Diamonds made it two wins out of two in pre-season by defeating United Counties League Division One side Melton Town 3-1 on Tuesday evening. In a keenly-contested affair goals from Ben Diamond, Tom Lorraine and an unnamed trialist saw the step three side emerge victorious over their opponents, managed by ex-Rushden men Tom Manship and Jon Stevenson.
Manager Andy Peaks made seven changes to the starting XI that had beaten Newport Pagnell only a few days before. A 4-3-3 formation was deployed with trialist Rhys Kelly , Liam Dolman, Cameron Gilchrist and Sam Brown making up the back four, Ross Oulton, Jack Westbrook and Ben Farrell being the midfield contingent and Trialist, Tom Lorraine and Ben Diamond forming the attacking trio. There was also a welcome return on the bench for Ryan Robbins alongside the other substitutes Jack Ashton, Blaize Punter, John Dean, Jack Bowen and Nathan Hicks.
The two teams emerged onto the Melton Sports Village playing surface on a warm and dry evening, with a keen sense of intrigue felt by many in attendance due to the amount of ex-Diamonds on show for the hosts (Manship and Stevenson as joint managers, Edi Appleton in defence and Robbie Parsons in attack) and to see how Diamonds would continue their preparations ahead of the new campaign. No sooner had the game got underway when Rushden went close to opening the scoring. Trialist latched onto a loose ball before hitting an effort goalwards, but it flashed just wide of the post. They didn’t have to wait much longer to take the lead, however, when they scored in the 18th minute. Ben Diamond broke the offside trap to latch onto a through ball before racing in on goal and finishing coolly beyond the home goalkeeper.
Despite the early setback Melton almost equalised immediately. A neat move saw the ball worked to a home attacker who hit a shot goalwards, and Ben Heath was forced to dive full-length to parry the effort away to safety. The visitors responded by Trialist getting himself into a good position before slamming an attempt towards goal, but unfortunately for him and for the Diamonds it rattled off the crossbar and back into play.
As before though, they scored with their next opportunity at goal. Westbrook took a quick free-kick over the top of the home defence, and it reached Tom Lorraine who took a touch before firing in an effort that hit the inside of the post and ran into the back of the net to double the visitors’ advantage. It had been an entertaining opening quarter of the contest, and that continued as Melton won a penalty only moments after the second Rushden goal. Robbie Parsons stepped up to confidently convert past Heath to halve the deficit.
The pace and tempo of the match then steadied and, as a direct result, there weren’t many further chances at goal as the first half drew to a conclusion.
Half Time: Melton Town 1-2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Due to the roll-on roll-off nature of the friendly there were a raft of substitutions at the interval as Punter, Bowen, Robbins, Dean and Hicks replaced Lorraine, Kelly, Gilchrist, Diamond and Trialist for the visitors.
Though there were few clear-cut chances in the second half, the match was still well-fought and competitive as both sides looked to make an impression. Ashton was introduced for Oulton, and Trialist re-emerged to replace Farrell, with the returning substitute having the final say on the contest. In the 80th minute he got himself into a shooting position before calmly placing an effort past the stranded keeper and into the back of the net.
This proved to be the final action of note, aside from Gilchrist re-appearing to replace Dolman, and soon the full-time whistle was blown to signal the continuation of Diamonds’ winning start to pre-season.
Full Time: Melton Town 1-3 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
This represented a good workout for the Diamonds, with Melton proving a spirited and hard-working threat. Rushden scored three well-taken goals, gave minutes and more action to most members of the squad and also were tested in different ways to what they were on Saturday at Newport Pagnell, and so the match was a very worthwhile one as the league season edges ever closer. Diamonds’ next pre-season match sees them entertain fellow Hayden Road side Rushden & Higham United in the annual Chris Ruff Memorial Trophy game on Saturday (July 21st, 15:00pm kick-off).
Match Report by Ollie Mortimer
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Jack Ashton (for Oulton HT)
Blaize Punter (for Gilchrist HT)
Ryan Robbins (for Lorraine HT)
John Dean (for Trialist HT)
Jack Bowen (for Diamond HT)
Nathan Hicks (for Kelly HT)
Goals: Parsons (pen 28)
Goals: Diamond (18), Lorraine (25), Trialist (80)