AFC Rushden & Diamonds lost 2-1 to Ashington in the third round of the FA Carlsberg Vase in Northumbria on Saturday afternoon. After Jake Newman had levelled the scores to make it 1-1 at the break, following an early own goal, the game changed when Jake Gillingwater received a controversial red card early in the second half, and although the 10-men battled bravely against a fierce wind for the remainder of the half, the effort of doing this must have contributed to them conceding an injury time winner shortly after the home side had also been reduced to 10-men.
Diamonds manager Mark Starmer moved Joe Merrill into central midfield in the absence of the injured Jamie Gilsenan, with Jake Gillingwater starting at right back. Alfie Taylor and Elliot Dent returned to the squad taking a place on the bench, with Liam Bond a late replacement for Alex McDonald who was injured in the pre-match warm-up.
A lively crowd of 444 including around 150 travelling fans were making it an excellent two-way atmosphere in the ground.
The Woodhorn Lane pitch had recovered well from the recent poor weather, although it was spongy in some parts, heavy in others, but the key factor affecting the action was the strong wind blowing from one end of the pitch to the other.
The Diamonds started with the wind at their backs, and after a fairly quiet opening the hosts snatched an early lead. Wide-player Andrew Johnson made a raid down the right flank, and reached the by-line. Although his cross appeared to be mis-hit, this was enough to wrong-foot Chris Hope who sliced into his own net with nine- minutes on the clock.
Retrieving the ball from the net proved to be one of the few times Quincy Shorunmu was called into action in the first half, as the Diamonds then made the most of having the wind at their backs.
The Diamonds territorial advantage for the remainder of the half resulted in a series of half-chances, including a long-range shot from Jake Gillingwater, a blocked effort from Jake Newman, a good run from Matt Gearing prior to a wayward shot, before a rasping shot from Joe Merrill was well saved by keeper Dryden with 10 minutes left in the half, following neat work from Gillingwater and Gearing.
The Diamonds pressure was starting to tell, and Jack Wisniewski saw a header go for a corner on the left, which was scrambled clear for a corner on the right. Sam Brown took the kick, and Jake Newman rose to head home the deserved equaliser.
Half-Time: Ashington 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
The talk at half-time was about how the two sides would adjust to playing with the wind in the opposite direction for the first period. The half started with a bang, as both sides generated early chances. Séan McBride saw a great effort on goal force an excellent save from Dryden, before Quincy Shorunmu had to match that save by tipping a snap-shot from Andrew Johnson over the bar.
It was looking like it might be a “ding-dong” second half, but the whole game changed five minutes into that period. A Colliers break through the middle saw Jake Gillingwater appear to get in a good challenge on Andrew Johnson, appearing to prod the ball away, but referee Hudson deemed it a foul, and as Gillingwater was seen as the “last man” he was shown a red card.
This meant a 10-man Diamonds faced a titanic struggle against the wind on a spongy pitch for the remaining 40 minutes (and a possible period of extra time).
Quincy Shorunmu then gave the Diamonds fans his best performance for the team to date, as he made excellent saves to deny crowd-favourite Marc O’Dea, as well as the struggling Marc Walton, who also earned a certain amount of crowd criticism as he took his eye off the ball as it was rolled to him in acres of space in front of goal. Both Deakin and Hope were coping with a heavy workload as the strong wind meant the Diamonds were struggling to get the ball out of their half, with Deakin heading clear a follow-up shot after another Shorunmu save. The Diamonds were focussed on defending their own goal, with Ben Morgan having dropped back to help the midfield where Séan McBride was outstanding, having seen his original partner Joe Merrill having to drop back into defence after the departure of Gillingwater.
Morgan did manage to break clear down the right channel, and appeared to have options of taking the chance himself of squaring to one of two supporting players, but his pass dissected the gap between those players and the chance was gone.
With 10 minutes left Quincy made further saves from Johnson and Walton before the Diamonds introduced the returning pair of Elliot Dent and Alfie Taylor which appeared to give the side more attacking intent. With a minute left the home side were also reduced to 10-men, after Shorunmu dived at the feet of a Colliers’ forward following a corner, and their appeared some contact with the Diamonds keeper, an action followed by the inevitable pushing and shoving as Mr Hudson blew for the foul. After consulting his linesman he showed a red card to Craig Scott, explaining later he had seen a head butt on Séan McBride, rather than having any issue with the challenge on the keeper, although the Diamonds players had not been appealing for such a decision.
The game was in added time when it restarted, and although the Diamonds had been defending bravely with a man-disadvantage for 40 minutes, it seemed this effort coupled with their rhythm being affected by the red card incident meant they left Andrew Johnson in too much space on the Colliers’ left, and a Shorunmu clearance towards the half-way line on the Diamonds left was fired back across-field to him and he netted the winner to cruelly deny the Diamonds a chance to test themselves 10-against-10 during extra-time.
Full-Time: Ashington 2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
Mark Starmer was full of praise for the effort his team had put in against a team playing at a level higher than them, and was obviously sorely disappointed to have lost in such a manner. The Diamonds travel to Bletchley to face Buckingham Town in their first UCL game for over a month on Saturday (KO 3pm).
Attendance: 444 (Away Approx 150)
Diamonds Man-of-the-Match: Séan McBride
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Karl Dryden
2. James Taylor
3. Craig Scott
4. Paul Antony
5. Liam Atkin
6. Matthew Grieve
7. Andrew Johnson
8. Andrew Dugdale
9. Marc Walton
10. Darren Lough
11. Marc O’Dea
12. Gareth Bainbridge (for Lough 43)
14. Gareth Williams
15. Mark Heamen
17. Craig Towart
17. Quincy Shorunmu
2. Jake Gillingwater
3. Sam Brown
4. Séan McBride
5. Chris Hope (Capt)
6. Alex Deakin
7. Jack Wisniewski
8. Joe Merrill
9. Jake Newman
10. Ben Morgan
11. Matt Gearing
12. Elliot Dent (for Gearing 83)
14. Louis Smith
15. Liam Bond
16. Peter Okechukwu
17. Alfie Taylor (for Winsiewski 83)
Goals: Hope (Own Goal) (9), Johnson (90+4)
Goal: Newman (39)
Yellow Cards : Dugdale
Red Card: Scott (89)
Yellow Cards: Newman, Morgan
Red Cards: Gillingwater (50)
Referee: Shaun Hudson
Images courtesy of Mal Swinden ©2012 Malcolm Swinden Photography
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