Northampton ON Chenecks 0-4 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
AFC Rushden & Diamonds cruised through to the semi-finals of the NSYL Knock-Out Cup, thanks to a stunning 4-0 victory over Northampton ON Chenecks. The two sides met in the league back in September, with Chenecks running out 4-0 victors, but on this occasion the Diamonds were superior in every department, and fully deserving of their emphatic victory.
Mason Thomas and Zach Farden were missing from the squad due to injuries sustained in the recent friendlies against Histon and Wellingborough respectively. There was, however, a place in the starting line-up for new signing Ben Roche, who made his competitive debut following an excellent performance in the aforementioned game against Wellingborough.
A heavy downpour began shortly before kick off, producing conditions not normally conducive to entertaining football. However, the Diamonds started the game at a high tempo and knocked the ball around with plenty of confidence in the opening stages. It took just four minutes to register a shot on goal, as Louis Smith tried his luck from fully 35 yards, forcing Chenecks’ ‘keeper David Day into a decent save as he tipped the ball around the post. From the ensuing corner, Smith rose at the far post but couldn’t direct his header on target.
Rushden’s bright start continued, and on 7 minutes James Harrison raced onto a ball from the back and beat one defender before firing in a cross/shot which fizzed across the face of goal. Chenecks, technically the home side despite the game being played at Kiln Park, registered their first shot on 10 minutes when Seb Thompson laid the ball into the path of Oli Matthews on the edge of the Diamonds’ penalty area, but the powerful striker dragged his shot wide.
Within a minute the Diamonds had gone up the other end and opened the scoring. Lewi Williams latched onto a ball from the back, and tried to work his way towards goal before being dispossessed 25 yards out. The loose ball fell kindly for Ashley Meeks who curled home a stunning shot into the top corner, leaving Day with no chance.
Chenecks looked to hit back straight away, with Luke Adams trying his luck from distance following a good burst from midfield, but he failed to trouble Ashley Foulger. They were dealt a blow on 15 minutes however, as the prolific Matthews picked up a knock and had to be substituted. Ben Diamond was his replacement.
On 17 minutes Meeks attempted a repeat of his earlier heroics with another effort from outside the box, but this time the ball flew narrowly wide of the post. A minute later, Williams had a chance to double Rushden’s lead as Day came racing out of his goal only to make a mess of his attempted clearance, but Williams shot tamely on his weaker foot from 35 yards.
The pre-match downpour had now developed into a full on snowstorm, with Kiln Park looking like a scene from one of the Christmas movies gracing our screens this time last month. In spite of the conditions, the Diamonds were still moving the ball around superbly, and played some of the best football seen all season. On 19 minutes, a great tackle by Alex McDonald set them up on one of the best moves of the game. Harrison carried the ball forward before playing in Blake Helsdown on the right hand side, who in turn pulled the ball back to Zaak Moon on the edge of the penalty area, but his goalbound shot was brilliantly saved by Day, who tipped the ball around the post.
Rushden were well in control of the game and clearly coping with the conditions far better than their opponents. Chenecks at times looked threatening on the counter attack though, and one such break saw the ball played through to Seb Thompson, but the league’s leading scorer could only shoot straight at Foulger.
Shortly after the half hour mark the Diamonds created a great chance for a second goal. A great ball through the middle saw Williams race clear of the Chenecks defence, but with only the ‘keeper to beat he dragged his shot inches wide of the post. Three minutes later, Helsdown’s excellent right wing cross picked out Williams once more, but his attempted overhead kick also missed the target.
On 38 minutes Meeks embarked on a great run down the left flank before crossing low into the penalty area. Day reached the ball first but spilled it back towards his own goal, just managing to recover in time to prevent the ball from crossing the line and gifting Rushden a fortuitous second. A minute later Meeks again tormented the Chenecks defence, this time squaring the ball to Harrison who cut inside before firing in a shot that was brilliant blocked by Alex Marlow.
The deserved second goal finally arrived on 41 minutes, and while the first had been a moment of individual brilliance, this one was a well worked team effort. Some neat passing led to Harrison being played in down the right flank, and he beat his marker before sending in a brilliant cross onto the head of McDonald who nodded home his second goal of the season.
There was time for the Diamonds to go close to a third as Helsdown hit a powerful 25 yard strike that Day did well to tip over the bar, before the teams left the field for half time to a rapturous applause from the delighted Rushden faithful.
