AFC Rushden & Diamonds fought back after going a goal behind to record a 6-1 victory over Lutterworth Athletic on Thursday evening.
On a hot evening when the temperature was 80 degrees or above for the entire game, the Diamonds were managed by Andy Peaks and Dean Thomas, with Mark Starmer watching from the stand. Although an “XI” game they fielded a strong side, and with the U18 squad unavailable they could only name two outfield substitutes. Triallist Robbie Maddox was included in the starting line-up at centre back – he has experience at Northampton Town, Corby Town and Stamford. Quincy Shorunmu was in goal behind a back four of Maddox and Jamal Clarke with Ashley Meeks at left back and Liam Bond on the right.
In central midfield were Louis Smith and Brad Harris, with Nat Liburd in right midfield and Fazel Koriya on the left. Up front were Russ Dunkley and Lance Allen, with Alfie Taylor and Séan McBride the outfield substitutes. Both Ashley Foulger and Tom Cross were also on the bench.
With the back four playing together for the first time, they did take a while to settle into their roles, and during this period the hosts took the lead with 12 minutes on the clock, as Ashley Meeks was caught trying to play the ball out from the back, and after gaining possession the ball was quickly swept to Joe Pantone, whose bouncing shot went over the diving Shorunmu.
At the other end the Diamonds had created early chances for Dunkley, Liburd and Koriya, and after going a goal behind they began to dominate the game, and after forcing a series of corners a Louis Smith corner from the right was headed home by Russ Dunkley after 23 minutes.
Despite the heat Fazel Koriya was full of running, although after good work from Smith and Allen he was set clear, but his first touch wasn’t the best.
One problem for the Diamonds was an ankle injury sustained by Brad Harris in what looked a late tackle, but the challenge was not penalised by the referee. Harris was replaced by Séan McBride after 30 minutes. McBride’s first touch was an incisive through ball to Koriya who left two defenders looking flat-footed but his powerful shot was well saved by the keeper.
A minute before the break the Diamonds went ahead as excellent work by Dunkley in the left channel saw him set up Koriya in the area, who fired the ball home.
With Ashley Meeks suffering in the heat, the Diamonds used their other outfield substitute at half-time, with Alfie Taylor joining the action. Nat Liburd was switched to centre back for the second time this pre-season, with Robbie Maddox moving to left-back.
Shorunmu made two fine saves early in the second half, the second being an impressive stop of a well-hit freekick. Before that the Diamonds had struck their third, after 52 minutes, as Lance Allen played a 1-2 with Russ Dunkley before spinning on the ball in the area and firing home.
On the hour the Diamonds made it four, with Fazel Koriya allowed time to turn and shoot home. Koriya then threatened on several occasions to get his hat-trick, most notably when he ran clear into the area, sliding the ball past the advancing keeper before being tripped, but the linesman decided he felt there was a dive.
Alfie Taylor had been working hard with little early reward, but after 70 minutes he broke clear into the area, and although the keeper was able to divert an initial attempted flick past home, Taylor was able to pick up the deflected ball and fire home. Taylor then completed the scoring with a neat chip, after a flick on from Dunkley on 74 minutes.
Lance Allen had also picked up a knock, and was replaced by the returning Meeks after 80 minutes. Sportingly Koriya halted another run that might have seen his hat-trick when Dunkley and a home defender went down injured – although both were able to complete the game, with the temperature still above 80 degrees as the game ended.
Diamonds Team: Quincy Shorunmu, Liam Bond, Ashley Meeks, Jamal Clarke, Robbie Maddox, Nat Liburd, Brad Harris, Louis Smith, Fazel Koriya, Lance Allen, Russ Dunkley. Subs: Séan McBride (for Harris 30), Alfie Taylor (for Meeks HT), Ashley Foulger (for Shorunmu 71). Not Used: Tom Cross. Meeks returned for Allen after 80 mins
Attendance: Approx 80.