AFC Rushden & Diamonds progressed to the Fourth Round Proper of the FA Carlsberg Vase for the first time after defeating Graham Street Prims 2-0 at the Dog & Duck on Saturday afternoon. The Diamonds reached the last 32 of the competition after a hard fought game that saw Matt Gearing put them ahead just before the break, as he finished off a neat move involving King and Koriya. The game was in the balance until added time when substitute Deven Ellwood scored from close range after a good run from Greg Ling down the left.
With Arron Parkinson still absent due to illness, and Jamal Clarke serving the last of his four game suspension, Diamonds Manager Mark Starmer again called upon Brad Harris to partner Alex Deakin in central defence. Jake Gillingwater had picked up a knock in training, but Sam Brown was available after missing the midweek game. Up front Fazel Koriya returned to the starting line-up with Alfie Taylor having been injured in midweek. Taylor had to be included as one of the four nominated substitutes as the Diamonds struggled to fill their bench, with young keeper Connor Brown alongside Taylor, Deven Ellwood and Richard Bunting who was still to make his home debut after missing recent games due to injury.
As the game began it was quickly clear that Graham St Prims were going to give their higher level opponents a stiff challenge. Referee Howson was involved in early controversy when he waved away claims that defender Rushby had passed back to keeper Hankey when he stretched to volley a ball into the keeper’s arms.
Greg Ling volleyed over from a Dunkley flick, and then Dunkley linked with Sam Brown who found the byline, but his low ball across the area was scrambled away. His fellow full-back also had a chance from a narrow angle on the right-side of goal, but he blazed over.
Both sides were struggling to create clear-cut chances until mid-way through the period when a move involving Merrill and King presented Matt Gearing with a chance that went wide, and then Gearing had another effort blocked after he was fed by Séan McBride from a Sam Brown cross.
The best chance for the visitors in the first 45 minutes came when Adam Robeley set up Ross Coxon for a shot that was tipped over by Tom Cross.
A Brown effort found the side netting at the end of a move involving Ling and Dunkley as it began to look like there would be no goals before the break. That looked even more likely after Koriya set up King for an effort that was blocked. However, as the match entered the 45th minute the Diamonds snatched the lead. A quick interchange of passes down the right between King and Koriya saw the ball pulled back to Matt Gearing who fired into the net.
Half-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 Graham Street Prims 0
The Prims started the second period with far more attacking intent, and it took a last ditch stop from Sam Brown to prevent an equaliser with Tom Cross beaten. It was now a more open game, with Aaron King having two early chances, with the first going over the bar, and then he saw his second effort strike the woodwork after he linked with Koriya and Gearing.
Brad Harris was producing a man-of-the-match performance at the back, with one highlight being a tackle on Jim Rushby who would otherwise have been clear on goal.
The Prims were creating at least as many chances as the Diamonds, and Phil Summerfield went close with a headed chance from a corner.
Richard Bunting made his Diamonds home debut when he replace Fazel Koriya after 73 minutes, and was soon involved in one of the Diamonds’ best moves of the game as he linked with Séan McBride to find Joe Merrill in space on the right, and his cross narrowly eluded Russ Dunkley. Bunting then saw a goalbound shot headed to safety by Adam Robeley after keeper Hankey had punched away a Merrill pass intended for Dunkley.
At the other end there was some confusion when Brad Harris appeared to fall over and knock into Ross Coxon right on the edge of the penalty area. There was thus debate about whether it should be deemed a foul, and if so, was it a penalty. After some debate referee Howson settled for a free-kick just outside of the area, and like many opportunities the Prims had in the second half, the chance was wasted.
The Prims had what turned out to be their last chance to force extra time when a corner from the right found the head of Adam Robeley at the near post, but he could not find the necessary angle to flick the ball on target.
Deven Ellwood then replaced Aaron King after 88 minutes, and with the game two minutes into added time he confirmed the Diamonds would progress into the fourth round. Greg Ling made his best run of the game as he turned his marker inside out as he broke down the left, and then beat the covering defender before hitting a shot that was parried into the path of Deven Ellwood who fired home from close range.
Full-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2 Graham Street Prims 0
Diamonds Man of the Match chosen by Match Sponsor John Essam & Co : Brad Harris
The Diamonds finally have a free midweek before they travel to face runaway league leaders Spalding United next weekend, with the Tulips nearing the record for the most consecutive wins within a single UCL season.
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Graham St Prims
17. Tom Cross
2. Joe Merrill
3. Sam Brown
4. Sean McBride
5. Brad Harris
6. Alex Deakin
7. Matt Gearing
8. Aaron King
9. Russ Dunkley (c)
10. Fazel Koriya
11. Greg Ling
13. (GK) Connor Brown
14. Richard Bunting (for Koriya 73)
15. Deven Ellwood (for King 88)
16. Alfie Taylor
1. Richard Hankey
2. Ben Rushby
3. Matt Adcock
4. Dean Oliver
5. Josh Mycroft (c)
6. Adam Robeley
7. Lee Fell
8. Phil Summerfield
9. Ross Coxon
10. Jim Rushby
11. Liam Oliver
12. Matt Harris (for L Oliver 86)
14. Adam Lillie
15. Mike Thorpe
16. Sean Fell
17. Jack Bodill (for D Oliver 84)
Goals: Gearing (45), Ellwood (90+2)
Yellow Cards: None
Yellow Cards: B Rushby
Referee: Mr Akil Howson
Assistant Referees: Mr Matthew Law & Mr Minesh Gupta
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