Two late goals from Aaron King and Matt Gearing that were goal-of-the-season contenders gave AFC Rushden & Diamonds a 4-1 victory over Long Buckby AFC at the Dog & Duck on Saturday afternoon. The Diamonds looked to be cruising after early goals from Russ Dunkley and Séan McBride, but Lance Allen got a goal back for the Bucks before the break, and a number of missed chances for the Diamonds meant they had to wait until those two memorable goals before wrapping up their seventh win in a row – the first time they have secured seven wins in a calendar month.
Diamonds Manager Mark Starmer brought Arron Parkinson and Joe Merrill back into the side after they had missed the midweek victory over S&L Corby due to injury and work commitments, meaning the unfortunate Brad Harris and Jake Gillingwater returned to the bench. Long Buckby had ex-Diamonds Allen, Allcock and Liburd in their side, as well as goalkeeper Alastair Worby, who had appeared in the recent televised FA Cup game for Brackley against Gillingham.
The Diamonds quickly established their dominance in the game, after a long ball into box saw some panic in the visiting defence, with keeper Worby calling Todd Sawko to head behind for a corner when it appeared he could nod the ball into the keeper’s arms. The resultant corner was cleared to Aaron King who was about 30 yards out, and he hit a dipping volley that Worby did well to tip over the bar. The corner that followed from the right saw Matt Gearing put the ball on the head of Russ Dunkley who nodded home the opener.
Seven minutes later a neat move involving Dunkley and Taylor was partly-halted by the ball fell to Greg Ling who set up Séan McBride for a shot that was saved by Worby. Ling then shot just wide after Dunkley flicked a free-kick into his path.
An accurate pass from Sam Brown was headed into the path of Alfie Taylor by Russ Dunkley, but the Diamonds striker appeared to get a good first touch, but was unlucky to see the ball bounce up and flick off his knee and run too close to Worby.
After 18 minutes the Diamonds had their second goal. The ball was worked down the Diamonds right and they won a throw a few yards from the corner flag. Joe Merrill took the throw, and it floated over the head of Dunkley and his marker to drop on the foot of Séan McBride and was poked into the net.
At this stage it looked like the Diamonds might run away from the game, with the visitors struggling to organise themselves against the Diamonds threats, and unable to slow the game down to a pace they could contain. However, the game then came to a halt as Bucks’ captain James Allcock picked up a nasty knock that required treatment, and although he tried to continue, he was forced off the field. Wes Emery then gave the impression that he too would have to be substituted after being tackled by Greg Ling after the Diamonds player had seen a good chance slip past him – with Ling picking up a yellow card despite winning the ball.
The long stoppages meant the tempo of the game was significantly affected, and the Bucks started to get into the game. Robson Kightley might have done better as he found space at a corner, but could only head wide, but after 37 minutes they pulled a goal back as a long angled ball eluded the outstretched foot of Sam Brown, and Lance Allen was able to run on and fire home past Tom Cross.
The remainder of the half was fairly even, but it ended with a concern for the home side as Joe Merrill fell awkwardly and picked up a hand injury.
Half-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2 Long Buckby 1
Jake Gillingwater replaced Joe Merrill at the interval, but the Diamonds could not find the quick goal they had scored in the first period. Several Diamonds players might have done better with chances on goal. Greg Ling blazed over after a Dunkley run along the byline and squared it back to him. Dunkley himself put a low header wide from a good King cross from the right. King hit the post with a well-hit drive, but also saw two wayward efforts, as did Matt Gearing. Alfie Taylor did manage to force Worby into a save, but the third goal was not forthcoming.
As the half went on the visitors began to look more dangerous, with substitute Dakouri impressive, but he might have found the target with a header after Forinton found space for a cross from the right. Any further threats from the Bucks were dealt with by the Diamonds defence, with Arron Parkinson having an outstanding game.
With the game inside the final 10 minutes there was growing concern about the possibility of an equaliser, but these fears went away after 83 minutes. Both Dunkley and Taylor were working the right channel, and Taylor had strayed towards the right touchline near the half-way line. As the ball reached Dunkley most expected him to flick it over his head into the path of Taylor’s run, but instead he dissected the visitors’ defence with a ball back inside perfectly into the path of Aaron King’s run. King was faced with a one-on-one with keeper Worby, and he made no mistake as from 20-yards out he hit an exquisite chip that floated over Worby and into the net.
That made the game safe, and the Diamonds brought on Ben Morgan and Brad Harris. Ben Morgan has had a number of cameo appearances to impress late-on in recent games, and this was no exception. With Aaron King having made amends for his second half brace of misses, it was Matt Gearing’s turn to do the same in similar spectacular fashion, as he burst forwards and hit a pinpoint pass to Morgan on the right, and Morgan was able to fire in a cross that Gearing fired home for the Diamonds fourth in the first minute of added time.
Full-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 4 Long Buckby 1
Diamonds Man of The Match: Arron Parkinson
The Diamonds host Newport Pagnell on Tuesday evening ahead of the FA Vase game at home to Graham St Prims on Saturday afternoon.
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
17. Tom Cross
2. Joe Merrill
3. Sam Brown
4. Sean McBride
5. Arron Parkinson (c)
6. Alex Deakin
7. Matt Gearing
8. Aaron King
9. Russ Dunkley
10. Alfie Taylor
11. Greg Ling
12. Ben Morgan (for Taylor 84)
13. Adam Whybrow
14. Jake Gillingwater (for Merrill 46)
15. Deven Ellwood
16. Brad Harris (for King 87)
1. Alastair Worby
2. Neil Cartwright
3. Todd Sawko
4. James Allcock (c)
5. Robson Kightley
6. Nat Liburd
7. Dan Childs
8. Wes Emery
9. Howard Forinton
10. Lance Allen
11. Josh Crawley
12. Daniel Worton (for Crawley 49)
14. Jean Dakouri (for Allcock 27)
15. Nathan Stewart
16. Paul Warnecki
Goals: Dunkley (4), McBride (18), King (83), Gearing (90+1)
Goals: Allen (37)
Yellow Cards: Ling
Yellow Cards: Kightley
Referee: Mr Robert Cusick
Assistant Referees: Mr Anthony Griffiths & Mr Michael Brennan
The updated Match Stats, Player Stats, Form Guide and Attendance figures are found in the First Team stats area on this website here. You can also find updated fixture lists in the main fixture and results grid as well as on the Fixture News page, where there is a downloadable version.