Bugbrooke St Michaels 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1

AFC Rushden & Diamonds continued their promising start to the season with a hard
fought 1-0 victory over Bugbrooke St. Michaels in the club’s first competitive away

Manager Mark Starmer made two changes to the side which had beaten Daventry
Town the previous week, with midfielder Zaak Moon returning from holiday to make
his league debut at the expense of Louis Smith, and the absent Adam Ziolkowski
being replaced by another debutant in Elliott Ames. The match got off to a rather
scrappy start, with neither side able to stamp their authority in the early stages. The
first effort of note came from the Bugbrooke right winger whose shot from the corner
of the box was comfortably gathered by Ashley Foulger in the Diamonds goal.

Rushden’s first chance of the game arrived after 10 minutes, as Lewi Williams burst
through the middle of the home defence but was denied by a great last ditch tackle,
the ball falling to Blake Helsdown whose powerful shot found only the side netting.
A minute later, the lively Abayomi Maja went on the first of many strong runs but
snatched at his shot with the ball going well wide of the goal.
Five minutes later Helsdown and Williams combined again to go close for the
Diamonds, but after the former was dispossessed in the penalty area, the latter’s
follow up was blocked and the rebound by Helsdown went narrowly wide.

After 22 minutes the home side had a great chance to open the scoring. The
impressive Maja played in the right winger with a terrific defence splitting pass, but
from close range he pulled his shot wide of Foulger’s right hand post. It was then
Rushden’s turn to miss a gilt edged opportunity, as following a scuffed clearance by
Luis Fernandez in the Bugbrooke goal Lewi Williams blazed over the bar from 25
yards with the ‘keeper out of position.

On the half hour mark Bugbrooke almost took the lead in what would have been
very fortuitous circumstances, as an overhit cross by Alexander Adams looped onto
the top of the crossbar and behind for a goal kick. Three minutes later and Williams
looked set to open the scoring for Rushden after he latched onto Helsdown’s layoff,
but after shrugging off a defender and rounding the ‘keeper he was denied by a
superb last ditch tackle just as he was about to tap home the ball.

The scrappy start to the game was long since over and chances were now coming
thick and fast at both ends of the pitch. It was Bugbrooke’s turn to threaten next,
with Maja twice showing good pace and skill around the box before getting shots
away from 20 yards, but on both occasions they were too close to Foulger to really
worry the AFC ‘keeper. Rushden responded and again Williams went close, this
time charging down a defensive clearance but just being beaten to the loose ball by
Fernandez who bravely smothered it at the feet of the pacey striker. A minute before
the break the home side missed another great opportunity to open the scoring. A
corner into the Diamonds area caused problems for Foulger and his defence with the
ball falling to a Bubgbrooke player just six yards out, but he was closed down quickly
and dragged his shot wide under pressure.

Almost immediately, Rushden went up the other end of the pitch and finally broke the
deadlock with a goal of real quality. Lewi Williams broke with pace down the right,
and although he was dispossessed as he entered the penalty area he showed great
tenacity to win the ball back, before cutting inside and hitting a powerful left foot shot
into the bottom corner from just inside the box.

HT: Bugbrooke St. Michaels 0-1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

With the confidence boost of having taken the lead just before the break, Rushden
started the second half strongly with Williams firing wide from 20 yards inside the
opening minute. Three minutes later and Williams again went close after being put
through by a great ball from Levi Freeman, but for the third time in the match a last
ditch challenge denied him. Zach Farden and Daniel Docherty then exchanged long
rang efforts, with both players failing to trouble the goalkeepers.

After a very even first half, the Diamonds looked to have upped their game in the
second period, and retained possession a lot better but without really threatening
their opponents. Abayomi Maja, who had been Bubgrooke’s most dangerous player
in the first half, was being superbly marshalled by right back Ashley Meeks who
kept the pacey winger much quieter. Shortly after the hour mark a half chance fell
to the feet of Matti Ellis, the two goal hero from the Daventry game, but his low shot
lacked power and was easily saved by Fernandez. Five minutes later and Blake
Helsdown showed great pace down the right flank, breezing past his marker and into
the penalty area, but he rushed his shot and sliced it wide of the upright with only
the ‘keeper to beat.

Jeron Thompson had replaced goal scorer Lewi Williams just before the Helsdown
chance, and a couple of minutes later Mark Starmer made his second change with
Louis Smith replacing Matti Ellis.

As the game entered the final 15 minutes the home side began committing more
players forward in an attempt to salvage something from the game. They nearly
found an equaliser when a Foulger clearance hit the back of an AFC defender with
the ball ricocheting into the path of Maja, but fortunately for the visitors his shot from
a tight angle only found the side netting. With Bugbrooke now desperately searching
for an equaliser, gaps were appearing in their defence and allowing Rushden the
chance to hit them on the break. Helsdown again burst away down the right flank,
and although this time he opted to square the ball rather than going for goal himself,
his low cross was too close to Fernandez who gathered the ball before the onrushing
Jeron Thompson.

With just five minutes remaining good work between the two substitutes, Smith and
Thompson, led to the latter being presented with a shooting chance from 20 yards,
but his effort was straight at the ‘keeper. As the game entered the dying stages,
Bugbrooke twice went close to an equaliser. Karl O’Brien hit a 20 yard shot just
inches wide of Foulger’s right hand upright, before a goalmouth scramble in injury
time eventually saw Maja’s goal bound shot deflected away and cleared to safety.
Seconds later the referee’s whistle was blown, to the great relief of the travelling
Diamonds supporters.

FT: Bugbrooke St. Michaels 0-1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Mark Starmer revealed in his post match interview that he was disappointed with the
way his side had played in the first half, but was pleased with the effort they put in
and their response in the second half. With the maximum six points gained from their
opening two matches, AFC R&D find themselves sitting top of the Northants Senior
Youth League Western Division table.

Attendance: 187

Man of the Match: Danny Bird

Photographs courtesy of Mal Swinden


Bugbrooke St. MichaelsAFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Luis Fernandez
2. Daniel Docherty
3. Jacob Ellis
4. Karl O’Brien
5. Jack Lee
6. Casey Kiernan
7. Logan McLeod
8. Nathanial Weston
9. Ozzie Njie
10. Abayomi Maja
11. S. Mbayi Mpenzi
86. Ashley Foulger
2. Ashley Meeks
3. Elliott Ames
4. Zaak Moon
5. Danny Bird (c)
6. Alex McDonald
7. Blake Helsdown
8. Matti Ellis
9. Levi Freeman
11. Lewi Williams
14. Zach Farden
12. Max Winters
13. Ben Clarke
14. Alexander Adams
15. Lewis Marriott
16. Tom Sidebottom
Subs Used:
10. Jeron Thompson (for Lewi Williams 65)
12. Louis Smith (for Matti Ellis 72)
15. Ryan Ellmer (for Levi Freeman 90)
Not Used:
13. Mark Rust
16. Kai Robertson