AFC Rushden & Diamonds showed their clinical side to record a 3-0 victory over Harrowby United. After spraying shots all over Bedfordshire last weekend they found the target much more reliably in Lincolnshire, despite a similar number of chances.
New signing Jamie Gilsenan capped an excellent debut for the team with the third goal, after setting up Alfie Taylor for the second of his brace which took his season’s total to five.
Mark Starmer made several changes to the starting line-up after some disappointment with the draw last weekend, with new signing Jamie Gilsenan starting in midfield alongside the returning Séan McBride, meaning that Elliot Dent returned to the wider role he had played in the Thrapston game, and with Joe Merrill moving to right back. Sam Brown returned at left back, with Ashley Foulger returning to take a place on the bench.
Many of the Diamonds fans in the crowd of approximately 275 commented on the exemplary welcome they had received from their hosts on what must have been a very difficult day for the club, and they were able to join in the minutes applause in memory of Lesley “Stan” Staniland before the game.
The game was played on a pleasant afternoon at Harrowby Fields, with an Autumnal feel fitting for a game on the 1st September. Rather unusually the match officials lined up in an alternate formation, with the linesmen to the referee’s right as he faced them.
In the first two games the Diamonds had failed to score in the first period, so there was extra pressure to try to get an early goal. As at Wootton, the home keeper had a shaky start to the game, with a couple of inconclusive single-handed punches (but he too improved to put in a solid performance). From one of these the ball fell to Sam Brown in space on the left, but his dangerous cross was scrambled to safety. At the other end the hosts were looking threatening down the flanks and a shot by Scott Webb flew over the bar.
Before 10 minutes were on the clock, Quincy Shorunmu appeared to mis-kick a ball up field, but the low trajectory allowed it to be quickly worked up-field to Deven Ellwood who laid it into the path of Alfie Taylor as he ran into the area, and went down following a push from a defender struggling to keep up with him. Alfie Taylor got up to fire home a well-taken penalty to open the scoring.
Any thoughts this early goal might lead to the Diamonds dominating the remainder of the half were quickly put aside, as the hosts continued to spray the ball out to the wings, with Liam Harper getting in a number of dangerous crosses.
Joe Merrill still managed to make one of the runs forwards that are becoming his trademark, only to find Alfie Taylor offside when he appeared to have set up a scoring chance. Taylor made amends with a good run down the right followed by a dangerous looking cross, but the impressive Ellwood could only meet it when falling backwards and so couldn’t get much power into his header.
As half-time approached the Diamonds almost doubled their lead when Chris Hope was able to cross from the right and Deven Ellwood forced an excellent save from keeper Drury. Alfie Taylor then found the side-netting near the left-hand post with an effort just before the break.
Half-Time: Harrowby United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1
Any thoughts that the hosts might find a way to get on level terms following a half-time team-talk were quickly dispelled as it was the Diamonds who quickly asserted their authority on the game. A Sam Brown corner was flicked on to Alfie Taylor but the striker’s first touch left him with too much to do. Taylor then turned provider as a break down the right saw him find Jack Wisniewski, but his effort struck the post.
After 49 minutes the Diamonds doubled their lead, with Jamie Gilsenan showing vision and guile to thread an excellent through ball that beat a square defence allowing Alfie Taylor to break clear, nod the bouncing ball forward into his path, before slotting coolly past Drury.
A Joe Merrill throw found the head of the reliable Chris Hope in the Arrows area, and a follow-up chip by Elliot Dent was caught by Drury.
With 65 minutes on the clock the Diamonds wrapped the game up with their third goal, as Alfie Taylor set up Jack Wisniewski with an attempt that rebounded as far as Jamie Gilsenan just outside of the area, and he fired a powerful shot into the roof of the net.
The Diamonds had a decent claim for a penalty as a home defender appeared to fall on the ball with his arm, and then Elliot Dent had another opportunity, but after a neat side-step his shot was blocked.
The hosts had not given up, although they were clearly tiring, and forced an excellent save from the underworked Quincy Shorunmu who was able to preserve his clean-sheet pushing away an effort from Craig Wilson. At the other end the impressive Gilsenan went close after another burst forwards from Joe Merrill left 3 defenders in his wake, and then the Diamonds debutant left the field to a well-deserved round of applause after pushing Ellwood and Taylor hard for the man-of-the-match award.
As the game neared full time all the pressure was on the Arrows goal, and Deven Ellwood almost claimed the goal his effort deserved when his shot was cleared off the line after Drury struggled to get a Merrill corner clear.
Full-Time: Harrowby United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 3
After the game Mark Starmer was pleased with the efforts of his team, especially with the way they started the second half, quashing any comeback efforts of the hosts.
The Diamonds also preserved their clean disciplinary record, with the team still yet to receive a yellow card this season.
The road-trip continues next weekend with the short trip to Olney Town, with games for the Diamonds Ladies (Sunday at Billing) and the Under-18s (Thursday at Cogenhoe) in midweek.
Diamonds Man-of-the-Match: Deven Ellwood
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Jack Drury
2. Matt Hodgkin
3. Tom Vorley
4. Jack Whyley
5. Seb Firman
6. Sam Hill
7. Scott Webb
8. Simon Bolland
9. Andy Glencross
10. Lee Shaw
11. Liam Harper
12. Bobby Lee (for Webb 69)
14. Owen Sheridan
15. Sam Weatherstone (for Hodgkin 73)
16. Chris Gibson
17. Craig Wilson (for Glencross 58)
17. Quincy Shorunmu
2. Joe Merrill
3. Sam Brown
4. Séan McBride
6. Aynsley McDonald
7. Elliot Dent
8. Jamie Gilsenan
9. Alfie Taylor
10. Deven Ellwood
11. Jack Wisniewski
12. Ben Morgan (for Taylor 74)
13. Ashley Foulger
14. George Cox (for Gilsenan 86)
15. Peter Okechukwu (for Wisniewski 66)
16. James Allcock
Goals: Alfie Taylor (9 (pen), 49), Gilsenan (65)
Yellow Card : Bolland (30)
Cards : None
Referee: Robin Dungworth
Assistants: Mark Watson, Luke Watson
Match Highlights are available Here
Images courtesy of Mal Swinden ©2012 Malcolm Swinden Photography
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