AFC Rushden & Diamonds ran out comprehensive 5-1 winners over bottom placed Long Buckby at Station Road on a cool, misty Saturday afternoon in the UCL Premier.
A fast paced start to the game saw Diamonds take the lead inside four minutes through Tom Lorraine, only for them to be pegged back less than two minutes later. A crucial three minute spell midway through the first half saw the game swing in the visitors’ favour, with first Matt Gearing curling an effort into the top corner, and then Jason Turner converting a penalty after a handball by a Buckby defender. Diamonds were relatively comfortable from there in, and extra gloss was added to the scoreline by Liam Dolman and another effort from Gearing in the second period.
Manager Andy Peaks made three changes to the side that beat Wellingborough Whitworth on Tuesday evening in the UCL KO Cup, with Brad Harris, Tom Lorraine and Fazel Koriya coming back into the starting 11. Scott Joseph and Joel Gyasi took their places on the bench alongside returning Russ Dunkley and Arron Parkinson, and with only one goal scored in their last three league games, it was imperative that Rushden got off to a quick start in their quest to change that stat.
This turned out to be the case, as with less than five minutes on the clock, the Diamonds found themselves in the lead. Koriya laid the ball down the right wing for Adam Confue making a trademark run beyond the winger, and his pull back found striker Tom Lorraine who controlled the ball and dispatched a shot past Buckby stopper James Broadbent into the far corner of the net.
However, any thoughts that that would spell the start of a Diamonds onslaught were initially dispelled, with Long Buckby equalising almost straight from the restart. Nkosi Mzungwana skipped down the left hand channel, and his ball across goal could only be sliced by Liam Dolman to striker Ed Kostiuk lurking at the far post, and he dispatched a shot past Matt Finlay to level the match.
The home side were proving to be dangerous on the counter attack in these early exchanges, and one such instance saw skipper Jean Dakouri strike a goal bound effort from the edge of the area, but it was well charged down by Dolman.
The Diamonds were back on the offensive on the quarter hour mark with Lorraine winning a tussle in midfield, and this left him with a four on two situation in the away side’s favour. He laid the ball into strike partner Jason Turner, who raced into the penalty area and saw a rasping left footed effort well tipped over the bar by Broadbent.
The general tone of the first half was plenty of midfield skirmishes lightened up by good pieces of build-up play and approach work, and Koriya almost won the Diamonds a penalty after a moment like this. The ball broke to the wide-man on the right side, and as he jinked inside and out of Buckby defender Ben Wilson, he drove into the penalty area and seemed to be brought down by the full back who was sliding in an attempt to win the ball. Despite vehement appeals though, referee Paul Cooper signalled for a corner kick rather than a penalty kick.
It didn’t take Diamonds much longer to re-take the lead though, as they forged ahead again in the 29th minute. Brad Harris intercepted a clearance in midfield and laid the ball to Turner, who fronted up the right back and swept a through ball to Matt Gearing arriving on his left hand side. The Diamonds no.7 took a touch, stepped inside and bent a curling effort over Broadbent into the top corner of the goal.
Three minutes later, the Diamonds did win a penalty, after a ball fed forward from midfield was handled by Michael Yeates just inside the Long Buckby area. Jason Turner was the man given the responsibility of taking the kick, and he confidently tucked the ball into the bottom left hand corner as Broadbent dived to his left.
After that action packed few minutes, the game naturally slowed as the Diamonds tried to monopolise possession and use the pace and strength of Lorraine and Turner in behind the Buckby defence. They still had to be on their mettle defensively though, and Jack Ashton slid to the rescue six minutes before half time to deny Muziwandile Ndlovu-Nduna as he strode through one on one on the Diamonds goal.
There was still time for Diamonds to extend their lead even further before the half time whistle, but Koriya could only blaze the ball over the bar from 15 yards after a Charlie Butt cross had ricocheted across to him. Dolman also went close from a Gearing corner, but he couldn’t generate sufficient power on his header to trouble the Buckby goalkeeper.
Half Time: Long Buckby 1-3 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
The second half started with some on the field drama and confusion, as three of the four floodlights surrounding the Station Road pitch were switched on, but the fourth was not in working order. After a ten minute discussion with his assistants and the management of both sides, the game was allowed to carry on with just the three beams of light shining onto the surface.
