Lincoln United 2-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

AFC Rushden & Diamonds bowed out of this season’s Buildbase FA Trophy by losing in a Second Qualifying Round Replay at fellow NPL First Division South side Lincoln United on Tuesday night.

The away side threatened first with Taylor Orosz’s long-range shot being tipped around the post, but Lincoln took the lead from their first attack when a quick throw-in on the left caught the Diamonds defence out, allowing winger Kallum Smith to thrash a shot into the far corner of the net. Orosz then had another chance when he ran onto a Nic Evangelinos through-ball and hit a shot from the edge of the box that Lincoln keeper Jake Turner was able to save down to his left side, and a minute later the hosts doubled their lead when Smith latched onto a misplaced defensive header and dipped a looping half-volley up and over Matt Finlay in the Diamonds goal. Chances were at a premium for the rest of the half as the visitors struggled to exert much of an attacking influence on the game, with Rory Winters’ downward header from a corner being saved by Turner their best opportunity, and it was Lincoln who could have extended their lead in added-on time when Gary King hit a stinging shot just wide of the far post with Finlay beaten.

Diamonds performed better in the second period, though they still struggled to seriously test Turner, and Lincoln were the ones who continued to look more likely to score next. Smith, searching for his hat-trick, saw a shot well saved by Finlay before penalty appeals were waved away on the goalkeeper, and then Jordan Hempenstall challenged Jason Lee on the right channel before running through on goal, though he was dispossessed by Finlay as the striker attempted to round the keeper. Rushden in response saw a Lewis Leslie shot go over the bar, an effort by Orosz fly wide and then a Jake Newman attempt also flash over the crossbar, and despite bringing on Joe Curtis and Ben Ford in an effort to haul themselves back into the contest, they were unable to do so. King should have wrapped up the victory for the hosts when running through on goal but his shot went wide of the mark, though it mattered little as the full-time whistle was blown to end Diamonds’ involvement in the competition.

Diamonds manager Andy Peaks was forced into two changes from the starting XI that had forced a draw in the original tie on Saturday: both Brad Harris and Nabil Shariff were serving suspensions after picking up five yellow cards so far this season so Rory Winters came straight back into the side after completing his two game ban, and Chris Wreh was handed his first competitive start for the Diamonds as he partnered Jake Newman up front, with Tom Lorraine being ruled out with illness.

Both sides stepped out on the Ashby Avenue surface in confident mood, with Lincoln boasting a strong home record in all competitions up to now (seven wins out of 12) and the visitors being unbeaten in their last 10 games (won six and drawn four). Further incentive had been added to the contest due to Monday’s lunchtime draw for the third qualifying round, which would see the victor make a trip to National League North side Kidderminster Harriers on November 26th.

Referee Matthew Law blew his whistle to signal the beginning of the game, and it was the Diamonds who had the first opportunity in the fourth minute. A long ball forward from the away defence was loosely headed away by a Lincoln defender straight to the nearby Taylor Orosz, and he chested the ball down before hitting a 25 yard half-volley that looked to be going just wide, but home keeper Jake Turner didn’t take any chances and parried the ball around the post. The resultant corner came to nothing, but another long ball moments later seemed to find Wreh running through clear on goal before a linesman’s flag curtailed the move forward.

Despite this bright Rushden start it was the hosts who took the lead in the eighth minute. They won a throw-in down the left side, amidst contestations that the decision should have been given the other way, but full-back Callum Ward wasted no time in throwing the ball into the feet of winger Kallum Smith. With the Diamonds defence having switched off momentarily Smith was able to run into the area and thrash a left-footed shot across Matt Finlay and into the far corner of the net.

Lincoln had taken the lead three times on Saturday only for the Diamonds to fight back and level each time, and with there still being over eighty minutes of the contest to play Rushden knew there was still plenty of time to get back into the game. They set about searching for an equalising goal by moving down the right flank, and Kyal McNulty’s high, hanging cross appeared difficult for Turner to gather under pressure from Wreh, but he did so with confidence and optimistic shouts for the ball crossing the line as the keeper fell down to collect were waved away.

Play swung back up the other end, and Lincoln’s top scorer Jordan Hempenstall was allowed time and space to receive the ball around 25 yards out from goal. He turned and hit a bouncing effort towards goal that Finlay did really well to collect and hold. Smith then was found on the left wing, and he skipped past McNulty on the outside before flashing a dangerous cross into the middle of the box that Jason Lee did really well to head away. Seconds later another threatening cross was played into the away side’s box after Finlay was beaten to a loose ball on the left side of the area, but fortunately for the Diamonds the ball in somehow missed every white Lincoln shirt and the danger was eventually cleared upfield.

The home side had clearly stepped up the pressure in the last five minutes as they chased and harried Rushden into mistakes, but the away side still were able to create an excellent chance to level the match. Nic Evangelinos showed a quick turn of pace to move away from two Lincoln players in midfield, and he strode over the halfway line before feeding a precise through-ball into the path of the advancing Orosz. The Diamonds man had the run on Ward, and he found himself with only Turner to beat as he approached the edge of the area. He decided to take the shot early, but his low effort was well saved by the home keeper as he dived to his left.

