AFC Rushden & Diamonds were 4-1 victors over Wellingborough Town at the Dog & Duck on Easter Monday afternoon. Scott Joseph gave the Diamonds the lead at the break as he fired home after 3 minutes. The second Diamonds goal came three minutes into the second half, with a Matt Gearing penalty after Scott Joseph was felled by the Doughboys keeper. A well-worked goal from Tom Lorraine made it 3-0, before substitute Russ Dunkley completed the Diamonds scoring. Although keeper Matt Finlay had made a number of excellent saves, he was unable to keep out a late consolation goal from Stuart Smeathers in the third minute of added time.
Newly installed Diamonds Manager Andy Peaks was able to name an unchanged starting line-up, with a single change on the bench with Greg Ling replacing Joe Merrill.
The game was played on a warm Bank Holiday afternoon in front of the largest league gate of the season (677), made all the more impressive that neither side had anything to play for. After three minutes the Diamonds were ahead. They won a throw-in on the left, and Sam Brown was able to get the ball well into the area, with an effort from Matt Gearing being blocked out to Scott Joseph who fired home his fourth goal on his fourth appearance for the club.
The first quarter of the game saw the Diamonds dominate play with Tom Lorraine going close, but as the half wore on the Doughboys started creating chances, with several efforts missing the target, and Matt Finlay also making a smart save.
Jamal Clarke was perhaps fortunate to escape further punishment after a tussle with Jason Turner that initially looked innocuous but ended up bring back memories of the incident at AFC Wulfrunians.
Half-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 Wellingborough Town 0
After letting their opponents have rather more of the play in the latter part of the first period the Diamonds reasserted themselves quickly as the second half began. A cross from Sam Brown found Scott Joseph in the penalty area, having lost his marker, but he couldn’t quite get the ball under control. Within a minute Joseph had won the Diamonds a penalty as he broke clear past a static defence, and as he pushed the ball past keeper Brassington he was brought down. Matt Gearing stepped up and made no mistake with the spot-kick.
Scott Joseph went close again a few minutes later as he again beat the offside trap to run onto a high ball over the defence, but although he got to the ball before the advancing keeper a high bounce meant that his attempted chip went rather higher than planned, and Brassington was able to turn and catch his effort.
To their credit the Doughboys continued to create chances, and Matt Finlay was tested several times, but he was equal to the challenge, particularly efforts from the impressive Beckley and ex-Diamond Liburd.
After 72 minutes the game was safe as a neat move saw Fazel Koriya find substitute Séan McBride in the penalty area, and he worked the ball onto Tom Lorraine who was allowed time and space to set himself and fire home. Lorraine then turned provider as he sent Matt Gearing up for a chance in the right channel that forced a fine save from Brassington.
Russ Dunkley then joined the action, and he was quickly involved in several promising moves before he netted the Diamonds fourth goal after 81 minutes as he fired home with his left foot after a neat pass from Fazel Koriya. Dunkley almost had his second goal as he saw an effort strike the post, but as the game entered the third minute of added time the Doughboys won a corner despite Diamonds claim for a hand-ball, and Scott Smeathers was allowed space to head home.
Coupled with other results this win confirms the Diamonds will finish third in their first season in the UCL Premier, with their remaining game being at Stewarts and Lloyds Corby on Saturday.
Diamonds Man of the Match chosen by Match Sponsor El Parador Mexican Restaurant at the Hind Hotel: Scott Joseph
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
17. Matt Finlay
2. Joe Henderson
3. Sam Brown
4. Brad Harris
5. Jack Ashton
6. Jamal Clarke
7. Matt Gearing
8. Richard Bunting (c)
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Scott Joseph
11. Fazel Koriya
12. Greg Ling (for Lorraine 79)
13. Adam Whybrow
14. Séan McBride (for Harris 69))
15. Ben Morgan
16. Russ Dunkley (for Joseph 74)
1. Jamie Brassington (GK)
2. Nat Liburd
3. Stuart Smeathers
4. Josh Winters
5. Ryan Watkin
6. Joe Rich
7. Harry Beckley
8. Dan Rogers
9. Jason Turner (c)
10. Wes Emery
11. Kieran Westbury
12. Reece Brown (for Turner 76)
14. Chris Davies (for Rogers 55)
15. Toby Robinson
16. Ben Ekins (for Westbury 62)
Goals: Joseph (3), Gearing ((pen),48), Lorraine (72), Dunkley (81)
Goal: Smeathers (90+3)
Yellow Cards: None
Yellow Cards: Brassington
Referee: Mr Mark Wetherall
Assistant Referees: Mr Anthony Griffiths & Mr Andrew Tweedale