A 78th minute strike from Ben Diamond won this competitive NFA Hiller Cup tie on Tuesday night taking Diamonds through to the semi-final stage.
Diamonds put-out a strong line-up despite 6 changes to Saturday’s starting eleven and included the impressive U18 prospect Patrick Casey at centre half who would go on to pick up the Man of the Match award. Both sides were positive from the off with Diamonds shading the early exchanges coming closest to an opener when Blaize Punter rose beautifully to head a deep cross onto the underside of the crossbar on 21 minutes. Chenecks shaded the run in to half-time and were pacey up front and quick on the break coming closest through the impressive Brandon Williams who got deep into the box on the end of a great move dinking his effort over Nathan Pickworth in the Diamonds goal but also just over the bar.
The second half started with a bang for Diamonds with Ben Diamond breaking brilliantly through the Chenecks defence and hitting a screamer of an effort from 30 yards that zipped over the surface past the away keeper but crashed back off the inside of the post. Both sides built small periods of pressure in an entertaining game but couldn’t quite connect in the final third to create the killer chance. Diamonds started to find space in the Chenecks back four in the closing stages with Ben Diamond getting into good positions but just failing to find a colleague with a couple of cut-backs, and Tom Lorraine and Zack Raynolds pressuring Chenecks on good runs.
The clinching goal came on 78 minutes just after Ben Farrell had joined the fray. Farrell ran at Chenecks, played a one – two with Tom Lorraine and fired in a close range effort that the away keeper did brilliantly to save. The rebound fell centrally though and Ben Diamond forced his way between defenders to be first to the ball to slot home. Chenecks threw men forward in the final stages earning a series of free-kicks and corners but saw efforts on goal blocked by the hard working Diamonds defence.
Manager Andy Peaks picked a strong starting team despite making 6 changes to Saturday’s starting 11. Nathan Pickworth was given another County Cup start along with U18 prospect Patrick Casey with Blaize Punter, Joe Curtis, John Dean and Tom Lorraine also all starting. Nathan Hicks, Ben Farrell and Jack Ashton joined Ben Heath on an experienced bench.
Both sides showed real intent in the game right from the off with Chenecks pacey and looking to get in down the sides of the new look Diamonds defence and Diamonds getting Ben Diamond, John Dean and Tom Lorraine running nicely into the channels and out wide.
Diamonds came close to opening the scoring on 7 minutes as Ben Diamond latched onto a great ball on the right, beat his man and whipped in a dangerous cross that only just beat the out stretched leg of Tom Lorraine yards from goal. Chenecks fashioned the next decent chance with another good pacey break ending with Brandon Williams cutting the ball inside to Lewis Irwin who shaped well but put his effort well over.
Sam Brown was ever dangerous both with his astute passing down the left hand side and his trademark long throws. One such move created a series of dangerous moments for Chenecks as loose balls were fed back into the box but good blocking and cover defence kept Diamonds at bay.
The best chance of the half came on 21 minutes as Diamonds had been building some momentum culminating in a half-cleared corner being feedback into the box where Blaize Punter rose beautifully to head against the underside of the bar.
Chenecks repelled a number of promising Diamonds moves and as the game moved past the half-hour mark began to create good opportunities themselves. Two good shooting positions were rather wasted as efforts were fired wide of either post after good build-up play. Their best chance came right on half-time as an excellent passing move found Brandon Williams deep in the box but his chipped effort over the advancing Nathan Pickworth also cleared the bar.
Half-time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0 Northampton ON Chenecks 0
The second half opened with a bang for Diamonds as Ben Diamond surged through the right side of the Chenecks defence and fired a fierce 30 yard effort that fizzed along the ground past Jack Taylor in the away goal but came back off the inside of his left hand post.
Daniel Lumb threatened next for Chenecks as he got away down the left cut inside and hit a curling effort just wide of the far post and just short of the onrushing Lewis Irwin.
Diamonds came back with some patient build-up that saw Declan Rogers find Ben Diamond in space in the box but his knock-back header just evaded Tom Lorraine, and then Sam Brown crossed well for Declan Rogers who could only glance wide.
Chenecks pressed on with a series of dangerous balls into the box that Diamonds defended well with Patrick Casey and Ben Heath making good blocks. Diamonds responded with more patient build-up this time involving Zack Reynolds, Tom Lorraine and Declan Rogers that ended with Sam Brown electing to pass rather than shoot from the edge of the box but finding Ben Diamond marginally off-side.
In an end to end period of the game Chenecks came so close to breaking clear in the 18 yard box as they looked to pounce on a slight Diamonds error, and then Ben Diamond broke away and cut back to Declan Rogers who produced a great one-handed save from Jack Taylor.
Ben Farrell was introduced as the only Diamonds substitute on the night for Declan Rogers on 72 minutes as the home side began to find more spaces in a finally tiring Chenecks rear-guard. And 6 minutes later he was instrumental in what would be the winning goal. He ran at the Chenecks defence played a 1-2 with Tom Lorraine and fired in a close range effort that produced another great save from Jack Taylor. The ball fell centrally though and Ben Diamond who reacted first forced himself between the waiting defenders to slot home.
Diamonds played out the final stages reasonably comfortably despite Chenecks piling forward and getting a number of balls into the box. Patrick Casey capped a man of the match performance with some important blocks securing the win for the home side.
Full-time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 Northampton ON Chenecks 0
This was a competitive entertaining game that was a credit to both sides and to the competition. Young players on both sides caught the eye – Patrick Casey and Ben Diamond for the home side and Brandon Williams for the visitors – and that has to be a good sign for local football. Diamonds fans might have expected a more comfortable result but they would have underestimated Chenecks resolve and ability and desire to take the game to their illustrious opponents and the game could have gone either way right to the end which is what you want in cup football.
Next up for Diamonds more cup football with a Buildbase FA Trophy tie at Witton Albion on Saturday.
Man of the Match: Patrick Casey
Match Summary: Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Northampton ON Chenecks
13. Nathan Pickworth
2. Zack Reynolds
3. Sam Brown
4. Jack Westbrook
5. Patrick Casey
6. Blaize Punter
7. John Dean
8. Joe Curtis
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Ben Diamond
11. Declan Rogers
12. Nathan Hicks
13. Ben Heath
14. Ben Farrell (for Rogers 72)
16. Jack Ashton
1. Jack Taylor
2. Ashley Ogden
3. Ross Garrick
4. Luke Davis
5. Joe Lewington
6. Jake Nagy
7. Luke McDonald
8. Sam Williams
9. Brandon Williams
10. Lewis Irwin
11. Daniel Lumb
12. Nathan Burrows (for Nagy 82)
14. Charlie Green (for Williams 82)
15. Luke Tollworthy (for McDonald 65)
Goals: Diamond (78)
Yellow Card: Curtis, Lorraine
Yellow Cards: McDonald,
Referee: Shaun Barry
Assistants: James Weatherall, Liam Jackson