Tom Lorraine scored a brace as Diamonds overcame ten-man Bedworth on a chilly Saturday afternoon.
Large parts of the first half were disjointed with both sides guilty of giving the ball away on several occasions and, despite being bottom of the table, the hosts looked dangerous. Levi Rowley was inches away from reaching a right-wing cross in the opening moments, and then Liam Dolman was forced into an excellent headed clearance from an inswinging free-kick. Between these chances Diamonds threatened when Declan Rogers shot over after good work by Sam Johnson on the right. Play was quite end-to-end with the hosts pressing Diamonds high and hassling them into mistakes, and Rushden looking dangerous in wide positions and with balls in behind the home defence. The hosts went close when James Hancocks crossed from the left but the header at the far post flashed wide, and then Johnson produced an excellent cross down the other end that Ben Diamond was centimetres away from heading home. Lorraine then had a good opportunity as he found himself through on goal only for his effort to be tipped round the post, and shortly afterwards the hosts went close when a strike from range was well saved by Heath before a free-kick from Luke Rowe went just over. Five minutes before the interval the visitors took the lead when a good move down the right saw Zack Reynolds have a shot blocked, and it ricocheted across to Rogers who stepped past a defender and fired an effort into the far corner of the net. However, Bedworth equalised in stoppage-time at the end of the half when a right-wing cross was dropped by Ben Heath, and striker Montel Gibson poked home from two years out.
That goal threatened to spur the hosts on going into the second half, but Diamonds began the half well as Joe Curtis and Diamond saw shots blocked before Sam Brown volleyed over. The complexion of the contest changed in the 55th minute when the hosts were reduced to ten men. An excellently weighted through ball by Johnson found Diamond running in behind, and he was body-checked by Bradley Maslen-Jones as he bore down on goal. The referee brandished a red card for the defender and, though the subsequent free-kick was deflected behind, the following corner was swung in by Rogers for Lorraine to head home from close-range. After Alex Troke saw a shot saved for the hosts and Johnson did for Diamonds also, Rushden extended their lead in the 63rd minute when good work by Diamond saw him get to the left byline, and his ball across was deflected into the path of Lorraine who swivelled and slammed a shot into the roof of the net. The hosts continued to battle despite the scoreline and numerical disadvantage, and they could have pulled one back when a header inside the six-yard box flashed wide, but Diamonds ultimately managed the rest of the game well and were able to see out the contest to confirm victory and to stay firmly in the battle for the play-offs.
Manager Andy Peaks made three changes to the side that had began the draw at home to Lowestoft the previous week. There was a welcome return to action for Sam Brown after his recent unavailability, and an enforced change saw Sam Johnson begin his first game for the Diamonds ahead of Albie Hopkins who had been playing for the Oxford United under-23 side earlier in the day. The final alteration saw Joe Curtis start his first match of the season ahead of Ben Farrell, and Farrell joined a strong bench that was also made up of Nathan Pickworth, the returning Jack Ashton, Ben Acquaye and Jack Bowen.
The two sides took to the 3G playing surface at The Oval at differing ends of the table and in different circumstances. Bedworth, nicknamed The Greenbacks, entered the match bottom of the table and hadn’t won any of their opening 22 league games this season, but they had won two of their last four keeping clean-sheets in both, and they had held Leiston to a recent home draw whilst narrowly losing to promotion contenders Kettering and Coalville. Diamonds came into the clash seventh in the table and only three points off the play-offs. They had only lost two of their last nine away league matches, and they had only lost two of their last thirteen league games altogether. However, with not many points separating 3rd place and 13th and with teams around them having games in hand, the visitors knew that they had to keep winning, though they also knew a tough match lie ahead. After the pre-match formalities were carried out, referee Kenwyn Hughes got the game underway.
