AFC Rushden & Diamonds just managed to book their place in the Second Qualifying Round of this season’s FA Cup thanks to a hat-trick from Nabil Shariff; after coming from behind twice to win 3-2. A brace from Tividale forward Daniel Smith gave the hosts the lead twice in the game at The Beeches but ultimately the Diamonds prevailed against the hard fighting underdogs in the heart of the Black Country.
Manager Andy Peaks made one change from the side that drew at Kempston Rovers on bank holiday Monday. Striker Chris Dillon made his first start since returning from injury, replacing Chief Boateng who dropped to the bench. Goalkeeper Matt Finlay returned to the bench along with midfielder Rich Bunting to make up six of the seven substitutes allowed in FA Cup matches.
The Diamonds started the game with the expected domination of possession, and were inches away from taking the lead just two minutes in. Dillon’s side footed effort from the edge of the area crashed off the cross bar and over. The away side then had an effort cleared off the line two minutes later when Joe Curtis’s corner was met by the head of Shariff.
The visitors were in again on the 11th minute when full back Callum Westwood fired a pinpoint cross field pass to Dillon to the left of the area, and his first time dink to Ben Farrell was looped high over the bar.
The hosts had their first chance of the game a minute later when a cross from the left was met by Chris Bladen but he blazed his volley high over Bean Heath’s net.
Diamonds should have taken the lead in 14 minutes. A deep cross from Westwood was flicked towards the far post by Farrell, and Dillon just managed to keep the ball in as well as squaring across the face of goal where Farrell was waiting from six yards out but he could only get his foot under the ball and high over.
There was another good chance for Diamonds to take the lead on 19 minutes when Farrell out Shariff through on goal, and after sorting his feet out his shot was well saved by the impressive Ryan Cheshire in goal. Two minutes later, a long ball from Captain Liam Dolman was headed down to Dillon by Shariff and his volley towards the near post was well held by the ‘keeper.
The first booking of the game came for Westwood after a late challenge, giving a free kick for the home side. However, the cross into the box went straight through for a goal kick after being missed by everyone.
The hosts were growing into the game as the first half progressed, with left back Darragh Bustin in particular causing plenty of problems for Diamonds down the right, and it was another dangerous Bustin cross that missed everyone as the full back burst forward as often as he could. And it was him that was inches away from opening the scoring on 26 minutes when his low fizzing effort was tipped just past the far post by Heath.
Winger Joel Gyasi had a quiet first half, with Bustin and winger Joe Lawley ensuring he had little room to work with on the right wing, closing him down quickly every time he got on the ball.
Tividale’s increased pressure paid off on the 29th minute when they took the lead. A good ball over the top of the defence found Daniel Smith who fired across Heath in goal to give the hosts an unexpected but arguably deserved lead.
The hosts made their first change of the day after Westwood seemed to pull his hamstring. The full back was replaced by Blaize Punter who filled in at right back.
The Diamonds almost got a goal back on 41 minutes but Dillon’s volley was saved spectacularly by the Dale’s 6’6” keeper.
The first half fizzled out with a Dolman free kick creeping just over the top left corner to leave the Diamonds behind at the break.
Half-time: Tividale 1-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
The second half started in the same vein as the first, however this time Diamonds managed to put away their first effort of the half in spectacular fashion on 49 minutes. Ben Ford on the left wing passed inside to Shariff who curled an absolute beauty into the top corner from 25 yards to bring the game level.
Diamonds then had another chance cleared off the line on 53 minutes when Sam Brown’s long throw fell to Dillon who fired towards the cluster of Tividale players on the line.
Darryl Smith attempted two miracle goals in two minutes which were almost identical on 53 minutes. His first overhead kick was mis-hit, and the resulting clearance from the Tividale defender smashed against his own player to almost end in a comical own goal. Another corner two minutes later was also met by an overhead kick from Smith, and although the connection was better than the first one, his effort failed to hit the target second time around.
Dillon was once again denied off the line just after the hour mark after some last gasp defending from Tividale. However, it was the hosts who took the lead two minutes later against the run of play.
A free kick from the half way line was punted into the area and headed across the box to Smith who looped his header over Heath into the far corner to bag his second of the game.
Their second lead didn’t last long, with the Diamonds levelling once again five minutes later. Gyasi had a bit more freedom on the left side than he did on the right, and a bit of trickery took the ball past the right back to the touchline before pulling back for Shariff to slot home a simple finish just a few yards out.
Claudiu Hoban became the Diamonds’ second change of the game, replacing Dillon on 69 minutes.
Gyasi’s half volley from the edge of the area was well saved by Cheshire on 71 minutes, and Hoban also fired an effort way wide with his weak foot four minutes later.
The home side made their first change of the game on 76 minutes with Chris Bladen making way for Nathan Jones.
With 12 minutes remaining, Shariff bagged his hat trick. Another good save from Cheshire denied Hoban but the rebound fell for Shariff whose first effort was blocked. However, the front man persevered to poke home inches from goal to put the Diamonds in front for the first time in the game. The striker then received a booking for celebrating with the fans behind the goal.
The hosts made their final two changes with nine minutes to go. Daniel Bryson and Elliott Hartley replaced Freddie Watts and Daniel Wells respectively.
Tividale’s Daniel Smith was after his own hat trick, and almost got it a couple of times but some good handling from Heath ensured that the striker was unable to pounce after lurking for rebounds.
The Diamonds made their final change in added time, with Fernando Bell-Toxtle replacing Gyasi a minute into injury time.
Shariff wanted his fourth of the game three minutes into stoppage time, and after bursting into the area and holding off his defender, he could only see his effort past the far post from a tight angle.
The players held on for the victory with five minutes added on, sending the Diamonds into the Second Qualifying Round for the fourth time in five seasons..
Full-time: Tividale 2-3 AFC Rushden & Diamonds.
Despite being two steps lower than the Diamonds, Tividale matched their visitors for much of the game and took a deserved lead into half-time. However, Peaks’s sides quality shone through in the second half and a hard fought perfect hat trick from Nabil Shariff sets up the next round for the Diamonds in two weeks time. The next test however, is the visit of Beaconsfield Town to Hayden Road next Saturday afternoon in the EVO-STIK League South East.
Match Report by Adam Benney
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Ryan Cheshire
2. Tom Hurdman
3. Darragh Bustin
4. Karl Gardner (c)
5. Freddie Watts
6. Daniel Wells
7. Liam Wilkinson
8. Curtis Cocking
9. Chris Bladen
10. Daniel Smith
11. Joe Lawley
12. Nathan Jones (on for Bladen, 76)
14. Chris Hill
15. Daniel Bryson (on forWatts, 81)
16. Elliott Hartley (on for Wells, 81)
17. James Bland
18. Bradley Welding
19. Tyree Clarke
13. Ben Heath
2. Callum Westwood
3. Ben Ford
4. Sam Brown
5. Liam Dolman (c)
6. Ben Farrell
7. Joel Gyasi
8. Joe Curtis
9. Chris Dillon
10. Nabil Shariff
11. Darryl Smith
12. Chief Boateng
14. Claudiu Hoban (on for Dillon, 69)
15. Rich Bunting
16. Fernando Bell-Toxtle
17. Matt Finlay
18. Blaize Punter (on for Westwood, 39)
Goals: Smith (29 & 63)
Goals: Shariff (49, 68 & 78)
Yellow cards: Westwood, Shariff
Referee: Mr Ryan Hayes
Assistants: Mr Kieran Hatfield
Mr Philip Carey
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