Northampton ON Chenecks 4-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
An injury hit AFC Rushden & Diamonds fell to their first competitive defeat, at the hands of an excellent ON Chenecks side who, even at this early stage of the season, already look like a strong bet for the Northants Senior Youth League Western Division title.
With six players missing from the squad who would usually be included in the first 16, there was a starting opportunity for Ryan Ellmer at right back, and places on the bench for second choice goalkeeper Adam Batten and full back Dan Paterson.
Unsurprisingly, it was the free scoring home side who had the first meaningful attempt on goal inside the opening couple of minutes, when a deep free kick found Jack White inside the penalty area, but his shot from a tight angle was comfortable for Ashley Foulger in the Diamonds goal.
Rushden quickly got to grips with their opponents however, and after the initial early scare actually looked the more dangerous side in the opening 10 minutes. With 4 minutes on the clock, striker Lewi Williams latched onto the ball 20 yards from goal and fired in a shot which was unfortunately too close to Chenecks ‘keeper Zak Khawaja, who made a comfortable stop. From his throw out however, Zaak Moon brilliantly intercepted the ball and played it into the feet of Levi Freeman on the edge of the box, but his effort went narrowly wide of the post with Khawaja beaten.
ON Chenecks, the league’s top scorers despite playing only two games thus far, gradually began to show their quality, with fullback Luke Adams hitting a free kick from the corner of the Rushden penalty area narrowly over the bar.
With 10 minutes gone, the first of many diagonal balls played over the top of the Diamonds defence almost found the head of Oli Matthews, but the cross was just too high for the powerful Chenecks striker. A minute later, an inch perfect through ball found the feet of the outstanding Seb Thompson, the league’s leading scorer, but he could only drag his shot wide.
Chenecks were getting on top of the Diamonds now and allowing them very little possession, while at the same time committing plenty of players forward in attack. From a break down the right flank, White played in a low cross to the feet of Matthews, but his 15 yard shot went narrowly wide of Foulger’s left hand upright. The diagonal ball over the top was causing the Rushden defence a lot of problems, and from one such ball Thompson almost capitalised, but could only fire weakly at Foulger.
The Diamonds were still threatening on the break, and managed to force a corner on 20 minutes, but although the ball in found the head of Levi Freeman, the attacking midfielder’s header was straight at Khawaja. Chenecks went straight up the other end and once again got in behind the AFC defence with a ball over the top, but Adam Ziolkowski recovered well to prevent Thompson from getting in a clean shot at goal. A minute later and Chenecks produced an almost carbon copy of their previous chance, this time Thompson being forced almost to the byline but he still managed to get in a cross-shot which trickled agonisingly past the post.
Rushden appeared to be struggling to adapt to the extra zip and bounce off Chenecks’ astroturf pitch, with a number of routine passes going astray. Further chances fell to the home side, as a 25 yard drive from Ashley Ogden just cleared the bar, following great work down the left by Adams.
With half an hour gone, Rushden fashioned another decent scoring chance of their own, as good interchange play between Williams and Freeman saw the latter create a shooting opportunity on the volley, but he didn’t get a good contact on the ball and the shot was easily saved. Two more chances went begging for the home side as Thompson used his blistering pace to storm away from the Rushden defence, but on both occasions he could only fire weakly at Foulger.
Just as it looked as though the Diamonds would keep their opponents at bay until half time, Chenecks scored two in quick succession just before the break. The opener arrived on 41 minutes as a diagonal ball from the left evaded the Rushden defence and found Elliot Ruff in space inside the box, and his powerful near post shot flew into the top corner. Just two minutes later it was 2-0 as Ziolkowski misjudged another ball over the top allowing Matthews to run on and lob Foulger, but although his effort came back off the crossbar, Seb Thompson was on hand to tap home the rebound.
HT: Northampton ON Chenecks 2-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
With the double sucker punch just before the interval, the Rushden supporters making up the vast majority of the 200+ crowd were wondering how their side would respond in the second half. To their credit, the team refused to let their heads drop and continued to battle away.
It was Chenecks who started stronger though with Thompson embarking on a great run through the AFC defence, beating two players before being denied by a terrific one-on-one save from Ashley Foulger. The ball was cleared for a corner, and from the resulting centre Foulger’s attempted punch only found Mo Alas but the midfielder’s shot was sliced wide.
The Diamonds responded well though, and won a corner themselves just a minute later. The resultant cross to the far post was met by the head of Louis Smith but he couldn’t quite direct his effort on target. Another half chance followed shortly after as Levi Freeman created a shooting opportunity from 20 yards, but he snatched at the shot with the ball ending up well wide of the goal.
