Two goals from Jake Newman, one in either half, gave AFC Rushden & Diamonds a hard-fought victory over Potton United at The Hollow on Saturday afternoon.
Diamonds manager Mark Starmer was able to name a starting XI that was unchanged from the one that drew with Eynesbury Rovers in midweek. There was one change on the bench, with Deven Ellwood a late withdrawal meaning that Joe Merrill was brought in for his first appearance since illness.
The Royals made a single change, with Luke Redhead preferred at full-back ahead of Jordan Butcher.
With a recent shower making the lush pitch at The Hollow rather slippery, the opening of the game was rather messy, with the blustery crosswind also contributing to mistakes from both sides.
The best chance for the Diamonds in the first quarter of the game fell to Alex Deakin who spooned an effort over the bar after a corner was not properly cleared. Jake Newman also produced a couple of dangerous crosses from the left flank, one hit low that just eluded Taylor and Wisniewski, and another which Alfie Taylor allowed to run too wide and he saw his effort hit the side netting.
The host enjoyed long spells of possession and forced a number of corners where the Diamonds defence did well to deal with the threat of the impressive Steve Thomas who was also winning much of the ball in midfield.
It was thus rather against the run of play when the Diamonds took the lead after 37 minutes. A long ball forwards from Alex Deakin, was not dealt with by the Royals defence, who allowed the ball to bounce between them, allowing Jake Newman to nip in and burst past the last defender to face keeper Loney in a one-on-one. The Diamonds striker took the ball past Loney, but rather than score with his right-foot he moved the ball onto his left foot to fire home.
The half ended with Diamonds Chris Hope making a powerful run forwards, and his flick after receiving the ball helped to win a corner. Hope then saw his header well cleared off the line by Potton defender Faulkner. As the ball was moved up field Jake Gillingwater was left on the ground having suffered a hamstring injury that will probably mean he misses the final week of the season.
Half-Time: Potton United 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
As expected Jake Gillingwater did not return for the second half, although Mark Starmer advised later that he was planning to bring Joe Merrill on shortly anyway.
The Diamonds produced an improved performance throughout the second period, with a succession of early corners and keeper Loney producing a good save from a looping Taylor header. The Diamonds did get the ball in the net when Deakin headed a ball from Wisniewski into the path of Jake Newman, but the Diamonds striker was flagged offside.
A few minutes later there was a scare for the Diamonds as a break involving substitute Muggridge saw Sam Bonham receive the ball in an offside position before firing home as the linesman’s flag went up.
The Diamonds then seemed to move up a gear, with Matt Gearing replaced by Brad Harris, allowing Aaron King more freedom to get forwards. Alfie Taylor moved out to the right flank, with Wisniewski on the left, resulting in a similar attacking threat to that against Oadby Town. Aaron King had an effort saved by Loney after a Brown throw was headed on by Newman, and the Diamonds midfielder also tested the keeper after good work by Taylor on the right. Sam Brown was getting forwards more and more and he almost repeated his feat of Tuesday evening as the hosts tired.
With five minutes left the Diamonds made the game safe, as Merrill and Taylor linked on the right, with Merrill running along the by-line before laying the ball into the path of Jake Newman who fired home off the far post.
The Diamonds comfortably held out for the final five minutes to complete the vital win that means they need a win and a draw from their final two games to seal promotion.
Full-Time: Potton United 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2
The Diamonds will face their final home game of the 2012/13 campaign in midweek when they host neighbours Wellingborough Whitworth at the Dog & Duck on Tuesday evening. Although all four promotion contenders only have two games to play, only the Diamonds will finish their campaign next weekend, with the other teams having been allocated a midweek game in the following few days.
The current UCL League Table can be found on the AFC Diamonds website here, and the updated the Match Stats, Player Stats, Form Guide and Attendance figures can be found in the summary stats area here. The player profiles have also been updated.
Diamonds Man of the Match: Sam Brown
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Aaron Loney
2. Shaun Faulkner
3. Luke Redhead
4. Dan Burgin
5. Stuart Gillies
6. Chris Reeves (Capt)
7. Joe Stacey
8. Nick Cooper
9. Steve Thomas
10. Sam Bonham
11. Joe Aris
12. Steve Muggridge (for Stacey 62)
14. Louis Green (for Reeves 80)
15. Jordan Butcher (for Redhead 77)
16. Peter Lawrence
17. Lee Garner
17. Tom Cross
2. Jake Gillingwater
3. Sam Brown
4. Séan McBride
5. Chris Hope (Capt)
6. Alex Deakin
7. Jack Wisniewski
8. Aaron King
9. Alfie Taylor
10. Jake Newman
11. Matt Gearing
12. Brad Harris (for Gearing 67)
13. Quincy Shorunmu
14. Lance Allen
15. Ben Morgan
16. Joe Merrill (for Gillingwater HT)
Goals: Newman (37, 85)
Yellow Cards : Aris
Yellow Cards: Harris
Referee: Paul Dobbs
Assistants: Raymond Mepsted, Richard May
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Images courtesy of Mal Swinden ©2013 Malcolm Swinden Photography
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