AFC Rushden & Diamonds swept past Fakenham Town 4-1 at the Dog and Duck in the FA Carlsberg Vase second preliminary round on Saturday afternoon. A first-half goal from Alfie Taylor was the Diamonds’ only reward for a dominant first half performance, but after letting the visitors back into the game when Toby Harris ghosted in to head an equaliser from a corner after 62 minutes, the Diamonds turned up the heat, as a second goal from Man-of-The-Match Taylor was followed by late goals for Jack Wisniewski and Jake Newman.
Recent signing Jake Newman had to settle for a place on the bench for his first appearance as a Diamonds player at the Dog & Duck, as Mark Starmer made a single change to his starting line-up, with Jack Wisniewski returning from his absence due to illness to replace Elliot Dent who had picked up a knock in the game at Olney last weekend.
On a sunny afternoon the two teams performed in front of an excellent crowd for a cup competition that was confirmed as 605. Wisniewski took a place on the wide right of midfield, with Okechukwu on the left, but otherwise the Diamonds line-up had a familiar look to it, although Jamie Gilsenan was making his home debut.
Within three minutes the Diamonds had showed they would present the greater attacking threat, as Alfie Taylor hit the post after being set-up by Jack Wisniewski. Elwood and Wisniewski then combined well before a last ditch tackle prevented Wisniewski getting in a close range strike. Alfie Taylor clearly had the beating of the visitors’ defence, and he was able to break through the back line, to run onto a McBride pass, but once again his effort struck the post, and after the Jack Wisniewski put a first-time cross back into the box the Diamonds striker’s point-blank header was saved.
The lively Taylor once again broke through to a one-on-one with the Fakenham keeper after 15 minutes, but his effort struck Rix.
After 24 minutes the Diamonds got the opening goal that their pressure deserved as Alfie Taylor ran on to a neat ball forward from Peter Okechukwu, knocking the ball on with his head before firing home.
The Diamonds domination continued for the remainder of the half, although a number of dangerous looking moves were spirited away by the referee’s whistle. Unlike last weekend the Diamonds strikers seemed to have worked out the Ghost’s offside trap, and managed to avoid seeing the linesman’s flag for much of the first half. Jack Wisniewski appeared to have his shirt pulled in the box, but he struggled on to thread the ball across the area with Alfie Taylor just unable to get on the end of it.
McBride and Gilsenan were sharing the ball-winning duties in midfield, and they combined to create a chance for Gilsenan via a defence splitting pass from McBride but his chip was just wide.
The only real scare for the Diamonds defence in the first period came when Quincy Shorunmu appeared to let a free-kick go over his head, believing it was heading out for a goal kick, only to see a Fakenham player appear behind him and almost create a chance for a fellow attacker.
Half-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 Fakenham Town 0
The second half started without any early action, but when the visitors brought on Parkes and Harris they immediately looked more solid at the back, and started to push forwards with more attacking intent.
Just after the hour mark they forced one of their few corners of the game when Sam Brown was forced to clear a ball behind, and although they had several tall players in their side it was Toby Harris who headed home the resulting kick to level the scores.
The equalising goal immediately raised questions about whether the Diamonds substitutions should be made with the possibility of extra-time in mind, and apart from Jamie Gilsenan receiving the Diamonds first ever yellow card for a challenge that looked less clumsy than others that had gone before, the game entered a period of stalemate. Mark Starmer then took the plunge and brought on Ben Morgan and Jake Newman, and the move seemed to immediately pay dividends. Joe Merrill found space to make a raid forwards on the right, and he was hauled down just inside the visitors’ half by James Page, who picked up a yellow card for the challenge. Merrill took the kick himself, straight on to the head of Chris Hope, at the far post, who soared above several much taller defenders to head the ball back across the box for Alfie Taylor to head home from inside the six-yard box. After a quick glance at the linesman the Diamonds striker was able to celebrate his eighth goal for the club, having scored in the first five games in the Diamonds history.
The best goal of the afternoon came as the game neared its conclusion, with Jack Wisniewski leaving two defenders in his wake with a run down the right and a splendid one-two with Alfie Taylor before firing across keeper Rix and into the left hand corner of the net.
After scoring two and being credited with an assist for the other goal, Alfie Taylor’s afternoon was not yet complete, as he unselfishly set up a chance for Jake Newman who broke through the defence but the home debutant’s effort was blocked by keeper Rix. However, with the game well into added time Taylor made another break down the right and his effort from a narrow angle clipped the face of the woodwork which presented Jake Newman with the simplest of chances to open his account for the club.
Full-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 4 Fakenham Town 1
The Diamonds will now travel to Yaxley in the first round proper of the competition with the tie due to be played on the weekend of 13th October.
The Diamonds have another cup game at the Dog and Duck on Tuesday evening with the visit of Wellingborough Whitworth in the UCL KO Cup, before a trip to face Rothwell Corinthians in the ChromaSport and Trophies United Counties League Division One next weekend.
Diamonds Man-of-the-Match sponsored by Pool Solutions: Alfie Taylor
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
17. Quincy Shorunmu
2. Joe Merrill
3. Sam Brown
4. Séan McBride
6. Aynsley McDonald
7. Peter Okechukwu
8. Jamie Gilsenan
9. Alfie Taylor
10. Deven Ellwood
11. Jack Wisniewski
12. Ben Morgan (for Okechukwu 72)
13. Ashley Foulger
14. Jake Gillingwater
15. Jake Newman (for Ellwood 72)
16. George Cox (for Gilsenan 90+1)
1. Tom Rix
2. Stephen Harvey
3. Steven Parkes
4. Kyle Plumb
5. Matthew Gilchrist
6. Samuel Garner
7. James Tricks
8. James Page
9. Liam Somerton
10. Ben Boyce
11. Kristian Jones
12. Ryan Pearson (for Parkes 54)
14. Toby Harris (for Jones 51)
15. Shaun Steed (for Somerton 79)
16. Alex Walpole (GK)
Goals: Taylor (24, 74), Wisniewski (86), Newman (90+3)
Goal: Harris (62)
Yellow Card : Gilsenan (66)
Yellow Cards : Page (73), Boyce (78)
For match highlights click here
Images courtesy of Mal Swinden ©2012 Malcolm Swinden Photography
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