It was late agony for Diamonds on their Northern Premier League Division 1 South debut as they went down 1-0 to Newcastle Town through an 88th minute strike.
Diamonds dominated the opening stages shading possession against a solid Newcastle defence and midfield and created the better chances. Tom Lorraine headed a Richard Bunting corner just over on 3 minutes, Jake Newman turned and shot just wide from the edge of the box on 13 and latched onto a Nabil Sharif through ball to fire into the keepers midriff on 17. He then had Diamonds best first half chance as he out muscled the defence and hit a half-volley on the turn just over from just 15 yards. Jack Ashton then saw a header from close in cleared of the line, and Tom Lorraine just failed to convert a Sam Brown header across goal on 40.
Jake Newman had to be replaced just before the end of a goalless first half as he twisted an ankle, and his replacement Lewis Leslie nearly opened the scoring on 46 as he seized on a loose ball and fired wide from the edge of the box. A goalmouth scramble just 3 minutes later could have been converted by Leslie, Lorraine or Bunting as more half chances went begging but the killer chance wouldn’t come. Newcastle improved in the second half breaking well and creating their own half chances. Sam Brown brilliant diving header saved the day on 53, and Matt Finlay pushed a brilliant free kick from from Richard Smith round the post on 77. In between Sam Brown long throws were creating havoc with Lorraine and Leslie coming close to converting, and corners also coming close to being converted by Liam Dolman and Jack Ashton.
Liam Dolman saw a 20 yard free-kick beat the keeper but not quite the post on 63 as one of 5 yellow cards were awarded to the home side as they did everything to stop the Diamonds midfield and front three from gaining any momentum. Diamonds were suffering for their effort in the later stages and Newcastle pushed forward with growing confidence and were rewarded on 88 minutes with the classic sucker punch. A quick break saw the ball fed across the 6 yard box with a hint of offside where a header crashed against the bar. Second half substitute Jake Lovatt was quickest to respond crashing his half volley past the prone Matt Finlay.
Manager Andy Peaks selected three players to make their Diamonds league debut for this opening day fixture – Aidan Bradshaw, Kyal McNulty and Nabil Sharif who were joined by two other returning Diamonds stars Sam Brown and Jake Newman. An attacking line-up saw Tom Lorraine play in behind Shariff and Newman, with Brad Harris and Richard Bunting holding centre midfield along with McNulty.
Diamonds started brightly dominating possession in the opening stages against a solid looking Newcastle defence. An early Richard Bunting corner was driven to the back post where Tom Lorraine headed back across goal but just over the angle of bar and post, the same player had a shot on the edge of the box blocked after good build up down the left hand side, and Jake Newman turned and shot just wide from the edge of the box on 13 after good build-up down the right.
Newcastle were dealing with Sam Brown’s long throw-ins and the occasional deep ball over the top well with solid defensive headers and trying to get the ball to danger man Chris Baker at every opportunity. The mobile striker sliced one effort wide when well placed on 6, and volleyed another over the bar as the ball broke to him just inside the box.
Newcastle struggled to retain possession in the final third against typically aggressive defending from Diamonds and it was the away side who would continue to press and create opportunities. Nabil Shariff fed a lovely through ball to Jake Newman on 17 the big striker firing a low effort from an angle into the keeper’s midriff.
And it was Newman who had the sides best chance in the first half on 24. A deep ball played over the top turned the home defenders and Newman out muscled them to get to the bouncing ball 15 yards out but saw his crisp half-volley fly just over the bar when everyone in the ground was expecting to see the net bulge.
Both full-backs were getting involved in attacking play for Diamonds with Aidan Bradshaw linking well with the forwards and midfield down the right and Sam Brown dangerous as ever down the left. Jack Ashton was also ghosting in on far post corners and free-kicks as ever and created mayhem on 29 heading a Bunting free-kick back across goal only to see the ball scrambled away off the line by the home defence.
Jake Newman was constantly trying to get in behind the home defence and did that well on 40 surging past his man to the by-line but fell awkwardly as he tried to cross with his right foot. After lengthy treatment and attempting to run off the knock he had to be replaced on 42 by Lewis Leslie.
Tom Lorraine moved from a position in behind the front two to leading the line with Nabil Shariff and nearly grabbed the opener almost straight away. His header across goal from close in was again cleared off the line by the home side after another scramble.
