AFC Rushden & Diamonds were beaten by a late goal against high quality opposition in their third pre-season friendly on Saturday afternoon.
It was another good workout for Andy Peaks side who were always in a challenging contest against Ryman Premier side Enfield Town. After a quiet start to the game Enfield took the lead with an 8th minute penalty. Elliott Lamb-Johnson was adjudged to have brought down striker Whitley who converted coolly. Enfield finished the half strongly and started to create chances from their good play in the second half but Diamonds defended well and improved as an attacking threat as the half went on. After Liam Dolman nearly scored from just inside his own half, and Tommy Berwick and Courtney Herbert had half-chances they found an equalizer. Joe Ackroyd won the ball in midfield, Harry May fed Tom Lorraine and the striker placed the ball neatly past the Enfield keeper. Just when it looked like a draw had been earned Enfield struck in the last minute after a hint of offside. Redding pushed the strikers chip onto the bar and it was headed in on the rebound.
Enfield should maybe have scored more than the two they got but Diamonds competed well and came close to a creditable draw.
Next up is more higher level opposition. Biggleswade Town of the Southern League Premier at the Dog & Duck on Tuesday evening.
Manager Andy Peaks was without Joe Merrill, Sam Brown, Steve Spriggs, Dan Quigley and Jason Kilbride for the North London trip and brought in Delroy Gordon for his first Diamonds start along with Ollie Wilkinson, Elliott Lamb-Johnson, Tommy Berwick, Dom Lawless and Kieran Fitzgerald from the bench in the last game. Courtney Herbert started on the bench along with youngsters Joe Ackroyd and Harry May, Charlie Butt for his first pre-season appearance and Jake Gillingwater and Rhys Redding.
After a tentative start by both sides in the opening stages Enfield took an 8th minute lead. Ellott Lamb-Johnson was adjudged to have brought down Enfield striker Corey Whitely just inside the box and the striker stepped up to convert the penalty.
It was harsh on Diamonds who continued to match their higher ranked opposition in what was a low key opening period with little in the way of chances.
Elliott Lamb-Johnson was keen to get on the ball had a great run through the Enfield defence only for the keeper to smother at his feet.
Enfield stepped up the pressure in the latter stages of the half and Whitely was prominent, beating Gordon out wide and getting in a great cross that fortunately for Diamonds none of his colleagues could get on the end of.
Another good move saw a great shooting chance set-up on the edge of the box which saw Liam Dolman make a great block. And Dernell Wynter created a great shooting opportunity minutes later firing the ball dangerously across goal.
Tommy Berwick came close to intercepting a back pass as the half closed but Diamonds had struggled to create chances despite working hard and trailed 1-0 at half-time.
Half-time: Enfield Town 1 – AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0
No raft of half-time substitutions for Diamonds this time, but Enfield made 9 changes and it certainly energised them. They created an excellent early chance that should have doubled their lead but the ball was fired wide.
Diamonds upped their level too and Liam Dolman changed from firing trademark 40 yard diagonal passes from the half-way line to an audacious effort on goal that just went over the bar.
Diamonds then won a free-kick just outside the box that Tommy Berwick took and fired in an excellent effort just wide.
Changes were then made for Diamonds with new signing Courtney Herbert replacing Dom Lawless and Charlie Butt making his pre-season debut in place of Fitzgerald as they went to a 4 3 3 formation.
Delroy Gordon who had moved into midfield alongside Brad Harris and Elliott Lamb-Johnson with the arrival of Charlie Butt then rose to meet a deep corner but headed just wide.
Tommy Berwick was still lively for Diamonds and came close to getting onto an excellent through ball before the Enfield keeper gathered.
More changes saw Harry May introduced in place of Tommy Berwick and Jake Gillingwater replaced Wilkinson. Enfield upped the tempo and Gillingwater cleared a dangerous cross, Finlay held a wicked 25 yard shot, and Charlie Butt made a superb goal line clearance to keep the score at 1-0.
Jack Ashton then picked up an injury and was replaced by the returning Ollie Wilkinson, and Joe Ackroyd made his appearance to replace Lamb-Johnson.
Enfield then had two excellent efforts that were blasted wide and a third which clipped the bar as the home side pressed for a clinching goal.
But it was Diamonds who got a late equalizer in the move of the match. Joe Ackroyd intercepted an Enfield clearance, the ball falling to Harry May. He slid a superb pass into Tom Lorraine who placed his effort past the Enfield keeper to bring the sides level.
Rhys Redding then came on for the last 5 minutes and was unfortunate to be beaten right at the death to give the home side victory. There was a hint of offside as Cathline surged through but Redding managed to push his chip onto the bar only to see the forward head home the rebound.
It was a cruel finish for Diamonds after a hard working performance but Enfield probably deserved the win given the chances they had created.
Final Score: Enfield Town 2 – AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
It was a definite step up in the quality of opposition for Andy Peaks side and with a number of probable starters not available the squad put on a creditable performance. Enfield deserved more than the single goal they took into the closing stages but Diamonds stayed in the game, particularly second half and were delighted with the late equalizer from an excellent move involving younger members of the squad. The late winner was cruel on Diamonds but probably deserved by Enfield who were excellent hosts on the day.
Diamonds return to the Dog & Duck for the final 4 games of pre-season starting with the visit of Southern League Premier side Biggleswade Town on Tuesday evening.
Man of the Match: Brad Harris
Attendance: Est 50 Travelling Diamonds Fans….
Match Report by Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Anthony Page
2. Jake Hutchings
3. Claudio Vilcu
4. Jandir da Cruz
5. Aswad Thomas
6. Stanley Muguo
7. Micky Parcell
8. Samir Bihmoutine
9. Corey Whitely
10. Dernell Wynter
11. Tyler Campbell
12. David Hughes (for Page 45)
13. Jordan Lockie (for Vilcu 45)
14. Isaac Nkosi (for da Cruz 45)
15. Ralston Gabriel (for Muguo 45)
16. Aryan Tajbakhsh (for Parcell 45)
18. Alex Cathline (for Whitely 45)
19. Bobby Devyne (for Wynter 45)
20. Ryan Doyle (for Cambell 45)
17. Matt Finlay
2. Ollie Wilkinson (for Ashton 75)
3. Jack Ashton
4. Liam Dolman
5. Delroy Gordon
6. Brad Harris
7. Elliott Lamb-Johnson
8. Tom Lorraine
9. Tommy Berwick
10. Dominic Lawless
11. Kieran Fitzgerald
12. Jake Gillingwater (for Wilkinson 70)
13. Rhys Redding (for Finlay 85)
14. Charlie Butt (for Fitzgerald 65)
15. Courtney Herbert (for Lawless 60)
18. Joe Ackroyd (for Lamb-Johnson 75)
19. Harry May (for Berwick 70)
Goals: Whitely (8 Pen), Cathline (89)
Goals: Lorraine (85)
Yellow Cards: Lamb-Johnson (78)