AFC Rushden & Diamonds fell at the first hurdle in the FA Vase this season after defeat to Hullbridge Sports on Saturday afternoon. The game survived a morning pitch inspection and on wet misty afternoon Diamonds shaded possession and chances but couldn’t force the goal they probably deserved. Tom Lorraine turned in the area and fired in a close effort on 12 minutes, Liam Dolman volleyed over from 12 yards on 29 minutes from a corner, Tom Lorraine came agonisingly close to turning Jason Turners shot in on 65 and 2nd half substitute Charlie Butt fired into the side netting at the end of fabulous run on 83. The game was won with the best piece football by the home side as Rory Clark danced through the Diamonds defence on the edge of the box, played a one two and curled the ball past debutant keeper David Bevan from 12 yards on 72 minutes. Brad Harris was sent off late on for a second yellow card offence as Diamonds threw everything at their hard working opponents but to no avail and it was Hullbridge celebrating at the final whistle.
Manager Andy Peaks was without suspended trio Russ Dunkley, Richard Bunting, and Sam Brown and injured Matt Finlay but boosted by return to fitness of Adam Confue who it was thought would be missing the game too. He included Friday signing David Bevan in goal with Jamal Clarke coming in at full-back and Aaron Parkinson at centre half alongside Liam Dolman with Jack Ashton moved out to full-back. Tom Lorraine came in up front alongside Jason Turner. On a youthful bench other Friday signing Liam McIinally was joined by Joe Ackroyd, Charlie Butt, and Josh Thompson with the experience provided by Matt Gearing.
Both sides started brightly with Hullbridge getting the ball forward long and early in wet underfoot conditions and Michael Edgar looking dangerous particularly up against Jamal Clarke and Aaron Parkinson. Diamonds were working the ball out wide to Lamb-Johnson and Koriya who were regularly double marked and forced to cut inside.
Tom Lorraine had Diamonds best effort of the opening period on 12 minutes. He turned his man on the edge of the box and after his initial shot was blocked he was up quicker than the defender collected the ball and fired in a another effort that was saved at close range by Hullbridge keeper Mason.
Just 3 minutes later he won a free-kick just outside the box which Elliott Lamb-Johnson fired over the wall but into the arms of Mason.
Neither side was able to maintain possession for long periods on a difficult pitch and although Diamonds had more of the ball they struggled to make much impact on an aggressive Hullbridge defence. Hullbridge persisted with long early balls forward attempting to get in behind the Diamonds back four and Jamal Clarke and Aaron Parkinson were under considerable pressure on the right hand side. Diamonds also had to contend with a very wet area just outside the penalty area which more than once saw the ball being held up.
Michael Edgar was the biggest threat for Hullbridge and he cut inside on 17 and dug the ball out of the wet patch to fire a curling effort just over from 18 yards. He then picked up a yellow card for a challenge on Diamonds keeper David Bevan as he was clearing the ball.
He was also involved in the move on 26 that led to Matt Brinklow surging into space 15 yards out and firing in a crisp shot that hit Aaron Parkinson drawing handball appeals from the home side that were turned down by the referee.
Liam Dolman then had Diamonds closest effort of the half after a deep corner was headed back towards the penalty spot and he struck a volley just over the bar.
Hullbridge responded with another close effort working space again just inside the Diamonds box allowing Dean Wallace what looked a clear shot at goal only for Jamal Clarke to throw himself in the way.
Elliott Lamb-Johnson had struggled to make an impact down the right hand side for Diamonds and received some rough treatment from the multiple markers placed on him, and he was forced from the field on 40 minutes with Matt Gearing replacing him.
Right on half-time Brad Harris received a yellow card for kicking the ball away after his solid challenge on Wallace had been penalised much to his frustration…it would come back to haunt him late in the second half.
Half-time: Hullbridge Sports 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0
Diamonds made a quick start to the second half with the two close efforts in the first 3 minutes. First Matt Gearing delivered a dangerous free-kick into the Hullbridge area which Adam Confue headed down only for the ball to get stuck in the mud as two Diamonds players closed in allowing Hullbridge to clear. Just a minute later a ball played over the top slipped under the foot of a Hullbridge defender allowing Jason Turner to run in on goal he was forced wide as he tried to push the ball through the wet patch and instead for firing in a shot chose to try and find Fazel Koriya who was clear to his left allowing a defender to deflect the ball away for a corner.
It wasn’t maintained though as the game became a scrappy affair with both sides wasteful in possession and although Diamonds were pressing forward more they were unable to mount serious pressure on a strong Hullbridge defence.
Diamonds did have periodic chances and came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock on 65 minutes as the ball was moved from Koriya to Gearing and into Jason Turner on the right hand side of the box. He worked some space and fired in a shot across goal that a sliding Tom Lorraine got a faint touch on but not quite enough to steer it inside the post.
But it was Hullbridge who would get the vital goal on 72. Rory Clark picked the ball in space just outside the box, danced through two Diamonds challenges played a one two just inside the box and fired past David Bevan in the Diamonds goal from 12 yards.
The large travelling support were roaring the team on in these final stages and were pleased to see the introduction of Charlie Butt on 80 minutes in place of Jamal Clarke. He had an immediate impact driving forward down the right hand side and getting dangerous early crosses into the box. He went close himself on 83 running from his own half past two Hullbridge defenders into the box and fired a rasping effort into the side netting.
Tom Lorraine then had a shot from the edge of the box well saved by keeper Mason, and Jack Ashton had a run and shot from a dangerous position inside the box deflected for a corner.
It was to no avail and a disappointing early exit from the competition was compounded by another red card for a Diamonds player. Brad Harris receiving a second yellow card for a trip on Matt Tapley as he was escaping his first challenge.
Final Score: Hullbridge Sports 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0
Diamonds were never able to impose their style of play on a hard working Hullbridge side who deserved their place in the next round. They only created sporadic chances in a disappointing game for such an exciting opportunity. Manager Andy Peaks will have been pleased with new signing David Bevan in goal, Adam Confue’s sheer effort and determination in midfield and the impact of Charlie Butt in those last 10 minutes. But it’s no wins and only one goal in the last three games which will be the biggest worry.
Next up the UCL KO Cup tie at Wellingborough Whitworths on Tuesday night before a trip to Long Buckby next weekend.
Reporters Man of the Match: Adam Confue
Match Report by Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Bobby Mason
2. Aaron Hunwick
3. Sam Taylor
4. Harry Skinner
5. Perry Dunn
6. Rob Hodgson
7. Charlie Little
8. Dean Wallace
9. Michael Edgar
10. Rory Clark
11. Matt Brinklow
12. Jamie Buffin
14. Curtis Clarke (for Clark 83)
15. Matt Clarke (for Edgar 80)
16. Matt Tapley (for Little 75)
17. Crawford Plenderleaf
17. David Bevan
2. Jamal Clarke
3. Jack Ashton
4. Aaron Parkinson
5. Liam Dolman
6. Adam Confue
7. Elliott Lamb-Johnson
8. Brad Harris
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Jason Turner
11. Fazel Koriya
12. Joe Ackroyd
13. Josh Thomson
14. Matt Gearing (for Lamb-Johnson 40)
15. Liam McInally
16. Charlie Butt (for Clarke 80)
Goals: Clark (72)
Yellow Cards: Edgar (23), Hunwick (33), Skinner (68),
Yellow Cards: Harris (42 & 90)
Red Cards: Harris (90)