Aylesbury FC 2-4 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

AFC Rushden & Diamonds defeated play-off seeking Aylesbury in a hugely eventful affair at Haywood Way on Saturday afternoon.

Diamonds started the game very brightly and after creating a number of opportunities, took the lead in the 23rd minute amidst contentious circumstances. The ball fell for Andy Hall after a corner wasn’t fully cleared and his shot initially seemed to be tipped round the post for a corner. However, Diamonds players and fans behind the goal were adamant the ball had gone inside the far corner of the goal and passed through a hole in the netting. After deep discussion with his assistant the goal was awarded. The lead was doubled in the 34th minute as Jon Stevenson fizzed home a brilliant effort from the edge of the box for his second goal in two games, though Aylesbury reduced the arrears shortly after with a fierce effort from Jamie Rudd. Delroy Gordon saw a header well saved from a right-wing corner and home goalscorer Rudd saw another shot superbly tipped round the post by Finlay in an action-packed and thrilling first period.

The second half was slightly quieter on the majority, though Rushden extended their advantage with the first opportunity of the period as Shawn Richards broke away and slotted home inside the near post after he had tried to find Tom Lorraine. Aylesbury had a lot of possession and territory as the Diamonds sat deeper, and after hitting the post through top-scorer Brian Haule, they did score on the stroke of 90 minutes when the ball dropped for Haule in the area and he lofted a shot over Finlay. Any nerves and tension were settled four minutes into added-on time when Lorraine latched onto an underhit backpass and squared for substitute Claudiu Hoban to score from a few yards out.  Ben Stevens was then dismissed for an off-the-ball challenge on Finlay and for his part in the ensuing melee of players, but the whistle was blown shortly after to mark an impressive and deserved win for the Diamonds.

Diamonds manager Andy Peaks made one change from the side that had comprehensively defeated North Greenford last week, and it was an enforced one as Connor Kennedy’s suspension for a red card picked up at Northwood began meaning Luke Hipwell began his first game for the club. There was also a welcome return amongst the substitutes for Elliot Lamb-Johnson after his recovery from injury, and he joined Jack Ashton, Alex Vitue, Lewis Leslie and Claudiu Hoban.

The players emerged onto a bobbly, muddy Haywood Park surface, and with the hosts having only been defeated once at home all season and with them also keeping four clean sheets in their last five home league encounters, a tough test was ahead for the Diamonds.

The confidence that was clearly on show and exuded in Rushden’s heavy home win last week was also evident in the early stages of this game as the visitors looked to get onto the front foot from the first whistle. In the third minute Brad Harris intercepted the ball well in the middle of the pitch and chipped the ball down the line for Andy Hall, and he in turn laid it off to Jon Stevenson. The ex-Oadby man cleverly lifted the ball over the defence for strike-partner Tom Lorraine to latch onto, and though he was beaten to it by the Aylesbury goalkeeper, it dropped for Hall whose cross across the area was well cleared by a home defender. Another good clearance was required, this time by Ben Stevens, as Shawn Richards sprinted away down the left wing and looked for a Diamonds man in the box, and Hall then saw a strong shot blocked from the edge of the area.

Aylesbury had their first opportunity in the 10th minute, and the state of the pitch had a say in it as it would do for a large part of the afternoon. Matt Finlay slashed a clearance as a pass was played back to him, and the subsequent corner from Aston Goss found an unmarked Stevens but he glanced a free header wide of the target from 10 yards out.

A key feature of the Diamonds’ play in the opening period was their ability to run with the ball at pace and their movement up front when they attacked, and this was shown three minutes after the Moles’ chance. A home corner was cleared and the Diamonds break-away was led by Richards from the edge of his own box to past the half-way line. He fed Lorraine who was able to touch the ball past the advancing James Weatherill in the Aylesbury goal, but he was forced to run away from goal and by the time he had the ball under control, his cross looking for Stevenson was deflected away from the retreating Moles stopper and eventually cleared to safety. A similar attack just after the 15 minute mark saw Lorraine capitalise on a slip by Grant Fryer just inside his own half and sprint away down the left channel, but his intended ball across again looking for Stevenson was blocked, with appeals for a handball turned away by the referee Thomas Danaher.

Diamonds looked dangerous every time they ran at the home back four, with Aylesbury’s midfield often slow to get back to help their over-worked defensive counterparts. A Liam Dolman long ball forward saw Stevenson break the high offside line of the hosts, and as he approached the penalty area and cut inside, his pass to Lorraine saw the Diamonds number 10 hit a rising effort that cleared the crossbar via a deflection. The following corner from Richards found a rising Gordon, but his header was expertly tipped over by Weatherill for another set-piece.