A minute after this opportunity, Lincoln were able to double their advantage in the 17th minute. A long kick by Turner saw Winters slightly mistime his defensive header, and the ball squirmed away to Kallum Smith on the left. He wasted no time in hitting a dipping half-volley that took a slight nick off McNulty before it flew up and over Finlay into the back of the Diamonds net. The strike was one of real quality, but it now meant the away side faced an uphill struggle if they wished to remain in the competition.

The hosts’ confidence was naturally high as they seeked a third goal to truly emphasise their advantage and growing dominance of the contest, and they won a free-kick on the right as a dangerous attack was stopped by a Diamonds foul. Danny Brooks, who had impressed in the original tie, stepped up to take the kick and smacked an effort past the defensive wall that Finlay did well to parry down to his right side. Rob Norris was first onto the rebound, and it appeared that he had the easy task of steering the ball into a now gaping net, but he was stretching and the attempt ended up disappearing over the crossbar and terrace behind the goal.

The visitors were struggling to find any semblance of tempo or rhythm to their play, as not only were Lincoln pressuring them quickly and effectively, but often their close control and attempts to build possession let them down. One brief opportunity presented itself just short of the half-hour mark when captain Richard Bunting hooked the bal high into the air, and it dropped for full-back Sam Brown to hit a right-footed shot that drifted harmlessly wide of the intended target. The home side won another free-kick in a similar position to the one before shortly after this, and Brooks this time whipped the delivery in towards the near post for defender Michael Jacklin to flick a header goalwards. However, Finlay was able to gather the ball with relative ease and the score remained 2-0.

Diamonds had their second good chance of the half in the 33rd minute when Newman won a corner on the right, and as so often this season, Evangelinos’ subsequent delivery was dangerous and ultimately accurate. It picked out the completely free Winters lurking at the back post, and his downward header was really well saved by Turner down to his right, with any attempt at a rebound snuffed out by the keeper collecting and holding the ball gratefully. As was a feature of the game on Saturday, play quickly switched up the other end, and a long Lincoln free-kick saw Diamonds struggle to clear, with the ball looping up for an ambitious scissor-kick that was deflected only narrowly wide of the far post with Finlay rooted to the spot.

Lincoln assumed another period of dominance of territory and possession, though aside from a four-on-three break in their favour being wasted, they failed to threaten the Diamonds goal until right before half-time. Brown, who made a good interception to stop that home break, then dashed up the other end, and after swapping passes with Evangelinos he was tripped as he tried to carry on moving forward. The foul had been committed on the left side, around 25 yards out, and Evangelinos stood over the ball before flashing a cross-cum-shot across the box before it flew just wide of the far post.

There remained one last opportunity of the first period, and this fell to the hosts in the second minute of added-on time. A long ball was flciked on past the Diamonds defence and allowed striker Gary King to run in behind into the penalty area in a similar position to where Smith had scored his first goal. This time though, the flashing left-footed shot went across goal and narrowly evaded the far corner of the net as it went behind for a goal-kick. The referee signalled for the end of the half shortly after this opportunity, a half in which Diamonds hadn’t been able to get going in and in which Lincoln deserved their lead.

Half Time: Lincoln United 2-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

The two teams re-emerged onto the pitch ready for the start of the second period, with Diamonds especially knowing they needed a strong and special half to stand any chance of getting back into the contest. Law blew his whistle, and immediately the away side were onto the attack as Newman controlled well on the edge of the box and turned, but his resultant shot was lifted well over the crossbar. Lincoln then threatened as a long ball forward from their defence was cleared only as far as Norris, though his half-volley from distance sailed comfortably wide of Finlay’s right-hand post.

Rushden were looking brighter and more lively in these early exchanges, and moments after Bunting had received some treatment for a head injury, the visitors won a corner which was cleared for a throw-in. The ball was subsequently fed to Evangelinos who drove to the left byline and fizzed a low ball across goal that Turner did supremely well to not only stop, but to hold in his grasp as well. Shortly after both goalkeepers mishit a kick each as they were put under pressure by their opposing numbers, but each time the stopper was able to get away with it.

Smith went very close to sealing his hat-trick as the game ticked onto the hour mark. A swift one-two with King on the left channel allowed the winger to dart into the penalty area with McNulty on his heels and only Finlay to beat, but the keeper sprinted from his goal-line quickly to block the shot and divert it behind for a corner. Smith went down during his attempt, and though there were strong appeals made towards the referee for a penalty to be awarded, Law dismissed these protestations and signalled a corner instead.

