Daventry Town 0-2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
AFC Rushden & Diamonds returned to winning ways following back to back league draws, with a well deserved 2-0 victory over Daventry Town. The win sees the Diamonds consolidate their position at the top of the Northants Senior Youth League Western Division, and extends their impressive unbeaten run in competitive games to five.
Mark Starmer made two changes to the side which had drawn with Kempston the week before, Brad Mellows making his first start for the club at right back, with Lewi Williams recalled to the starting line-up in place of Jeron Thompson. The versatile Ashley Meeks started on the left of midfield, having played at right back in previous weeks.
Having conceded an early goal in their last league fixture, the Diamonds were keen not to make the same mistake again, and should have taken the lead themselves with just 2 minutes on the clock. Brad Mellows took a throw deep into the Daventry half, which was controlled and crossed on the volley by Levi Freeman straight onto the head of the unmarked Zaak Moon, but from just 6 yards out the midfielder somehow headed over the bar.
Two minutes later, the home side had their first meaningful attempt at goal, when a well struck 20 yard free kick dipped just over the bar, but Rushden ‘keeper Ashley Foulger appeared to have the shot covered.
It was clear from the opening stages that Daventry were favouring the long ball game and trying to get their strikers in behind the Rushden defence. On 10 minutes it looked to have worked to perfection as Ben Drinkwater latched onto a ball over the heads of the AFC centre backs and lobbed Foulger from 30 yards, but the visitors were saved by an offside flag.
After the lively start the game seemed to settle down a little, with most of the action being played out in midfield. It soon became apparent that the hosts other tactic for the game was to go in hard on the Rushden players, with several late and unnecessary challenges flying in.
Following one such challenge on Lewi Williams after 22 minutes, the game seemed to spring back into life. The resultant free kick gave Moon the opportunity to try his luck from 30 yards, but his effort cleared the bar by some distance. Two minutes later and the Diamonds went within inches of opening the scoring, as Freeman fed Moon on the edge of the Daventry penalty area and although the midfielder this time hit the target, Will Robb in the home goal managed to tip the ball onto the post and the danger was cleared.
Just a minute later, however, the breakthrough came. Levi Freeman battled for a loose ball down the left flank, managing to get there ahead of a defender before bursting through on goal, and with just the ‘keeper to beat he unselfishly laid the ball square to Alex McDonald who had the simple task of tapping home his first goal in an AFC R&D shirt.
Danny Bird and Elliott Ames, at the heart of the Rushden backline, were now coping really well with Daventry’s long ball tactics, which allowed the visitors to take firm control of the game. The home side did win a rare corner shortly after the opening goal however, but the cross to the back post was headed over the bar without troubling Foulger. On 30 minutes there was another scare for the Diamonds as Bird played a free kick across the face of his own box and saw it intercepted by Drinkwater, but his 20 yard shot was straight at Foulger who held the ball well.
Rushden were soon back on top though, and two minutes later looked to have a good shout for a penalty. A free kick given for yet another Daventry foul was played into the box by Moon, where it was flicked on by Freeman with the ball appearing to strike a defender on the arm, but the referee waved away the Diamonds appeals.
On 33 minutes, a foul on McDonald finally saw the referee issue his first booking of the game, Adam Creaney the deserving recipient. Two minutes later the best move of the match almost saw Rushden double their lead. Williams came deep to pick up the ball in midfield, playing it to Freeman who picked out the run of Blake Helsdown with a great ball down the right wing. Helsdown cut inside his marker and put in an inch perfect cross on his left foot which found the head of the onrushing Williams, but unfortunately for the Diamonds striker he couldn’t quite keep his header down and the ball narrowly cleared the bar with Robb well beaten.
The visitors were now playing with great confidence, and moved the ball around with some style, although couldn’t find a way through the resolute Daventry defence for a second time. They did carve out one final half chance before the half time interval, McDonald taking advantage of some good approach play to try his luck from 25 yards, but his effort was easy for Robb.
HT: Daventry Town 0-1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Not happy with their first half performance, the home side came out for the second half with renewed vigour, and piled on the pressure in the opening minutes. A quick break following a Rushden corner saw Drinkwater storm forwards and hit a shot from 25 yards, but it lacked power and was easy for Foulger. A minute later and Creaney went close after Drinkwater had latched onto a poor clearance by Bird, but the midfielder’s shot flew narrowly over the bar.
The Diamonds then started to find their feet again, and Alex McDonald, clearly now with an eye for goal, tried his luck once again from 25 yards, his effort dipping and swerving just wide of the upright.
On 56 minutes Sam Ahrens became the second Daventry player to be booked, following a late tackle from behind on Zach Farden. Ahrens had been warned just two minutes earlier following a series of poor challenges.
