Olney Town 1-3 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
AFC Rushden & Diamonds secured a comfortable three points against bottom of the table Olney Town, and in truth should have won the game by a much greater margin.
The Diamonds dominated from start to finish and only some profligate finishing and inspired goalkeeping kept the scoreline at a respectable level, but nonetheless the fledgling club ends 2011 on a high and with an extra 3 points on the board.
With Olney’s weakness appearing to be in defence, with 43 goals conceded in 10 league games prior to this one, Mark Starmer opted for an attacking 3-4-3 formation in an attempt to take the game to the hosts. Ashley Meeks and Zach Farden pushed up into the wide midfield roles from their usual full back positions, while Conor Bell also started higher up the field than usual, partnering Mason Thomas and Blake Helsdown in the front three.
Rushden showed their intent straight from kick off, controlling possession with some comfort. Their first chance of the evening came on 3 minutes, as a deep free kick from Danny Bird caused problems for the Nurserymen allowing Bell to setup Farden on the left hand side of the penalty area, but his shot curled inches wide of the post.
Olney put everyone back behind the ball in the opening stages and offered nothing going forwards, but their back line were making some terrific blocks and last ditch challenges to deny the Diamonds an early opener. On 10 minutes a good run and pass from Meeks found Bell on the right hand side of the area, but his powerful strike was just too high, skimming the bar on its way over.
Two minutes later the visitors won a corner down the right flank, which Meeks hit low towards Bird, but the Rushden skipper could only fire his first time shot high over the bar. On 15 minutes Louis Smith dived into a tackle in the centre circle, catching his opponent after the ball had gone, and was fortunate to escape a booking.
With 22 minutes played, and the Diamonds still struggling to get through the stubborn home defence, Adam Ziolkowski took it upon himself to try and open the scoring. The centre back burst forward from defence beating three players in the process, but his shot from 20 yards was straight at Ben Brown in the Olney goal. The Nurserymen only half cleared the ball, with Smith latching onto it 25 yards from goal, but his speculative effort cleared the bar by some distance.
The Diamonds were edging ever closer to opening the scoring, and nearly did so on 26 minutes. Zaak Moon’s terrific ball down the right wing was followed by an equally good cross from Blake Helsdown, straight to Mason Thomas, but the striker’s volley was brilliantly saved by Brown. Two minutes later Thomas went close again, latching onto another great pass, this time by Farden, but his goalbound effort struck the legs of a defender and was deflected wide for a corner. Just seconds later, Bell went close to opening his account in an AFC shirt, but fired inches wide from the edge of the box after being teed up by Moon.
Shorty after the half hour mark, Olney’s Jordan Appleton became the second player lucky to escape a booking, following a late lunge from behind on Danny Bird. As with Smith’s earlier challenge however, the referee decided that a stern word in the offender’s ear would suffice. The Olney defence failed to deal with the resulting free kick, with Thomas flicking the ball on for Bell who won the challenge with Brown allowing Thomas to tap home the loose ball but, much to everyone’s surprise, the referee saw an infringement and disallowed the goal.
On 36 minutes Thomas again went close to get the goal he deserved, controlling Helsdown’s cross on his chest before volleying towards goal, only to see his effort well saved by the legs of Brown. A minute later Helsdown set up Bell following a great run down the right wing, but his near post shot drew another good save from the Olney ‘keeper.
With 5 minutes to go before the interval, the best move of the half presented Zaak Moon with probably the best scoring opportunity of the half. Good play from Farden saw him find Bell in the middle of the park, and his exquisite chip saw Moon break clear of the Olney defence with only the ‘keeper to beat, but his shot was too close to Brown who continued his first half heroics by saving with his feet once more.
Just as it was beginning to look like the sides would be going in at the break on level terms, the Diamonds finally got the goal they had been threatening all half, and it was certainly one worth waiting for. Smith picked out Helsdown on the right hand side of the area, and he controlled the ball before smashing it into the top corner giving Brown no chance at all. Smith was caught late by Appleton while setting up the goal but the Olney midfielder was let off for a second time, without even a talking to on this occasion.
With the deadlock finally broken the Diamonds’ confidence took a boost, and within 2 minutes they had doubled their lead, with a second goal of real quality. Great vision by Smith saw him pick out the run of Meeks down the right flank, and the winger’s excellent low cross was met by Bell who slotted home from 10 yards for his first AFC R&D goal.
