start of few chances. Anthony Dwyer saw a snapshot on the turn held by Ben Heath and Chay Tilt fired over from 25 yards after a long throw fell to him.
Diamonds had a flurry of attacking activity at the quarter hour with Jordan Macleod cutting inside and firing over to get the crowd energised and a just a minute later a deep free-kick fell in the 6 yard box but Patrick Casey and Jack Ashton couldn’t apply the finishing touch. We’d see a very different scenario in the 87th minute!! Matt Slinn also got in on the action laying a great ball into the path of Nathan Hicks but he fired well over….and wide.
Stourbridge are always a threat from set-pieces and they grabbed the opening goal in that fashion on 25 minutes. A near post corner was flicked on by Brad Birch to debutant Jamie Willetts to fire home from close range.
The remainder of the half was fairly low key with the Glassboys largely holding possession. Chay Tilt tested Ben Heath from distance and Tom Tonks just failed to repeat the feat firing just over on 40 minutes
Half-time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0 Stourbridge 1
Diamonds were much improved in the second half with tactical changes giving them more width and creating space in middle third. Jack Ashton was determined to have an impact on the game and came close when getting behind the Stourbridge defence just 2 minutes in but his effort was cleared for a corner. The resultant corner fell to Sam Brown whose shot cannoned off Nabil Shariff and over the bar.
After Nabil Shariff turned and shot over on 55 minutes Diamonds got the chance to level. Ben Acquaye wriggled into the box and was felled and a penalty was awarded. Jordan Macleod stepped up but saw the impressive James Wren make a good save. The ball bounced back into play to the right of goal where Tom Lorraine running in coolly slotted home.
Just a minute later excitement levels in the ground went through the roof as Ben Acquaye latched onto a bouncing ball to the left of the penalty areas and fired in spectacularly across Wren to give Diamonds the lead. A shocked Stourbridge held on through a tricky spell but showed their battling qualities to get level. A slick move saw Brad Birch latch onto a neat ball and fire a low effort from close range that was blocked out for a corner. The resultant corner was headed powerfully home by Aaron Lloyd in front of the delighted travelling fans.
After an end to end period that failed to produce much in the way of real chances Diamonds started to get on top with the crowd firmly behind them. On 87 minutes Nathan Hicks cut inside and hit an absolute belter that produced a quite stunning save from James Wren. Anticipation levels grew again as the corner was played into the 6 yard box where it fell towards goal. An initial stab at goal was half cleared before Jack Ashton flew in to force the ball home and send the crowd into raptures.
Diamonds then had two great chances to kill the game as Stourbridge pressed forward with Ryan Dove having the best from a Ben Acquaye cross that he somehow fired over as he slid towards goal.
Full-time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3 Stourbridge 2
A fantastic second half performance against a really strong team had produced 3 goals and a 5 goal thriller win in front of a thoroughly entertained crowd. Manager Andy Peaks will be pleased with Patrick Casey’s calm performance when stepping in for Liam Dolman but a tad disappointed in the two set-pieces they conceded having repelled the Stourbridge neat attacking football. He will be delighted with a more intense attacking second half performance after tactical changes that produced three goals and could have produced a few more.
That makes 3 wins on the bounce in the league and pushed Diamonds right up the table again. Next up is a Southern League Challenge Cup tie against Needham Market at Hayden Road on Tuesday night before the trip to Kings Langley on Saturday.
Man of the Match: Zack Reynolds
Match Report: Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
13. Ben Heath
2. Zack Reynolds
3. Sam Brown (C)
4. Jack Ashton
5. Patrick Casey
6. Tom Lorraine
7. Ben Acquaye
8. Matthew Slinn
9. Nabil Shariff
10. Jordan Macleod
11. Nathan Hicks
12. Rhys Kelly
14. Ryan Dove (for Lorraine 80)
15. Jesse Aqubuine (for Slinn 80)
16. Ben Farrell
1. James Wren
2. Kristian Green
3. Jamie Willets
4. Thomas Tonks
5. Peter Taylor
6. David Bellis
7. Ashley Carter
8. Bradley Birch
9. Aaron Lloyd
10. Anthony Dwyer
11. Chay Tilt
12. Alex Nicholls
13. Charlie Price
14. Andre Landell (for Taylor 89)
15. Kieran Cook (for Dwyer 72)
16. Will Grocott (for Tilt 72)
Goals: Lorraine (56), Acquaye (57), Ashton (87)
Goals: Willets (25), Lloyd (65)
Yellow cards: Tilt
Referee: Bradley Hall
Assistants: Jack Stenson, Joshua Hackett