AFC Rushden & Diamonds 4-2 Kings Langley

Diamonds claimed a vital success over fellow strugglers Kings Langley in a frenetic encounter.

The visitors forged ahead after seven minutes when Cain Keller struck, but Rushden levelled soon afterwards as captain Nathan Hicks fired in a low strike. Langley retook the lead only two minutes later through Bradley Wadkins’ spectacular long-range effort, and Wilson De Carvalho then rattled the woodwork. However the hosts equalised again just before half-time courtesy of Andy Kanga’s header.

Both sides came close early in the second period, and away sub Temitore Babalola was shown a second yellow card midway through the half. Diamonds immediately capitalised on the advantage through substitute Conor Tee’s sublime free-kick, and they sealed only their second home win of the season when debutant Chris Manangu slid home a low cross.

First half

Maxwell made the solitary change that had drawn with Bromsgrove last time out. Jack Connor returned up front at the expense of Harrison Bunga as Diamonds shifted to a 4-3-3 formation. There was also a welcome return to the squad for playmaker Conor Tee after his recent injury lay-off.

The clash pitted second-bottom Diamonds against third-bottom Langley, with the hosts being the lowest scorers whilst conceding the most in the league so far and the visitors not having won in any of their last seven Southern League games. It was the Kings who threatened first and, similarly to the Bromsgrove game the previous week, the visitors took an early lead. A neat through ball caught the home defence wide-open, and Cain Keller hit it coolly past Dean Snedker despite the keeper getting a touch on the strike.

After away full-back Ryan Case struck harmlessly off-target from range, Rushden levelled with their first meaningful attack. A move down the left led to Fraser Corden cleverly feeding it back to Nathan Hicks just inside the area, and his low effort beat Hafed Al-Droubi at his near post.

The entertaining start continued as, two minutes later, the visitors retook the lead. A loose ball dropped to striker Bradley Wadkins around 30 yards out, and his fizzing strike flashed over Snedker and in off the underside of the bar.

Diamonds tried to respond as Connor was released through on goal only for the offside flag to be raised, and Miguel Ngwa then jinked inside from the left before his attempt was blocked away. Kings continued to look dangerous when they ran at the hosts’ back-four though, and they came very close to extending their advantage when Wilson De Carvalho rattled the crossbar with an effort from the left.

The hosts responded to the let-off and, after Snedker made a good save low down to stop a cross from Alexander Lafleur, they equalised again moments before half-time. Corden was involved again, this time down the right, as his threatening cross just missed a couple of white shirts. It ran out to the left where Ngwa collected and cross it back in, with Andy Kanga planting a header firmly into the bottom corner.

Half time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2-2 Kings Langley

Second half

Kanga almost started the second period as he ended the first when he strode into the area and cut back onto his left foot, but his low shot flew just wide of the far post with Al-Droubi beaten. The tireless Hicks then got down the right before his cross was just cleared ahead of Connor, and Ryan Hughes then met Charlie Black’s curling free-kick only for his header to drift across goal.

Down the other end Snedker made a strong save to push away a header at the back post, and the keeper was called into action again moments later to tip over a dipping free-kick. After Tee had been brought on to replace Luis Pinto-Leite, with Kartell Dawkins shifting to right-back, and Chris Manangu making his debut at the expense of Connor, the Diamonds stopper made two further important saves. The first stopped an effort at his near-post, and his second foiled captain Jorell Johnson who found space to direct a header goalwards from a deep free-kick.

Twenty minutes remained when Kings were reduced to ten-men. Temitore Babalola, who had been introduced in the first half and had been booked, was shown a second yellow card for a sliding tackle around 35 yards out. Diamonds made them pay immediately as, from the subsequent free-kick, Conor Tee struck an unerring effort that flashed past Al-Droubi to send the Peter de Banke terrace behind the goal into ecstasy.

The home fans were even more jubilant a minute later as Rushden scored another. Kanga did terrifically to win the ball high up and advance down the right before his low ball in found Chris Manangu to bundle it past the keeper from close-range.

Hughes made a crucial block to deny Keller but, aside from that, Kings seemed resigned to the defeat. The hosts could have extended their lead when Manangu’s low ball in wasn’t turned home and Corden’s effort flew just wide, but they had done more than enough to secure a vital three points.

Full time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 4-2 Kings Langley

As they had done last week, Diamonds showed resolve and character to come from behind twice before capitalising on the one-man advantage late on. The second half substitutions also made a huge impact, with both Tee and Manangu contributing match-defining moments that turned the game on its head at a time when it was very much in the balance.

Rushden’s third win of the campaign moves them to within four points off safety, and they will look to close that gap further when they travel to 18th-placed Royston on Saturday 12 November, 3pm kick-off.

Diamonds Player of the Match: Miguel Ngwa

Attendance: 298

Match report by Ollie Mortimer

Diamonds: Snedker, Dawkins, Black, Hughes, Corden, Connor (Manangu 64), Hicks (C), Empochontsif, Pinto-Leite (Tee 56), Kanga, Ngwa (Cooper 83) (subs not used: Worsfold-Gregg, Grey)

Diamonds goals: Hicks (16), Kanga (43), Tee (71), Manangu (72)

Diamonds yellows: Kanga (88)

Kings Langley: Hafed Al-Droubi, Ryan Case, Alexander Lafleur, Udoka Chima, James Kaloczi, Jorell Johnson (C), Cain Keller, Jacob Gardiner-Smith, Bradley Wadkins (Johnny Gill 74), James Mulley (Temitore Babalola 29), Wilson De Carvalho (Guiseppe Delgaudio 65) (subs not used: Jack Brennan)

Kings Langley goals: Keller (7), Wadkins (18)

Kings Langley yellows: De Carvalho (21), Babalola (31, 70)

Kings Langley red card: Babalola (70)