Half-time: Newcastle Town 0 – AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0
Lewis Leslie had taken up the position in behind the front two on Jake Newman’s departure and he nearly started the second half with a bang. Latching onto a loose ball just a minute in and running across the home defence to the edge of the box he finally dragged his shot wide left when well placed.
Just 2 minutes later a quick break earned a throw-in in Sam Brown territory and the bullet ball in was flicked towards goal by Lewis Leslie, with Tom Lorraine seeing his follow-up header also cleared from close in before the ball fell to Richard Bunting who fired a volley over the bar from 18 yards.
Diamonds had started the second half well but Newcastle also upped their game and became more of an attacking threat. On 53 good patient build-up down the left put Niall Green in space where his lobbed ball into the six yard box was cleared by a Sam Brown brave diving header. The full-back was clattered by the closing in home forward Cropper but able to carry on after treatment.
And it was a Sam Brown long throw that created the next Diamonds chance, Tom Lorraine heading back across goal where Lewis Leslie lifted his header just over the bar from close in.
Newcastle were defending ruggedly at times and picked up one of 4 second half yellow cards for a foul on Leslie just outside the box on 63. Liam Dolman hit a firm curling effort with the keeper well beaten but the post was just beaten too.
Nabil Shariff created a chance for himself on 66 as he ran at the retreating home defence, almost stumbled in possession but kept going and just dragged his effort wide from 20 yards.
Diamonds were beginning to tire from the constant attacking effort and Newcastle were pushing forward with increasing confidence as the game went into the last 15 minutes. A free-kick was won 30 yards out on 77 after a quick break which saw Richard Smith strike a superb curling effort that Matt Finlay pushed round the post at full stretch.
Just a minute later a superb last ditch interception by Liam Dolman prevented a clean break by the home side surging into the box before an unusual error in getting the ball back to Matt Finlay saw a corner conceded. It was the first of a few corners poorly conceded that would prove costly for the away side.
Tom Lorraine was still running hard at Newcastle and just as he looked to have surged away from his man on into space on 80 he was brought down for another yellow card for the home side.
Diamonds were struggling to maintain any momentum in the closing stages and it was the classic sucker punch on 88 minutes that won the game. A needlessly conceded corner was only half cleared allowing the ball to be fed back into the 6 yard box over the Diamonds defence who were pushing out. Strong offside shouts were denied as a free header crashed off the bar and with Finlay prone Jake Lovatt struck firmly on the turn to win the game.
Final Score: Newcastle Town 1 – AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0
The result was harsh on Diamonds who showed some promising aspects to the performance, dominated much of possession and created more in the way of goal chances. Newcastle were defensively strong and grew more confident as an attacking side as Diamonds tired and got a little frustrated in the later stages and deserved their goal for their late enterprise.
Diamonds don’t have long to wait to try and get their first NPL D1 South points with the visit of Chasetown FC to the Dog & Duck on Tuesday night.
Diamonds Man of the Match: Aidan Bradshaw
Match Report by Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Aaron Dillon
2. Sam Bradbury
3. Lewis Bergin
4 Richard Smith
5. James Askey
6. Jon Beaumont
7. Luke Askey
8. Kyle Blake
9. Chris Baker
10. Lee Cropper
11. Niall Green
12. Tom Urwin (for Blake)
14. Jordan Cole (for Beaumont)
15. Jake Lovatt (for Cropper)
16. Dave Ablewhite
17. Joe Mellor
17. Matt Finlay
2. Aidan Bradshaw
3. Sam Brown
4. Jack Ashton
5. Liam Dolman
6. Brad Harris
7. Richard Bunting
8. Kyal McNulty
9. Jake Newman
10. Nabil Shariff
11. Tom Lorraine
12. Lewis Leslie (for Newman 42)
13. Joseph Haynes
14. Robbie Parsons (for McNulty 73)
15. James Harvey
15. Taylor Orosz (for Shariff 81)
Goals: Lovatt (88)
Yellow Cards: Green (47), Baker (66), Urwin (83), Lovall (91)
Referee: Steve Abbott
Assistants: Wayne Gary, Scott Mason
Updated player profiles with appearance and goalscoring details are now available.
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