Diamonds earned a hard fought victory on the south coast on Saturday afternoon running out 3-1 winners against battling Moneyfields in Portsmouth.
Early goals from Ben Diamond (5) and Tom Lorraine (21) effectively won this game on a difficult surface but Liam Dolman missed a penalty on 29 minutes to have definitely sealed it. Moneyfields were reduced to 10 men just before half time after a poor challenge on Luke Fairlamb and Fairlamb himself was provoked into a reaction as the players left the field at half-time that earned him a red card.
Moneyfields pulled a goal back on 47 minutes through Hutchings but never really threatened an equaliser and it was Ben Farrell who scored the clinching goal from the penalty spot on 70 minutes. Ben Diamond had earned that penalty and in a superb performance he had a goal disallowed for offside and Tom Lorraine and Joe Curtis also came close as Diamonds ran out comfortable winners.
Manager Andy Peaks named an unchanged starting eleven from his side’s last outing in the 4-0 victory at Aylesbury back on 16th January. Ben Diamond retained his starting place up front alongside Tom Lorraine with Ryan Robbins returning from injury on the bench alongside John Dean, Cameron Gilchrist, Ben Ford and Blaize Punter.
The pitch survived three pitch inspections on the day of the game including one just 15 minutes before kick-off as rain was falling again and it was understandably a wet surface that greeted two sides at kick-off.
After some understandably scrappy opening minutes as the two sides got used to the surface Diamonds made the perfect start on their first real attack. A poor challenge in midfield earned a free-kick from which Luke Fairlamb worked his way to the by-line. His ball across the 6 yard box wasn’t cleared by the home defence and Ben Diamond tapped in on 5 minutes to the delight of the travelling faithful.
The difficult conditions meant play was mostly contained in midfield with Diamonds shading possession and looking more dangerous but also resisting some strong challenges from the home side. Curtis Da Costa picked up the game’s first yellow card for a poor challenge Ben Curtis did well to just evade.
And Diamonds duly doubled their lead on 21 minutes as Tom Lorraine chased a Joel Gyasi through ball ran in on goal and coolly slotted past Steven Mowthorpe in the home goal.
It should have been 3 for Diamonds on 29 minutes as a penalty was awarded for handball from a Ben Farrell shot after great work from Joel Gyasi. Liam Dolman struck towards the bottom corner but Mowthorpe got down well to save.
Tom Lorraine then broke the offside trap again producing another good save from the busy Mowthorpe and then Sam Brown struck one of his specialty efforts but it just grazed the crossbar on 32 minutes.
The game went scrappy in the latter stages of the half with players down from challenges disrupting the flow. Ben Diamond harshly picked up a yellow card for an aerial challenge as another player went down and the crowd joined the players in showing their frustration.
Luke Fairlamb was then on the receiving end of an awful challenge right on half-time which saw red card showed to Tyler Giddings. It prompted a confrontation with the home side as the half-time whistle came and Luke Fairlamb was shown red for seemingly rising to the provocation.
Half-time: Moneyfields FC 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2
Moneyfields came out with real purpose at the start of the second half and got back into the game on 47 minutes. An innocuous looking ball was headed towards goal by Steve Hutchings and it just evaded Ben Heath on the line for the first goal conceded by Diamonds in 2018.
As they pressed for an equaliser they had a penalty appeal waved away as a forward went down just inside the box. And in a lively period Diamonds responded with a swift break involving Tom Lorraine and Joel Gyasi that Mowthorpe smothered, and Moneyfields fired in a long range effort that Ben Heath saved at the second attempt.
Diamonds surged forward again on 59 minutes with Ben Diamond’s chip into the box at the end of another great run just cleared for a corner. The ball found Ashton on the far post but he couldn’t direct his effort on target.
Diamond was the away side’s biggest danger all afternoon and he got himself free again on 64 and despite being eventually forced wide his low effort just whizzed by the near post.
And on 70 minutes he earned Diamonds a deserved third of the game as he ran at Moneyfields again and was felled just inside the box. Ben Farrell stepped up to strike firmly home beating Mowthorpe’s dive to the same corner that he had denied Dolman to earlier in the game.
It was nearly 4 just 5 minutes later as Diamond gleefully smashed a loose ball home but Joel Gyasi was flagged for offside.
Moneyfields tried to raise a response firing a pair crosses into the box but Ben Heath handled everything well to calm the travelling fans.
Tom Lorraine came close to a 2nd of the game for him as he latched onto a defensive mistake, knocked it passed the advancing Mowthorpe and was just denied by a last ditch tackle which forced his effort inches wide.
In a final flourish Joe Curtis had two close efforts denied, the second cleared off the line after Ben Farrell superbly found him in space.
Full time: Moneyfields FC 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3
This was another good away day for Andy Peak’s side. There was an edge between these sides throughout and Diamonds did well to get early goals to control the game through Ben Diamond and Tom Lorraine and then stand firm after conceding a first goal in 2018 early in the second half. A red card for a provoked Luke Fairlamb and a missed penalty will have disappointed but Ben Farrell converted a 2nd penalty on 70 minutes to clinch the game.
Next up the visit of AFC Dunstable to Hayden Road next Saturday.
Man of the match: Ben Diamond
Match Report by Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Steven Mowthorpe
2. Tyler Giddings
3. Jamie Ford
4. Lewis Fennemore
5. Curtis Da Costa
6. Sam Pearce
7. Joe Briggs
8. Marley Kidle
9. Ryan Penney
10. Steve Hutchings
11. Daniel Wooden
12. Jake Raine
14. Howard Neighbour (for Hutchings 75)
15. Conor Bake
16. Gary Austion (for Briggs 67)
17. Louie Martin
13. Ben Heath
2. Joe Curtis
3. Sam Brown
4. Jack Westbrook
5. Liam Dolman (c)
6. Jack Ashton
7. Joel Gyasi
8. Ben Farrell
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Ben Diamond
11. Luke Fairlamb
12. Cameron Gilchrist
14. Ryan Robbins
15. John Dean (for Diamond 90)
16. Ben Ford
18. Blaize Punter (for Ashton 84)
Goals: Hutchings (47)
Goals: Diamond (5), Lorraine (21), Farrell (70 Pen)
Yellow cards: Da Costa, Fennemore
Yellow cards: Diamond, Ashton
Red cards: Giddings
Red cards: Fairlamb
Referee: Steven Hughes