AFC Rushden & Diamonds 4 Thurnby Nirvana 1

AFC Rushden & Diamonds battled their way to a hard fought 4-1 win over UCL newcomers Thurnby Nirvana on an action packed Saturday afternoon at the Dog & Duck. 

After the Diamonds fell behind to a well worked goal from their Leicestershire opponents, Russ Dunkley crucially equalised just before the halftime whistle, and after the introduction of winger Matt Gearing early in the second period, further goals from Brad Harris, Scott Joseph (on his second debut for the club) and a Gearing penalty made it a very pleasing afternoon’s work for the home side.

Manager Andy Peaks made four changes to the side that defeated Desborough in midweek, with Jamal Clarke given his first league start in place of the injured Joe Merrill, and there was also starting berths handed to Jack Ashton, Brad Harris and Tom Lorraine in place of Sam Brown, Adam Confue and Jason Turner respectively. There were places on the substitutes’ bench for new signings Scott Joseph and Joel Gyasi, and with both sides having scored 23 goals in their previous four games, the stage was set for a fully entertaining game.

The Diamonds, kicking away from the Peter de Banke terrace in the first half, were aiming to carry on where they left off on Tuesday evening, and an early chance fell to Fazel Koriya after a chest down from Lorraine fell into his path, but the winger dragged his effort wide of goal. However, the next 15 minutes saw Diamonds forced firmly onto the back-foot, with Thurnby’s incisiveness and pace up front causing serious problems to the backline.

In the fifth minute, William Gonga strode forward from midfield, played the ball out wide to right-winger Pearson Mwanyongo, and he cut inside onto his left foot and curled a shot straight at Matt Finlay. Less than two minutes later, Thurnby were on the offensive again, with Ashley Day playing a sharp one two on the edge of the box with striker Matthew Melbourne before forcing a smart save from the Diamonds stopper down to his left hand side.

This pressure from the promoted visitors continued, with Mwanyongo again proving very dangerous as he cut in onto his favoured left foot, but thankfully for the Diamonds, his shot from the edge of the area narrowly cleared Finlay’s crossbar on the 10th minute mark. There was a heart-stopping moment for the masses of Diamonds fans in attendance shortly after, as a Liam Dolman header back to Finlay dropped just short, with the Diamonds keeper only half making connection with the ball, but Melbourne could only put his effort into the terrace behind the goal under heavy pressure. 

Despite this flurry of action inside Rushden’s final third, Diamonds arguably had the best chance of the opening spell, with a deep cross from Clarke reaching Dunkley at the far post, who nodded back across goal for Lorraine to power a header goalwards, but James Finders in the Thurnby goal produced a terrific one handed save from point blank range. The ball fell again to Lorraine, but he could only scuff his rebound across goal, with Harris seeing a goalbound flick blocked by a visiting defender. 

Reece Morris was acting as a nuisance to the Diamonds defence, and he jinked inside from the left byline to hit an effort that Finlay tipped up into the air, and luckily for the goalkeeper, fell on to the top of the crossbar and went behind for a corner. Punishment was duly served though, as the resultant set piece led to Melbourne driving into the left side of the penalty area and pulling the ball back for Pearson Mwanyongo to drill a first time drive into the roof of the home side’s net. 

Koriya should have levelled matters when he latched onto a Dunkley flick on, and aided by a slip from goalkeeper Finders, rounded the Thurnby stopper, but he could only place his effort over the goal. In a 5 minute spell afterwards, things could have got a whole lot worse for Diamonds, with firstly Jack Ashton making a vital block to deflect a Morris effort for a corner, and then a Day free kick forcing Finlay to again tip the ball over the bar, but the threat was somehow negated.

With Peaks’ side struggling to find any momentum amidst waves of Thurnby pressure, a moment of magic was required, and Koriya provided this four minutes before the interval. He collected Clarke’s pass, skipped down the right hand touchline and delivered a perfect cross straight onto the head of Russ Dunkley, whose header was never going anywhere else apart from the back of the net. The relief was clear to see amongst the home fans around the ground, and although it was slightly unfair on Thurnby Nirvana, it gave the Diamonds a perfect confidence booster as they headed to the changing rooms at half time. 

