A fantastic Claudio Hoban strike in the 87th minute gave AFC Rushden & Diamonds a hard fought win on their longest away trip of the season down in Hampshire at Petersfield Town on Saturday afternoon.
After another pitch inspection had been passed the two sides belied the conditions to provide an entertaining game on a heavy pitch in very windy conditions. Tommy Berwick came close to opening the scoring in just the second minute turning Lewis Leslie’s right wing cross just wide from 8 yards. Tom Liversedge twice and Lewis Leslie also came close when free in the box denied by the excellent home keeper. Matt Finlay made two excellent saves to deny Petersfield in a goalless first but very even first half.
The wind picked up even further in the second half and fewer chances emerged with a Tommy Berwick cross shot the closest Diamonds came before Edi Appleton crashed a shot from inside the box off the bar on 75. Petersfield shaded possession but great defending by the whole Diamonds back four kept them to shots from distance and dangerous crosses. The introduction of Courtney Herbert added real pace in the later stages as Diamonds pressed for that vital winner and it came in spectacular fashion on 87. A free-kick was won out on the angle of the box and swung in by this reporters man of the match on the day Richard Bunting. It was stabbed towards goal, only half cleared to the edge of the box where Claudio Hoban took a touch and smashed the ball home from 20 yards to the delight of the whole team, the travelling fans and the ecstatic media team.
Manager Andy Peaks made two changes to the line-up that won 7-1 on Tuesday night. Edi Appleton came in for his full debut replacing suspended Liam Dolman, and Lewis Leslie came info for his replacing injured Andy Hall. Matt Pinder, Luke Garner joined Courtney Herbert, Tom Lorraine and Alex Vitue on the bench.
Diamonds opened the game with the wind at their backs and down the slope and came very close to opening the scoring in just the second minute. Claudio Hoban cleverly put Lewis Leslie away down the right, he crossed low to the near post where Tommy Berwick got ahead of his man and turned the ball towards goal from 8 yards but it went agonisingly wide.
Berwick was full of energy and threat and came close again on 7. A Sam Brown long throw made its way through the area to the in form striker who swivelled and volleyed first time from 12 yards only to see a last minute defensive block save the home side.
Petersfield were bright and positive in possession moving the ball quickly across a difficult pitch and created good chances themselves in what became an end to end style of game. A corner was won at the end of a flowing move on 9 minutes creating a good headed chance for Neighbour that was blocked right on the line.
Tom Liversedge then created a great chance for himself after controlling a left wing cross superbly and turning and striking a first time effort towards the top corner that Ender in the home goal was at full stretch to save.
Matt Finlay then matched that goalkeeping effort with a superb reaction save down at his left hand post as a right wing cross was whipped towards goal from close range, his quick change of direction denying the home side.
Both sets of players were struggling at times with footing on a slippy pitch and being impacted by swirling gusting wind but kept good attacking intent and Diamonds created a series of good chances in the middle third of the half.
First Lewis Leslie broke free into the box from a Sam Brown ball but shot straight at keeper Ender, next Edi Appleton headed home on 28 only to be denied by an offside flag. Liversedge was then clean through in the box but his placed effort was just touched wide by the hard working Ender,
Petersfield continued to press for the opener themselves and after a melee from a corner that Diamonds just scrambled clear they really should have taken the lead on 35. Another great passing move found the dangerous Briggs out wide his cross to the unmarked Neighbour was just behind the striker who headed the ball back into the path of Danny Thompson with a clear site of goal but he fired horribly over.
There was just time for Tom Liversedge to be denied from close range after Claudio Hoban had set Tommy Berwick away to cross in low for the big striker.
Half-time: Petersfield Town 0 – AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0
The wind really picked up in second half and conditions really began to impact on the players. Chances were more limited with plenty of good midfield play but little in the way of danger for either defence.
Tommy Berwick had a decent chance on 50 as he surged away down the right onto another Claudio Hoban ball but he was coming in from an angle when he fired a fierce low effort that Ender held low down at the near post.
Throw-ins and corners were the biggest threat in this phase, particularly for Petersfield who had the strong wind at their backs. The Diamonds back four worked hard to repel the danger supported by the excellent Richard Bunting and Brad Harris in front of them and confident Matt Finlay behind them.
Lewis Leslie was also hard working defensively as well as dangerous going forward and he picked up a knock on 63 in making a great defensive block and had to be replaced by Tom Lorraine. Diamonds reverted to 4 2 3 1 with Liversedge the lone striker with Hoban, Lorraine and Berwick behind him.
Lorraine was energetic and purposeful in that central position and was involved in the move that earned a free-kick 30 yards out on 67 that Claudio Hoban struck fiercely to sting the fingers of Ender as he took the ball just under the bar.
Diamonds just began to dominate possession in the later stages and really should have opened the scoring on 75 as a long throw was half cleared to Tommy Berwick just inside the box his volley just clipping the bar
Courtney Herbert was introduced on 80 in place of Liversedge and his pace started to really trouble the Petersfield defence, the striker/winger nearly getting away a number of times as Diamonds probed for that vital winning goal.
Just as it looked like it wouldn’t come another quick break saw Richard Bunting felled on the edge of the area on 87. He swung in the cross which was stabbed towards goal but only half cleared to the edge of the box. The right man was there to collect the ball for Diamonds in Claudio Hoban who took a good first touch and then fired in a blistering effort into the bottom corner to the absolute delight of his team mates and the dancing fans who had travelled down to blustery Hampshire.
There was plenty of added on time with injuries and substitutions but Diamonds pressed forward during most of it to see out a vital win in a close but good quality game in difficult conditions.
Final Score: Petersfield Town 0 – AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
Diamonds earned the right to win this game with that late strike by their positive endeavour throughout and by finishing strongly in what must have been tiring conditions. It was possibly hard on Petersfield who were excellent throughout and especially in what was an end to end first half. Manager Andy Peaks will be as pleased with the defending of his team which included full debutant Edi Appleton and the impact of substitutes Courtney Herbert and Tom Lorraine supplementing excellent performance by Tommy Berwick.
The win keeps Diamonds second just a point behind table toppers St. Ives who come to the Dog & Duck for the game of the season so far on Tuesday evening.
Man of the Match: Tommy Berwick (chosen by members vote)
Match Report by Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Anthony Ender
2. Olly Searle
3. Sean Wain
4 Adam Brice
5. Dan Sackman
6. Gary Norgate
7. Lewis Hyde
8. Danny Thompson
9. Howard Neighbour
10. Joe Briggs
11. Oliver Bailey
12. Joe Richardson
14. Jordan Neal
15. Dominic Cope
16. Jason Silver
17. David Jerrard
17. Matt Finlay
2. Ollie Wilkinson
3. Sam Brown
4. Delroy Gordon
5. Edi Appleton
6. Brad Harris
7. Lewis Leslie
8. Richard Bunting
9. Tom Liversedge
10. Tommy Berwick
11. Claudiu Hoban
12. Matt Pinder
13. Alex Vitue
14. Courtney Herbert (for Liversedge 80)
18. Luke Garner
19. Tom Lorraine (for Leslie 63)
Goals: Hoban (87)
Yellow Cards: Olly Searle (15), Dan Sackman (90 +1)
Referee: Michael Taylor
Assistants: Neal Hussey, Colman O’Meara
Updated player profiles with appearance and goalscoring details are now available.
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