AFC Rushden hit the top of the Evo-Stik Southern League Central Division table on Tuesday night after a hard fought 2-1 win at Hanwell Town in West London. Defeat for Chalfont St. Peter at home to Diamonds opponents on Saturday Uxbridge coupled with a 95th minute penalty miss by Hanwell meant Diamonds are level with Chalfont on 40 points at the top of the table but ahead on goal difference.
Diamonds almost made the perfect start as Edi Appleton’s through ball after just 20 seconds found Tommy Berwick clean through on goal. The in-form striker slid the ball under the advancing keeper from the angle only to see the ball cleared off the line. After Michael Buckley had hit the bar for the home side from a 25 yard free-kick, and David Manu spurned a great headed chance from another well delivered free-kick it was Diamonds who got the vital opening goal on 33. Tommy Berwick pounced on a loose ball on the edge of the box and fired a cracker of a shot hard and low past Herdman in the Hanwell goal for his 10th of the season.
Leading 1-0 at half-time and after a fairly scrappy start to the second half the game burst into life with 2 goals in a minute on 67. First Diamonds extended their lead through Delroy Gordon turning in at the near post as Tom Lorraine’s flick on from a Lewis Leslie corner was only part blocked. Hanwell went straight up the other end and immediately reduced the deficit through Tyler Christian-Law’s brilliant volley from the edge of the box. Diamonds seemed to have resisted Hanwell’s attempts to pull level mainly through dangerous free-kicks and saw out 5 minutes of added on time with ease. Then a last ditch attack saw Danilson Vincente felled in the box and Referee Jonathan Hillier pointing to the spot. With star performer on the night and regular penalty taker Michael Buckley just substituted, Terry Smith persuaded Vincente to let him take the kick. He struck it hard and confidently…. but it went wide left of the goal allowing Diamonds to hang on to the three points that moved them top of the table.
Manager Andy Peaks made one change to Diamonds line-up from the 4-1 home defeat to Royston on Saturday. Brad Harris’s recovery from illness was timely with Richard Bunting unavailable allowing Harris to slot into centre midfield alongside Tom Lorraine. Just four on the bench for Diamonds with Courtney Herbert not making the game, Matt Pinder and Alex Vitue were joined by Luke Garner and Jake Gillingwater.
The predicted pitch inspection was not needed after a dry day in West London and on a breezy evening Diamonds so nearly got off to a flying start. Edi Appleton threaded a great long ball between centre half and full-back after just 20 seconds to the ever willing Tommy Berwick who slide the ball under Hanwell keeper Martin Herdmen on the angle only to see it dramatically cleared off the line. The resultant corner was only cleared to the edge of the box where Berwick again struck a fierce half-volley that was again dramatically blocked.
Hanwell settled after that initial scare and came very close themselves to opening the scoring on 8. Sam Brown was penalised for handball 25 yards out allowing Michael Buckley to fire in a superb free-kick that Matt Finlay could only watch crash back off the bar.
The same player followed up with a snatched effort also from the edge of the box that span high and wide on 11 and Danilson Vincente turned superbly inside the box a minute later to fire a half-volley that was saved low down by Matt Finlay.
Diamonds responded through a strong header from 12 yards by Tom Liversedge that keeper Herdmen held at full stretch just under the bar before Harwell really should have had the vital opening goal. Another free-kick was drifted over the Diamonds back-four for Manu on 23 just 5 yards out but he somehow headed over the bar when everyone expect the net to bulge.
Delroy Gordon was proving dangerous in the box for Diamonds and flicked a header just over the bar on 28 from Lewis Leslie’s cross before the away side claimed that vital first goal. Tommy Berwick pounced on defensive hesitation on the edge of the box on 33 and struck a superb half-volley fiercely past Herdmen before he could react.
Diamonds visibly relaxed and controlled the game into half-time with Brad Harris having one half-chance with a strike blocked in the area but no further meaningful threat from the home side who will have felt hard done by to be trailing at half-time.
