A 34th minute penalty was the only difference between two good sides on Tuesday night as Biggleswade Town inflicted a first defeat on Diamonds at Step 3 at Langford Road.
Chances were shared between the two sides in a bright opening with a Tom Lorraine close range header after great work from Callum Westwood responding to a close far post scramble for a deep Biggleswade free-kick in the first 5 minutes. Lorraine was then on the end of an awkward challenge and after lengthy treatment had to leave the field on just 8 minutes to be replaced by eventual Diamonds Man of the Match John Dean. Diamonds responded well with chances for Ben Diamond and Ben Farrell before Ben Diamond picked up a knock on 24 minutes that would see him leave the field on 34.
In that time Biggleswade started to dominate midfield space and looked dangerous getting the ball forward quickly. They finally got the goal that spell had threatened through a penalty on 34 minutes. Jack Ashton ruled to have felled the forward who was going away from goal in the corner of the box. Mathew Ball rocketed his effort into the right corner. Ben Diamond immediately left the field and Diamonds were hanging on as half-time approached. But they broke out right on half -time to earn a corner from which Sam Brown agonisingly headed over from 8 yards when well placed.
The second half started as brightly as the first with both side having clear chances. Jonny McNamara had two flying header chances that he didn’t quite connect with for Biggleswade, and Jack Bowen, John Dean and Nathan Hicks all tested the home keeper. Dean’s chance somehow deflected over from close range. John Dean was a real threat for Diamonds as they pressed for a deserved equaliser, setting up Nathan Hicks on 61 minutes who fired wide from 20 yards, and surely earning a penalty as he rounded the home keeper on 65 only to see a prone defender push the ball away from the line with what appeared to be his arm but it was not given. Dean broke again on 72 feeding Jack Bowen but his effort was blocked away.
Biggleswade were strong all over the park and professional in their approach managing the closing stages well to deny still energetic Diamonds much in the way of chances. Two scrambles from a corner and a Sam Brown long throw were the nearest they came despite the pressure on a night when it just didn’t fall for Diamonds.
Manager Andy Peaks named a completely unchanged side including his bench for this first away game at Step 3 against Biggleswade Town. The waders had matched Diamonds excellent opening day 5-2 win against Redditch United with an impressive 4-2 victory at Kings Lynn on Saturday.
In a bright opening period Biggleswade created the first chance with an excellent free-kick from wide left arrowed through the Diamonds defence where two Biggleswade forwards were unable to connect.
Diamonds were positive from the off themselves with Callum Westwood on a great run down the right making his way right round the Biggleswade defence to chip to the 6 yard box where Tom Lorraine couldn’t quite get enough purchase on his header which glanced wide.
Lorraine then picked up an unfortunate knock while out wide on the right and was down for lengthy treatment before he had to hobble from the pitch to be replaced by John Dean.
Despite the disruption Diamonds were the biggest attacking force in the first 20 minutes set-up with good crisp passing and neat interplay all across the front 6 but the final ball just let held Diamonds back. Callum Westwood broke really well again but his ball to the unmarked Ben Diamond just went behind him on 14 minutes forcing Diamond to turn to collect and then see his shot blocked. It was Jack Bowen a minute later who broke clear into a 2 on 1 situation but just over hit his ball to the unmarked John Dean. He had to go wide to collect the ball but did manage to pull it back to Ben Farrell well placed on the edge of the box but he sliced his effort wide.
On 24 minutes the impressive Ben Diamond picked up a knock himself in the same part of the pitch as Tom Lorraine had and again had lengthy treatment. He re-joined the fray but was clearly starting to struggle as Biggleswade had their best spell of the game.
A corner earned after a quick break forward on 27 minutes evaded Ben Heath and was fired back into the box for a 15 yard header that went just over. A free-kick was then won 40 yards out 2 minutes later after more good link-up play and it was rather ambitiously fired at goal but it did only just dip over the bar and raised arm of Ben Heath.
The breakthrough came on 33 minutes as Jonny McNamara ran at the Diamonds box and was being eased away from goal by Jack Ashton when he fell under the defenders challenge. The referee pointed quickly to the spot for what seemed a slightly harsh decision and Matthew Ball fired it comfortably home to the delight of the home crowd.
Ben Diamond immediately left the field having not been able to run-off that knock with Dan Clifton coming on. He slotted into midfield with Ben Farrell moving into the forward three a position from which he was unable to really influence the rest of the game despite working hard.
