AFC Rushden & Diamonds produced a dominant performance to defeat Deeping Rangers 3-0 to reach the Third Qualifying Round of The Emirates Cup at the Haydon Whitham Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Although it was a complete team performance, it was Scott Joseph who took additional plaudits as he came on as an early substitute and scored the Diamonds opener with what might have been his first touch. He then turned provider just before the break as his shot was blocked into the path of Tom Lorraine who doubled the lead with a clinical finish. The Diamonds were rarely threatened in the second period, and the game was made safe when Scott Joseph set up Tommy Berwick to fire home the Diamonds third.
The crowd of 635 was a record attendance at Outgang Road on a glorious September afternoon. The Diamonds will learn who they face in the Third Qualifying Round in the draw at Monday lunchtime.
Manager Andy Peaks made two changes to the side that had won the top-of-the-table clash the previous weekend, with the suspended Jack Ashton replaced by Delroy Gordon, and with Elliott Lamb-Johnson absent due to a family bereavement, Courtney Herbert was able to take a place in the side following his recent absence due to injury.
The six-man bench included Steve Spriggs on his return from injury, as well as youngster Richard Platt from the Diamonds U21 side. They joined Scott Joseph, Richard Bunting, Charlie Butt and Alex Vitue in the Diamonds’ dugout.
The pitch at Outgang Road was much improved since the Diamonds’ previous visit to a ground where they had won on two earlier occasions, and the excellent crowd were able to spread out around the pitch in the early-autumn sunshine.
There was a general feeling that the Diamonds needed to start brightly, as they had done in recent home games, but had been slower out of the blocks in their recent away games against less-fancied opposition. It was quickly clear that the visitors were taking the game very seriously, and after some early play down the right they saw an early chance when Claudiu Hoban made the first raid down the left, outstripping his marker but seeing his cross deflected into the home keeper’s arms. An early scare came when Delroy Gordon made what proved to be his only error of the game allowing Fraser Sturgess to break and roll the ball to Scott Mooney who tried to allow the ball to roll across his body rather than taking an early shot. Sturgess was the hosts main threat, and he also saw a show flash across the Diamonds goal during the early stages.
After the Diamonds had won a series of corners on the right that failed to produce very much, they were forced into an early change as Claudiu Hoban limped off to be replaced by Scott Joseph. That highlighted the Diamonds attacking intent, as they now had four players who were recognised “front-men”, with Courtney Herbert switching from right to left, allowing Tommy Berwick to adopt a wider role on the right.
That positive move produced an immediate return, as Herbert gave the Rangers defence the same problems as Hoban had done, and he left Dan Flack in his wake before crossing for Scott Joseph to fire home with what might have been his first touch.
The Diamonds were having the most of the play, with the hosts main threat being on the break. Courtney Herbert was having a fine afternoon, and he linked well with Sam Brown who cut inside on the overlap and got an outstretched boot onto a Herbert cross that was beaten out to Scott Joseph whose well-struck shot was well saved low to his left by keeper Bircham.
The ball was then quickly worked to the other end of the pitch in a move involving Sturgess and Avis with Matt Finlay producing a fine save to tip the ball away for a corner. If that was perhaps the hosts’ best move of the afternoon, their best chance came seconds later from the resultant corner where a headed chance failed to hit the target.
With the Diamonds having had the best of the first half, it was important they saw a good return for this, and they were able to double their lead a minute before the break. This time it was Scott Joseph who earned the “assist” as he showed exemplary ball control to get the ball into a shooting position, and saw his shot blocked out to Tom Lorraine who made no mistake with a fine finish.
Half Time: Deeping Rangers 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2
With news of a record-breaking crowd announced during the break, it was expected that the hosts might come out for the second period with additional intent, but the Diamonds were quick to re-establish their control on the game, and ensured that Deeping were unable to create anything of consequence in the third quarter of the game. Notable at this stage of the game were Harris and Quigley in the centre of the Diamonds midfield, who were quick to quash any threats through the middle.
The Diamonds attacking four were helping each other to chances, with Joseph and Berwick linking especially well, with both seeing efforts well saved before Joseph again showed fine control on a smart turn before laying the ball to Tommy Berwick to fire home the Diamonds third just after the hour mark.
With Courtney Herbert showing signs of an earlier knock he was replaced by Charlie Butt for another of his useful cameo roles on the right, and Richard Bunting made his return from injury to replace Tommy Berwick as the Diamonds cemented their lead. Scott Joseph was unlucky not to get his second goal as fine control followed by a quick turn and shot saw his effort deflected for a corner, and Dan Quigley almost added to his fine scoring record in the FA Cup when his header struck the bar.
The visitors did continue to battle bravely even when their cause was clearly lost, creating two late chances that called Matt Finlay back into action.
Referee Few then brought the game to a close, and he too had reason to be pleased with his performance, as despite his youth he had refereed the game with great maturity and had contributed to ensuring a free-flowing fixture played in a good spirit.
This was a highly professional performance by the Diamonds, from their management staff and players, as they gave Rangers the respect they deserved both before and during the game, starting the game well and ensuring they hosts did not get the scent of an upset throughout the game.
The Diamonds will have to quickly recover from their exertions and switch back to “league mode” by Tuesday evening when they travel to face Kings Langley in the Southern League Division One Central. Next weekend they host Basford United as both teams make their debut in the Preliminary Round of the FA Trophy. They will be considering the impact of the Hoban injury, as well as checking out the knock picked up by Courtney Herbert.
The next round of the Emirates FA Cup is on 10th October. You can find the competition bulletins on the FA Website here.
Diamonds Man of the Match: Scott Joseph
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Danny Bircham
2. Dan Flack
3. Tom Smith
4. David Burton-Jones
5. Spencer Tinkler
6. Luke Hunnings
7. Jason Kilbride
8. Luke Avis
9. Scott Mooney
10. Scott Coupland
11. Fraser Sturgess
12. Jack Cotton (for Kilbride 75)
14. Matthew Porter (for Smith 75)
15. Jezz Goldson-Williams (for Sturgess 70)
16. Jack Marsden
17. Billy Oliver
17. Matt Finlay
2. Ollie Wilkinson
3. Sam Brown
4. Delroy Gordon
5. Liam Dolman
6. Brad Harris
7. Courtney Herbert
8. Dan Quigley
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Tommy Berwick
11. Claudiu Hoban
12. Charlie Butt (for Herbert 65)
13. Alex Vitue
14. Scott Joseph (for Hoban 20)
15. Richard Platt
16. Steve Spriggs
19. Richard Bunting (for Berwick 72)
Goals: Joseph (22), Lorraine (44), Berwick (61)
Yellow Cards: None
Yellow Cards: None
Red Cards: None
Red Cards: None
Referee: Joshua Few.
Assistant Referee: Giovanni Marasca, Vincenzo Byatt
Updated player profiles with appearance and goalscoring details are now available.