AFC Rushden & Diamonds recorded a 3-0 victory over promotion rivals Bugbrooke St Michaels at Birds Close on Saturday afternoon. In one of their most impressive team performances of the season, the Diamonds led 1-0 at the break through an Aaron King goal. Jack Wisniewski doubled the margin in the second half, before substitute Lance Allen completed the scoring just before the final whistle.
Before the week began Bugbrooke had only lost 3 games this season, the same as Eynesbury Rovers, but with their midweek defeat at Sileby Rangers they needed the three points to maintain their challenge.
With Séan McBride starting his 3-match ban, and Sam Brown not fully recovered from his midweek knock, Diamonds manager Mark Starmer switched Joe Merrill to left-back with the return of Jake Gillingwater to the right-back spot. In midfield Brad Harris and Aaron King continued their partnership from the Potton game.
On a gloomy but dry afternoon the Birds Close pitch had passed an earlier inspection, and looked in good condition from a distance, but was clearly rather slippery.
It was quickly clear that all ten Diamonds’ outfield players were prepared to run and close down their opponents and stop them getting the sort of the start they had against Sileby in midweek. This approach led to a number of corners, several of which led to near-misses, notably from Wisniewski and Deakin, as well as two handball claims. A low ball across the box from Jake Newman looked dangerous until a defender managed to stab it clear before it reached Alfie Taylor.
Home keeper Spruels was having a busy afternoon, and made an excellent save when he dived low to his right to palm wide a downward header from Alex Deakin.
At the other end the dangerous Briscoe saw a shot deflected wide before a Diamonds break saw Jake Newman clear down the right channel, but as he cut back inside he was tackled, and a few minutes later the Diamonds’ striker shot over and then made a forceful break that was well stopped by Hyde. Aaron King also made a strong run through a brittle Badgers defence to connect with a Gearing pass, but his effort was straight at keeper Spruels.
Although the Diamonds were having the lions’ share of possession and creating most of the chances there was still a threat from the home side, and Quincy Shorunmu made an excellent save from Briscoe to keep the scores level.
Just as it looked like the Diamonds weren’t going to make their pressure pay, they took the lead after 40 minutes when Aaron King pulled down a Jake Newman cross with his first touch and fired home with his second.
There was still time for both sides to strike the post as referee Henry allowed a generous amount of added time at the end of the half, with Jake Newman unlucky to not convert an Alfie Taylor cross, and then the Badgers won a free-kick in the sixth minute of added time which was thwarted by a combination of keeper Shorunmu and the post.
Half-Time: Bugbrooke St Michaels 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
Brad Harris had impressed throughout the first half, and in his most impressive game for the Diamonds to date he continued the good work in the second period, with an early cross towards Alfie Taylor that keeper Spruels was able to cut out. Matt Gearing then almost forced home a Wisniewski cross, but his effort was charged down.
After a number of Diamonds breaks had been foiled by the home offside trap, it was the Badgers who almost got an equaliser when a Jollands shot was well stopped by Shorunmu, and the Diamonds keeper was again called into action moment later to foil Ranft. As often happens, the Diamonds then quickly went up the other end of the field to double their lead. Jack Wisniewski received the ball from a Newman flick towards the right-hand corner of the area, and although he was perhaps a little fortunate that the ball fell back into his path after he was tackled, he kept his cool to place a shot across keeper Spruels and in-off the left-hand post. Moments later Aaron King went close to getting his second as he forced a good save from Spruels.
Other chances fell to Joe Merrill and Wisniewski, but the busy Spruels was able to deal with the danger.
At the other end substitute Ryan Waldock saw a shot go across the goal and wide, and then striker Will Briscoe could not believe he hadn’t scored when Quincy Shorunmu saved his well-struck shot, and was then able to catch the rebound.
Lance Allen joined the action against his former club with five minutes left, and as the match entered the final minute he was able to slide the ball home for the Diamonds third, showing respect for his former club in his goal celebration. The goal came after Aaron King and Jake Gillingwater linked up, and a Gillingwater shot was blocked for Allen to pick up the rebound. There was still time for Gillingwater to set up Alfie Taylor for a chance that dipped over the bar.
With Eynesbury Rovers also victorious on Saturday, the Diamonds remain in third place in the league – the same position as they were at the start of their 11 game winning run, although Eynesbury have replaced Oadby Town in second place during that period. This means that the Rovers’ visit to the Dog & Duck on Tuesday evening is a vital game for both teams, especially with so few slip-ups from Sileby Rangers or Oadby.
The current UCL League Table can be found on the AFC Diamonds website here, and the updated Match Stats, Player Stats, Form Guide and Attendance figures are found in the summary stats area here. Updated player profiles are also available.
Diamonds Man-of-the-Match: Brad Harris
Bugbrooke St Michaels
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Steve Spruels
2. Ryan Nash
3. Tom Murfitt
4. Jimmy Moore
5. Craig Hyde
6. Chris Griffin (Capt)
7. Tom Waldock
8. Richard Pannell
9. Will Briscoe
10. Andy Ranft
11. Jamie Jollands
12. Brad Janes (for T Waldock 80)
14. Pete Smith
15. Niall Duffy (for Ranft 68)
16. Tom Bland
17. Ryan Waldock (for Griffin 44)
17. Quincy Shorunmu
2. Jake Gillingwater
3. Joe Merrill
4. Aaron King
5. Arron Parkinson
6. Alex Deakin
7. Jack Wisniewski
8. Brad Harris
9. Alfie Taylor (Capt)
10. Jake Newman
11. Matt Gearing
12. Deven Ellwood (for Newman 80)
13. Ashley Foulger
14. Ben Morgan
15. Lance Allen (for Wisniewski 85)
16. Chris Hope (for Deakin 90+1)
Goals: King (40), Wisniewski (58), Allen (90)
Yellow Cards : Murfitt, Pannell
Yellow Cards: None
Referee: Carl Henry
Assistants: Scott Dempsey, Paul Kimbrey
Match highlights and post-match interviews are available here.
Images courtesy of Mal Swinden ©2013 Malcolm Swinden Photography
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