Diamonds were comprehensively defeated in their penultimate away game of the season at play-off outsiders Coalville on Saturday afternoon.
The first 25 minutes were largely even, with the hosts shading the possession and territory but with Diamonds looking dangerous on the counter-attack. Alex Collard had a header that sailed wide and Nathan Hicks almost found Tom Lorraine at close-range following a strong and direct run, but Colaville took the lead in the 28th minute. A pinpoint delivery from the right found striker Timothy Berridge, and he headed into the corner of the net. Andrew Wright almost doubled the lead moments later with a dipping shot that went just wide, but they got another goal eight minutes from the end of the half. A defensive mistake saw Berridge pick up a loose ball in the area and, with Ben Heath out of his goal, the striker curled home into the unguarded net. They then had a goal ruled out for offside soon after the restart, and Diamonds thought they had pulled one back in stoppage-time at the end of the half only for the offside flag to rule out the goal again.
Jack Ashton replaced Jack Westbrook at the interval, with Liam Dolman taking up a position in midfield, but Coalville picked up where they left off and went further ahead in the 59th minute. A bobbling shot from Wright following a short corner was flicked up by full-back Scott McManus, and it looped past Heath and in off the far post. In many ways it was a case of how many from there on in as Diamonds’ heads began to drop and, after striker Kairo Mitchell had smacked the crossbar and another couple of good openings, Berridge completed his hat-trick by cleverly lobbing over Heath to make it 4-0. Substitute Sam Johnson and Lorraine had efforts easily held as Rushden sensed a consolation, but instead Coalville added another and completed the scoring when substitute Tolani Omotola reacted first to a saved free-kick to head home.
Manager Peaks made just the solitary change to the side that had been narrowly defeated by second-placed Stourbridge the week before. Ben Acquaye was unavailable, and so Declan Rogers came into the side to replace him in what would be a mixture between a 4-2-3-1 and diamond formation. The four substitutes named on the bench were Jack Ashton, Ben Farrell, Sam Johnson and Jack Bowen.
The two sides stepped out onto the sun-bathed pitch at the Owen Street Sports Ground, with a seventh versus eighth contest lying ahead. Coalville came into the match seventh, seven points off the play-off places, and had lost their last three home league matches and three of their last four games overall. Diamonds entered the match one point and one place below the hosts, and they hadn’t won any of their last four away league games and had only won one of their last nine matches in all competitions. However, they had been boosted during the week of being crowned the 2019 NFA Senior Hillier Cup champions after Brackley were found guilty of fielding two ineligible players in the final at the beginning of this month. Both Coalville and Diamonds weren’t in form coming into the match, but both were looking to begin to end the season on a high and on the right note. After the pre-match formalities had been completed, the referee got the game underway.
Diamonds began well, and forced the first corner of the contest within the opening three minutes after Zack Reynolds’ cross was blocked behind. Rogers trotted across to the right to take it, and his curling delivery found the leaping Alex Collard at the far post. However, the defender’s header drifted wide of the target. Coalville then began to get into their stride though, and a few minutes later Timothy Berridge got away down the right to cross in. It initially looked threatening, but it bounced away from a couple of men. In their next attack they won a corner, and it found a home man at the back post only for the attempt to end up dropping wide.
It had been a quick and entertaining start to the game, with both sides looking to set an early tempo and to get an early goal. In the 10th minute Collard, as he has done many times this season, made a superb and crucial intervention on the edge of his own box to block away a goalbound effort, and he then won an important header from a resulting cross to clear the danger away. Only a minute later, Rushden could easily have taken the lead. Nathan Hicks had excelled in a more attacking role last time out, and he demonstrated his attacking prowess again when he controlled a ball forward from Reynolds on the right. He then put his head down and turned on the after-burners to power away from a couple of home men and into the area. He played it across the face of the six-yard box looking for the advancing Tom Lorraine, but the striker was millimetres away from making connection and it was cleared away.
The hosts responded by building an attack down their own right-hand side, and full-back Kalern Thomas got forward before hitting an effort well wide from range. Crosses into the area would prove to be a dangerous weapon in the contest, and Rushden almost benefitted from one. Joe Curtis won a free-kick halfway inside his attacking half, and Rogers drilled a cross towards the back post. Collard got up to head it across the area, and Lorraine controlled it inside the six-yard box before trying to loop a header past the keeper. However, the effort lacked power, and Matthew Coton was able to easily hold.