Half-time: Hanwell Town 0 – AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
The second half was a fairly scrappy affair for the most part with plenty of effort and endeavour particularly defensively by both sides but not much in the way of goalmouth action for the 122 crowd.
Hanwell were dangerous with free kicks all night and put one over from 20 yards after 51, before Diamonds responded with a Tommy Berwick chance on 53. The energetic striker latching onto a great Tom Lorraine through-ball, surging to the edge of the box, beating the keeper with his cross shot only to see it catch the outside of the post when it initially looked to be rolling in the far corner.
After a quiet period of play the same player had another half-chance on 66 when his shot from 20 yards was deflected wide and it led to the moment Diamonds doubled their lead. Lewis Leslie hit his corner low to the near post where Tom Lorraine’s flick was only blocked near the line allowing Delroy Gordon to prod home from close range.
There was little time for the travelling faithful to enjoy the two goal lead before Hanwell pulled a deserved goal back just a minute later. A deep cross was headed clear from the 6 yard box by Ollie Wilkinson but struck first time by Tyler Christian-Law at the edge of the 18 yard box crashing into the top corner in great style.
Danilson Vincente had been the key danger for a well along with David Manu and they combined on 79 to allow Vincente to strike a firm effort from a good position just wide.
Diamonds managed the rest of the game pretty well, denying Hanwell possession and often keeping them pegged in their own half. Matt Pinder replaced Tom Liversedge for the last 10 minutes for Diamonds and crucially as it turned out the dangerous Michael Buckley was replaced for the home side with just 3 minutes left.
After a fairly comfortable looking 5 minutes of added on time for Diamonds the inevitable last gasp attack saw Hanwell finally retain possession in the box. Vincente turned and made ground in the right-hand side of the box and fell under a challenge that brought an immediate and straight forward decision for referee Jonathan Hollier to award a penalty.
With regular penalty taker Buckley sitting on the bench Vincente collected the ball but was persuaded by Terry Smith to let the winger take the kick. He stepped up confidently and struck the ball firmly to Matt Finlay’s right but to shock around the ground it crashed into the stand behind the goal and Diamonds had held on to claim a vital 3 points.
Final Score: Hanwell Town 1 – AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2
Diamonds will feel they deserved the victory thanks to the way the created and took chances and the way they defended their lead. They definitely got out of jail with that late penalty miss but were further buoyed by news that previous leaders Chalfont St. Peters had been beaten at home by Uxbridge meaning Diamonds sat top of the table after a hard night’s football.
Diamonds next two opponents are in form Uxbridge and Chalfont St. Peter away with Egham Town at home to follow. A tough run in to the festive period where players returning from injury and suspension will be sorely needed.
Reporters Man of the Match: Tommy Berwick
Match Report by Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Martin Herdmen
2. Calum Duffy
3. Tom Kennedy
4 Tom Duffy (C)
5. Ryan Kinnane
6. Tom Inch
7. David Manu
8. Tyler Christian-Law
9. Danilson Vincente
10. Michael Buckley
11. Terry Smith
12. Ryan Egan (for Inch 56)
14. Ian Bywater
15. Sam Nair
16. Kieran Gradwell (for Buckley 87)
17. Reynaldo Carbon
17. Matt Finlay
2. Ollie Wilkinson
3. Sam Brown
4. Delroy Gordon
5. Edi Appleton
6. Brad Harris
7. Lewis Leslie
8. Claudiu Hoban
9. Tom Liversedge
10. Tommy Berwick
11. Tom Lorraine
13. Alex Vitue
14. Matt Pinder (for Liversedge 82)
15. Jake Gillingwater
16. Luke Garner
Goals: Christian-Law (68)
Goals: Berwick (33), Gordon (67)
Yellow Cards: Manu (43), Christian-Law (75)
Yellow Cards: Liversedge (14), Brown (22), Gordon (28), Appleton (52)
Referee: Jonathan Hollier
Assistants: Daniel O’Sullivan, Samuel Gregory
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