Rushden were enjoying a good spell of possession, and worked another goal scoring chance on 53 minutes, as Lewi Williams’ terrific free kick eluded the home defence and found Ziolkowski at the far post, but the defender failed to trouble Khawaja with his shot.
Any thoughts of the visitors mounting a comeback were quickly dashed however, as yet another pass made its way over the top of the Diamonds defence, allowing Thompson the chance to race onto it ahead of Danny Bird and calmly slot the ball past Foulger for his second goal of the game. That effort took the league’s top scorer to 7 goals in just 3 games.
Five minutes later and the evening went from bad to worse for AFC R&D, as out of the blue Ashley Ogden fired in a shot from 30 yards which appeared to deceive Foulger and find its way into the bottom corner of the net.
Again, the two quick-fire goals left the supporters wondering how the Diamonds would react, and if anything it spurred them on to enjoy a much better final 30 minutes. Shortly after the fourth goal, a ball down the right wing found the feet of Lewi Williams, and the Rushden striker showed great pace to sprint away from the Chenecks defence, but with no one in support his shot from a tight angle was easily gathered by Khawaja. A minute later and Williams again burst clear down the right, this time choosing to cut inside, but after skipping past 3 defenders his powerful shot could only find the side netting.
With Williams twice getting the ball in good positions but having nothing in the way of support on both occasions, Mark Starmer decided to change things around, and push another striker up front alongside him. Mark Rust replaced the injured Blake Helsdown with Smith making way for Jeron Thompson. Rust slotted in at right back with Ryan Ellmer pushing up into right midfield, while Freeman moved from his advanced midfield role to the left, with Thompson partnering Williams in attack. The changes took a little while to take effect, and the home side came close to a fifth goal on a couple of occasions. Ogden fired in a powerful shot from 25 yards which cannoned back off the crossbar, before Seb Thompson latched onto a great through ball, but missed the target and his chance for a second hat-trick of the season.
Rushden were now competing as well as they had done at any other point in the game, but scoring chances were still difficult to come by. They did have another half chance with 15 minutes remaining though, Rust’s cross into the box wasn’t dealt with by Khawaja with the ball breaking to Freeman on the edge of the box, but after turning a defender his shot flew inches wide of the post.
Further chances fell to ON Chenecks as the game entered the final 10 minutes, with both strikers missing the target when through on goal, but it was the Diamonds who had the final opportunity of the game. Kai Robertson, a late substitute for the tiring Ashley Meeks, skipped past two challenges before laying the ball off to Lewi Williams, but his powerful drive from 20 yards was just the wrong side of Khawaja’s left hand upright.
FT: Northampton ON Chenecks 4-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Mark Starmer revealed after the game that he had had some strong words for the players at half time, but was pleased with their response in the second half. Most of those in attendance agreed that Chenecks were, by some margin, the best side that AFC R&D have faced so far, and it will take an excellent side to beat them to the league title this season.
The Diamonds next game is the U18s Cup match against Vicarage Farm, to be played at Wellingborough Town FC on Sunday 9th October, 2pm kick off. The next league game is at Cogenhoe United on Thursday 13th October.
Man of the Match: Ryan Ellmer
Northampton ON Chenecks
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
|1. Zak Khawaja
2. Elliot Ruff
3. Luke Adams
4. Mo Alas
5. Reece McLachlin
6. Alex Marlow
7. Jack White
8. Ashley Ogden
9. Oli Matthews
10. Seb Thompson
11. Jack Goodman
|86. Ashley Foulger
14. Ryan Ellmer
3. Zach Farden
15. Adam Ziolkowski
5. Danny Bird (c)
7. Blake Helsdown
2. Ashley Meeks
8. Zaak Moon
9. Levi Freeman
11. Lewi Williams
22. Louis Smith
12. David Day (for Jack White, 75)
14. Ben Diamond (for Jack Goodman, 59)
15. Ashley Gilmore
16. Imad Abbassi
17. Conor Malone (for Mo Alas, 71)
10. Jeron Thompson (for Louis Smith, 64)
17. Dan Paterson
19. Mark Rust (for Blake Helsdown, 64)
20. Kai Robertson (for Ashley Meeks, 81)
24. Adam Batten
Ruff (41 mins)
Thompson (43 mins)
Thompson (56 mins)
Ogden (61 mins)
All Images courtesy of Mal Swinden