AFC Rushden & Diamonds followed up their midweek 6-1 victory in the FA Cup with a 5-1 league victory over Sleaford Town at the Dog & Duck on Saturday afternoon. After being denied what looked a clear cut penalty in the first minute the Diamonds battled in the rain until Russ Dunkley put them ahead shortly before the break following an excellent move involving McBride, Gearing, Merrill and Wisniewski. The Diamonds then dominated the second half, and if the first goal was a great team goal, their second was an excellent solo effort from Alfie Taylor after he won the ball on the right touchline before leaving three defenders in his wake as he ran into the area and fired home with his left foot. After Jack Wisniewski was body-checked in the corner of the box Matt Gearing scored from the spot, before the Greens got a goal back from an Adam Weston header. Alfie Taylor made the game safe after 71 minutes before Alex Deakin completed the scoring when he headed home a corner.
Diamonds’ Manager Mark Starmer kept faith with the same starting XI that had recorded a 6-1 win in midweek, and five of the seven substitutes from that game. Green manager Kris Jones made several changes to his line-up, and named himself on the bench.
For the second game running the Diamonds started well, and as on Tuesday Sam Brown delivered an excellent ball forwards in the first minute. As Alfie Taylor broke in the box and appeared to be getting past his marked he was clearly checked, but referee Bates declined the penalty appeals – and the probability of an early red card.
With the rain teeming down both sides created chances, but their respective keepers dealt with any threat. Greens keeper McGann did well to close down Alfie Taylor when he ran onto a Dunkley flick, and Tom Cross saved well from Coupland.
The two Diamonds wide players were causing the visitors’ defence problems while they struggled to deal with the threat of Dunkley and Taylor. Jack Wisniewski went close to setting up a “tap-in” when he burst into the area on the right, and then after he switched to the left Matt Gearing was able to link with Taylor to feed Wisniewski for a shot that flashed across goal. Taylor saw another chance thwarted by Coupland with Gearing foiled by good defending as he almost fired home the follow-up chance.
Tom Cross made another good save from Jackson after the match officials failed to spot a foul throw on the right.
Séan McBride was winning tackles and loose balls in front of the Diamonds defence, and he started the move that led to the Diamonds first goal when he won the ball on the right, playing a neat pass to Matt Gearing who held the ball until Joe Merrill could overlap and cross the ball which was then eased back by Jack Wisniewski for Russ Dunkley to hook into the net.
Half-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 Sleaford Town 0
The rain was continuing to fall as the second half got underway, but the Diamonds were quickly back into their stride, with Wisniewski almost getting on the end of a low ball across the area from Gearing.
After 51 minutes the Diamonds fans who had made it to the Dog & Duck on a Bank Holiday weekend were rewarded with one of the best goals seen from a Diamonds player. Alfie Taylor appeared to be chasing down a lost cause at the Greens’ left back looked to shepherd the ball out for a throw in on the right. Taylor slid and made a clean tackle and then showed the defender a clean pair of heels as he broke towards the area. His sidestep then left more defenders wrongfooted before he hit a shot with his left foot into the net.
Three minutes later the Diamonds extended their lead, when Jack Wisniewski once again ran at the defence and was checked just inside the right corner of the box. Matt Gearing stepped up and made no mistake with the spot-kick.
Any thoughts the Diamonds might have had of cruising the rest of the game in order to conserve energy for the two tough games ahead were put to one side as Alex Deakin halted a break with a trip that earned him a booking, and the Jackson freekick from 35 yards out was headed home by Adam Weston.
The Dunkley / Taylor partnership was still looking very dangerous, with Dunkley heading down a Brown throw-in for McBride, but the Diamonds midfielder’s shot was not as impressive as his performance had been all afternoon.
After 71 minutes it was Dunkley / Taylor partnership that made the game safe as Dunkley flicked a long ball to Alfie Taylor to fire home. Joe Merrill was getting forwards more as he is getting back to the form seen at the start of last season, find room for a shot from the edge of the area, although this time his effort was over the Peter De Banke Terrace.
A minute later the Diamonds had their fifth goal when Alex Deakin headed home a Matt Gearing corner. There was time for Nat Liburd to look dangerous as he made another appearance from the bench after his return from suspension, and Elliot Dent did well to “nutmeg” a defender before clipping a shot that just missed the left angle of goal.
Full-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 5 Sleaford Town 1
Man of the Match sponsored by Michael Wilson and Steve Wittish: Russ Dunkley
On Wednesday evening the Diamonds travel to face Huntingdon Town – see here for the match preview.
The current UCL League Table can be found on the AFC Diamonds website here, and the updated Match Stats, Player Stats, Form Guide and Attendance figures are found in the summary stats area here. Updated player profiles are also available.
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
17. Tom Cross
2. Joe Merrill
3. Sam Brown
4. Séan McBride
5. Alex Deakin
6. Jamal Clarke
7. Jack Wisniewski
8. Elliot Dent
9. Russ Dunkley (Capt)
10. Alfie Taylor
11. Matt Gearing
12. Dan Grainger
13. Quincy Shorunmu
14. Jake Gillingwater (for Deakin 77)
15. Brad Harris (for McBride 75)
16. Nat Liburd (for Wisniewski 74)
1. Phil McGann
2. Ben Greenwood
3. Adam Fenton (Capt)
4. Ben Thacker
5. Adam Weston
6. Terry Fleming
7. Josh Raby
8. Richard Jackson
9. Chris Self
10. Scott Coupland
11. Jonny Twentyman
12. Stephen Hipkiss (for Thacker 78)
14. Kris Jones
15. Tim Beedles (for Fleming 88)
16. Nathan Holland (for Raby 70)
17. Jamie Shaw
Goals: Dunkley (43), Taylor (51/71), Gearing (54p), Deakin (73)
Goals: Weston (59)
Yellow Cards: McBride, Deakin, Harris
Yellow Cards : Greenwood
Referee: Stephen Bates
Assistants: Gabriel Rabatin, Andrew Burston
See here for match video and interviews.