Though they were stringing more passes together and looking more dangerous than they had done in the opening half, Diamonds were still struggling to find a way through a well-marshalled and stout home defence. In an attempt to get their foot on the ball and begin to dictate the game Peaks brought on the returning Joe Curtis in place of Wreh, which meant he would move alongside Bunting in the centre of midfield and Leslie would push forward to support Newman. A minute after this change a ball over the top of the Rushden defence saw Hempenstall and Lee running after it, and though it appeared that the striker pushed over the defender play was waved on as the Lincoln number 9 moved into the area and tried to draw Finlay. However, the Diamonds stopper read his intentions and dived to intercept the ball as the striker looked to round him, and the danger was cleared away.

Rushden responded moments afterwards, in the 66th minute, when a neat Newman flick found Leslie in space around 25 yards from goal in a central position. With Evangelinos on his left and Newman running forward for a return pass on his right the Diamonds midfielder has options, but despite these he decided to go for a shot at goal as it opened up for him, though the shot looped over the bar. Leslie was now influencing the game more from his position higher up the pitch, and he was involved in the build-up which saw his through-ball find Orosz on the right side. He had pressure from a Lincoln man at his back, and so he snatched at his shot that zipped wide of the near post.

A minute later Newman showed strong close control and a good first touch to bring a loose ball under his spell, but he had to quickly swivel and hit his attempt with a home defender closing him down, and the end result was the ball dropping just over the top of Turner’s goal. Lincoln then had the ball in the net for a third time when Norris’ cross from the right after cutting in found Hempenstall all alone to head home past Finlay, but the away defence had stepped up at the right time and caught the striker offside.

As Diamonds naturally committed more men forward in their search for a goal to get back into the game, Lincoln were able to threaten on the counter-attack, and they had a fantastic opportunity to confirm the win in the 80th minute. A neat ball through found King on the shoulder of Winters, and he ran clear on goal before hitting an outside-of-the-foot effort past Finlay but also past the near post. It was a let-off for the away side, and they responded by bringing on Ben Ford in place of Leslie in Peaks’ last roll-of-the-dice.

The substitute was into the action immediately when a loose ball dropped to him just outside the Lincoln box, but he couldn’t keep his resulting shot down and it, like many other Diamonds attempts in the half, went over the crossbar. The hosts continued to restrict and nullify any threat posed by the visitors, and as the game moved into three minutes of additional time they still were causing a threat on the break. One such example saw substitute Matt Cotton jink past Brown and into the penalty area on the right, and his drilled ball across just narrowly evaded a sliding Smith at the back post.

It didn’t matter though as the referee sounded his whistle moments later to signal Lincoln’s progression to the next qualifying round and Diamonds’ end in this season’s competition.

Full Time: Lincoln United 2-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Diamonds bow out of the Buildbase FA Trophy in a game where they struggled to build any sort of momentum, any sustained period of pressure or possession and any clear-cut opportunities. If Orosz’s shot had of found the net when the scoreline was 1-0, or Winters’ header when they were two goals down, then the game may have been very different, but it wasn’t meant to be. It was always going to be a tough task for the Diamonds to progress with Ashton, Dolman, Harris, Oulton, Shariff, Wilson and Lorraine all missing through injury, ineligibility and suspension, but that is to take nothing away from Lincoln who fully deserved their victory. Full credit has to go to them for their quick start to this contest and their strong defending that protected the lead, and for the way they performed in Saturday’s original game also. Rushden’s ten game unbeaten run in all competitions comes to an end, but they will look to extend their 11 game unbeaten domestic run when they return to league action at Loughborough Dynamo on Saturday (15:00 kick-off).

Diamonds Man of the Match: Sam Brown

Attendance: 229

Match Report by Ollie Mortimer

Lincoln United

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

1. Jake Turner

2. Luke Hornsey

3. Callum Ward

4. Daniel Brooks

5. Michael Jacklin (C)

6. James Blunden

7. Robert Norris

8. Andy Toyne

9. Jordan Hempenstall

10. Gary King

11. Kallum Smith

 

Substitutes:

12. Sam Mullarkey (for Hempenstall 75)

14. Matt Cotton (for Norris 82)

16. Sean Cann

17. Philip McGann

18. Tom Maddison

17. Matt Finlay

2. Kyal McNulty

3. Sam Brown

4. Rory Winters

5. Jason Lee

6. Richard Bunting (C)

7. Lewis Leslie

8. Nic Evangelinos

9. Jake Newman

10. Chris Wreh

11. Taylor Orosz

 

Substitutes:

12. Ryan Baird

13. Ben Heath

14. Aidan Bradshaw

15. Joe Curtis (for Wreh 64)

16. Ben Ford (for Leslie 82)

 

Goals: Smith (8, 17)

Goals: None

Yellow Cards: None

Yellow Cards: None

Referee: Matthew Law

Assistants: Adrian Walker, Ian Ruddock

 

 

Updated player profiles with appearance and goalscoring details are now available.

The updated Match Stats, Player Stats and Attendance figures along with league stats are found in the First Team stats area on this website here. You can also find updated fixture lists in the main fixture and results grid, as well as on the Fixture News page, where there is a downloadable version.

Click here for video highlights of this game and post-match interviews.

 

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