Tuesday 23 July 2013 (Pre-season Friendly)
Diamonds suffered another defeat in their pre-season schedule, going down 5-3 to Spartan South Midlands Premier side Ampthill Town at Ampthill Park. Although the defence suffered from some poor decision making, the Bedfordshire outfit did look impressive, moving the ball around well, and making Diamonds chase the game for long periods. They had scored 103 goals in their League campaign last season, and it certainly turned out to be an entertaining game.
Heavy rainfall the previous evening had improved conditions slightly on the baking hard pitch. Trialist Dan Chilton played in central defence with Jake Gillingwater, with Joe Merrill, returning from injury, and Sam Brown in the full back positions. Trialist Lewis Hallford, a former RDFC youth team player started on the wing, with Matt Gearing, Elliot Dent and Aaron King in midfield, Fazel Koriya and Russ Dunkley played up front. Ashley Foulger made a welcome return in goal.
The game started at a rapid pace, and it was the home side who went in front after just 5 minutes as the ball was crossed into the box. Michael McKenzie challenged Ashley Foulger for the ball, and it dropped nicely for Christian Lester to fire home from 6 yards.
Just three minutes later however, Diamonds were level as Koriya ran forward from the halfway line to feed the ball through to King. He neatly chipped the keeper, but Town’s Steven Flux managed to block the ball on the line. Koriya picked up the loose ball, cut inside and fired a low shot through the keeper’s legs.
As the half progressed, both sides created good chances. Dunkley headed a Hallford cross just wide, whilst Gearing fired into the side netting. Watson and Lester both went close for Ampthill. Diamonds defence had difficulty containing the dangerous McKenzie as he set up chances for Lester and Watson – forcing a brilliant save from Foulger.
Half-Time: Ampthill Town 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
Diamonds went in front after 54 minutes after Elliot Dent was fouled during a surge forward deep into the Ampthill half. Russ Dunkley took the free-kick, and his deflected shot went under the keeper. The lead however, lasted little over a minute, as the home side pulled level. Substitute Tyrone Taylor fired in a long throw, which caught out the defence and allowed Lester to nip in front of Foulger and score his second.
Diamonds nearly fell behind on 58 minutes as another Taylor throw found Lester again, but this time his effort struck the post before Foulger gathered. Diamonds defence looked vulnerable with the speed and movement of the Ampthill forwards and just before the hour, Taylor’s through ball to Andy Watson found the striker in acres of space and he made no mistake in putting the home side back in front.
Foulger had to be alert again on 65 minutes, producing another good save from another substitute, Shaun Cooksley as he ran clear on goal, then moments later, a misunderstanding at the back allowed Watson a simple tap into an open goal from the edge of the area.
Ben Morgan replaced Hallford, and Dan Grainger replaced King as Diamonds tried to respond. Morgan set Dunkley away on the left side of the area, and he was brought down and a penalty awarded. Dan Grainger made no mistake with the spot kick.
With little over fifteen minutes remaining, Alfie Taylor and Lance Allen replaced the front pairing of Dunkley and Koriya, and Taylor had a good chance almost immediately, firing just over the bar. On 77 minutes though, Ampthill made the game safe with a fifth goal as Watson crossed the ball in for Lester to get his hat-trick.
Full-Time: Ampthill Town 5 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3
A Diamonds XI will visit Buckingham Town on Thursday night to contest the James Victory Cup, with a mixture of youth and squad players – 7:45pm ko.
AFC Rushden & Diamonds:: 17 Ashley Foulger, 2 Joe Merrill, 3 Sam Brown, 4 Aaron King, 5 Dan Chilton, 6 Jake Gillingwater, 7 Lewis Hallford, 8 Elliot Dent, 9 Russ Dunkley, 10 Fazel Koriya, 11 Matt Gearing.
Subs:12 Ben Morgan for Hallford 63, 14 Dan Grainger for King 66, 15 Alfie Taylor for Koriya 73, 18 Lance Allen for Dunkley 73.
Goals: Lester 5 (1-0); Koriya 8 (1-1); Dunkley 54 (1-2); Lester 55 (2-2); Watson 59 (3-2), Watson 65 (4-2), Grainger 68pen (4-3), Lester 77 (5-3).