Down the other end, a cross into the area brought the opening goal of the game for the hosts. A loose defensive header dropped for home midfielder Alex Dean, and he got away down the right before whipping a sumptuous and inviting delivery into the area. Timothy Berridge timed his run in between two Diamonds defenders perfectly, and he powered a header past the helpless Ben Heath and into the back of the net.
Only two minutes later, the lead was almost doubled when a long ball forward by Thomas was headed away by Liam Dolman, but it only dropped for Andrew Wright. It bounced up invitingly for him around 30 yards out, and he wasted no time in hitting a dipping half-volley that Heath watched go past him but also just past the post. The hosts were now turning the screw and looking dangerous every time they went forward, and in the 36th minute they got in down the left through Berridge and then Kairo Mitchell. The cross towards the far post looked like it would be turned home, but it wasn’t and Diamonds escaped.
However, it was only a temporary reprieve as the hosts doubled their advantage only a minute later. A move down the left looked like it had petered out as Reynolds intercepted and playd it back to Heath, but the goalkeeper took a heavy touch and he was dispossessed by Thomas McGlinchey. The loose ball ran to Timothy Berridge, and he coolly side-stepped into some more space before clinically curling an effort past Jack Westbrook on the line and into the far corner.
Diamonds had been well in the contest up until the first goal, but Coalville’s confidence was evidently well up now and they were threatening to run riot. Only a minute after Berridge’s second goal Thomas got forward from full-back and cut inside before hitting a low shot towards the far corner. Heath parried it away but only as far as McGlinchey who tapped home from two yards out. However, the offside flag was raised and the goal was disallowed. A minute after that Mitchell was played in behind the defence, but Collard did excellently to get across and clear away the danger.
Half-time couldn’t come soon enough for the visitors who were getting over-run, and on the stroke of the interval the hosts fashioned another chance only for an effort to be fired over from a tight angle on the right. Diamonds did come so close to getting a goal back though when a long-throw from the left by Sam Brown was flicked on by Dolman, and Rogers forced it home from inside the six-yard box. The offside flag was up again though, and the celebrations were cut short.
This was the final action of an action-packed first half, one that had seen chances aplenty and play be even until Coalville forged into the lead leaving Diamonds with lots to do in the second period to try and get back into the game.
Half time: Coalville Town 2-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
The two sides emerged from the changing rooms and stepped back out onto the playing surface, one that was still in drenched in glorious sunshine. Peaks had decided to make a change at the interval with Jack Ashton taking the place of Westbrook, and this tactical re-shuffle meant Ashton went into the heart of defence and allowed Dolman to step forward into a defensive midfield role. After a quick count of all players, the referee got the game back underway.
It was to be expected that there would be a Rushden reaction, and they won an early free-kick. This led to Hicks having a chance to strike at goal from the right of the box, but his shot across the area was blocked away. However, this proved to be only a temporary inroad into the Coalville domination as the hosts took up from where they had left off at the end of the first half. In the 53rd minute a good cross in by Scott McManus looked like it may find the lurking Berridge seeking his hat-trick, but Ashton was alert and well-positioned to head away. A minute later Kieran Fenton linked up well with Berridge to break into the area, and he managed to get past Reynolds before his attempt from a tight angle ran across the face of the six-yard box.
Shortly before the hour mark, the home side won a corner on the left that was flicked on at the near post, but Dolman did well to head it out for another corner. The subsequent set-piece was cleared away before Mitchell almost got in, but Brown did really well to clear for another corner. This one was eventually cleared upfield, but the pressure on the Diamonds defence and the seemingly endless wave of home attacks were evident to see.
It was no surprise then when Coalville made it three. They won a corner on the right, and it was cleverly rolled towards the edge of the box where Wright arrived to meet it. He hit a bobbling shot towards goal that flicked up and off Scott McManus, and it looped towards the far corner before clipping the post and nestling into the back of the net.
