Godalming Town 1-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

AFC Rushden & Diamonds slipped to their first league defeat of the season as they were defeated 1-0 at a wet and chilly Wey Court on Saturday afternoon.

The first half saw heavy rain lashing onto the surface for the majority and as a result the game was quite dogged and dominated by midfield skirmishes. Home midfielder Steve Laidler saw a 25-yard effort well held by Diamonds stopper Matt Finlay in the third minute, and then Louis Hutton cracked a shot off the crossbar after he was allowed time and space on the edge of the area. Conversely for the Diamonds, Delroy Gordon glanced a header which was deflected behind and Tommy Berwick hit a nicely-executed half-volley after being fed by Andy Hall which came back off the crossbar. 

Rushden again struggled in the second half as they strived to find a tempo and rhythm which would trouble the home side’s defence, and after Laidler had seen another strike at goal well handled by Finlay, the home side scored the only goal of the game in the 62nd minute. Captain Graeme Purdy won the ball well in a 50-50 with Sam Brown and it fell for Hutton to slam an effort goalwards which kissed the underside of the bar and dropped into the goal. The game then turned slightly sour as two Diamonds bookings were quickly followed by a red card for each side: Liam Dolman for the visitors as he launched into a sliding challenge and home defender Nick Hutchings for a similar tackle.

Despite some late Rushden pressure which saw one ball across goal deflected narrowly behind and several set-pieces launched into Godalming’s box, the equaliser was not forthcoming as they slipped to their first league defeat since January 10th.

Manager Andy Peaks opted to stick with the same starting XI that had defeated Barton Rovers two weeks ago in the last league fixture. Tom Lorraine and Tommy Berwick, with 14 goals between them thus far this season, resumed their partnership up front as Tom Liversedge took a place on the bench, and also alongside him was Brad Harris who was on the brink of his 100th league appearance for the Diamonds.

An impeccably observed minute’s silence for the recent tragedy suffered in Paris was held, and despite heavy rain for some periods before kick-off and also as the game got underway, the Wey Court surface looked very much playable and in good shape.

The opening chance of the half fell to the G’s in the third minute as Steve Laidler received the ball in the left channel and was allowed time to turn and shoot at goal from 25 yards, though the effort was relatively comfortable for Matt Finlay to deal with and hold onto. The opening ten minutes, and for much of the first half, saw the Diamonds have a large amount of possession in their own half as the hosts appeared content to try and hit on the counter-attack when possible, and one such instance saw Godlaming come extremely close to breaking the deadlock. After a Rushden attack had been overturned and a long ball downfield had been hit by Tom Willment, Louis Hutton picked up the ball, advanced on Liam Dolman and then hit a crisp effort from range which beat a motionless Finlay all ends up. However, fortunately for the Diamonds, the strike crashed off the crossbar and back into play.

After these couple of scares, it was thought that the away side might react and attempt to force the issue, but although the application and hard-work was there, the execution often was not. A slight lack of movement up front in these early stages, coupled with some strong defending and perhaps the adverse weather conditions, meant that it took until the 25th minute for a chance of note to be fashioned. Claudiu Hoban was fouled in the centre of the field, and Bunting took a quick free-kick as he sprayed the ball out to the right and Andy Hall in plenty of room. He flashed a cross across the goal and it took the intervention of Willment to deflect Delroy Gordon’s flicked header behind for a corner kick.

This triggered a spell of concerted pressure for the Diamonds as they gradually began to move the ball at a greater pace and look for runners in behind the Godalming defence. Firstly in the 28th minute Lorraine held the ball up well and whipped a pass out to Hall on the right-wing. He in turn fed the ball through to Berwick and his shot from a difficult angle as he ran away from goal was confidently gathered by Richard Ossai in the home goal. Seven minutes later a cross from Ollie Wilkinson from the right touchline found Sam Brown to head back across goal but Lorraine was prevented from shooting just inside the penalty area by a well-timed sliding challenge.

Andy Hall has shown in recent weeks to be a good addition to the Diamonds squad with his direct running and accurate crossing, and it was he who was chief creator and at the heart of these flurry of chances. Five minutes before the half-time break he jinked inside from the right and lofted a precise ball over the top of the hosts’ defence for the excellently timed run of Berwick, and after the ball had dropped to an ideal height for him, he hit a sweet half-volley over his shoulder which smacked the crossbar and rebounded to safety. Hall then stood up a cross to the back-post and G’s defender Chris Wales inadvertently headed the ball out to Berwick on the edge of the area, though the Diamonds number 10 couldn’t get over the ball and his effort subsequently drifted harmlessly wide.

The half-time whistle was then sounded by referee James Vallance to call time on a close, bitty first period which left the contest delicately posed for the second half.

Half Time: Godalming Town 0-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

The rain and wind was still perpetuating much of the atmosphere as the players re-emerged for the second period, and with Dan Quigley picking up a knock early on in the game and also having a yellow card to his name there was the introduction of Brad Harris at the interval for his 100th league appearance for the Diamonds.

The first 10 minutes of the half were very similar to those of the first, with Godalming looking to break with pace and in numbers when they had the opportunity to and the Diamonds aiming to dictate the rhythm of the game whilst working the relatively unemployed Ossai more than they previously had done. Hall continued to prove a danger to the home side, and in the 55th minute he exchanged a neat one-two with Hoban and looped a volley over the crossbar from the right of the box. A minute before this a Godalming cross from the left wing by Darren Wheeler saw Finlay drop the ball at the first attempt, but he then gathered it before any home player could react.