And it was the resultant corner that led to the opening goal of the contest for the Diamonds, albeit in controversial circumstances. Hall took the kick from the right, and the ball was eventually worked back out to the winger to cross the ball into the box. Stevenson latched onto the ball to hit a half-volley that was blocked, and an Aylesbury defender inadvertently knocked the ball back across towards Andy Hall. He accelerated on the right side of the box and flashed a shot across goal that initially appeared to be helped on its way out for a corner kick by the goalkeeper, but loud protestations from both Diamonds players and fans behind the goal claimed the ball had actually entered the goal and gone through a hole in the left side of the netting. After a discussion with one of his linesmen, the goal was awarded, and subsequent match highlights have shown the correct decision was made.

It was no less than the Diamonds deserved after a bright and purposeful opening, but the hosts still could not be underestimated. Two minutes later, in the 24th minute, a corner from Goss was headed away from skipper Richard Bunting, but it fell for a lurking Kieron Schmidt to slam a half-volley well wide of the left-hand post. Schmidt was again involved as Goss did well to nick the ball past Ollie Wilkinson and work the ball inside to his fellow attacker, and the ball was subsequently laid off to top-scorer Brian Haule whose shot was excellently blocked by a sliding Luke Hipwell.

Stevenson was carrying on his positive form of his debut last weekend with his link-up play and first touch proving the catalyst for many Diamonds attacks. From one of these examples he sprinted down the left side in a two-on-two situation, and he cut inside onto his favoured right foot to strike a shot that was bobbling and slipped wide of the near post.

After a mini-spell of pressure which saw the Diamonds having to work hard in defence to shut off a couple of opportunities, the Moles came mightily close to grabbing an equaliser on the half-hour mark. A high, lofted cross from captain Davis Haule saw Finlay and Aylesbury full-back James Dobson challenge for the ball, and it dropped towards the goal-line and threatened to roll in before Wilkinson hacked it away. It only fell to the dangerous Jamie Rudd though, and his low shot from the edge of the box was superbly tipped behind one-handed by Finlay to his left side.

That clearance and save was made even more important when Rushden doubled their lead four minutes afterwards in the 34th minute. Jon Stevenson received the ball in midfield and moved forward before jinking away from a defender, and though there was still a lot of work to do, he drove a shot from 25 yards out which flew into the far corner and left Weatherill with no chance.

However, the home side were back in the contest moments later. Rudd clipped a cross in towards Schmidt, and despite the ball being headed by Bunting, it dropped for Goss to drill a shot across goal and out of play. Despite there not appearing to be a Diamonds touch deflecting the effort, a corner was awarded. From the set-piece, an Aylesbury head flicked the delivery on and it was deflected to the edge of the penalty box for Jamie Rudd to slam an effort into the roof of the net.

The topsy-turvy and now end-to-end affair didn’t threaten to relent as both sides carved out one good opportunity before the half-time whistle. After Stevenson saw a shot blocked by a prone Fryer who had cleared the original free-kick and more appeals for handball being waved away, a corner from the right again found Gordon who was this time denied by a header away on the line. The following corner reached the Rushden number 4 as well, but this time his flick towards goal was helped over the bar by Stevenson.

The home side then swept down the other end, and a teasing cross from Dobson from the left wing saw Brian Haule and Dolman battling for the ball. After a mini scramble, the loose ball dropped for Rudd who looked odds-on to score only for Finlay to smother the danger and hold onto the ball.

Half Time: Aylesbury FC 1-2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

After the rollercoaster and absorbing nature of the opening period it was only natural that the second half was played at a less frenetic pace, though it was still a very entertaining forty-five minutes. The next goal of the game was crucial, and it fell for the Diamonds in their opening attacking salvo of the half. Stevenson touched the ball away from an onrushing defender just past halfway, and though Lorraine’s attempted ball forward was blocked, Bunting won a crucial header in an aerial duel to help the ball on. This allowed Shawn Richards to run away on the left side and into the box, and his pass across looking for Lorraine fell back for him to slot a shot inside the near post from 8 yards out.

From here on in, Rushden started to drop slightly deeper and as a result the home side were able to monopolise more possession and attempt to force the issue more than they had done previously. The Diamonds central defensive partnership of Liam Dolman and Delroy Gordon, though, dealt with much of the danger assuredly, regularly making key interceptions and clearing any deliveries that came into the penalty box. One chance that they weren’t able to stop, however, came in the 60th minute when Brian Haule was found by a cross in from the left wing, and despite having plenty of room, his flicked header hit the near post and bounced away to safety for Wilkinson to clear.

Moments prior to this opportunity, Bunting went down after challenging for a header holding his leg and though he attempted to carry on, he was ultimately unable to and Lewis Leslie entered the fray in his place.

