Diamonds resoundingly defeated Thame United 6-0 at Hayden Road on Tuesday evening to move five points clear at the top of the table.
After the visitors went close through Aston Goss, whose placed shot across goal just evaded the onrushing Dan West at the far post, the hosts forged into the lead in the 14th minute when Joel Gyasi appeared to be fouled only for the advantage to be played, and Ryan Robbins seized possession before rifling home a left-footed effort from the edge of the box. The striker went close to doubling the advantage shortly afterwards when he embarked on a powerful run before his resulting shot was fired just wide of the post, but the Diamonds did double their lead in the 32nd minute. Luke Fairlamb was fouled just outside the box on the left, and Gyasi stepped up to whip a pinpoint effort over the keeper and into the far corner of the goal. Another free-kick almost brought a further home goal moments later after Robbins was fouled, but this time Fairlamb’s curling shot went narrowly wide, and the winger then had another effort only for the strike to go straight to the keeper. They did extend their lead to three shortly before half-time however when a neat one-two between Ben Farrell and Gyasi released the winger into the box before his attempted shot deflected into the path of Farrell for the midfielder to stab in from close-range. It got even better on the stroke of the interval when Diamonds added another goal, with Tom Lorraine driving superbly down the left channel before laying the ball across for Robbins to gleefully tap into the gaping goal.
The unrelenting home pressure continued at the beginning of the second period as Lorraine almost added a fifth immediately after the restart. Gyasi jinked and tricked his way down the right before whipping in an inviting cross for the striker, only for him to be denied by a superb save by the keeper on the goal-line. Though the visitors weren’t playing poorly by any means Diamonds were simply full of confidence and threatened throughout the contest. Robbins, seeking a hat-trick, attempted an ambitious shot from distance only for it to fly over the crossbar, and then Farrell hit an effort from a similar distance that the keeper was able to comfortably save. The midfielder did score his second, and Diamonds’ fifth, of the match though when Sam Brown flicked a header into his path in midfield, and he strode forward before hitting a low effort that flew past the keeper and into the bottom corner of the net. Substitute Ross Oulton almost then got in on the act when a loose ball fell to him around 30 yards from goal, but his strike flew over the goal. There was time for one further goal for the hosts though when Robbins drove into the left side of the box before being brought down by a sliding challenge, and the striker picked himself up before firing the spot-kick down the centre and into the roof of the net to complete his hat-trick, to seal a resounding win and to mark a perfect response to their league defeat last time out.
Diamonds manager Andy Peaks made just the solitary change to the starting XI that had lost its seventeen-game unbeaten league run last time out at Egham. Ryan Robbins returned to the side at the expense of the injured Ben Diamond, and there were only four home substitutes in the form of Cameron Gilchrist, Blaize Punter, Ross Oulton and John Dean. The match had been in doubt after Saturday’s home postponement and after the recent bad weather, but credit must go to Mark Panter and the ground-staff for getting the pitch in a fit condition to pass a 4pm pitch inspection and for the match to be deemed playable. As the two sides entered onto the pitch a keen sense of intrigue was felt as to how Diamonds would react to their setback at Egham, if their confidence had been knocked as a result and if they would be able to take advantage of a game in hand on teams around them to move one step closer to promotion. Thame came into the fixture in a midtable position, with their threat and capabilities shown by an away victory over second-placed Beaconsfield and a home win over play-off chasing Cambridge City in February. Therefore a potentially entertaining match was in the offing, and after the two teams had shaken hands and the coin-toss had been conducted, referee Matt Law got the game underway.
After a relatively sedate opening five minutes, the visitors were the first to threaten. A chipped ball from the right flank was flicked on by Lynton Goss across the area and to the unmarked Aston Goss, and he sidefooted the ball across the face of goal for the similarly unmarked Dan West sliding in at the far post. Thankfully for the Diamonds though the striker was unable to stretch enough and the ball ran out for a goal-kick, with the hosts knowing they had had a let-off with the miss. Two minutes later the hosts responded with their first attack as Luke Fairlamb set off on one of his trademark runs at the heart of the defence, and he was able to win a corner. The resultant set-piece found Jack Ashotn, but the defender’s header went over the crossbar.
Shortly afterwards Joe Curtis made a precise and intelligent run into the area, but the intended ball through to him by Sam Brown just failed to reach its target and the danger was cleared. However, in their next attack in the 14th minute, Diamonds did take the lead. Joel Gyasi found some room down the right wing before running forward and seemingly being fouled, but the loose ball fell into the path of Ryan Robbins. The striker controlled possession, drove inside and then ripped a fierce left-footed strike from the edge of the area past the despairing dive of away keeper Craig Hill and into the net. Similarly to the reverse fixture earlier in the season, where Diamonds won 3-0, Rushden had made a quick start and got an early goal, and this clearly galvanised and increased their confidence for the rest of the game.