Half Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1-1 Thurnby Nirvana

After the whirlwind first period, it was natural to think that the second half would start off at a slower pace, and so it proved, though Diamonds did begin to show early signs of the ascendancy and tempo that they lacked at times during the first 45 minutes, helped by Matt Gearing entering the field of play to replace Elliot Lamb-Johnson. 

In the 58th minute, Koriya managed to work an opening down the left wing, with him laying the ball back to Richard Bunting in oceans of space in the middle of the park. He looked up, spotted Lorraine drifting into space at the far post, and curled a pinpoint cross into his path, but the Diamonds number 10 could only tamely loop his header wide of goal. Straight from the goal kick, Thurnby swept down the other end, and a spot of pinball inside Rushden’s penalty area ended with Eddie Gamba firing an effort wide of Matt Finlay’s right hand post.

With the tie very much in the balance, there was a sense that the next goal was vital in terms of winning the game, and it was the Diamonds who found the breakthrough. With both Diamonds full-backs getting further forward, it was Clarke’s ball down the line that set Gearing racing down the right wing, and his inviting cross was swept home by Brad Harris (yes, you did read that right!) in the six yard box.

It was clear to see how much impetus and confidence this gave to the Diamonds players, and this was evidenced perfectly three minutes later when they forged further ahead. The returning Scott Joseph had only been on the pitch for a matter of minutes when Gearing won the ball off the Thurnby full-back, played it inside to the ex AFC Kempston man, and after cutting inside, unleashed a sumptuous angled finish into the far corner of the net from 20 yards.

It was a strike fitting to settle any footballing contest, and so it proved. The Diamonds were now content with breaking up Thurnby attacks while trying to use the pace of Joseph and Gearing on the counter, and though the visitors kept attacking to the very end, they were unable to find a way back into the contest. The closest they came was when a Melbourne cross from the left was put wide by Morris under pressure from the covering Dolman.

Further gloss was added to the scoreline three minutes from the end of normal time, when another new signing. Joel Gyasi, burst onto a loose ball in midfield and attempted to drive into the penalty box, only to be crudely obstructed by visiting defender Sean Doy. Referee Robert Evans had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot, and Matt Gearing showed composure to place the ball past Finders into the right side of the net in front of the delighted Peter de Banke terrace.

After two minutes of stoppage time, the referee blew his whistle on a fast and furious tie, with Thurnby perhaps feeling hard done by at the heaviness of the scoreline in Diamonds’ favour.

Full Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 4-1 Thurnby Nirvana

So an important come-from-behind victory for the Diamonds, and Andy Peaks will be happy that the team managed to come through the test of a good opposition with a positive result.

With all three substitutes influencing the game in the second half, a selection headache will be imposed on the coaching team ahead of this coming Tuesday’s UCL Premier game against AFC Kempston Rovers, and with Holbeach being defeated 4-0 by Peterborough Northern Star, it places extra emphasis and interest into next Saturday’s fixture as well.

Diamonds Man of the Match (courtesy of match sponsors AFC Rushden & Diamonds Community): Brad Harris

Attendance: 734

Match Report by Ollie Mortimer

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Thurnby Nirvana

17. Matt Finlay

2. Jamal Clarke

3. Jack Ashton

4. Brad Harris

5. Liam Dolman

6. Arron Parkinson (C)

7. Elliot Lamb-Johnson

8. Richard Bunting

9. Russell Dunkley

10. Tom Lorraine

11. Fazel Koriya


12. Matt Gearing (for Lamb-Johnson 49)

13. Quincy Shorunmu

14. Scott Joseph (for Lorraine 64)

15. Joel Gyasi (for Koriya 83)

16. Sam Brown

1. James Finders

2. Lynas King

3. Shaquille O’Neil Brooks

4. Sean Doy

5. William Gonga

6. Eddie Gamba

7. Pearson Mwanyongo

8. George Himan

9. Reece Morris

10. Matthew Melbourne (C)

11. Ashley Day


12. Luke Day (for Gonga 75)

14. Jaudach Taylor

15. Ahmed Duale (for Gamba 83)

16. Brian Quailey

Goals: Dunkley (41), Harris (65), Joseph (68), Gearing (pen 87)

Goals: Mwanyongo (25)

Yellow Cards: Lamb-Johnson (31), Ashton (55)

Yellow Cards: Doy (86)

Referee: Robert Evans

Assistants: Tunde Ajisola, Charlie Ross



Updated player profiles with appearance and goalscoring details are now available.

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.

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