As the pitch became more and more cut up and boggy underfoot, the play became more scrappy with passes regularly going astray and first touches being tested even more by the bobbly surface. Stevenson’s persistence and willingness to close down the opposition led to a chance after 71 minutes as he won the ball in the corner of the box, and he eventually worked room to cross towards the back post. Tom Lorraine went down under pressure from a defender, but the ball reached Richards who controlled and tried to dance around the goalkeeper, but Weatherill read it well and got his hand to the ball before it was cleared upfield.

Two more substitutes came onto the pitch for the Diamonds as the match entered the closing stages with Claudiu Hoban and Elliot Lamb-Johnson replacing the excellent pair of Hall and Richards respectively, and the visitors continued to limit the danger that the home side posed to their goal. Finlay did have to make a crucial block and parry away from a dangerous cross that was driven from the left, though a foul was awarded to the Diamonds for a challenge on the away keeper.

Aylesbury did pull a goal back, and seemingly ensure a nervy bout of stoppage time, in the 90th minute when a cross from the left appeared to be a simple catch for Finlay, but the ball was headed away from him by Brian Haule and away to the right side. Diamonds lost possession in a dangerous area, and after Goss’ shot found its way into the area, Haule was able to flick a header beyond Finlay to halve the deficit.

The game was put beyond any doubt though three minutes later with a fourth Rushden goal. Lorraine, as he had done all game, chased a ball forward against an opposing defender, and the conditions played an integral part as the backpass towards Aylesbury’s goalkeeper was held up. This allowed Lorraine to latch onto the ball and square it across for Claudiu Hoban to control and slot home virtually on the goal-line.

There remained one last moment of controversy in the eighth added-on minute after a left-wing cross found Haule with no-one around him, but his free header rolled wide and towards going out for a goal-kick. Just as it went out Ben Stevens clattered into Finlay and sparked a throng of players rushing across to the situation. In the ensuing melee Lorraine was booked, and Stevens was sent off for his part in the action.

Moments later the referee sounded the end of a see-saw, dramatic and action-packed affair which ended in a merited victory for the Diamonds.

Full Time: Aylesbury FC 2-4 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Considering Aylesbury’s home form this season, this represented an impressive and potentially crucial victory come the end of the season as the Diamonds became only the second team to defeat the Moles at their home ground this season. Amongst a collection of strong individual performances, Delroy Gordon stood out for his defensive solidity, and Shawn Richards, Andy Hall and Jon Stevenson in particular for their direct and pacey attacking play throughout. The result was made even more important with Royston and Egham both slipping to home defeats, and this now means the latter cannot catch them solely by winning their games in hand. Diamonds remain top of the Southern League Division One Central, and they are on the road again for a league fixture as they travel to Beaconsfield SYCOB on Saturday afternoon.

Diamonds Man of the Match: Jon Stevenson

Attendance: 473

Match Report by Ollie Mortimer

Aylesbury FC

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

1. James Weatherill

2. Jeanmal Prosper

3. James Dobson

4. Jon Montgomery

5. Grant Fryer

6. Ben Stevens

7. Jamie Rudd

8. Davis Haule (C)

9. Brian Haule

10. Kieron Schmidt

11. Aston Goss



12. Lynton Goss (for Montgomery 60)

13. Ben Bateman

14. Gareth Price (for Fryer 76)

15. Ken Feyi

16. Robert Tomlin

17. Matt Finlay

2. Ollie Wilkinson

3. Luke Hipwell

4. Delroy Gordon

5. Liam Dolman

6. Brad Harris

7. Shawn Richards

8. Richard Bunting (C)

9. Jon Stevenson

10. Tom Lorraine

11. Andy Hall



12. Jack Ashton

13. Alex Vitue

14. Elliot Lamb-Johnson (for Richards 81)

15. Lewis Leslie (for Bunting 59)

16. Claudiu Hoban (for Hall 79)

Goals: Rudd (36), B. Haule (90)

Goals: Hall (22), Stevenson (34), Richards (51), Hoban (90+3)

Yellow Cards: Stevens (89)

Yellow Cards: Leslie (89), Lorraine (90+7)

Red Cards: Stevens (90+7)

Red Cards: None

Referee: Thomas Danaher

Assistants: Mark Simmons, Doug Steele



Updated player profiles with appearance and goalscoring details are now available.

The updated Match Stats, Player Stats and Attendance figures along with league stats are found in the First Team stats area on this website here. You can also find updated fixture lists in the main fixture and results grid,  as well as on the Fixture News page, where there is a downloadable version. 

For video highlights and post-match interviews see here.

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 ©2016

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