Irchester United 2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0

AFC Rushden & Diamonds completed their pre-season campaign at Alfred Street tonight with a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Irchester United. On a near-perfect pitch Diamonds began the game playing towards the stands at the clubhouse end of the ground, with AFC supporters lining both touchlines and sitting in the stand behind the goal, whilst a small but vocal Irchester contingent aired their views from the adjacent terrace. Diamonds, missing captain Danny Bird amongst others, began strongly and almost made an immediate impact on the game after 5 minutes. A good through-ball found Lewis Williams racing clear of the Irchester defense to hit a powerful shot which riquocheted unlcukily off the post and away, falling to an equally unlucky Blake Helsdown who dragged his follow up just wide. It was then Irchester’s turn to have a major opportunity as they produced the first of many good stops from Adam Batten.

On 18 minutes AFC once more almost took the lead as a well-directed header from a corner evaded the Irchester keeper and found the arm of their left back on the goal line, but an un-interested referee waved play-on. At the other end, a good move from United ended with a deep cross from the right with a fierce header from their striker producing a flying one-handed stop from Batten. Despite Batten’s necessary heroics, Diamonds were definitely having the better of the game and soon had a third gilt-edged chance to take the lead. A nicely-weighted through-ball from a trialist dropped invitingly in front of Blake Helsdown and his blistering pace took the ball away from the flailing tackle of an Irchester defender whose foot instead found the ankle of the Diamonds player and took him down in the penalty area. Looking to repeat his cooly dispensed effort from the Dale Roberts Memorial Cup, Lewis Williams stepped up to take the spot-kick (pictured above) but unfortunately found the woodwork for the second time in the evening. Two minutes later, Williams almost made up for this as he controlled a through ball from Helsdown well, holding off an Irchester centre back before turning and placing the ball only inches wide of the post. As the referee’s whistle blew for half time, the teams left the pitch to warm applause from the Diamonds fans who will certainly have wondered just how the game remained goal-less.

HT: Irchester United 0 AFC R&D 0

The second half began as the first had ended, with Diamonds largely having the best of proceedings but Irchester still looking dangerous. On 50 minutes manager Mark Starmer began to tinker with this side, the first of many substitutons replacing the strike partnership of Williams and the trialist with Kleinhans and Robertson. Diamonds seemed to be looking to exploit Kleinhans’ considerable pace, but with the wind behind the team a number of attempted balls over the top ran straight through to the Irchester keeper. As the AFC starting eleven rolled off the pitch and more substitutes rolled on, Irchester seemed to grow in confidence, backed by their ever vocal support who amongst other things were directing a large amount of abuse towards young visting linesman Sam Gregory. Only a smart clearance from the quick-thinking Batten stopped an Irchester striker being through on goal, however the keeper seemed to injure himself in the process and had to be replaced by Bradley Ledger, walking off to an appreciative ovation from the Diamonds faithful.

An Irchester breakthrough followed soon after with a high, direction-less kick from an Irchester player dropping onto the head of a well-placed stiker who very neatly headed the ball into the path of a team-mate, leaving him the simple task of slotting into the AFC net. After their goal, Irchester returned straight to a well-organised formation and were looking much stronger than Diamonds, but the visitors were not without chances to level things, with one speculative effort dropping only just over the crossbar. Soon after though, United were able to put the game to bed, winning a free kick just outside the Diamonds penalty area which the taker curled over the AFC defensive wall with considerable power. Unfortunately, Ledger in the Diamonds goal was only able to parry the effort and it fell straight to an on-rushing forward who prodded home for 2-0. Following Irchester’s goal celebrations, there was barely time for AFC to re-start the game before the referee blew for full time to raucous whoops and cheers from the home fans.

FT: Irchester United 2 AFC R&D 0

Depsite the result, Diamonds fans will be pleased with the performance for much of the game and with a lot of the attractive football played. A palpable sense of excitement is beginning to build amongst everyone connected with the club as they look forward to AFC Rushden & Diamonds’ first ever league game against Daventry Town on Thursday, kick-off 7:45pm.

Man of the Match: Adam Batten
Att: 209

Photos courtesy of Malcolm Swinden


AFC Rushden & Diamonds Irchester United
24 Adam Batten
2 Ryan Ellmer
3 Zack Farden
4 Adam Ziolkowski
5 Elliott Aymes (C)
6 Matti Ellis
7 Blake Helsdown
8 Levi Freeman
9 Lewis Williams
10 Trialist
11 Alex McDonald
1 Joshua Owen
2 Kristian Love
3 Ryan Holmes
4 Manvinder Johal
5 Matthew White
6 Jacob Seely
7 Craig Martindale
8 Thomas Graham
9 Liam Boucher
10 Joseph Ebsworth
11 Stewart Reed
Subs Used:
12 Mark Rust
13 Bradley Ledger
14 Dan Paterson
15 Bjorn Kleinhans
16 Kai Robertson
17 Harry Marshall
18 David Allen
19 Trialist
20 Alex Palmer
21 Leeson Baker
22 Trialist

Not Used:
86 Ashley Foulger

Subs Used:
12 Daniel Wooder
13 Doi Davis
14 Brad Armstrong
15 Jacob Humphreys
16 Mapeo Mendes
17 Alan Walker

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

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