Northampton Spencer 1-2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
AFC Rushden & Diamonds came from behind to extend their impressive 100% record in competitive games in 2012.
There were a few changes to the side that had defeated Rothwell Corinthians in the Knock-Out Cup the previous week, some enforced and some not so. Fred Devereaux appeared in the starting line-up for the first time, while Conor Bell and Adam Ziolkowski made their first starts since before Christmas. There was also space on the bench for recent signing Anthony Ottaway, who made his debut appearance in the squad.
The opening stages of the game were somewhat disjointed, with neither side able to get into any sort of rhythm. Fred Devereaux was the first player to have a meaningful attempt at goal, with an ambitious 30 yard drive that flew narrowly over the bar on 3 minutes.
The home side responded on 7 minutes with a Josh McCulloch header from a deep free kick into the penalty area, which was deflected just wide of the post. The ensuing corner was only half dealt with by Ashley Foulger, with Corey Haslehurst latching onto the loose ball first and hitting a dangerous overhead kick across the face of goal, but the ball evaded everyone and went behind for a goal kick.
With 15 minutes gone the Diamonds won a corner on the left wing, which was delivered into the area by Ashley Meeks. Lewi Williams rose to head the ball back across goal, with Zach Farden getting to it first but only able to head straight into the arms of Reece Gwilliam in the Millers’ goal.
The deadlock was broken on 22 minutes as the home side took advantage of some sloppy Diamonds defending. A right wing free kick was delivered to the far post and headed back across the face of goal, where Jake Sharpe was afforded plenty of time to tap the ball home from close range.
The goal seemed to act as a wakeup call to the Diamonds, and they should have equalised on 30 minutes with what would have been the best team goal of the season. Ben Roche started the move from the back, carrying the ball forward before exchanging some excellent one touch passes with Devereaux, Farden and Louis Smith. Roche continued his run down the left flank and received the ball back again inside the Spencer area, before picking out Meeks with a low cross into the middle, but from just 6 yards out the wing back blazed the ball over the bar.
Two minutes later, Rushden almost created another clear cut opportunity as a free kick from Smith found Conor Bell unmarked inside the Millers’ penalty area, but he couldn’t bring the ball under control and it bounced behind for a goal kick. Spencer were still threatening on the break however, and came close to doubling their lead on 34 minutes. Sharpe again found space between the Diamonds’ back three, firing in a great strike from the edge of the box which looked destined for the back of the net, but Foulger dived low to his left and brilliantly tipped the ball around the post.
The Diamonds had another chance on 40 minutes, as a Meeks throw in down the right flank was flicked on by Bell into the path of Lewi Williams, who decided to hit the ball early and drew a routine save from Gwilliam, when he perhaps had time to carry the ball closer to goal.
A minute later McCulloch was cautioned for kicking the ball away following a decision to award the Diamonds a free kick, in what began a spate of bookings for the home side. On 43 minutes they picked up their second booking, and conceded a penalty in the process. A fiercely struck Devereaux free kick from 25 yards out was only parried by Gwilliam, and as Bell attempted to turn and tap home the rebound he was tripped from behind by the Millers’ ‘keeper, leaving the referee with no option but to point to the spot. Gwilliam was booked for the foul, and can perhaps count himself a little fortunate not to be sent off for denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. Smith stepped up and smashed the spot kick into the ‘keeper’s bottom left hand corner, to become Rushden’s fifth successful penalty taker this season.
With only seconds remaining in the first half, Haslehurst became the third Spencer player to enter the referee’s notebook, following a deliberate looking trip on Alex McDonald.
HT: Northampton Spencer 1-1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
The Diamonds started the second half brightly, and fashioned a good chance in the opening couple of minutes. A great move through the middle saw Smith play in Devereaux between the Millers’ centre backs, but the latter’s shot with the outside of his boot sailed wide of the target.
On 50 minutes the home side went close to restoring their lead in what would have been very fortuitous circumstances, as Liam Tasker’s mishit left wing cross beat Foulger and landed just wide of the far post.
Rushden had another good chance a minute later, as Meeks’ cross from the right was glanced on by Farden to Williams at the far post, but the striker couldn’t keep his shot down.
With 59 minutes played Mark Starmer made his first change of the evening, giving Anthony Ottaway his competitive debut at the expense of Farden. Two minutes later the Diamonds’ pressure paid off as they scored what proved to be the winning goal. Williams was tripped 25 yards from goal, with Smith stepping up to take the resulting free kick. His superb strike was brilliantly tipped onto the post by Gwilliam, but the rebound fell kindly for Roche who smashed home his first goal for the club from close range.
On 63 minutes the home side picked up their fourth booking of the game, as Jacob Gartland needlessly went through the back of Ottaway. A minute later the Diamonds went close to netting a third goal and opening up some breathing space, as Meeks’ right wing corner picked out the run of Devereaux who glanced a near post header just over the bar.
Meeks’ pace and tenacity on the right flank was the source of many of the Diamonds chances, and he created another opportunity on 67 minutes, winning the ball back near the corner flag and crossing for Williams whose near post flick forced Gwilliam into a smart save.
McDonald picked up a very harsh booking on 72 minutes for what looked like a perfectly fair sliding tackle, before both teams made substitutions as the game approached its final 10 minutes; Rushden in an attempt to maintain their slender lead, and Spencer to try and rescue at least a point.
Chances proved hard to come by for both sides as the game drew to a close, although there was one scare for the Diamonds. A Millers corner on 86 minutes was flicked on at the near post and cleared off the line by Meeks, although there was little pace on the ball and Foulger appeared to have it covered anyway.
FT: Northampton Spencer 1-2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
With three weeks now before the final league game against Olney Town, fixtures will furcate into a mixture of friendlies and Jaymann Shield games. The Jaymann Shield is an end of season cup competition open to all of the Northants Senior Youth League teams, and AFC Rushden & Diamonds have been placed in a group with Rothwell Corinthians, Rushden & Higham United and S&L Corby. Details will appear on www.afcdiamonds.com as soon as they are confirmed.
Man of the Match: Ben Roche
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
|1. Reece Gwilliam
2. Ben Harris
3. David Sibanda
4. Jacob Gartland
5. Robbie Watson
6. Corey Haslehurst (c)
7. Liam Stone
8. Liam Tasker
9. Jake Sharpe
10. Callum Peach
11. Josh McCulloch
|86. Ashley Foulger
4. Elliot Ames (c)
7. Ben Roche
15. Adam Ziolkowski
2. Ashley Meeks
6. Alex McDonald
13. Louis Smith
16. Fred Devereaux
3. Zach Farden
11. Lewi Williams
14. Conor Bell
12. Jacob Spicer (for Peach, 33 mins)
14. Alex McCabe (for Tasker, 53 mins)
15. Josh Tebbutt
16. Elliott McGrath
17. Thomas Dorrin (for Stone, 80 mins)
8. Zaak Moon
9. James Harrison (for Devereaux, 80 mins)
10. Jeron Thompson (for Williams, 74 mins)
17. Anthony Ottaway (for Farden, 59 mins)
Sharpe (22 mins)
Smith (43 mins, pen)
McCulloch (41 mins, dissent)
Gwilliam (43 mins, foul)
Haslehurst (45 mins, foul)
Gartland (63 mins, foul)
McDonald (72 mins, foul)
Match Highlights are available Here