Diamonds fell to defeat at Biggleswade Town on a cold and wet Saturday afternoon.
The opening exchanges were keenly contested, with both looking to stamp their authority on the game but without creating too many meaningful chances. Home midfielder Drew Richardson fired a shot over, and Tom Lorraine and Nathan Hicks almost had opportunities for Diamonds only to be snuffed out. The hosts did look the greater threat, and Shaun Lucien came close when he skipped into the area before hitting the side-netting. They then hit the bar following a strike after a free-kick that was only partially cleared, but Biggleswade didn’t have to wait much longer for the opening goal. Lucien was brought down by Zack Reynolds in the area and, though Joseph White had the resulting kick saved by Ben Heath, White gleefully converted the rebound. He then missed a glaring chance to double the lead as he slid over from point-blank range, but the home side continued to press and were rewarded with a second goal. Following a cleared Diamonds corner, Biggleswade broke and Lucien squared for Soloman Sambou to convert from close-range despite appeals for offside. There was still time for Lucien to get on the scoresheet himself after cutting in from the left and finding the far corner with a low effort, and Diamonds were glad to hear the half-time whistle.
No changes were made at the break, but within five minutes of the restart Ben Acquaye was introduced. Rushden began to look more threatening and the game was a lot more even, but chances were few and far between for either side until the latter stages. Heath made a good save to deny Matthew Ball, and Jordan MacLeod almost latched onto a ball across from Acquaye. Lorraine headed wide, but the hosts were largely defending comfortably and without alarm. Liam Dolman had a downward header saved, and Matthew Slinn and Jesse Akubuine were brought on to try and change the pattern of the game. The visitors won a penalty five minutes from time when Acquaye was brought down, and Hicks stepped up to dispatch the kick. Lorraine then came within inches of converting an Acquaye cross, and Akubuine had a shot deflected millimetres wide of the post. However, it was in vain as Diamonds slipped to defeat.
Manager Peaks decided to remain with the same starting XI that had started the come-from-behind victory at Banbury in the FA Trophy 1st Qualifying Round replay last time out. This meant a continuation of the 3-5-2 formation that had been deployed in recent matches, and Ryan Dove hadn’t recovered from his rib injury to be included in the squad. The only change came amongst the substitutes as Jesse Akubuine returned to the squad to take a place on the bench.
The two sides stepped out onto a wet and slick Langford Road pitch, with a steady downpour having come down onto the playing surface from before kick-off. Biggleswade came into the contest having lost their last two consecutive games following an unbeaten run of six (including five wins) prior to that, whilst Diamonds hadn’t won any of their last six away league games and had ended a league run of eight without victory last time out against Banbury. A keen sense of intrigue was felt ahead of the game, especially with the last outing between the sides having ended in a 3-3 thriller at the end of 2018. After the pre-match formalities were completed, referee Alistair Wilson got the game underway.
Both sides looked to get on the front foot immediately. Rushden sprung on the attack with Morgan Roberts getting down the left wing, but his cross was well cleared away. The hosts broke, and Drew Richardson was found in space following a clever turn and pass by Soloman Sambou. The midfielder fired an effort at goal from just outside the area, but it flew just over Ben Heath’s crossbar. Moments later, Shaun Lucien cut inside from the left wing and hit a low shot towards goal that Heath was able to easily collect and hold.
Diamonds also had a couple of dangerous moments, with firstly good interplay by Sam Brown and Roberts allowing the latter to cross towards the back post that just drifted over Jordan Macleod’s head. A few minutes later, home keeper Sam Donkin rushed out of his goal to get to a ball on the left, but a heavy touch allowed Tom Lorraine to latch onto possession. However, the keeper did very well to atone for his mistake and to play the ball off the striker to win a throw-in.