A minute later Williams was presented with a half chance to double the Rushden lead when he latched onto a defensive error, but his 25 yard shot saw Will Robb make a comfortable save.
Both sides made a change on the hour mark as the Diamonds looked to consolidate their lead, and Daventry looked to get back on level terms. Ahrens was replaced by Lewis Quinn before he could earn himself a second yellow card, while Mark Starmer reshuffled the Rushden side slightly, as Louis Smith replaced McDonald allowing the impressive Ashley Meeks to move to centre midfield with Smith on the left. On 62 minutes a lapse in concentration by the otherwise faultless Foulger almost gifted the home side an equaliser, but having spilled a routine 20 yard shot the Diamonds stopper managed to react in time to stop the ball from bouncing over the line.
The game was now opening up into a really enthralling encounter, as both sides knew that the next goal was crucial. The visitors were the first to go on the attack, Helsdown using his blistering pace to good effect down the right flank, before planting a great cross onto the head of Williams whose near post header was brilliantly saved by Robb. A minute later Williams again tested Robb, this time cutting in from the left and firing in a shot to the back post, but on this occasion the save was a fairly comfortable one.
Daventry went straight up the other end with Drinkwater knocking in a great cross from the right wing, but the ball just evaded the onrushing Quinn. Two minutes later Creaney stormed forward from midfield and got in a shot from 20 yards, but his effort deflected off a defender and landed just wide of the post, much to the relief of the large travelling contingent from AFC R&D.
A goal looked inevitable, with the only question being which side would get it. On 74 minutes that question was answered as the visitors made the game safe. A good move down the left flank saw Lewi Williams burst into the penalty area and beat one defender, but as he tried to beat a second he was clearly tripped with the referee having no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Williams picked himself up to take the spot kick, despatching it just inside Robb’s left hand post giving the ‘keeper no chance.
In the build up to the penalty, Levi Freeman had picked up an injury and limped off the pitch following yet another appalling late challenge, which had gone unpunished much to the surprise of those in attendance. He was replaced after the goal by Jeron Thompson.
On 79 minutes the game’s most controversial incident occurred, as the home side’s aggression boiled over. With the teams lined up on the edge of the Rushden box awaiting a Daventry free kick, Ben Drinkwater pushed Zach Farden to the ground, and as the Diamonds left back picked himself up Drinkwater appeared to headbutt him, leaving Farden with a cut eye. Although the referee missed the incident his assistant spotted it and was quick to alert the referee to what had happened, with Drinkwater receiving a red card as a result. Adam Ziolkowski was brought on to replace Farden.
With a two goal advantage and now a one man advantage as well, the Diamonds played out the remaining 10 minutes with ease. There were chances to increase the lead, firstly through Smith who latched onto a great through ball from Moon but could only shoot straight at Robb, and in the dying minutes through Thompson who cut in from the right before firing narrowly wide of the upright.
FT: Daventry Town 0-2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Mark Starmer told AFCRDTV that he was delighted with the team’s performance, and particularly the way that they kept their discipline despite the over aggressive tactics of the home side.
The Diamonds now face two very tough league games in the coming weeks, with visits to ON Chenecks and Cogenhoe United, the league’s two top scorers. Sandwiched between those games is the NFA U18s Cup match against Vicarage Farm on Sunday 9th October at Wellingborough Town FC, 2pm kick off.
Man of the Match: Ashley Meeks
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
|1. Will Robb
2. Callum Williams
3. Ryan Cugini
4. Alex Green
5. Kyle Gibson
6. Adam Creaney
7. Kyle Young
8. Kevin Childs (c)
9. Ben Drinkwater
10. Sam Ahrens
11. Charlie Davies
|86. Ashley Foulger
14. Brad Mellows
3. Zach Farden
4. Elliott Ames
5. Danny Bird (c)
6. Alex McDonald
7. Blake Helsdown
8. Zaak Moon
9. Levi Freeman
11. Lewi Williams
2. Ashley Meeks
12. Joe Taplin (for Charlie Davies, 82)
13. Kevin Sonnenschein
14. Lewis Quinn (for Sam Ahrens, 60)
15. Ciaran Quinn
16. Nathan Humphries (for Alex Green, 14)
10, Jeron Thompson (for Levi Freeman, 74)
12. Josh Poulson
14. Kai Robertson
15. Adam Ziolkowski (for Zach Farden, 82)
18. Louis Smith (for Alex McDonald, 60)
McDonald (25 mins)
Williams (74 mins)
Creaney (33 mins, foul)
Ahrens (56 mins, persistent fouling)
Drinkwater (79 mins, violent conduct)
All images courtesy of Mal Swinden