The hosts, buoyed by their recent upturn in fortunes, started quite well and had the opening chance in the fourth minute. Right-back Jacob Whitmore got forward before whipping a dangerous ball across the face of the area, and Levi Rowley stretched at the far post only for him to narrowly miss the ball as it ran out for a goal-kick. Diamonds responded moments later by playing a long ball over the top of the home defence, and three away men were in contention to latch onto it. The linesman put his flag up against Tom Lorraine, but he left it for the onside Sam Johnson to collect. The referee waved play on, and the winger assesses his options before playing s ball back towards the edge of the area where Declan Rogers was arriving to meet it. However, the midfielder’s shot was always rising as it flew over the crossbar.
The play had started rather energetically and brightly with both sides looking to make an early inroad, and the hosts won a free-kick on the right after 10 minutes. Left-back Luke Rowe went across to take it, and his threatening delivery looked destined to find a fellow green shirt. Liam Dolman did terrifically though to read the danger and to get across to head it away in the nick of time before the ball was cleared away. Moments later Rushden were guilty of an errant pass in midfield, and the hosts strode forward before an effort from range was deflected behind by Sam Brown for a corner. The resulting set-piece came to nothing though as Montel Gibson’s header at the back post easily ran out of play.
Diamonds were being pressed high up the pitch and on a regular basis by the hosts, and this was leading to several mistakes and some misplaced passes. One saw Ben Heath attempt to play the ball out, but home winger James Hancocks read the situation well and nipped in to win possession. He reached the left byline before curling a delivery towards the far post, and Gibson got up ahead of Brown to head goalwards. However, it was more of a glancing connection than a full one, and so it drifted harmlessly off target.
The visitors were threatening with balls over the top of the Bedworth defence and when getting the ball into wide areas, and a combination of these two features led to the next chance. Dolman pinged an excellent diagonal ball to Johnson, and he brought it down well before looking up and flashing a half-volleyed cross towards the far post. Diamond was the intended target as he came steaming in to meet the delivery, but he was inches away from making a connection with his head and it ran away for a throw-in.
The quick press being deployed by Bedworth was resulting in some late challenges, and one such example saw Alexander Troke booked for bringing down Alex Collard. A minute after this occurred, Diamonds had the best opening of the game up to this point. A loose ball dropped for Lorraine who latched onto it and found himself through on goal, but his strike towards the bottom corner was deflected wide of the post by keeper Adam Harrison. The resulting corner was cleared for another one, and that one led to a foul on a Bedworth man and a subsequent free-kick to relieve the pressure.
Two minutes later Heath was forced into a good save down the other end. Gibson held the ball up well before laying it off to his right and Rowley, and the midfielder moved forward before striking an effort towards goal. The Diamonds keeper got down to his right well and parried the ball away from danger. The next few minutes were then quite scrappy, with possession changing hands on a regular basis and with neither side able to build up consistent pressure on the other’s defence.
In the 38th minute Diamonds received their first yellow card of the contest as Nathan Hicks went into the referee’s notebook, and immediately following that the hosts won a free-kick in a central position around 30 yards out. Rowe lined up the effort and stepped forward before curling a shot up and over the wall, but it went just over the bar and out for a goal-kick.
A minute later, Diamonds had the lead. A good, patient move saw an initial attack break down, but Hicks then played it to Johnson who in turn found Zack Reynolds on the right. The full-back cut inside and played a one-two with a fellow Diamonds man only for his eventual shot to be blocked away. It span across the box for Declan Rogers to collect, and he span quickly before knocking the ball past Whitmore and flashing an effort towards the far corner. Harrison got a hand on the effort, but it was too powerful and it nestled into the back of the net. It was the midfielder’s fifth goal of the season, four of them coming away from home, and gave Rushden the all-important lead in the contest.