Biggleswade were beginning to look more and more of a threat on the counter, and in the 17th minute they almost took the lead. A Diamonds long-throw on the left was cleared away, and Ben Farrell’s attempted ball back into the area was easily headed away. It dropped for Richardson just short of the halfway line, and he quickly dispatched a ball through for the livewire Lucien. He ran towards the area with only Jack Ashton to beat to get through on goal, and he jinked past the outside of the defender before flashing a shot into the side-netting.
A few minutes later, after Macleod almost set up a chance for Roberts, the hosts came even closer to forging ahead. Matthew Ball was fouled on the left touchline, and Lucien’s delivery towards the back post was well headed away by Alex Collard. The clearance fell straight to home defender Shane Bush, and his crashing half-volley beat Heath all ends up only for it to slam off the crossbar and back into play.
They didn’t have to wait much longer to taking the lead though. In the 23rd minute Lucien faced up Zack Reynolds and dashed past the away full-back who slipped over. In his attempt to recover, he barged into Lucien as he attempted to cut inside, and the referee was quick to award a penalty. Joseph White stepped up to take the penalty, but his weak effort to Heath’s right was saved by the keeper. However, the rebound rolled kindly for the striker to gleefully slam home the rebound, and Biggleswade had the lead.
The home side had their tails up, and two minutes later they should have doubled their advantage. Ball won possession in midfield, and White fed the ball to Matthew Miles on the right. He played it further down the line to Devante Stanley whose initial cross was blocked, but he volleyed the loose ball across the face of goal. It ran all the way through to White at the far post who slid in from a matter of yards out, but he somehow diverted the ball over the bar. It was a huge let-off for the Diamonds, and the scoreline remained 1-0.
The visitors looked to get back into the game, and they had a chance when a Heath long ball aimed for Lorraine saw the striker brought down just outside the area. The free-kick was in an ideal position around 25 yards out and slightly right of centre, but Roberts’ effort flew well over the crossbar and the chance had gone. The winger was looking the most likely for Rushden, and moments later he combined neatly with Macleod to win a corner. The set-piece looked threatening, but Biggleswade were able to clear it away.
They soon sprung back onto the attack, and Lucien played a long ball down the left for the onrushing Sambou. He collected the pass before looking inside and finding Richardson. He in turn poked it past Farrell and ran further into the area, but his poked effort rolled wide of the near post.
The hosts soon did double their lead though. As a number of their attacks had been during the half, it came on the counter-attack as a Diamonds corner was cleared away and Biggleswade immediately broke. Ball played a precise long pass over the halfway line to the galloping Lucien, and he got onto it before driving forward. He got past Reynolds on the outside into the area and slid a low ball towards the far corner where Soloman Sambou tapped it home from virtually on the line. There were half-hearted appeals for offside from some Diamonds defenders, but the appeals were waved away and the goal stood.
It got even worse for Rushden a minute before half-time as the hosts leapt into a three goal lead. A long kick forward by Donkin was headed away by Liam Dolman, but only as far as Shaun Lucien. He initially miscontrolled, but he soon got back onto the ball and drove inside between Reynolds and Roberts into the area. He had plenty of space to curl a low shot towards the far post, and it beat Heath as it nestled into the far corner of the net.
There was still time for the Diamonds First Team Head Coach Neil Champelovier to be booked for dissent towards the referee. Moments later, the whistle was blown to signal the end of the half and to give the visitors some much-needed thinking time.
Half time: Biggleswade Town 3-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
There were no changes at the break for either side and so, following a quick count of both players and a quick inspection of the goalmouth Heath would be defending due to some issues with the pitch, Wilson got the game back underway.
The half was less than five minutes old when Peaks made his first substitution of the afternoon, and it was no surprise to see Ben Acquaye introduced. He had made the difference on Tuesday evening in setting up both Diamonds goals, and it was hoped that he would have the similar impact in this game. Ashton was replaced, meaning Diamonds went to a 4-4-2 formation.
It looked like it had an effect straight away as a free-kick was won, and Roberts’ delivery found Collard whose header was deflected behind for a corner. Following the set-piece that was well defended, Acquaye broke with pace and played a ball across to Macleod. However, the ball was slightly behind the striker and the move just broke down.