This long stoppage contributed to a steady opening to the second half, with the pitch’s long grass also meaning Diamonds were happy to play the ball around and dictate the flow and tempo of the game. On 53 minutes, a cross from the left reached Lorraine who cleverly headed the ball down to Confue, but after working space for the shot well, his well struck effort was well blocked away to safety for the home side.
Jason Turner was proving to be a constant menace to the Long Buckby defence with his clever movement and hold-up play, and he almost added to the penalty that he netted earlier on in the match on two occasions. Firstly, Gearing switched the ball to the left hand side where Koriya took the ball on the run and hit a shot that hit an opposing defender. The ball looped up to Turner lurking on the edge of the area, but he volleyed wide of Broadbent’s left post.
The Diamonds front man was then fed a ball from Sam Brown, and after beating two defenders brilliantly with some impressive footwork, his daisy cutter was well tipped around the post by the Buckby stopper. Although the home side rarely threatened in the second half, they did have a good opportunity in between these two Diamonds chances, but Ndlovu-Nduna’s shot was well parried by Finlay after he had escaped the attentions of Dolman.
The game was sealed beyond any doubt in the next piece of action, and Diamonds fans may be looking back on this goal when deciding the goal of the season award at the end of this campaign. After a Gearing corner was dealt with by the home defence, the ball was worked back out to Butt on the right wing. He whipped a hugely inviting ball to the back post, where Liam Dolman arrived on cue to volley the ball on the full into the top corner of the net. It was the central defender’s fourth goal of the season, and provoked appreciating scenes with many fans around the ground at the sheer quality of the finish.
It was clear to see that the visitors had their tails up now, and the scoreline almost read 5-1 in the next minute. Harris played a through ball for Koriya to run onto, but as he tried to dance around the goalkeeper, Broadbent was able to read the winger’s intentions and play the ball back off the Diamonds man for a goal kick.
Rushden did make it five goals in the 76th minute though, and it was the product of another good move down the left side. Lorraine skipped past his marker and got to the byline, and despite his pull back being missed by Koriya, Matt Gearing was following in behind to pass the ball into the unguarded net for his second goal of the game.
Joel Gyasi and Scott Joseph were given some further game time as they entered the fray for Koriya and Lorraine respectively, and both men went close to adding more goals to the already heavy scoreline. On 88 minutes, Turner escaped down the left wing and checked back onto his right foot to cross for Gyasi, but with the Diamonds winger leaning back, he could only comply to loop his header over the bar. Then in the first minute of eight added on for the floodlight trouble, Gearing showed fantastic footwork to evade two tiring Buckby midfielders on the halfway line, and clip a ball over the top for Joseph to run in behind. He cut inside his marker, but his stinging left footed drive was parried up into the air by Broadbent.
There remained one further chance for Long Buckby to register a consolation goal, but after Mzungwana drove in from the right flank, Finlay did well to hold onto his skidding left footed shot from 25 yards out.
Full Time: Long Buckby 1-5 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
After two previous league games without victory for the Diamonds, Andy Peaks and the management team will be pleased that the team managed to find their scoring boots again, and though the match wasn’t of the highest quality, there was enough strong performances amongst the players to suggest a return to form. Diamonds stay top of the United Counties Premier League table, and face Eynesbury Rovers at home this Tuesday night in their next fixture.
Diamonds Man of the Match: Matt Gearing
Match Report by Ollie Mortimer
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. James Broadbent
2. Chris Gilligan
3. Ben Wilson
4. Michael Yeates
5. Robson Kightley
6. Ryan Merry
7. Ash Stewart
8. Jean Dakouri (C)
9. Ed Kostiuk
10. Muzawandile Ndlovu-Nduna
11. Nkosi Mzungwana
12. Andrew Clements (for Gilligan 87)
14. Elliot Herbert (for Merry 74)
15. Tyler Reeve (for Stewart 74)
16. Daniel Stewart
17. Matt Finlay
2. Charlie Butt
3. Sam Brown
4. Jack Ashton
5. Liam Dolman (C)
6. Adam Confue
7. Matt Gearing
8. Brad Harris
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Jason Turner
11. Fazel Koriya
12. Joel Gyasi (for Koriya 74)
13. Rhys Redding
14. Arron Parkinson (for Ashton 70)
15. Russ Dunkley
16. Scott Joseph (for Lorraine 78)
Goals: Kostiuk (5)
Goals: Lorraine (4), Gearing (29, 76), Turner (pen 32), Dolman (68)
Yellow Cards: None
Yellow Cards: None
Referee: Paul Cooper
Assistants: Carl Henry, Sam Brough