The game kicked off to a warm and sunny backdrop, with both teams aiming to add to their two wins from two respective pre-season matches. Less than a minute had elapsed when the Diamonds were able to take the lead, with a long ball forward by defender Jackson bouncing up and over a home defender to fall into Wreh’s path on the halfway line. Faced with a three-on-two situation, he turned and fed Jake Newman on his left who galloped forward into the area and hit a shot across Alex Pycock and into the far corner of the net.
Deeping attempted to hit back instantly and in the third minute a right-wing cross fell for Henry Dunn just inside the penalty box, but his instinctive hooked effort bobbled wide of the left-hand post. Neat build-up play shortly afterwards saw Dan Schiavi run at the Rushden defence and slip a ball in behind for striker Will Bird, but Matt Finlay was alert to the danger and raced out to collect.
The hosts were maintaining possession well and pushing forward with pace when they got the chance, and one such example should have produced an equaliser in the 11th minute. Brad Harris was pressured into a mistake, and Bird’s flick around Jackson ran into the path of Schiavi. He showed quick feet to dart around Liam Dolman and find himself through on goal with only Finlay to beat, but he only managed to slash at the ball and hit the effort wide of the left post.
Bird was showing some neat touches in the early exchanges, and moments after Schiavi’s chance he received the ball from Dunn on the left edge of the box, and stubbed the ball onto Ben Lewis who steered his attempt past the post. Dunn then saw a curling shot easily held by Finlay before Lewis was again involved as he was fed by the marauding and advancing Bird, though his shot again went wide of Finlay’s goal.
Diamonds weren’t representing much of a threat in the attacking third but were still passing the ball reasonably well, with Richard Bunting in particular keeping calm in possession and spreading the play at every available opportunity. Just after the half-hour mark trialist Aidan Bradshaw clipped a ball into Harris’ path, and after he controlled it and moved forward he guided a pass inside to Wreh. The tricky forward swivelled swiftly to grant himself some space and time in the box, and his resulting left-footed curler dropped just the wrong side of the post for the visitors.
However, Diamonds didn’t have to wait long to double their advantage as they scored again in the 34th minute. The Deeping defence played themselves into some trouble on the right side, with Harris being allowed the opportunity to steal in and get a foot on the ball. It broke away for Nabil Shariff to run onto, shrug off a closing defender and then slip the ball underneath Pycock and into the back of the net.
Any thoughts that the result was sealed with that goal were quickly dispelled as Deeping continued to search and probe for a goal. Bird did well to hassle Jackson into a mistake, and the Diamonds defender was forced to pull him back on the right side as the striker moved towards the area. Schiavi took the kick, and it found a Deeping head to direct an effort just wide of the post with Remy Forrester not needing to clear the ball despite attempting to do so.
Just as it appeared Diamonds would head into the interval with a two goal lead, their advantage was cut to one as the hosts found a goal that their forward play had threatened. Schiavi skipped away from Bunting to the right byline, and his cross found the perfectly-timed run of Charlie Coulson. His initial header from six yards out was instinctively saved by Finlay, but he was powerless to stop Coulson heading home the rebound into the unguarded net.
Half Time: Deeping Rangers 1-2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Both sets of players re-emerged onto the pitch with the sun having dropped but the air still being warm, and the game itself was still very much in the balance as referee Si Bickley got the action underway again.
Just as in the opening period, Rushden scored with their first attack of the half. Wreh was upended as he tried to make space 25 yards from goal, and Liam Dolman stepped up not to produce a thumping effort that might have been expected, but rather to whip a pinpoint curling effort that flew into the top corner of the net.
Deeping had made three substitutions by this stage, and in similar style to their response to Diamonds’ second goal they continued to commit men forward and attempt to build a tempo and a rhythm that would threaten the visitors’ defence. Aside from a couple of efforts that flew wide though, Peaks’ men restricted the hosts to little, and this allowed the Diamonds manager to ring some changes of his own. Joe Curtis and Lewis Leslie entered the fray at the expense of Richard Bunting, who appeared to be holding his back as he left the pitch, and Forrester, meaning Jackson went to left-back and Harris dropped into the middle of defence.