Biggleswade largely pressed in the closing stages of the half without creating any clear chances but Diamonds were at full stretch to keep them at bay. Then right on half-time Diamonds had their best chance for an equaliser as a deep corner found Sam Brown unmarked 8 yards box but he couldn’t keep his header down on the run.
Half-time: Biggleswade Town 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0
The second half started as brightly as the first with both side having a number of chances in the first 10 minutes.
Jonny McNamara had a flying header that he didn’t quite connect with just a minute in after Diamonds had been dispossessed down the left. Diamonds broke straight back a minute later with Callum Westwood pulling the ball back to Jack Bowen who swept his effort just over the bar from the edge of the box.
They came closer still on 50 minutes as Jack Bowen won a good header out by the touch-line which fell to Ben Farrell on the run, he hooked the bouncing ball into the area where John Dean took a neat touch to beat a defender but saw his shot from 12 yards just deflected over by the advancing keeper.
Nathan Hicks then burst onto a loose ball drove at the Biggleswade defence and fired a fierce effort to sting the fingers of the home keeper. Biggleswade bounced straight back with another swift move that saw an angled cross into Jonny McNamara who again just failed to connect when unmarked.
After a quieter period of shared possession Diamonds started to create chances again with John Dean at the heart of their most dangerous play. First he sprinted clear down the left and cleverly pulled the ball back to Nathan Hicks who screwed his effort wide from 20 yards. Then on 65 minutes they really should have been level. Jack Bowen put John Dean in the clear the diminutive striker rounded the keeper and fired towards goal as he fell where a retreating defender prone on the ground blocked the ball with what appeared to be his arm. The referee quickly waved away the forceful penalty claims as the ball was hacked clear.
Nathan Hicks then won a blocking tackle on half way that saw the ball break to John Dean. He ran at Biggleswade’s retreating defence and fed the ball into space for Jack Bowen to run in on but a last ditch sliding challenge saw the ball break away for what should have been a corner but again not given.
Biggleswade were very professional in managing the game in the last fifteen minutes slowing the pace right down and frustrating the away side. They rarely threatened themselves but Diamonds struggled to gain meaningful periods of possession.
Ty Ward came on as Diamonds final substitution replacing Nathan Hicks but it wasn’t until into the 6 minutes of added on time that Diamonds managed to raise a late push. A corner created mayhem in the Biggleswade box but just wouldn’t fall to a Diamonds player in the scramble, and a Sam Brown long throw from the right created a similar scramble.
The final half-chance came to Ward as he ran onto a high ball headed into the box and with the keeper a little off his line tried to guide his header over him but it sadly fell wide.
Full-time: Biggleswade Town 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0
There was little between these two good sides with the game ultimately decided by a penalty that was given and one that wasn’t. Biggleswade were strong all over the park, quick, physical and professional in their approach particularly once they got ahead. Diamonds more than matched them despite the disruption of two of the front three off injured in the first half hour and created enough chances to have won the game. The biggest impact of the two changes was the loss of Ben Farrell’s influence in midfield when he had to move into the front three, but the early introduction of John Dean allowed him to put in a man of the match performance on the left of the front three.
Next up another tough away trip to Stourbridge who attracted over 700 to a convincing 3-0 home win on Monday night.
Man of the Match: John Dean
Match Report by Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Joshua Strizovic
2. Josh Urquhart
3. Lucas Perry
4. Kieron Forbes
5. Tom Smith
6. Curtis Ujah
7. Jonny McNamara
8. David Longe-King
9. Liam Brooks
10. Matthew Ball
11. Pierre Joseph-Dubois
12. Connor Vincent
14. Brett Donnelly (for Joseph-Dubois 75)
15. Mason Spence
16. Peter Clark (for Ball 60)
17. Soloman Nwabukei (for Longe-King 67)
13. Ben Heath
2. Callum Westwood
3. Sam Brown
4. Jack Ashton
5. Blaize Punter
6. Jack Westbrook
7. Nathan Hicks
8. Ben Farrell
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Ben Diamond
11. Jack Bowen
12. John Dean (for Lorraine 8)
14. Dan Clifton (for Diamond 34)
15. Ty Ward (for Hicks 75)
16. Ross Oulton
17. Zak Reynolds
Goals: Ball (34 Pen)
Yellow Cards: Callum Westwood
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