“Captain Fantastic” Liam Dolman’s 90th minute winner clinched a brilliant fightback by Diamonds as they came from behind in the last 10 minutes to clinch a 3-2 win against Leiston in Suffolk on Saturday afternoon.
A shock two goal burst by the home side in just 3 minutes just before half-time – a penalty and a free-kick bundled over the line – had cancelled out the OG from a dangerous Sam Brown cross that had given Diamonds a 28th minutes lead. Then after dominating the second half Greg Kazaboni’s superb 82nd minute strike looked to have salvaged a point but up stepped Liam Dolman on 90 minutes to hammer home a Tom Lorraine cut back for Barwell like scenes and a 3-2 win.
Manager Andy Peaks was forced into a single change to his starting line-up with Patrick Casey stepping in from the bench to replace injured Zack Reynolds. Just four sat on the bench but with plenty of experience and ability to impact the game with Tom Lorraine who notched his 96th for the club against Barwell last week joined by Ben Farrell, Ryan Dove and Nat Gosnal-Tyler.
Leiston have improved massively from a disastrous start which saw 43 goals conceded in 9 consecutive defeats following an opening day draw. They have improved massively to have just one defeat in 7 and have pulled themselves outside the relegation zone. Diamonds are on a great run of 5 wins in 7 including both games this year scoring 7 goals so it was definitely game on.
Both sides struggled to get to grips with cool blustery conditions early and there were predictably few chances. Nabil Shariff ran well at Leiston but just over hit his cross and Ben Acquaye had another driving run seen away by the home defence. Leiston then dispossessed Nabil Shariff but shot harmlessly over.
Diamonds really started to pick up the momentum around the 20 minute mark with Matt Slinn crossing beautifully for Ben Acquaye to head over and Greg Kazaboni beating his man and holding up another good cross that the home keeper Sam Donkin just claimed.
The deserved opener did come on 28 minutes and had some fortune about it despite coming from more great running by the away side. Greg Kazaboni again troubled Leiston and played in Sam Brown for a driven cross that deflected into the net by defender Kyran Hutchings for an own goal.
Patrick Casey then made a great tackle to deny Leiston an immediate response before Greg Kazaboni finished another great Diamonds move with a shot straight at the home keeper.
Then the last 5 minutes of the half saw an incredible turnaround. First Zak Brown was felled in the Diamonds box for a somewhat disputed penalty converted by Rob Eagle to bring Leiston level. Just 3 minutes later a free kick hit deep was headed back across goal for Noel Aitkens to make it 2-1 in a move Diamonds would have been expecting.
Half-time: Leiston FC 2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
Diamonds responded to the shock of that end to the first half and to the strong words from Andy Peaks with a really good start to the second half. An early Sam Brown long throw fell to Ben Acquaye who skewed his effort wide under pressure before Nabil Shariff started to shine. First he burst free and poked past the keeper but just wide before he turned provider squaring for Nathan Hicks who also shot just wide.
Liam Dolman then had a penalty area shot blocked by what appeared to be a hand but big shouts from the Diamonds players were waved away. Tom Lorraine was then introduced to replace Mat Slinn on 70 minutes as Diamonds prepared for a big finish.
And they did build pressure straight away with a good passing move that resulted in Ben Acquaye shooting just wide from 12 yards. Then Ben Acquaye again shooting from inside the box but this time straight at Sam Donkin.
And finally the pressure had its affect with Diamonds getting a deserved equaliser as the impressive Greg Kazaboni fired a superb effort right into the top corner giving Sam Donkin no chance – 2-2!
Diamonds then pressed for a vital winner utilising the different attacking options from substitutes Tom Lorraine, Ryan Dove and Nat Gosnal-Tyler. Great running and good balls into the box were repelled by Leiston before the magical moment on 90 minutes. Captain fantastic Liam Dolman hammered home Tom Lorraine’s layback after a brilliant flick on by Ryan Dove to send the travelling fans into Barwell like ecstasy as Diamonds had come from behind to win 3-2.
Full-time: Leiston FC 2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3
This was a stirring fightback from Diamonds who always seemed to believe they would do it but left it very late. The shock of two goals just on half time from a much improved Leiston side from the earlier meeting was a major setback but they came out and dominated the second half and although the goals came late they were thoroughly deserved.
This brilliant away win makes it 6 wins in 8 now and 3 this year with 10 goals scored from around the team. Diamonds move up to 8th after closing the gap on 4 of the sides above and face 3 home games on the bounce to try and consolidate their position starting with Needham Market on Tuesday evening.
Man of the Match: Liam Dolman
Match Report: Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Samuel Donkin
2. Kyle Hammond
3. Oliver Saunders
4. Siju Odelusi
5. Kyran Hutchings
6. Jake Hutchings
7. Byron Lawrence (C)
8. Noel Aitkens
9. Zak Brown
10. Thomas Debenham
11. Robert Eagle
12. Joshua Hitter
14. Rhys Henry
15. John Sands
16. Luke Johnson
17. Joseph Potter
13. Ben Heath
2. Patrick Casey
3. Sam Brown
4. Jack Ashton
5. Liam Dolman (C)
6. Jesse Akubuine
7. Ben Acquaye
8. Matthew Slinn
9. Nabil Shariff
10. Gregory Kaziboni
11. Nathan Hicks
14. Ben Farrell
15. Tom Lorraine (for Slinn 70)
16. Ryan Dove (for Shariff 87)
17. Nathaniel Gosnal-Tyler (for Acquaye 85)
Goals: Eagle (40 Pen), Aitkens (43)
Goals: O.G (28), Kazaboni (82), Dolman (90)
Referee: George Laflin
Assistants: Dario Matthewson, Richard Pace