The Diamonds lined up without five of the starting XI from Thursday’s excellent victory over Daventry Town, with goal scorers Danny Bird and Matti Ellis included among the list of absentees. Despite fielding what might be considered a weakened side, Rushden started brightly and almost carved open a glorious chance inside the opening couple of minutes. Kai Robertson’s pace and tenacity took him away from the Luton defence, but his pull back fell just behind strike partner Lewi Williams and the Hatters’ managed to recover in time to clear the danger. Almost immediately, the home side burst up the opposite end of the pitch and should have opened the scoring, but Ollie Cole could only fire over the bar from a low cross into the box.
Cole would prove to be a persistent problem for the new look AFC backline, and five minutes later he went even closer to opening the scoring with a powerful shot from inside the penalty area, but Adam Batten pulled off a stunning one handed save to deny the Luton striker.
The deadlock was broken just one minute later, however. A long ball from the back eluded the Diamonds defence and found its way to the feet of Jordan Kinoshi, and as Batten rushed out to close him down the Luton winger coolly lobbed the ball into the net, despite the despairing efforts of Mark Rust on the line. It was almost 2-0 immediately after, but Batten again came to the rescue with another excellent stop this time from Kinoshi’s 20 yard free kick. Luton were enjoying a dominant spell as Rushden struggled to get a grip on the game, and Kinoshi once again showed his class with a curling effort from the edge of the box that narrowly missed Batten’s left hand post.
With 15 minutes gone the Diamonds started to get to terms with their opponents, and Zach Farden, playing in a more advanced left midfield position having occupied the left back berth again Daventry, almost burst through on goal following Lewi Williams’ excellent through ball, but the Hatters’ defence just got back in time. Luton were still looking very dangerous going forwards, and for the second time in the game Cole should have got his name on the scoresheet, but after latching onto a good ball through the middle and dancing around Batten he could only fire wide of the goal from a tight angle.
The Diamonds were struggling to carve out any clear cut opportunities although they did have plenty of possession around the Luton penalty area, but several players were guilty of holding onto the ball for too long when an early shooting opportunity arose. After 27 minutes Mark Starmer made his first change of the match, replacing Adam Ziolkowski in the unfamiliar position of central midfield, with Louis Smith, himself predominantly a left winger. Within a minute, the Diamonds should have netted an equaliser, as a scuffed shot by Jeron Thompson found its way to the feet of Zach Farden who could only slice his shot wide of the upright from around 6 yards out.
Within five minutes Luton made the Diamonds pay for the missed chance, as the hugely impressive Kinoshi showed pace and strength to power his way through the middle and curl home a shot into the bottom corner, just out of Batten’s reach.
Rushden were still competing though and refused to let their heads drop, with the lively Blake Helsdown causing the Luton defence a few problems with his runs down the right flank. From one such run he almost carved out an opportunity for Lewi Williams, but his cross/shot was bravely stopped by Craig King in the Luton goal who just got to the ball ahead of the onrushing Diamonds striker. Luton broke quickly and immediately made it 3-0, as Kinoshi completed a first half hat-trick with a great run down the left flank followed by an exquisite finish from an acute angle.
The third goal seemed to spur on the AFC attack in the closing stages of the first half, and their best effort of the game almost saw Kai Robertson pull a goal back, but after twisting and turning past a couple of defenders the striker’s blistering shot was superbly saved by King. A couple of minutes later left back Dan Paterson tried his luck with a trademark 40 yard lob, but although his effort beat the Luton ‘keeper it unfortunately just cleared the bar as well. The final chance of the half fell once again to Ollie Cole, but the impressive Batten denied the Luton striker with his feet.
HT: Luton Town 3-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
After an enthralling first half, with plenty of scoring opportunities the second half proved to be a somewhat quieter affair. The first real chance of the second period fell to Hatters substitute Kevin Mensah who nearly scored with his first touch following a short corner, but Batten continued the excellent form he displayed in the first half by tipping the close range effort around the post.
Three minutes later the Diamonds had their best chance of the half as Jeron Thompson’s excellent run down the right was followed by an inch perfect cross to Bjorn Kleinhans, but the half time substitute’s goal bound header deflected off a Luton defender and behind for a corner.
On 70 minutes the Hatters netted their fourth of the game, as Cole finally got the goal he had been threatening. A long ball from the back seemed to hold up in the wind and catch out the AFC defence, allowing Cole to sprint forward and take the ball around Batten before coolly slotting into the empty net. Five minutes later and it should have been 5-0, as another wind assisted long ball saw Luton storm clear with a two on one situation in their favour, but Batten continued his heroics with a brave save at the feet of a Luton striker.
Ashley Foulger, who played in goal against Daventry, replaced Blake Helsdown in a totally unfamiliar right midfield position, with the latter clearly tiring after his second game in the space of less than 48 hours. Foulger nearly made an immediate impact, with a good header from a left wing free kick, but his effort was straight at King who made a comfortable save. Farden then went close with a powerful 25 yard strike which narrowly cleared the bar.
With the Diamonds desperately searching for the goal their performance deserved, Luton broke with pace down the right flank, with Jordan Kinoshi on hand to tap home his fourth goal of the game from close range to complete the scoring.
Rushden did have one final chance to get on the scoresheet, but Thompson’s left wing cross just evaded the head of Kleinhans.
FT: Luton Town 5-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
In spite of the unflattering scoreline, there were a number of positives for Mark Starmer to take from the game, none more so than the performance of Adam Batten in goal. Luton will be, by far and away, the toughest opponents that AFC Rushden & Diamonds will face this season, and the team certainly didn’t disgrace themselves despite being without several key players.
The majority of players missing from the squad were unavailable due to prior commitments but should all be available for selection for Tuesday night’s game at Bugbrooke St. Michaels. Levi Freeman sat out the game because of a slight knock picked up in the Daventry match, but should be fully recovered in time for the Northants Senior Youth League game.
Man of the Match: Adam Batten
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
|1. Craig King
2. Sam Hazel
3. Darrell Wood
4. Billy Pinney
5. Dominic Palmer
6. Teejay Duncan-Allen
7. Toby Ibrahim
8. Osanu Ollman
9. Ollie Cole
10. Jack Randall
11. Jordan Kinoshi
|86. Adam Batten
2. Mark Rust
3. Dan Paterson
4. Leeson Baker
5. Elliott Ames (c)
6. Adam Ziolkowski
7. Zach Farden
8. Jeron Thompson
9. Lewi Williams
10. Kai Robertson
11. Blake Helsdown
12. Kevin Mensah (for Dominic Palmer)
14. Lucas Perry (for Jordan Kinoshi)
15. Kai Francis (for Jack Randall)
|12. Louis Smith (for Adam Ziolkowski)
14. Bjorn Kleinhans (for Lewi Williams)
17. Ashley Foulger (for Blake Helsdown)