HT: Olney Town 0-2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
There was hope among the large number of travelling Rushden supporters that the floodgates would now open following the two goals late in the first half. However, it was the home side started the brighter and pulled a goal back inside the opening 5 minutes. Substitute Wes McGrath played in Appleton down the right, who registered the Nurserymen’s first attempt on goal which was excellently saved by Ashley Foulger. From the resulting corner, James Bates’ near post header looped over Foulger and just crept beneath the crossbar to prompt loud cheers from a group of vocal Olney supporters who had assembled towards the end of the first half.
For a few minutes the Rushden players appeared a little shell shocked, but they were soon back on top again and pressing forwards for a third goal. On 56 minutes Appleton finally picked up a booking after his fourth late challenge of the game, following a terrific run from midfield by Zaak Moon. Mason Thomas stepped up to take the resulting free kick but could only blast the ball high over the goal, and the burger van parked behind it.
Shortly after the hour mark however, the Diamonds restored their two goal advantage. Following great battling from Farden and Bell, the ball broke to Thomas on the left hand side of the area, and he held off a defender before calmly rolling the ball past Brown and into the bottom corner, for a thoroughly deserved third goal of the season. Unfortunately he picked up an injury in scoring the goal and was substituted a few minutes later, with Lewi Williams coming on in his place.
The third goal seemed to kill off any further threat from the home side, and it was now a case of whether the visitors could go on and open up a substantial lead and give their goal difference a boost. On 74 minutes Bell set up Meeks on the edge of the box, but his left foot shot was narrowly wide of the post. Two minutes later Bell was again the provider, this time sending Williams clear of the defence, but the substitute was denied by another excellent save from Brown.
Jeron Thompson replaced Farden shortly after, with the latter appearing to suffer from a touch of cramp. Seconds later the Diamonds won a corner which was delivered into the middle by Meeks, where Smith rose to head the ball towards goal only to see his effort cannon back off the crossbar. A minute later Thompson saw his first action of the game, turning on the edge of the box before getting in a shot which was comfortably gathered by Brown.
As the game entered the final 10 minutes, Williams shrugged off a challenge from an Olney defender before curling the ball superbly past Brown and into the net, but to his disbelief the referee disallowed the goal for a foul. Williams foolishly showed his displeasure by kicking the ball away, and picked up a yellow card for his troubles. He had reason to feel aggrieved however, as Appleton had gone unpunished on two occasions for the same offence, despite already having been booked.
There were further chances for the Diamonds to extend their lead in stoppage time. Firstly, Moon showed great determination to win a 50-50 ball with Calvin Rayner before hitting a blistering shot from a tight angle which cannoned back off the post with Brown well beaten. He then turned provider with a great through ball for Williams, who rounded the ‘keeper before seeing his shot cleared off the line by Rayner.
FT: Olney Town 1-3 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Mark Starmer was delighted with his team’s overall performance, but expressed his concern that they had once again failed to hit the back of the net as often as they should have done.
AFC R&D go into the Christmas break in good spirits though and with the team well placed in fourth position in the Northants Senior Youth League table.
The next competitive match is not until Thursday 12th January, however, we are hoping to arrange some friendly matches between now and then. Please keep an eye on www.afcdiamonds.com for any announcements.
Man of the Match: Louis Smith
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
|1. Ben Brown
6. Fred McCann
8. Jamie Clarke
9. Charlie Malcolm
10. James Bates
11. Harry Stachini
12. Calvin Rayner
15. Ollie Pennell
17. Jordan Appleton
19. Sam Haslam
35. Joel Bailey
|24. Ashley Foulger
4. Elliot Ames
5. Danny Bird (c)
15. Adam Ziolkowski
2. Ashley Meeks
8. Zaak Moon
13. Louis Smith
3. Zach Farden
7. Blake Helsdown
9. Conor Bell
16. Mason Thomas
2. Jack Denham
14. Wes McGrath (for Pennell, 48 mins)
16. Pat Burt
6. Alex McDonald (for Bell, 90+1 mins)
10. Jeron Thompson (for Farden, 79 mins)
11. Lewi Williams (for Thomas, 66 mins)
12. Matti Ellis
14. Ryan Ellmer
Bates (49 mins)
Helsdown (42 mins)
Bell (44 mins)
Thomas (62 mins)
Appleton (persistent fouling)
Williams (time wasting)