HT: Northampton ON Chenecks 0-2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
To the relief of the majority of the Kiln Park crowd, the weather Gods had clearly been conciliated during the interval, and saw fit to put to an end the horrendous first half conditions. The Diamonds continued where they had left off, and within 2 minutes of the restart had gone close to netting a third. Helsdown played the ball into Harrison 25 yards from goal, who in turned played in Williams with an exquisite chip, but Day once again came to Chenecks rescue with another fine save. Meeks pounced on the rebound, chipping the ball back across goal and narrowly missing the far post.
Harrison and Williams combined again a few minutes later with Day racing off his line to deny Williams once more. His clearance fell only as far as McDonald 25 yards out, who lobbed the ball back towards goal but Day recovered just in time to prevent the Rushden midfielder from netting his second of the game.
The third goal arrived on 55 minutes though, as the Williams/Harrison partnership carved through the Chenecks defence once more. Helsdown broke down the right before squaring the ball Harrison who played in Williams with a perfectly weighted through ball, and the latter smashed the ball past Day from 15 yards out.
Chenecks had a rare shot at goal on the hour mark, but with the Rushden back three of Elliot Ames, Danny Bird and Ben Roche in such commanding form, Ashley Ogden’s 35 yard strike at Foulger was the best they could muster.
Soon after, the Diamonds added the icing to the cake with their fourth goal of the night. Williams played in Harrison on the right hand side of the area, and his low cross was deflected just wide of the post by a Chenecks defender. The resultant corner was cleared straight back to Meeks, who sent over a deep cross towards the far post. Williams got to the ball first, tapping it back across the face of goal where Harrison was on hand to help the ball over the line from all of a yard out.
Chenecks then enjoyed a brief spell of pressure at the other end of the pitch, as two left wing corners in the space of 5 minutes were cleared only as far as Jack Goodman on the edge of the penalty area, but on both occasions he shot just wide of Foulger’s right hand upright. Mark Starmer made his three substitutions of the night either side of these half chances, with Fred Devereaux replacing Meeks before Williams made way for Jeron Thompson and Harrison departed in place of Conor Bell.
With 15 minutes remaining Smith attempted to better Meeks’ first half strike with a terrific effort from 40 yards, but the ball dipped just over the bar. Four minutes later Bell went close to netting a fifth as he broke clear down the left and slotted the ball past substitute ‘keeper Zak Khawaja, but Adam Spalding got back in time to clear the ball off the line. As the game entered its final 10 minutes Bell found space down the left once more and this time squared for Jeron Thompson but, with only Khawaja to beat, the substitute striker poked the ball inches wide of the goal.
This chance proved to be the Diamonds last of the game, although Chenecks managed two further half chances in the final five minutes. Goodman was again the threat, firstly hitting a weak shot through a crowded penalty area which Foulger gathered comfortably, before a short corner routine presented him with another opportunity from similar range. Although his second effort was hit with considerably more venom than the first, Foulger’s positioning and handling was as impeccable as it had been all game and he gratefully clutched the ball to his chest.
FT: Northampton ON Chenecks 0-4 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
A delighted Mark Starmer told AFCRDTV that the performance had undoubtedly been the best of the season so far, and showed what the lads are capable of producing. The Diamonds will now travel to Rothwell Corinthians in the semi-final, with that game pencilled in for the week commencing February 27th.
The next competitive game is Thursday 9th February, as Rushden take on Olney Town at Kiln Park, hoping for a repeat of their 3-1 victory at East Street in December. Match preview HERE.
Man of the Match Sponsored by Pitchero: Alex McDonald
Northampton ON Chenecks
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
|15. David Day
2. Elliot Ruff
3. Jack Goodman (c)
4. Luke Adams
5. Reece McLachlin
6. Alex Marlow
7. Jack White
8. Ashley Ogden
9. Oli Matthews
10. Seb Thompson
11. Adam Spalding
|86. Ashley Foulger
4. Elliot Ames
5. Danny Bird (c)
13. Ben Roche
7. Blake Helsdown
6. Alex McDonald
8. Zaak Moon
17. Louis Smith
2. Ashley Meeks
9. James Harrison
11. Lewi Williams
1. Zak Khawaja (for Adams, 56 mins)
12. Elliot Roberts (for Marlow, 58 mins)
14. Ben Diamond (for Matthews, 15 mins)
3. Conor Bell (for Harrison, 73 mins)
10. Jeron Thompson (for Williams, 70 mins)
14. Fred Devereaux (for Meeks, 65 mins)
15. Adam Ziolkowski
18. Ryan Ellmer
Meeks (11 mins)
McDonald (41 mins)
Williams (55 mins)
Harrison (61 mins)
Ogden (29 mins, dissent)
Williams (37 mins, dissent)
Images courtesy of Mal Swinden