Tom Lorraine’s 50th goal for the club gave Diamonds a dramatic 1 0 win at Kidsgrove Athletic on Saturday afternoon.
It was a day for milestones for Diamonds with Brad Harris making his 200th appearance and Diamonds notching a 10th away win of the season. Kidsgrove had ended Diamonds long unbeaten run with a shock 5-2 win at the Dog & Duck in January and they dominated possession throughout the first half. Some excellent Diamonds defending kept them out of the area for much of the play but Ant Malbon saw a header cleared off the line and another crash back off the bar.
Diamonds noticeably improved in the second half with the midfield three pushing higher up the pitch and they created chances via Tom Lorraine nearly setting up Nabil Shariff, Liam Dolman curling a superb 30 yard free-kick just over, and one almighty goal-line scramble after a corner that just couldn’t be forced home. Kidsgrove still played confidently going forward and drew two vital saves from Matt Finlay as Mark Clayton was denied when through one on one, and he went full-length to his right to brilliantly deny Davidson.
Tom Lorraine’s dramatic and magical moment came on 74 as an Ollie Brown-Hill run was ended but the clearance bounced off him to Tom Lorraine wide right of the area. He took a great first touch and struck in trademark fashion hard and low across the keeper into the bottom left corner. The 50th goal had finally come and how fitting that it came as the winning goal in such a vital game.
Kidsgrove thought they had replied very quickly when Ant Malbon forced the ball home at close range on 79 but the offside flag saved the day as it had against Belper last weekend. Then came that full length Matt Finlay save as Diamonds held on to take a vital 10th away win of the season.
Just the one enforced change for Diamonds with Lewis Leslie coming into the central three for the suspended Joe Curtis. Ben Ford kept his place at full-back with Sam Brown coming back onto the bench and had Diamonds hero Brad Harris alongside him at centre-half making his 200th Diamonds appearance.
It was a bright almost spring like day in Staffordshire that greeted the players with both sides probably reflecting in different ways on that 5-2 Kidsgrove victory in the reverse fixture. The home side were as energetic and attack minded as they had been that day and they broadly dominated possession in an entertaining first half.
The Diamonds back-four were as impressive as ever though and supported by the middle three tracking and tackling well they managed to keep the home side mostly outside the 18 yard box as Kidsgrove moved the ball side to side and quickly to keep the pressure on.
Harry Clayton was impressive in support of hat-trick hero Ant Malbon in that Dog & Duck win and he was a constant threat here, coming close on 15 minutes as he was played into the left of the box and saw his well struck low effort saved by a firm Matt Finlay hand.
The Diamonds midfield were being drawn deeper to help protect the back four and as a result the front three were getting a little isolated. Nabil Shariff had a speculative effort from 25 yards that flew over the bar and Fazel Koriya got free down the right only to see his low crossed blocked at the near post but they were only sporadically in the final third.
Ant Malbon had been a real thorn in Diamonds side in the home game with trickery and direct running but he threatened in this game with his head. On 19 minutes he got to a right wing corner and headed firmly at goal only to see the ball crash back off the bar with Matt Finlay possibly getting a touch, and then on 40 minutes his header from another corner was cleared off the line by a Diamonds body with Kidsgrove players closing in.
In between he was denied by a superb last ditch interception by Liam Dolman as he tricked his way along the 18 yard line, and came close to getting in front of Matt Finlay’s dive at left wing cross for which he was harshly penalised and picked up a yellow card for his protest.
Tom Lorraine was looking for his 5th goal in 6 games and what would be his 50th for the club and a half-chance on 31 looked like it would be his. Cutting inside the left of the box and surging round his defender his fierce shot from an angle was batted away by Chris Martin in the home goal.
Half-time: Kidsgrove Athletic 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0
The Diamonds midfield three pushed further up the pitch in the second half engaging much more effectively with the front three and with improved passing and movement Diamonds became much more of an attacking threat.
Tom Lorraine ran willingly into the right hand channel in the opening minutes latching onto a neat through ball, turning his man and so nearly finding Nabil Shariff with a ball in behind the Kidsgrove centre half.
On 52 minutes a sweeping move started by Ben Ford with a controlled pass out from the back under pressure found Nabil Shariff who in turn put Fazel Koriya away down the left. His run and cross was just blocked but the rebound was recycled and a central 30 yard free-kick was earned. Liam Dolman stepped up and his effort look superb in the air but curled just over the angle of post and bar.