This arguably ended the game as a contest, but Diamonds had a presentable opening to pull one back almost immediately from kick-off. Reynolds latched onto a loose ball just ahead of the halfway line, and he played it down the line to Hicks who did brilliantly to spin away from McManus. His cross into the box was inviting and found the run of Lorraine who got in ahead of Thomas, but he mishit his effort and it sliced well off target.
Minutes later Coalville stepped up their pressure again as they sensed even more goals. Mitchell received a pass from McManus and, with no-one around him or closing him down, he stepped forward before unleashing a thunderous effort from around 25 yards out. It beat Heath all ends up only for it to cannon down off the crossbar, and the danger was then cleared away. Sam Johnson was then introduced for Rogers, but there was no immediate impact as the hosts again went close to scoring another. They broke with pace as McManus played it into Wright short of the halfway line, and the midfielder effortlessly ran past Dolman and Curtis before playing it into the path of Mitchell. The striker found himself through on goal on the right of the box, but his flashing drive was well parried away by Heath at the near post. The resulting corner saw Dean have an excellent chance to score, but his effort was somehow deflected over.
It didn’t take the home side much longer to notch their fourth though. In the 69th minute a long ball from the home defence passed easily over the away defence, and Timothy Berridge adroitly brought it down with his first-touch before clinically lobbing the ball over Heath with his second. It bounced once and then raced into the back of the net to seal the striker’s hat-trick.
Peaks responded by making the final substitution at his disposal as Jack Bowen replaced Curtis, and the next few moments were comparatively quiet to those that had preceded them. Diamonds were able to build a little pressure and to mount a couple of attacks, but Johnson and Lorraine were both denied by easy saves from attempts from range. The match entered the final ten minutes, and the final whistle could not come soon enough for the away players. Hicks had a shot blocked before the hosts broke with pace again, and substitute Luke Shaw had an effort of his own charged down before the offside flag was raised.
There was still time for Coalville to add a fifth goal. They won a free-kick around 35 yards out just right of centre, and Wright lined it up to slam a low effort towards goal. Heath got down to his right to parry it away, but it looped up for substitute Tolani Omotola to easily head home the rebound from close-range. They almost added a sixth a minute before stoppage time when Shaw got in behind on the left, but his pass across the area towards an onrushing home man was overhit and it ran out of play for a goal-kick.
There was only a small amount of additional time, and this passed without any action of note as the referee blew his whistle to signal the end of the match.
Full time: Coalville Town 5-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
This was a punishing defeat for the Diamonds as they were put to the sword by a hungrier, clinical and fluid Coalville side. The match was even up until the first goal, with Diamonds coming close to taking the lead on a couple of occasions, but once Berridge notched his first goal the hosts took absolute control. If Rogers’ disallowed strike had been allowed on the stroke of half-time then it may have been a different story, but that is to take nothing away from the home side who completely dominated proceedings from there-on-in and who completely dispatched the visitors. It is the first time this season where the Diamonds haven’t truly competed, and it was clear to see how their heads dropped more and more with every goal. It stretched their winless run to six games and mathematically ended their play-off hopes, but they have responded well to adversity and setbacks before. They have an opportunity to do so again when they take on league champions and rivals Kettering Town on Easter Monday 22nd April, 1.00pm kick-off.
Match Report by Ollie Mortimer
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Matthew Coton
2. Kalern Thomas
3. Scott McManus
4. Steve Towers (C)
5. Dean Freeman
6. Kieran Fenton
7. Alex dean
8. Andrew Wright
9. Timothy Berridge
10. Kairo Mitchell
11. Thomas McGlinchey
12. Leandro Browne (for Dean 78)
13. Richard Walton
14. Tolani Omotola (for Berridge 73)
15. Luke Shaw (for McGlinchey 75)
16. Danny Martin
13. Ben Heath
2. Zack Reynolds
3. Sam Brown
4. Jack Westbrook
5. Liam Dolman (C)
6. Alex Collard
7. Declan Rogers
8. Joe Curtis
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Ben Diamond
11. Nathan Hicks
12. Jack Bowen (for Curtis 70)
14. Ben Farrell
15. Jack Ashton (for Westbrook HT)
18. Sam Johnson (for Rogers 64)
Goals: Berridge (28, 37, 69), McManus (59), Omotola (85)
Yellow cards: None
Yellow cards: None
Referee: Steve Durnall
Assistants: Paul Buck, George Enever