Though the G’s weren’t putting a huge amount of pressure and continuously hassling their opponents, quite often they were still able to win the ball in promising positions and launch attacks from them. Hoban was dispossessed just past the half-way line and the ball was worked forward for Laidler to cut inside from the right and hit a dipping shot goalwards which Finlay was able to grasp despite the ball bouncing just in front of him.

However, in the hosts’ next attack they were to take the lead. Brown miscontrolled a high ball 30 yards out from his own goal, and home captain Graeme Purdy was able to win the ball back for his team. It ricocheted nicely for Louis Hutton to crack a right-footed shot which clipped the underside of the bar and nestled in the back of the net, leaving Finlay with little chance of stopping it.

Two seemingly innocuous offences resulted in yellow cards for both Finlay and Harris in the initial few minutes following the goal, and just as was the case at St. Ives, North Greenford and most recently Barwell, the away side needed to regroup and come from behind. It seemed more likely that Godalming would add to their lead though, and they arguably should have done in the 69th minute when an inswinging corner from the left broke ideally for a close-range effort at goal which was initially heroically blocked by a Diamonds defender, and the rebound was also charged down to keep the scoreline at 1-0.

The feat of grabbing an equaliser was made it even harder 13 minutes from time when Liam Dolman was given his marching orders by the referee for a sliding tackle just inside his own half. It was perhaps made to look worse than it actually was by the skidding nature of the pitch which had seen plenty of players slip over and the length of slide-tackles being furthered by increased momentum, but Vallance seemed adamant that it was dangerous play and was quick to issue the red card.

Godalming themselves were themselves reduced to ten men five minutes later in a very similar incident to Dolman’s as full-back Nick Hutchings slid into a crunching challenge, and this forced them to try and protect their lead from here on in. Tom Liversedge had been summoned from the bench before the two dismissals to replace Hall, and Tommy Berwick moved over to the right-hand side as the Diamonds started to throw more and more caution to the wind.

They came close to an equaliser two minutes from the end of normal time when a corner from the left-side came all the way through for Tommy Berwick to collect. He laid the ball to his side for Wilkinson to play the ball along the six-yard box, but despite Lorraine and Harris being very close to applying a touch which surely would have resulted in a goal, the ball was cleared behind for another corner. Another set-piece, this time a free-kick just in front of both teams’ dugouts, saw a high hanging delivery by Wilkinson which reached Liversedge, but his header was weak and dropped wide of the left post.

Godalming’s metaphorical door was still not being battered down or splintered away by the Diamonds as they defended resolutely and dealt excellently with any long ball forward into their territory. Ossai was forced into a save three minutes into added-on time when Lorraine picked up the ball 20 yards out and flashed an effort which saw the G’s stopper parry the ball at full stretch to his right-hand side, but apart from that Rushden were still struggling to create any chances of note.

In fact it was the home side who almost extended their lead a minute after Lorraine’s chance. A Diamonds attack was nullified and a three-on-three situation developed as the ball was moved into the away side’s half; a pass was eventually played out to George Frith whose near-post shot found the side-netting and not the back of the net as some home fans believed it had.

After a further couple long-throws had been pitched into Godalming’s area and cleared, the final whistle was blown to signal the end of the Diamonds’ unbeaten start to the Southern League Division One Central season.

Full Time: Godalming Town 1-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

This was an uncharacteristically flat and below-par performance by the Diamonds, and their inability to play at a fast tempo for consistent periods of the game and create enough clear chances was punished by one of the few moments of quality in the match. However, positives can be taken from the fact that the team did go 11 games unbeaten at the start of a season in a new league, and the 28 league games unbeaten dating back to January 10th was also an impressive stat. Godalming, although not creating a great deal in terms of goalscoring opportunities, defended their lead successfully and with great effect, and can take a lot of confidence from this fixture and into the rest of the season. The unbeaten run for the Diamonds was always going to end eventually, and so the focus is now on the trip to Oxfordshire and Aylesbury United on Wednesday night which provides them with a chance to bounce back straight away.

Diamonds Man of the Match: Tommy Berwick

Attendance: 188

Match Report by Ollie Mortimer

Godalming Town

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

1. Richard Ossai

2. Chris Wales

3. Nick Hutchings

4. John Gray

5. Tom Willment

6. Ashley Lloyd

7. Steve Laidler

8. Louis Hutton

9. Graeme Purdy (C)

10. Darren Wheeler

11. George Frith



12. Liam Beswick

14. Daniel Bassett (for Wheeler 65)

15. Brandon Lewington

16. Rory Sellick

17. Will Edwards

17. Matt Finlay

2. Ollie Wilkinson

3. Sam Brown

4. Delroy Gordon

5. Liam Dolman

6. Dan Quigley

7. Andy Hall

8. Richard Bunting (C)

9. Tom Lorraine

10. Tommy Berwick

11. Claudiu Hoban



12. Brad Harris (for Quigley 45)

13. Alex Vitue

14. Tom Liversedge (for Hall 75)

15. Charlie Butt

Goals: Hutton (62)

Goals: None

Yellow Cards: Bassett (73), Purdy (89), Frith (90+1)

Yellow Cards: Quigley (38), Finlay (65), Harris (67)

Red Cards: Hutchings (82)

Red Cards: Dolman (77)

Referee: James Vallance

Assistants: Shelby Elson, Mark Hounsell