The rest of the regulation 45 minutes passed without any incident of note, and two minutes of additional time were signalled by the fourth official. It looked like these would also pass without any action, but in the second of these Bedworth equalised. A cross from the right saw Heath, Montel Gibson and a Diamonds defender go up, and the keeper got there only to spill the ball. Gibson was there only a few years out, and he poked the loose ball into the net to bring the hosts level. Diamonds had benefited from a stoppage-time goal at the end of the first half in the previous game, and now they had suffered from one.
There still remained time for Diamonds to win a corner on the right, but Rogers’ curling delivery was well headed away and that was the final action of the half as the whistle was blown for half-time. It had been a half that had seen mistakes from both sides but also chances for both, and the score was a fair one heading into the interval.
Half Time: Bedworth United 1-1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Much of the talk of the break focused on how the late home goal would boost them and motivate them even more for the half ahead, and how Diamonds would react in their display. The players returned to the field of play and, after a swift count of both teams, the referee got the action back underway.
Diamonds began on the front foot and threatened within a few minutes of the restart. Joe Curtis, who had been bright and busy in the away midfield, received a lay-off from Lorraine before getting the ball onto his left foot and driving goalwards from outside the area, but the attempt was charged down. In the next attack Diamond saw a shot blocked after skipping inside from the left, and then Diamond was involved again in a neat move down the left that saw him release Brown into a crossing position. His low cross was cleared away, but a cross then came back in from Reynolds that Lorraine headed up for Brown to latch onto and volley goalwards. However, the effort was always rising and it flew well over the bar.
The game changed dramatically in the 55th minute when Bedworth were reduced to ten men. Johnson got the ball in midfield before playing an excellent ball through the home defence for Diamond to run onto. He took a touch and was bearing down on the area and keeper when he was brought down by the covering defender Bradley Maslen-Jones. The referee immediately blew his whistle and took a moment to think before calling the player across, and with it being the denial of a goalscoring opportunity a red card was produced.
The hosts were immediately made to pay for that as Rushden forged ahead again. The subsequent free-kick was taken by Rogers, but his effort clipped the top of the wall and looped out for a corner on the right. The midfielder trotted across to take the delivery, and his pinpoint cross found Tom Lorraine six yards out to bury a header past the keeper and into the corner of the net. It was the striker’s 15th goal of an impressive campaign, and put Diamonds in the driving-seat.
However, teams often rally and play just as well if not better when they are down to ten-men and when they are faced with adversity. The contest was still a long way from being over, and to emphasise that point the hosts created a chance only two minutes later. Troke, who had scored Bedworth’s goal in the reverse fixture back in November, found room to generate a shot from outside the area on his right foot, and the effort was slightly deflected only for it to be straight at Heath for the keeper to collect. Play swung down the other end, and the increasingly dangerous and influential Johnson stepped into space before hitting a low shot from around 25 yards out. However, Harrison dived to his right to make the comfortable save.
The hosts still sensed a way back into the game, and just after the hour mark they earnt a corner on the left. The insiwnging delivery caused real danger and looked like it may find a fellow home man, but Brown made a crucial interception to clear the ball way.
That intervention proved even more crucial shortly afterwards when Diamonds added another goal. Diamond, who like Johnson was influencing the game more in the second half, received the ball on the left before powering away from Whitmore to the byline. His cross was deflected, but it ran perfectly for Tom Lorraine to turn and fire home a thumping finish from point-blank range to give the keeper no chance. It was the striker’s third brace of the season, and gave the away side important breathing space.
The entire complexion of the game had shifted dramatically in the previous eight minutes, and after all that action it was perhaps understandable that the next few minutes were quiet. Diamonds were looking more confident and cohesive in possession, and more gaps were opening up for them as Bedworth committed more men forward. A couple of promising away attacks broke down, and then Heath did well to hold a Whitmore cross down the other end.
The Greenbacks almost had a way back into the contest with fifteen minutes to go. They won a free-kick on the left just outside the area, and Rowe chipped the delivery towards the back post. It was won by a Bedworth head, and it dropped for the same man to hook a cross into the six-yard box. It looked inevitable that it would be headed into the back of the net from close in, but the resulting header was skewed wide of the target and Diamonds had been given a let-off.
