AFC Rushden & Diamonds secured an important home victory as they defeated Redditch United by a single goal. Nathan Tshikuna’s hooked finish in the 16th minute was enough to see the Diamonds over the line and into the top ten.
The game is not bound to live long in the memory in terms of quality but Diamonds showed grit and determination to grind out a result and bag a significant three points.
Andy Peaks made two changes to the side which suffered a midweek defeat at Leiston. Liam Dolman returned to the side in place of Sam Warburton with Connor Furlong replacing Matthew Slinn.
Rushden were deployed in their conventional 4-2-3-1 formation which we have become familiar with; Dean Snedker was in between the sticks. The defence lined up with Patrick Casey on the right side of the four, Alex Collard and Liam Dolman in the centre with Ryan Hughes shifting over to left back. Ben Diamond played in a deeper midfield role to usual with Fernando Bell-Toxtle alongside him as Nathan Tshikuna operated at the tip of the trio. Ravi Shamsi and Connor Furlong flanked either side of Ty Deacon who led the line.
A cagey opening few minutes saw few chances created as both sides were settling into the game. Connor Furlong and Nathan Tshikuna showed glimpses of promise on the break with the latter narrowly unable to find Ty Deacon with a through pass.
The hosts started to take control of proceedings as they looked to utilise their catalogue of set-piece routines. Ravi Shamsi’s floated free-kick delivery found Alex Collard whose towering header soared agonisingly wide of the far post.
Diamonds continued to apply the pressure and soon found the elusive goal of the match. Liam Dolman’s long throw into the box dropped for Nathan Tshikuna in the box who adjusted his body and scooped the ball past Kieran Boucher in the Redditch net.
Redditch did not seem fazed by the goal as they started to gain a foothold in the match by taking more possession. Tiago Nassunculo cut inside and tested Dean Snedker with a curling strike before Romario Martin hit a long-range effort straight into the gloves of the Diamonds goalkeeper.
Diamonds threatened their Redditch rear-guard once again as they went in search for their second goal. A deflected delivery was bizarrely prevented from crossing the line by Kieran Boucher with Ravi Shamsi hit a stinging low drive which was blocked away.
The visitors created their most defining chances on the verge of the interval. Daniel Sweeney’s headed effort was diverted wide and the resulting corner was also steered off target by Ryan Wollacott.
HT: AFC RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS 1-0 REDDITCH UNITED
The Diamonds faithful were pleased to see the team take an early lead, a goal which was beckoning with their early pressure, but there can be no doubt that Redditch were in the ascendency later in the half with their possession and subsequent chances.
The general consensus at the break was that a second goal would be required in order to settle the nerves – the second half was poised to be an intriguing battle!
In a game which had so far provided minimal amounts of quality, Nathan Tshikuna almost set Hayden Road alight in the opening seconds after the restart! The Diamonds midfielder picked up the by just shy of the halfway line, spotted the goalkeeper off his line, and attempted a spectacular lob but was unfortunate to see his effort bounce scarcely wide.
Redditch dominated the share of possession but Diamonds were side who looked more likely to score – particularly on the counterattack! Ty Deacon spearheaded a well-crafted move before seeing his strike deflected wide and Nathan Tshikuna weaved through the Redditch defence but failed to get his shot away.
Despite creating the better chances, Diamonds still had defending to do as they were tested with a series of set-pieces. The visitors failed to create any clear opportunities and Diamonds marshalled their area well and swept away any dangerous deliveries.
As Redditch committed further bodies forward, more space appeared in behind for the Diamonds to exploit and they almost killed the contest in stoppage time. Ben Diamond slid the ball through for the onrushing Will Jones who fired his strike over the top of the bar.
FT: AFC RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS 1-0 REDDITCH UNITED
It was scrappy, nervous – tense at times! However, Diamonds were good value for their victory and may look back on this result at the end of the campaign as a significant set of points.
Diamonds rise up the league table and into tenth position with 22 points from 17matches.
Next time out, the Diamonds are under the lights at Hayden Road as we welcome Lowestoft Town this coming Tuesday night (23rd).
Man of the Match: Nathan Tshikuna
Match Report: Joseph McCormack
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
13. Dean Snedker
2. Patrick Casey
3. Ryan Hughes
4. Fernando Bell-Toxtle
5. Liam Dolman (Yellow card)
6. Alex Collard
7. Nathan Tshikuna (Yellow card)
8. Ben Diamond
9. Ty Deacon
10. Ravi Shamsi
11. Connor Furlong
12. Matt Slinn (for Shamsi 88)
14. Jesse Akubuine (for Furlong 74)
15. Tom Lorraine
16. Adriel George
17. Will Jones (for Deacon 82)
Nathan Tshikuna (16)
11. Tiago Nassunculo
3. Lewis Hudson
4. Kieran Day
6. Ryan Wollacott (Yellow card)
7. Luke Rowe
9. Daniel Sweeney
5. Daniel Djurovic
2. Lewis Farmer
14.Jade Ferron (for Sweeney 67)
12. Dennis Digie (for Rowe 67)
18. Alex Cameron (for Martin 79)
19. Kieron Dawes