Diamonds produced another top Tuesday night performance this week with an eventually comfortable 4-1 victory at Belper Town.
After a bright start Nic Evangelinos opened the scoring for Diamonds on 6 minutes tapping home from close range after Taylor Orosz cross shot had been only partially parried by the Belper keeper. Belper went straight up the other end though and won a penalty very wide of the Diamonds area but just inside allowing Ruben Wiggins-Thomas to level for the home side from the spot.
Diamonds took a deserved lead into half-time though as Nabil Sharif got clear of the off-side trap down the left on 37 and squared for Lewis Wilson to steer home. It was the new strikers first goal for the club and he’d been on the pitch no more than two minutes having replaced the injured Richard Bunting for another forced first half Diamonds substitution.
Diamonds were bright, energised and dangerous in the final third all evening and extended their lead just 4 minutes into the second half as Nick Evangelinos drove a cross from the left through the area where Taylor Orosz struck superbly first time on the volley to grab his first league goal for Diamonds. The game was pretty much won at this stage although Belper remained a strong attacking force repelled by a solid Diamonds back four who continued to influence Diamonds attacking play. And it was Man of the Match Liam Dolman who grabbed his 25th Diamonds goal with a ferocious strike on 70 minutes from 12 yards as the ball fell to him from a corner that had followed a period of sustained Diamonds possession.
Manager Andy Peaks was forced into two changes to the starting line-up that had won from behind so impressively with 10 men on Saturday afternoon. Liam Dolman came in for the suspended Rory Winters after his sending off and Richard Bunting came into centre midfield to allow Kyal Mcnulty to replace the injured Ash Deeney at right-back.
Rain in the Belper area during the afternoon made for a slick surface and both sides moved the ball forward quickly in the early stages to try and exploit the conditions.
Nabil Shariff had the first serious effort on goal on 2 minutes as he held off a defender with determination to get onto a neat through ball and fired hard and low from an angle testing the fingers of Belper keeper Danny Haystead.
Belper then fired a dangerous deep ball into the Diamonds box on 4 that had Matt Finlay coming out of goal only to be fouled as he looked to claim.
The frantic early pace continued as Diamonds went straight up the other end with serious effect to produce the opening goal on 6 minutes. Taylor Orosz worked the ball well down the right side of the area and fired in a cross-shot that Haystead only partly parried allowing the supporting Nic Evangelinos to tap home from close range.
The action continued though as Belper this time worked the ball straight back into the Diamonds box on 8 minutes where a challenge right over on the far side saw a Belper player go down and referee Richard Cattell pointed to the spot. No sending off or even yellow card this time but Reuben Wiggins-Thomas slotted the ball into the bottom right corner to bring the home side level.
The game finally settled into a pattern of Diamonds longer spells of possession probing around the box looking for that 2nd goal, but Belper breaking forward quickly and putting pressure on a solid looking Diamonds back four.
Alex Steadman nearly produced a surprise goal for the visitors on 15 as he cut deep into the right –side of the box and fired an angled effort off the near post when all expected him to cross.
Diamonds were coming close to breaking away from high pressing home defence on a few occasions but being held back by the offside flag. Richard Bunting and Nabil Shariff nealy got Taylor Orosz away on 31, and on 35 it was Shariff with a neat backheel to Lorraine who played a quick return ball only for Shariff to see the flag again.
On 36 Richard Bunting pulled up with an injury forcing yet another first half substitution for Andy Peaks but he was bold again bringing on Lewis Wilson and dropping Tom Lorraine back into centre midfield.
The boldness paid dividends just 2 minutes later as Diamonds re-took the lead by finally breaking the offside trap on 38. It was Nabil Shariff who got away into the left side of the area and as the keeper advanced he cleverly squared the ball for the supporting Lewis Wilson to steer home.
It was a deserved lead a this point as Diamonds who were shading possession and half-chances and they came so close to adding a 3rd goal just a minute later. Nic Evangelinos who had swapped sides with Taylor Orosz twice during the half to unsettle the Belper back four cut back inside from the left and from the edge of the box struck a firm low effort that was just blocked wide. There was time for Wilson, Orosz and Shariff to combine again to see another edge of box shot deflected wide as the half finished with Diamonds on top and leading 2-1.
Half-time: Belper Town 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2
Belper tried to up their own tempo right at the start of the second half and threatened with a great cross deep into the area that forced Sam Brown into a clearing header, and Matt Finlay to block the follow-up effort.