Despite increased Deeping pressure it appeared the Diamonds were coping well and limiting the hosts to the odd half-chance, but that all changed on the 70th minute mark. A through ball in behind the Rushden defence looking for substitute Jack Marsden saw Harris challenge with him just inside the penalty area, and as the home man went down a penalty was signalled. Jason Kilbride, another Deeping substitute, assumed responsibility of the kick and struck it to Finlay’s right side, with the Diamonds keeper making a strong save. However, as with the first home goal the rebound fell kindly for the attacking player and Kilbride made no mistake in poking the loose ball into the net.
Further alterations were then made by the Diamonds, with Tom Lorraine, Robbie Parsons, Joe Ackroyd and Luke Gardiner all being introduced to the action. The home side were naturally buoyed by their second goal and now sensed a levelling goal, and the Diamonds looked a little ragged and disorganised after the multitude of changes that had taken place. Jackson made a vital clearance ahead of Marsden in the penalty area, and whenever the Deeping number 17 picked up the ball he caused the visitors problems. It was he who started a move in the 85th minute which led to a right-wing cross being met by a powerful header that crashed off the post, and although Kilbride tried to force the rebound home, Finlay claimed the ball on his goalline amidst protestations from the home players that the ball had crossed the line.
That was to be Finlay’s last piece of action as he was replaced by Alex Vitue in Rushden’s final change, and Diamonds continued to defend manfully, albeit slightly fortunately too, in the face of strong pressure from the hosts. As the game moved into stoppage time a corner from the left was only half cleared to the lurking Coulson, but his goalbound effort was well blocked before it could trouble Vitue. A corner from the other side then saw Jonny Clay forcefully head onto the roof of the net, and in the final chance of the encounter Marsden generated some space to curl a left-footed effort straight into Vitue’s grateful grasp.
It was left to referee Bickley to sound the final whistle moments later to bring an entertaining and lively affair to a conclusion.
Full Time: Deeping Rangers 2-3 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
This proved a very useful test for the Diamonds as they continue preparations for their first venture into the Northern Premier League First Division South. They maintained their average of three goals scored per game in pre-season thus far, a third consecutive victory was secured and it was heartening to see all the squad get some game-time on the pitch, particularly Ackroyd, Gardiner and Vitue. The three trialists (Bradshaw, Jackson and Wreh) all performed well in stages also, but credit must go to the hosts for their attacking style of play which could easily have seen them come away from the game with a draw. Diamonds next pre-season outing is against their landlords Wellingborough Town at the Dog & Duck on Tuesday 26th July, 19:45 kick-off.
Diamonds Man of the Match (chosen by Match Reporter): Liam Dolman
Match Report by Ollie Mortimer
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Alex Pycock
2. Dan Flack
3. Tom Smith
4. David Burton-Jones (C)
5. Jonny Clay
6. Callum Madigan
7. Henry Dunn
8. Dan Schiavi
9. Will Bird
10. Charlie Coulson
11. Ben Lewis
12. Danny Barker
14. Jason Kilbride (for Dunn HT)
15. Lewis Vieira (for Schiavi 72)
16. Luke Hunnings (for Bird HT)
17. Jack Marsden (for Lewis HT)
17. Matt Finlay
2. Aidan Bradshaw
3. Remy Forrester
4. Lewis Jackson
5. Liam Dolman
6. Tom Manship
7. Brad Harris
8. Richard Bunting (C)
9. Chris Wreh
10. Jake Newman
11. Nabil Shariff
12. Joe Curtis (for Bunting 62)
13. Alex Vitue (for Finlay 87)
14. Robbie Parsons (for Shariff 72)
15. Luke Gardiner (for Newman 81)
18. Tom Lorraine (for Wreh 72)
19. Joe Ackroyd (for Manship 81)
20. Lewis Leslie (for Forrester 62)
Goals: Coulson (45), Kilbride (71)
Goals: Newman (1), Shariff (34), Dolman (51)
Yellow Cards: None
Yellow Cards: None
Referee: Si Bickley
Assistants: Jim Springthorpe, Kevin Scratton