Kidsgrove hadn’t dropped their level despite Diamonds resurgence and a neat move down the centre of the park on 56 minutes gave Mark Grocott a shooting chance which he struck well but straight into Matt Finlay’s midriff. And just 4 minutes later they really should have taken the lead. Dan Skelton put Harry Clayton away to run in one on one on the advancing Matt Finlay but the Diamonds keeper spread himself well to block the striker’s effort.
Frustrations between the two sides grew around the hour mark as some gamesmanship denied a Diamonds break and then Kyal McNulty picked up a yellow card in front of the angry benches.
Diamonds broke quickly on 66 minutes to get Tom Lorraine into space but he was blocked out for a corner which resulted in an almighty scramble in the 6 yard box. Diamonds boots were unable to force it home until Tom Lorraine back heeled it into the net just as the whistle went for a predictable Kidsgrove free-kick.
Andy Peaks then made positive substitutions in bringing on the pace of Ollie Brown-Hill in the central area and the wide attacking skills of Sam Brown in place of Lewis Leslie and Ben Ford and it paid dividends almost straight away.
Ollie Brown-Hill had already run at the tiring Kidsgrove centre midfield a couple of times and on 74 minutes he broke past them again forcing a covering tackle right on the edge of the box. The ball broke wide to Tom Lorraine in space just inside the right edge of the box, he took a simple touch and struck hard and low in trademark fashion across the keeper into the bottom corner. Queue massive celebrations from the Diamonds faithful behind that goal and for the big striker and his teammates who knew this was a record breaking 50th Diamonds goal to equal Alfie Taylor’s all-time record.
It was also a 14th of the season and a 5th in 6 games for often unsung hero Lorraine and was another vital contribution to his side’s play-off campaign.
Just 5 minutes later Kidsgrove thought they had the equaliser their play probably deserved as a free-kick to the far post was headed back across goal and prodded over the line by Ant Malbon. The offside flag was as welcome as it had been in the latter stages of last weekend’s 0-0 home draw.
The intensity of the challenges if anything increased in the final 10 minutes as both sides battled to protect and or recover their position. Matt Finlay had made a number of vital saves in the game but none were as important as the full length tip round the post save from Harry Clayton’s 18 yard strike on 83 minutes. I felt sure it was going in as it left Clayton’s boot.
Diamonds looked to manage the game in the Kidsgrove half in the last 5 minutes which was largely successful bar one break to the very edge of the Diamonds box which was struck wide when you expected Matt Finlay to be called into action again.
The final whistle was very warmly welcomed by the away side and the travelling fans who knew they had ridden their luck a little but with strong energetic defending and a clinical finish of their best chance earned another vital away win.
Final Score: Kidsgrove Athletic 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
This was a record breaking day for the Diamonds family with two of its often unsung heroes in the limelight. Brad Harris made his 200th appearance as a mighty effective centre-half, and Tom Lorraine hit his 50th Diamonds goal to equal Alfie Taylor’s all-time record.
It was also a 10th away win of the season and a mighty important result in the push for that play-off berth. Not at their best against an impressive Kidsgrove in the first half but defending so well, Diamonds improved in the second half and were galvanised by positive substitutions.
It was fitting that Tom Lorraine’s landmark goal was both a trademark finish and a vital 3 points earning strike. Next up the visit of Spalding United for another exciting match-up on Tuesday night at the Dog & Duck.
Man of the Match: Brad Harris
Match report by: Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Chris Martin
2. Leon Ashman
3. Lewis Bergin
4. Ross Davidson
5. Ryan Austin
6. Dan Skelton
7. Kyle Diskin
8. Marc Grocott
9. Harry Clayton
10. Anthony Malbon (C)
11. Aaron Johns
12. Dylan Bath
14. Lee Pickerill (for Johns 85)
15. Luke Trimble
16. Bill Silvester
17. Ben Mills
17. Matt Finlay
2. Kyal McNulty
3. Ben Ford
4. Brad Harris
5. Liam Dolman
6. Ben Farrell
7. Nabil Shariff
8. Fazel Koriya
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Richard Bunting (C)
11. Lewis Leslie
12. Robbie Parsons
13. Ben Heath
14. Taylor Orosz (for Koriya 87)
15. Ollie Brown-Hill (for Leslie 66)
16. Sam Brown (for Ford 66)
Goals: Lorraine (74)
Yellow Card: Grocott, Malbon
Yellow Cards: Leslie, Harris, McNulty, Koriya
Referee: Jack Nield
Assistants: Karl Buckley, Gary Polkey
Updated player profiles with appearance and goalscoring details are now available.
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Match Gallery courtesy of Stephanie Webb Photography Copyright Stephanie Webb Photography ©2017