Diamonds were struggling to work Donkin in the Biggleswade goal and, though the hosts weren’t threatening themselves, they had done what they’d needed to in the opening period. Matthew Slinn came on for Farrell just before the hour mark, and then Lucien had a shot well over before Heath parried away a threatening ball in from the winger.
The away side did create a good opening in the 65th minute when a corner from the left found Lorraine, but his flashing header went wide of the far post. Soon afterwards, Diamonds made their third and final sub as Akubuine came on for Macleod which led to a change in system to a 4-3-3. They had their first shot on target in the 78th minute when a Brown throw was played back to him by Nathan Hicks, and the full-back’s deep cross to the back post found Dolman whose downward header bounced up and was collected by Donkin.
The hosts were staying strong and stoic in defence as they limited Rushden to little in the way of opportunities, but the chance for a consolation was seized with five minutes left. A neat passing move saw Roberts feed Akubuine, he played it across looking to Hicks but he let it run for Acquaye who span into the area. A sliding challenge from Bush appeared to win the ball, but the referee deemed it a foul and pointed to the penalty spot. Nathan Hicks stepped up and confidently slotted it to the keeper’s right, with Donkin diving the other way.
It initially appeared a consolation, but Diamonds to their credit sensed more. A long ball down the left saw Roberts flick it on, but it seemed like it would run out of play for a goal-kick. However, terrific determination by the Northampton Town loanee saw his dash after the ball and just keep it in play as he crossed into the area. Acquaye controlled it and flashed it across the six-yard box, and any touch would have seen it go into the unguarded net. It just ran past Lorraine through and the chance was gone.
They then won a corner on the halfway line, and Slinn’s high delivery was headed away to the left side. Roberts latched onto it and hit an instant half-volley that bounced in front of Donkin meaning he could only parry it away. The rebound fell to Akubuine whose goalbound shot was deflected, and it somehow squirmed millimetres wide of the post rather than rolling into the net.
That proved to be the final action of the half as, after four minutes of additional time, referee Wilson signalled the end of the match.
Full time: Biggleswade Town 3-1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
After four recent positive displays and results, the first half was a setback for the Diamonds. They began relatively well, but the hosts soon got on top and began to dominate. They closed Rushden down quickly and forced them into a few mistakes, and they were especially clinical on the counter-attack. There was a clear response by the visitors in the second half, but it unfortunately only came when the scoreline was 3-0. They created some openings, in particular after they had pulled a goal back, but it couldn’t stop them slipping to defeat. Their next game sees them make the long trip north to take on South Shields, who currently lead the Northern Premier League, in the FA Trophy Second Qualifying Round on Saturday 9th November, 3pm kick-off.
Diamonds Man of the Match: Alex Collard
Match report by Ollie Mortimer
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Sam Donkin
2. Devante Stanley
3. Lucas Perry (C)
4. Soloman Sambou
5. Thomas Smith
6. Shane Bush
7. Shaun Lucien
8. Drew Richardson
9. Joseph White
10. Matthew Ball
11. Matthew Miles
12. Peter Clark (for Richardson 80)
14. Mason Wilson-Rhine (for Sambou 90+3)
15. Darryl Reid
13. Ben Heath
2. Zack Reynolds
3. Sam Brown
4. Jack Ashton
5. Liam Dolman (C)
6. Alex Collard
7. Morgan Roberts
8. Ben Farrell
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Jordan Macleod
11. Nathan Hicks
12. Matthew Slinn (for Farrell 59)
14. Patrick Casey
15. Jesse Akubuine (for Macleod 71)
16. Ben Acquaye (for Ashton 48)
17. Niall Cooper
Goals: White (24), Sambou (36), Lucien (44)
Goals: Hicks (pen 86)
Yellow cards: Richardson (55), Perry (81), Ball (86), Smith (87)
Yellow cards: Champelovier (45)
Referee: Alistair Wilson
Assistants: Thomas Beeton, Robert Holland