AFC Rushden & Diamonds 5 Rugby Town 2

If there was a perfect way to set yourself up for the season ahead, it would probably be something like this.

AFC Rushden & Diamonds put in a clinical display to comfortably see off Step 4 opponents Rugby Town after a wave of first-half goals from Joe Henderson, Greg Ling and Fazel Koriya, with the latter bagging a second late on. 

Yet despite the dominance shown on the scoreboard, it could have been so different had the visitors taken their early chances.

The Valley controlled the play from the outset, ex-Kettering man James Jepson running the game in midfield as they attempted to break down the Rushden defence.

And they nearly took the lead just eight minutes in after a contentious corner decision, the set piece floated in only to be headed narrowly over by the towering Marcel Simpson.

Just a minute later Justin Marsden set off on a blistering run and the ball worked its way to Richard Blythe near the penalty spot, but Matt Finlay pulled off a fine low save to keep the score intact.

But from then on, it was all Rushden. A long throw from Sam Brown was flicked to the far post by Dunkley towards Fazel Koriya, but the ex-Rugby man could only blast high over the bar.

Twenty-one minutes in visiting ‘keeper Joe Mellings made a fine point-blank save from a Dunkley header, only to see Joe Henderson follow up and slot the rebound home to put the hosts ahead.

And five minutes later it was 2-0. The ever-tricky Lamb-Johnson drilled a great cross to Fazel Koriya, who weaved his way around the defence before atoning for his earlier error by delightfully curling the ball into the top corner.

Just as you thought Rugby would try and slow the game down and regain some control, they fell even further behind in comical fashion.

Rushden won a free-kick wide on the right, which Greg Ling hopefully floated into the box and through everyone into the bottom corner for his first goal for the club.

Rugby should have pulled one back immediately through Simpson, the defender heading a Sam Youngs delivery just wide.

Joe Henderson was then forced off with an ankle injury, with Mark Hewitt his replacement. Sean McBride slotted in at right-back with Brad Harris moving into his favoured midfield position.

And just like London buses, Greg Ling goals seem to come in twos. The midfielder made a late run onto Lamb-Johnson’s through ball before firing low through the ‘keeper’s legs to make it 4-0 in the 40th minute.

He could have had his hattrick, too, Mellings producing a wonderful block save to prevent further embarrassment before the referee brought the first half to a close.

Half time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 4 Rugby Town 0

Rugby came out of the blocks firing in the second half and their increased tempo led to the only booking of the game, Sean McBride carded after a late challenge on Justin Marsden.

Nathan Fox nearly reduced the arrears, cutting inside only to be denied by a fantastic block from Richard Bunting. Marsden then weaved his way past Sam Brown to get to the byline before drilling in a cross which Youngs was unable to keep under the crossbar.

The Valley, to their credit, kept going and were rewarded for their efforts in the 56th minute, David Kolodynski running at the Rushden defence before finding Richard Blythe in space who coolly slotted home.

The lead should have been further reduced five minutes later when James Jepson found himself in space just six yards out, but Finlay got out quickly and smothered his effort.

Greg Ling looked dangerous and could have added to his tally twice in two minutes, first dragging his shot wide from a Brad Harris knock-down before forcing Mellings into a sharp save from long range.

Rushden did make it five in the 75th minute, Lamb-Johnson again running at the Rugby defence before a ricochet saw him get to byline and drill in a low cross which Fazel Koriya met with a low diving header in front of the Peter De Banke Terrace.

Seconds after Koriya was replaced, Rugby grabbed a second consolation, Justin Marsden firing low into the net after a great cross by Nathan Fox before the referee blew for full time almost two minutes early.

Full time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 5 Rugby Town 2

With just one week until their UCL Premier Division campaign gets underway, Rushden will be delighted with the way they tore their higher-ranked opponents to shreds in the first half. There were notable performances from Greg Ling and Fazel Koriya, both staking their claim for a starting position in such a strong attacking squad. Attention now turns to the clash with Sleaford on August 9th, where Andy Peaks will hope to get the season off to the best start possible. Before that there is an U21 game against Buckingham for the James Victory Cup, which might also serve as a final chance for first-teamers to get game time.

Man of the match: Greg Ling

Attendance: 224

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Rugby Town FC

17. Matt Finlay

2. Joe Henderson

3. Sam Brown

4. Sean McBride

5. Brad Harris

6. Arron Parkinson

7. Elliot Lamb-Johnson

8. Richard Bunting

9. Russell Dunkley

10. Fazel Koriya

11. Greg Ling


12. Mark Hewitt (for Henderson 35)

14. Jason Turner (for Koriya 79)

15. Tom Lorraine (for Dunkley 85)

1. Joe Mellings

2. Will Grocutt

3. Craig Kelly

4. Marcel Simpson

5. Alex Gudger

6. Sam Youngs

7. Justin Mardsen

8. Richard Blythe

9. David Kolodynski

10. James Jepson

11. Nathan Fox


12. Seb Lake-Gaskin (for Jepson 60)

14. Lewis Bishop (for Blythe 75)

15. Kyle Bishop (for Kolodynski 66)

Goals: Henderson (21), Koriya (26, 75), Ling (28, 38)

Goals: Blythe (56), Marsden (80)

Yellow Cards: McBride

Yellow Cards: None


Match Gallery courtesy of Malcolm Swinden Photography (click on the link to access the Diamonds Photo Gallery for more images from this game and ecommerce options). Copyright Mal Swinden ©2014