AFC Rushden & Diamonds 4-0 Olney Town
James Harrison was the hero as AFC Rushden & Diamonds finished their maiden league campaign with a victory, in the process extending their winning run to nine consecutive games. The striker became the first AFC R&D player to net a hat-trick, on the way to a four goal haul which saw the Diamonds depart their temporary home ground at Kiln Park in style.
Mark Starmer handed Harry May his league debut in the right wing back position, after he had impressed in last week’s Jaymann Shield victory over Rothwell Corinthians. Jake Reynolds, the winning goal scorer and Man of the Match in that game, had to settle for a place on the bench.
Rushden started the game on the front foot and went close to taking the lead inside the opening minute. Louis Smith whipped in a low right wing corner which found the run of Fred Devereaux at the near post, but the midfielder’s well hit volley was cleared off the line and behind for another corner. This one was taken short to Smith, who curled in a dangerous ball towards the far post which forced a save from Olney ‘keeper Ben Brown.
The visitors’ first chance of the game arrived on three minutes, as a free kick towards the edge of the Diamonds’ penalty area found its way to Callum Parker, but his ambitious volley sailed high over the bar.
The Diamonds had struggled to find the opening goal in the reverse fixture earlier in the season, despite dominating play from the start, but on this occasion they had no such problem and took the lead on 12 minutes. James Harrison latched onto the ball 25 yards out before shrugging off a defender, bursting into the penalty area and hitting an excellent strike across Brown and into the bottom corner.
Rushden should have doubled their lead three minutes later. Harrison found Harry May with a great ball down the right, and he in turn beat his marker before picking out Zach Farden with a great cross to the far post, but the left wing back couldn’t keep his shot down from close range. Harrison then went close to a second goal, receiving the ball on the edge of the box before turning well and firing inches wide of the post.
The Diamonds kept the pressure on and didn’t allow the Nurserymen a sniff at goal. Their next chance came on 26 minutes as Lewi Williams challenged Brown in the air, beating the Olney ‘keeper to the ball. The Rushden striker couldn’t capitalise on the loose ball which was hacked clear to Ashley Meeks 40 yards from goal, and his ambitious first time effort just cleared the crossbar.
Shortly after the half hour mark May had an opportunity to net his first competitive goal for the club after Smith picked him out with a quickly taken corner kick, but his shot was blocked just in front of the goal and was put behind for another corner. May’s inswinger saw Smith and Harrison both challenge for the ball but they got in each others’ way with the ball being deflected just wide of the post.
On 36 minutes though, the second goal arrived. Another left wing corner was curled towards the back post by May, where Harrison rose high above the defence and planted an excellent header back across goal and into the far corner.
That turned out to be the last action of the first half, as the Diamonds comfortably played out the remaining minutes.
HT: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2-0 Olney Town
AFC R&D Chairman Ralph Burditt presented Raunds Town FC Chairman Pete Scanlon with a Certificate of Thanks during the half time interval, in recognition of the invaluable help and support that the Shopmates have provided this season.
Both sides made changes during the break, but it made little difference as the second half continued in the same vein as the first. On 52 minutes substitute Alex McDonald picked out Harrison 25 yards from goal, who fired in a powerful shot just over the bar.
The inevitable third goal arrived just after the hour mark, as Harrison completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot. Devereaux picked out the Rushden striker with a great through ball, and he rounded Brown before being tripped by the Olney ‘keeper. Harrison picked himself up and smashed the penalty kick high into the net.
The Diamonds were coasting now but seemed to be playing slightly within themselves, rather than going all out in search of further goals. Mark Starmer attempted to liven things up by bringing on Jake Reynolds for his league debut, in place of Lewi Williams.
With 15 minutes remaining, some excellent play from May almost led to a stunning fourth goal. The winger raced onto a ball down the right flank before turning his man and curling a great left foot shot towards the far post, but he was denied by a fantastic fingertip save by Brown. From the resulting corner, may picked out Reynolds at the far post but the striker couldn’t direct his header on target.
A rare Olney attack almost saw them pull back a goal as the game entered its final 10 minutes. A free kick into the Rushden penalty area was only half cleared, with the ball falling to substitute Jack Denham on the edge of the box, who hit a stunning effort which beat Ashley Foulger and cannoned back off the bar. A minute later Joe Attwood picked up a loose ball and hit a good effort from 35 yards out, but his shot was too close to Foulger who held the ball comfortably.
A minute later May again went close to netting his first AFC goal after Reynolds picked him out on the right wing with an excellent cross field pass, but after sprinting clear of the defence May shot just wide of the far post from the edge of the box.
As the game entered injury time, May slightly tarnished his performance by picking up a booking for dissent. Two minutes later, Smith went within inches of getting his name on the score sheet as he headed just over the bar from McDonald’s excellent right wing cross.
The fourth goal followed soon after though, with almost the last kick of the game. Reynolds raced onto a ball down the right flank before skillfully beating his marker and delivering a perfect low cross for Harrison to run on to and tap the ball home from close range.
FT: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 4-0 Olney Town
The win sees the Diamonds move up to third place in the table and finish their first ever league season with a fantastic total of 30 points from 16 games. The two teams directly below them, Kempston and Woodford, still have games in hand, however, so it is likely that the club will finish in 5th place in the Northants Senior Youth League Western Division. Nonetheless, this is a tremendous achievement given how far the club has come in the last nine months, and only adds to the sense of eudemonia surrounding the club at present.
The Diamonds are back in action again next week, as they take on St. Ives in a friendly at Westwood Road, St. Ives, on Thursday 5th April, before returning to Jaymann Shield action at the Dog & Duck the week after.
Man of the Match: James Harrison
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
|86. Ashley Foulger
2. Ashley Meeks
4. Elliot Ames (c)
5. Ben Roche
7. Harry May
9. Fred Devereaux
13. Louis Smith
17. Conor Bell
3. Zach Farden
10. James Harrison
11. Lewi Williams
|1. Ben Brown
3. Callum Parker
4. Jake Stokes
6. Freddie McCann
7. Joel Bailey
8. Jamie Clarke (c)
9. Matt Cunningham
12. Calvin Rayner
15. Ollie Pennell
17. Jordan Appleton
19. Joe Attwood
6. Alex McDonald (for Farden, 46 mins)
8. Zaak Moon
12. Matti Ellis (for Bell, 55 mins)
15. Adam Ziolkowski
16. Jake Reynolds (for Williams, 72 mins)
2. Jack Denham (for McCann, 57 mins)
10. James Bates
11. Harry Stachini (for Parker, 46 mins)
16. Pat Burt (for Stokes, 46 mins)
Harrison (12 mins)
Harrison (36 mins)
Harrison (62 mins, pen)
Harrison (90+5 mins)
May (90+3 mins, dissent)
Match Highlights are available Here
All Photographs courtesy of Mal Swinden