Five minutes later Robbins went close to a second goal. He latched onto a loose ball halfway inside the Thame half before driving forward at the backpedalling away defence, and just as he reached the area he hit a left-footed effort across goal. Unfortunately for the hosts though the ball bobbled wide of the far post, and the scoreline remained at 1-0. The hosts were dictating much of the tempo and the possession in the opening period, with their precise and quick build-up play regularly threatening the visitors. However, Thame were showing signs of danger, and in the 28th minute it took good defensive work from Gyasi to get back and get in the way of an away break before clearly away upfield. Play swung down the other end and Robbins again threatened as this time he ran into the box before going down under some strong defending, but the referee wasn’t interested and waved away appeals by the home fans in the Peter de Banke terrace behind the goal.
Shortly afterwards though, Diamonds doubled their advantage. Fairlamb drew a foul on the left side around 25-30 yards from goal, and Joel Gyasi stepped up to take the kick. With a few white shirts in the box it was thought that he would attempt to find one of them, but instead he curled a sumptuous effort over everybody’s head, over Hill and into the far corner of the net. It was the winger’s eleventh goal of what is becoming an increasingly influential season, and gave the hosts a slight cushion. However they didn’t relent in their pressure and in their pursuit of further goals, and this consequently led to further chances. Four minutes after Gyasi’s goal another free-kick was won, this time awarded for a foul on Robbins on the right, and Fairlamb curled the resulting effort narrowly wide of the near post.
Much of Diamonds’ danger, source of attacks, and creators of goals throughout the current campaign has come from their wing-backs/wingers, namely Fairlamb and Gyasi, and the two again were causing many problems for an opposition defence in this match. Moments after his missed free-kick Fairlamb sped down the left before trickily moving into space and hitting a cross into the area, but Hill read the attempted cross and came out to collect at the near post. In the next attack the left-winger was involved again as he quickly ran down the left before cutting inside and skipping slightly fortuitously past a defensive challenge. He had time and space to size up his options, but his resultant right-footed strike was comfortable for Hill to catch.
Three minutes before the half-time interval Diamonds extended their lead. Jack Westbrook, who yet again would go on to have a solid and impressive game, fed a pass out to Gyasi on the right on the halfway line, and the winger speedily ran into the opposition half before playing a pass inside to Ben Farrell. The midfielder then looped a pass back into the path of the winger who controlled inside the area and cut inside before seeing a shot blocked, but the loose ball fell to Farrell who calmly sidestepped a challenge and poked the ball past Hill and into the net from inside the six-yard box.
Any thoughts that that would be the final goalscoring action of the half were dismissed on the stroke of half-time when Diamonds scored a fourth. Tom Lorraine received the ball on the left just ahead of the halfway line, and he ran forward before pushing the ball past a defender and powering towards the area. He looked up and spotted his strike-partner Ryan Robbins running in on the far side, and in turn played a perfectly-weighted ball across the area for the Diamonds number 10 to sweep home his second goal of the contest. It was a sweeping, pacey and clinical attacking move, one that characterised the nature of the hosts’ play in the opening half.
Moments later referee Law blew for the end of the half, one in which Diamonds had dominated and had ruthlessly taken their chances in establishing a commanding lead as they headed into the half-time break.
Half Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 4-0 Thame United
The respective sides emerged from the changing rooms ready for the second half, with many thoughts surrounding how both teams would approach the upcoming 45 minutes and if the pattern of the contest would change or not. After a swift counting of both sets of players referee Law sounded for the commencement of the second period.
The half was barely a minute old when Diamonds could, and probably should, have netted another goal. Gyasi ran down the right before cutting back onto his left, and he then jinked back outside onto his right to get away from the close attentions of his marker. He then curled in a delivery that was left by a Thame defender at the near post, and it bounced through for Lorraine right in front of goal. He sidefooted an effort towards the net but Hill somehow pulled off a superb one-handed save, and the ball was hacked away upfield. Minutes later Fairlamb provided danger when jinking down the left flank, but his cross into the area was well defended by the away back-four, and then shortly after Robbins had his first sniff at a hat-trick. Brown picked up the ball on the left before playing it inside to the striker, and he shifted the ball onto his left foot before driving an effort from range that rose and ultimately flew over the crossbar.
