Diamonds won their first game as the home side at Hillgrounds, Kempston on Tuesday night beating Winslow United 4-2.
On a wet night Diamonds raced into a 2 goal lead with Joel Gyasi punishing a defensive error on 8 minutes sliding home from 10 yards, and Tom Lorraine prodding home from close range on 13 after Liam Dolman’s header was cleared off the line.
Step 6 side Winslow had been bright going forward from the start prompted by ex-Diamond Aaron King. They pulled a goal back on 23 as Sean Coles seized on an error in midfield and fired low past Ben Heath from the edge of the area. They deservedly levelled on 36 as Sean Coles again nicked a loose ball past Ben Heath and turned to strike home.
Diamonds noticeably upped the tempo second half and eventually retook the lead on 70 with Chris Dillon tapping home Luke Fairlamb’s cross. He added a second and his 5th in 2 games 6 minutes later this time guiding home second half substitute and trialist Chief Boateng’s excellent cross.
Manager Andy Peaks made 5 changes to the Diamonds starting 11 from the Rushden & Higham game the full squad getting a good workout at Hillgrounds. Ben Heath started in goal with new contract signing Callum Westwood and Ben Ford at full-back with Adam Pryke joining Liam Dolman at centre half. Joe Curtis and Ben Farrell partnered in centre midfield with Joel Gyasi and Daryl Smith out wide. Tom Lorraine joined Nabil Shariff up front. Three trialist’s joined the rest of the squad on the bench and would all feature – Callum Gilchrist, Rogan McGeorge and Chief Boateng.
After a quiet start which an energetic Winslow dominated with some impressive attacking play Diamonds raced into a 2 goal lead. First on 8 minutes Daryl Smith collect a mishit defensive clearance, squared to Nabil Shariff on the edge of the box who rolled the ball into the path of a free Joel Gyasi to coolly slot home.
As Winslow then started to struggle defensively Diamonds pounced with a second on 13 minutes. Liam Dolman connected powerfully with a left wing corner only to see the ball cleared off the line, but Tom Lorraine was on hand to prod home from close range.
It could have been 3 moment later as Nabil Shariff was played into space in the left side of the box but just found the keeper’s outstretched legs with his attempted near post finish. And again in the 22nd minute as Tom Lorraine connected with a diving header at another left wing corner that flew just over.
Winslow had stayed an impressive attacking force with ex Diamonds Aaron King leading the line. They got a deserved goal back on 23 minutes as poor Diamonds clearance was seized on by Sean Coles in midfield. He ran at Liam Dolman moved the ball to his right foot just outside the box and fired home beautifully into the bottom corner.
As Winslow continued to make the Diamonds back four work hard Aaron King showed some trademark bravado on 29 picking the ball up just inside the Diamonds half and trying to lob Ben Heath from 45 yards – well struck but always going over.
Winslow got the equaliser they deserved on 36 with Sean Cole running in behind the Diamonds back four to nick a loose ball away from Ben Heath. He still had plenty to do but turned and struck first time past the retreating keeper.
Diamonds had lacked intensity during that closing period of the half and were restricted to a good Nabil Shariff run and cross and dangerous Ben Ford free-kick.
Half time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2 Winslow United 2
Half-time saw 4 changes for Diamonds with Luke Fairlamb coming on to play full-back in place of Callum Westwood. Trialist and ex Inverness player Cameron Gilchrist came into centre-half with Adam Pryke moving to right-back to replace the withdrawn Ben Ford. Rogan McGeorge and Lewis Leslie came into centre midfield in place of Joe Curtis and Ben Farrell.
There was a noticeable lift in that intensity as Diamonds pressed forward from the off. Tom Lorraine came close to converting and excellent Darryl Smith cross on 47 seeing his header on the stretch just clear the bar and the same player with a trademark run into the channel fired hard and low from an angle testing the away keeper at the near post.
Darryl Smith then curled and excellent first time effort just over from the edge of the box, and Rogan McGeorge showed some neat midfield touches to set Joel Gyasi away only for him to be hauled down.
Darryl Smith had a tremendous chance to score on 67 as a superb free-kick from the left found him unmarked on the far post but he just guided his header wide.
Chris Dillon then came on in the 69th minute and waited just a minute to add to his pre-season goal tally. A brilliant run by Luke Fairlamb down the left saw him coming in along the goal-line where he fed Dillon for a prod home from close range.
Harry Henbury and Chief Boateng then joined the fray in place of Darryl Smith and Nabil Shariff and Boateng had an almost immediate impact. Weaving his way impressively into the left of the box he crossed to for poacher Chris Dillon to lift the ball over the away keeper into the far corner for his second of the game and his 5th in two games.
Harry Henbury who scored a dream debut goal against Brackley last week then flew down the right wing onto a great through ball and crossed dangerously across the 6 yard line just evading the Diamonds strikers.
There was just time for both keepers to get into the action in the final minutes. First Ben Heath superbly tipped over a fierce effort heading for the top corner, and then Liam Dolman struck a trademark 30 yard free-kick that the away keeper just batted away.
Final Score: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 4 Winslow United 2
This was a good workout for both sides with both defences put under pressure by some enterprising attacking play. Diamonds pounced on Winslow errors to open up a 2 goal lead which could have been 4 before Winslow struck back to deservedly level by half-time through the impressive Sean Coles.
Diamonds intensity levels increased in the second half aided by 4 substitutions that stabilised the back four and saw some excellent link-up from front to back. Chris Dillon pounced on some great wide play to make it 5 in two games and all three trialist’s impressed, Gilchrist with good movement and positioning at centre-half, McGeorge with some neat touches in midfield, and Boateng with some powerful running up front.
Next-up for Diamonds is the final pre-season game at Corby Town on Friday evening.
Match Report by Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
13. Ben Heath
2. Callum Westwood
3. Ben Ford
4. Adam Pryke
5. Liam Dolman
6. Ben Farrell
7. Daryl Smith
8. Joe Curtis
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Nabil Shariff
11. Joel Gyasi
12. Sean Dillon (for Lorraine 69)
14. Lewis Leslie (for Farrell 45)
15. Luke Fairlamb (for Westwood 45)
16. Cameron Gilchrist (for Ford 45)
17. Matt Finlay
18. Rogan McGeorge (for Curtis 45)
19. Harry Henbury (for Smith 74)
20. Chief Boateng (for Shariff 74)
7. Sean Coles
9. Aaron King
Goals: Gyasi (8), Lorraine (13), Dillon (70, 76)
Goals: Coles (23, 36)