Diamonds fell to a second defeat in a week on Saturday afternoon with this 2-1 reverse at Hartley Wintney despite taking a 2nd minute lead.
Ben Farrell gave Diamonds that 2nd minute lead with a superb rising finish from a Joel Gyasi through ball. Hartley were positive in response though with a number of efforts from around the box testing Ben Heath. Diamonds had built some pressure around the half hour mark with Ryan Robbins coming close but conceded an equaliser straight after. A superb free-kick from Dean Stow right on the edge of the box beating the diving Ben Heath.
Diamonds made a promising start to the second half with Luke Fairlamb and Tom Lorraine going close but they went behind to an unfortunate penalty on 59 minutes. A deep cross catching Liam Dolman’s arm allowing Dean Stow to convert for his second of the game. New signing Spencer Weir-Daley came on for his debut almost straight away and came close to setting up Tom Lorraine and had a great snapshot well saved. Tom Lorraine came close to guiding a Fairlamb ball towards goal and just failed to convert a far post header but Diamonds struggled to create the killer chance. In the final minute Luke Fairlamb was felled in the box but was penalised for simulation to sum up Diamonds day.
Next up the visit of Uxbridge on Tuesday night as Diamonds look to get back to winning ways.
Manager Andy Peaks made two changes to his starting line-up from the midweek defeat to Hayes & Yeading. Blaize Punter came into the back 3 for the injured Jack Ashton as he had done after just 10 minutes on Tuesday night and fellow Tuesday night substitute Ross Oulton came in for Joe Curtis. New signing Spencer Weir-Daley came onto the bench along with Joe Curtis, Callum Westwood, Cameron Gilchrist and Ben Ford.
Diamonds reacted so well to the midweek set-up getting right onto the front foot from the off. They threatened in the first minute as Luke Fairlamb fed Tom Lorraine to put Ryan Robbins away only to be pulled back by an offside flag.
Diamonds didn’t have to wait long for the important early goal though as more pressure earned a throw-in that Blaize Punter took in the 2nd minute. Tom Lorraine flicked his throw into the path of Joel Gyasi who played a lovely through ball to Ben Farrell to whip a first time effort over the keeper into the top corner.
The home side reacted well though showing what a good side they are and had a period of decent pressure that produced three excellent efforts from the edge of the area that tested Ben Heath.
Diamonds were working hard defensively to shut Hartley Wintney down in the final third and looking to break at their opponents. Ben Farrell and then Luke Fairlamb nearly set team mates away, the latter cutting inside to so nearly set up Tom Lorraine.
Hartley continued to press though and looked to capitalise on a pair of defensive slips. First Ben Heath didn’t quite collect another decent edge of the area effort with the ball fired back across goal only to see Tom Lorraine clear near the line. Then Liam Dolman was forced to make an important blocking challenge after the ball was lost in front of the back four. The resultant corner was headed over the bar from just 6 yards when it really should have been an equaliser.
Diamonds built some pressure around the half-hour mark with Luke Fairlamb working a good position to whip a great cross into Ryan Robbins who couldn’t quite guide it on target.
Hartley then grabbed a brilliant equaliser on 32 minutes that their enterprising play had deserved. Ross Oulton was penalised for a challenge right on the edge of the area and Dean Stow stepped up to whip a superb effort into the top corner.
Diamonds reacted well to that blow with Tom Lorraine setting off on a typical run into the channel breaking away from his marker but just failing to find Ryan Robbins with his cross.
Hartley were back at Diamonds though in the final minutes of the half with more space exploited behind the Diamonds defence. A cross was eventually whipped into the far post but was cleared by Sam Brown under pressure, the resultant corner saw a close range header just put wide.
Half-time: Hartley Wintney 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
Diamonds made a promising start to second half noticeably upping their intensity, winning the second balls and pressing their opponents back. Luke Fairlamb nearly broke clear just a couple of minutes in with Tom Lorraine latching onto the loose ball but being challenged well to deny him space.
Hartley were still a threat though and saw a cross from the by-line clip the bottom of the post and a Webb snap shot fired straight at Ben Heath. Sam Brown then made a vital interception to cut out a through ball to Hodges before the home side earned a 59th minute penalty. A deep ball into the box struck Liam Dolman square on the arm for a clear decision. Dean Stow struck it well to Heath’s right finding the bottom corner.
Diamonds made an immediate double substitution that had been already in the offing. Spencer Weir-Daley came on for his debut replacing Ryan Robbins and Callum Westwood replaced Ross Oulton. The new striker nearly had an incredible impact as his excellent touch and through ball set Tom Lorraine away but his effort across goal just went wide. Tom Lorraine had another half chance minutes later not quite making a clean connection on a great ball in.
Diamonds pressed hard to get back into the game with Spencer Weir-Daley bright and lively getting a superb snap shot away on 75 minutes. And just a minute later Luke Fairlamb was unable to resist the temptation to fire an effort in from the edge of the box but it went well over.
Liam Dolman was raiding forward to support the Diamonds effort and his run and cross found Tom Lorraine at the back post but his effort went just wide.
After a lengthy injury stoppage Hartley relieved the pressure with a quick break that produced a corner that in turn produced 3 more which Diamonds had to work hard to clear.
Diamonds thought they had a chance to equalise in the 90th minute as Luke Fairlamb surged into the box only to go down under pressure. The referee whistled….but penalised Fairlamb with a yellow card for simulation.
It wasn’t to be for Diamonds as they fell to a second defeat in a week beaten by a superb free-kick and an unfortunate penalty.
Final Score: Hartley Witney 2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
Man of the match: Ben Farrell
Match Report by Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Paul Strudley
2. Dean Stow (C)
3. Louie Paget
4. Joshua Webb
5. Jack Ball
6. Liam Eagle
7. Paul Hodges
8. Jack French
9. Jake Baxter
10. Nic Ciardini
11. Steven Duff
12. James King (for Cardin 90+1)
14. Nick Hutchings
15. Jaydyn Englefield
16. Anthony Millerick
17. Adam Everest (for Hodges 86)
13. Ben Heath
2. Blaize Punter
3. Sam Brown
4. Jack Westbrook
5. Liam Dolman (C)
6. Ross Oulton
7. Joel Gyasi
8. Ben Farrell
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Ryan Robbins
11. Luke Fairlamb
12. Callum Westwood (for Oulton 60)
14. Spencer Weir-Daley (for Robbins 60)
15. Ben Ford
16. Cameron Gilchrist
18. Joe Curtis
Goals: Stow (32, 59 Pen)
Goals: Farrell (2)
Yellow cards: Ball
Yellow cards: Heath, Farrell, Fairlamb
Referee: Stephen Bates
Assistants: Lennon Davis, Charlie Bullock