They sprang on the attack down the other end, and a neat move down the right led to the Rogers receiving the ball just outside the area. He lined up a shot, but he ultimately got well underneath it and the attempt sailed well over the target. Moments later Diamonds made a double substitution as Jack Ashton came on for his first game back since injury in place of Brown, and Jack Bowen replaced two-goal Lorraine.
The final ten minutes were relatively quiet as Bedworth resigned themselves to defeat more and more with every passing minute, and Diamonds had done what they had to do in the second half to forge ahead and then to pull away before managing the rest of the contest. They came close to a fourth goal in the 83rd minute when Diamond jinked in from the left before arrowing a shot towards the top corner, but his effort rose slightly too high and went over the bar. Two minutes afterwards Ben Farrell replaced Hicks in Rushden’s final change.
Despite a little bit of pressure and a couple of crosses into the area, Bedworth were unable to make any further inroads in a Diamonds defence led by the calm and commanding Dolman throughout the afternoon. Three minutes of additional time were signalled but, unlike in the opening period, these passed without action. Referee Hughes soon blew for full-time on a game that had seen Diamonds struggle a little in the first 45 minutes and where Bedworth more than held their own, but where the visitors had managed to assert authority after the break and take advantage of the extra man to secure victory come the end.
Full Time: Bedworth United 1-3 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
This represented a good victory for Diamonds in the end, but the game was very much in the balance at half-time and looked like it could go either way. They gave the ball away too often in the opening period as a result of persistent home pressing, but they still created the best opportunity of the half through Lorraine before taking the lead only for it to be cancelled out on the stroke of half-time. However, Diamonds came out and went on to control the second half. They were helped by the numerical advantage following Bedworth’s red card, but they still had to make that count and they did through Lorraine’s two clinical finishes. They were more clinical and tidy in possession, found more space to get Diamond and Johnson in particular more into the game, and they defended well when they were required to do so.
Credit has to go to the hosts who threatened on a few occasions in the opening period and were well worth the scoreline at the interval, and they still went close on a couple of occasions when they were down to ten men and when they were two goals behind. Diamonds saw the game out pretty comfortably though, and they move up a place to sixth in the table following the win. Their next match sees them return to Hayden Road to take on Banbury, who impressively defeated play-off contenders Coalville 4-2, next Saturday (26 January, 3:00pm kick-off).
Diamonds Man of the Match: Tom Lorraine
Match Report by Ollie Mortimer
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Adam Harrison
2. Jacob Whitmore
3. Luke Rowe (C)
4. Elliot Parrott
5. Bradley Maslen-Jones
6. Thomas Sharpe
7. Levi Rowley
8. Barry Fitzharris
9. Montel Gibson
10. Alexander Troke
11. James Hancocks
12. Lewis Noon (for Fitzharris 74)
14. J’cee Abraham
15. Iyseden Christie (for Troke 74)
16. Ronee Hendricks (for Gibson 87)
17. Mark Albrighton
13. Ben Heath
2. Zack Reynolds
3. Sam Brown
4. Alex Collard
5. Liam Dolman (C)
6. Declan Rogers
7. Sam Johnson
8. Joe Curtis
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Ben Diamond
11. Nathan Hicks
12. Ben Farrell (for Hicks 85)
14. Jack Ashton (for Brown 79)
15. Benjamin Acquaye
16. Jack Bowen (for Lorraine 79)
17. Nathan Pickworth
Goals: Gibson (45+2)
Goals: Rogers (40), Lorraine (56, 63)
Yellow cards: Troke (24)
Yellow cards: Hicks (38)
Referee: Kenwyn Hughes
Assistants: Christopher Hunter, Kevin Guise
Updated player profiles with appearance and goalscoring details are now available.
Video highlights and post-match interviews are available here.