But Diamonds broke quickly as they had throughout the first half, moving the ball well down the field to Nic Evangelinos out left. He reached the by-line and drove his cross hard through the area missing all the bodies only to find Taylor Orosz in great ball striking form 15 yards out where he struck a fierce first time right footed volley past the home keeper to give Diamonds a 3-1 lead on 49.
It was the strikers first in the league and really looked to have clinched the game for Diamonds. There was steady play from Diamonds moving the ball neatly and probing for openings while Belper to their credit never gave up hope of getting something from the game continuing their pacey attacks and penetrating long balls into the channels.
On 56 Steadman looked to have caught the bar with a well angled header from a right wing cross but it went just over and caught the stanchion holding the nets up. Jason Lee was having another commanding game at centre-half alongside Liam Dolman and distribution from both centre-half and fullbacks was impressive all night in keeping Diamonds on the front foot.
On 61 Jason Lee was forced to head clear from close under the bar for Diamonds, and Belper survived a penalty appeal as Tom Lorraine went down in the box under a strong challenge.
Around the 70 minute mark Diamonds had a sustained period of pressure that produced a series of corners and final the absolutely clinching 4th goal. After some neat build-up a deep cross so nearly found Lewis Wilson at the far post only to be headed away for a corner. The ball in was swung across the box and again just headed clear with Diamonds closing in. Next Brad Harris fired in an effort as the ball broke to him from the ball played back in. Another corner. This time it fell to Liam Dolman whose first effort came back to him 12 yards out but he made no mistake with his second and absolutely smashed it into the top corner on 70.
Massive celebrations from the Man of the Match (superbly captured by Stephanie Webb in her excellent pictures) who now has an incredible 25 goals in his 108 game Diamonds career, a ration many a striker would be proud of.
Jake Newman came on not long after for the hard working Taylor Orosz and came close to adding his first league goal of his return on 84. Nabil Shariff hit a dangerous ball across goal at the end of a great run that just evaded Newman and Wilson.
Robbie Parsons then came on for the excellent Nic Evangelinos and looked lively and direct to show the depth of Diamonds attacking options. But the game ran out without further incident to give Diamonds a 4th league win of the season, and 12 goals in the last three games.
Final Score: Belper Town 1 AFC Rushden &Diamonds 4
This was another strong performance from Diamonds on a wet Tuesday night they showed real appetite for the battle against a pacey side and earned the right to play some incisive passing football and bag 4 away goals.
The control of the back four and their excellent distribution did much to set Diamonds on their way as they had done last Tuesday night in the 6-1 win at Histon. The loss of Richard Bunting was a blow but it allowed Lewis Wilson to continue his impressive link-up play with Nabil Shariff.
Play in the final third was clinical turning good positions into real chances and then goals. Diamonds are now unbeaten in 7 in the league and sit just three points behind the coveted play-off spots with between 2 and 4 games in hand of the teams above them.
Next up a third visit to the Dog & Duck for Basford United who Diamonds have played twice in cup competitions over the years. Diamonds won an FA Vase tie 5-3 in 2012 in their first ever season and lost an FA Trophy tie 3-1 last season.
Man of the Match: Liam Dolman
Match report by: Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
17. Danny Haystead
2. Dominic Allen
3. Jon Guy
4. Eric Graves
5. Gerome Palmer
6. Phil Watt
7. Michael Armstrong
8. Jermaine Hollis
9. Reuben Wiggins-Thomas
10. Ben Watkiss
11. Alex Steadman
12. Matt Richards
14. Anthony Griffin (Hollis 59)
15. Jon Williams (for Allen 59)
16. Sam Birks (for Steadman 76)
17. Ryan King
17. Matt Finlay
2. Kyal McNulty
3. Sam Brown
4. Liam Dolman
5. Jason Lee
6. Brad Harris
7. Nabil Shariff
8. Richard Bunting
9. Taylor Orosz
10. Tom Lorraine
11. Nic Evangelinos
12. Lewis Wilson (for Bunting 35)
13. Josh Haynes
14. Jake Newman (for Orosz 77)
15. Robbie Parsons (for Evangelinos 85)
16. Jack Ashton
Goals: Wiggins-Thomas (8 Pen)
Goals: Evangelinos (6), Wilson (38), Orosz (49), Dolman (70)
Yellow Card: Williams, Watkiss, Watt, Graves
Yellow Cards: Parsons
Red Cards: Winters
Referee: Richard Catell
Assistants: James Clements, Daniel Clenton
Updated player profiles with appearance and goalscoring details are now available.
See here for video highlights and post-match interviews
Match Gallery courtesy of Stephanie Webb Photography Copyright Stephanie Webb Photography ©2016