Diamonds’ attacking momentum hadn’t altered since the half-time interval, with them looking dangerous and capable of scoring every time they moved forward. A minute before the hour mark Farrell picked up a loose ball before attempting a shot from distance, and though it was on target it represented a fairly routine save for Hill. The midfielder was again involved shortly after when he set Robbins free on the left side of the box, but the Thame defence stood strong and forced the danger away for a corner. Although that was cleared, it didn’t matter as the hosts made it 5-0 a minute later. An away throw-in in Thame’s right-back area was well won by Brown who headed it across the midfield area for Ben Farrell, and he had plenty of room to move forward into. After one touch to set himself he drove a shot from around 25 yards out, and it whistled past Hill’s dive to his right before hitting the back of the net. It was the midfielder’s sixth goal in his last seven league appearances, his third brace of the season and his 13th goal, all scored in the league, of the campaign, stats truly demonstrating his importance in the team and his impressive recent form.
The game was now truly beyond any doubt, and in response both teams made two changes. For Diamonds John Dean replaced Lorraine and Ross Oulton was introduced at the expense of Farrell, and the latter sub almost had an instant impact. Gyasi again skipped down the right side before reaching the byline and playing the ball across, and just as he did he was taken out by a late sliding challenge. The referee didn’t signal a penalty though and the cross was cleared, but only as far as the lurking Oulton. He pushed the ball a few yards ahead of him with his studs to prepare himself for the shot, but his subsequent attempt was always rising and flashed over the top of Hill’s goal.
The often quick and pacey nature of the game had now changed to a rather sedate and comfortable tempo, and though Thame still battled and worked gamely, Diamonds were managing the match effectively. The time ticked into the final ten minutes, and Peaks made his final switch by introducing Cameron Gilchrist for the tireless Westbrook. No further action of note occurred until the 88th minute when the hosts won a penalty. A tired clearance from an away defender fell straight into the path of Robbins on the left, and he juggled the ball a couple of times before running into the area past substitute Calvin Evans. The Thame man slid to try and win the ball but instead caught the Diamonds striker, and there were no arguments when Law pointed to the penalty-spot. There was no doubt either about who would take the penalty, and Ryan Robbins duly obliged by striking his effort high into the middle of the goal and into the roof of the net. It sealed the striker’s third hat-trick of the season, made him Diamonds’ outright top-scorer of the season thus far on fifteen goals from only nineteen appearances and rounded off a clinical and ruthless performance from the front-man.
The visitors had one final chance to get a consolation goal when Adam Morris played a pass across to Aston Goss, and from just outside the area he hit a low effort that rolled towards the far post before clipping the upright and going for a goal-kick. Barely any additional time was played at the end of the regulation ninety minutes, and so soon after Law blew the whistle to signal Diamonds’ comprehensive victory.
Full Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 6-0 Thame United
This win represented a perfect response to Diamonds’ loss of their long unbeaten league run last time out. They attacked with pace, verve and a confidence that shone even more the longer the game went on and as more goals went in. They took their chances with aplomb, kept up the pressure throughout the entirety of the game and defended well when they were required, keeping a sixth clean sheet in their last seven home league games, a tenth home league clean sheet out of fourteen matches and an eighteenth league clean sheet overall this season. Credit must go to Thame for never giving up, not letting their heads drop and for fighting until the final whistle, but Diamonds simply had too much for them in the end. They move five points clear of Beaconsfield in 2nd, and still have a further game in hand, whilst going nine points clear of Hartley Wintney in 3rd. Diamonds’ six goals also make them the joint highest-scorers in the league alongside Hayes & Yeading on 72 goals, having played one game fewer, and is testament to a side that has seven players on eight goals or more so far this season. Their next match in their promotion push sees them make the trip to Bedfordshire to take on Barton Rovers on Saturday March 10th, 3pm kick-off.
Diamonds Man of the Match: Ryan Robbins
Match Report by Ollie Mortimer
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
13. Ben Heath
2. Joe Curtis
3. Sam Brown
4. Jack Westbrook
5. Liam Dolman (C)
6. Jack Ashton
7. Joel Gyasi
8. Ben Farrell
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Ryan Robbins
11. Luke Fairlamb
12. John Dean (for Lorraine 65)
14. Blaize Punter
15. Cameron Gilchrist (for Westbrook 82)
16. Ross Oulton (for Farrell 70)
1. Craig Hill
2. Harry Mepham
3. David Lynn
4. Matt Johnston
5. Jamie Essex
6. Tom Ashworth
7. Ben Connelly
8. Lynton Goss
9. Adam Morris
10. Dan West (C)
11. Aston Goss
12. Liam Tack (for Connelly 65)
14. Calvin Evans (for West 65)
15. Finlay Murray (for L. Goss 85)
Goals: Robbins (14, 45, pen 88), Gyasi (32), Farrell (42, 63)
Yellow Cards: None
Yellow Cards: None
Referee: Matt Law
Assistants: Adam Brierley-Lewis, Ryan Kelly
Updated player profiles with appearance and goalscoring details are now available.