Pre-Season Friendly: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1-4 Loughborough Students

Diamonds went down 4-1 to Loughborough Students in the behind-closed-doors friendly at Moulton College on Tuesday night.

Diamonds started brightly with Jenson Cooper through one-on-one in the 2nd minute but his chipped effort drifted just wide.  

Loughborough soon started to dominate in midfield with an excellent press as Diamonds struggled to retain possession. They created a number of chances many from overturning possession with early balls out to the wide men and excellent passes over and through the Diamonds defence. 

The first goal came from a wide player getting inside his defender and drawing a challenge which was a clear penalty slotted coolly by the impressive Loughborough No9. The same player was through on goal a few times before finally converting a 2nd with a run on goal and cool finish.

Diamonds were struggling to retain possession in the final third but Jack Snelus had probably his best game for Diamonds and Sutherland was a danger on both flanks after he swapped with Snelus.

Diamonds were losing possession at times in the centre of the park to and the 3rd for Loughborough came from an error pounced on and a great passing move that cut Diamonds open and allowed another cool finish.

Half-time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0 Loughborough Students 3

Diamonds were much improved in the second half with the introduction of Connor Furlong and Courtney Lashley getting them very much on the front foot and playing with confidence that had been missing in the first half. The central midfield pair were energised to produce their best spell of the match and Loughborough were being properly challenged for the first time.

Connor Furlong nearly scored in the first minute of the half cutting in from the right and firing at the keeper. Nathan Hicks and Jack Snelus then combined to get Courtney Lashley into a position to hit a superb curling cross that was just deflected away from Connor Furlong. Furlong again tested the keeper from the edge of the box before a pair of decent crosses in quick succession put the Loughborough keeper under pressure.

Loughborough changed much of their side around the hour mark and Diamonds levels dipped a little allowing a couple of chances to be created with another one on one clean through that was missed and shooting chance from the edge of the box that really should have tested Snedker at least.

We were in an even period of play when Loughborough grabbed a 4th from another penalty. Again a forward was clean through on goal and was tripped by a retreating defender. Another cool penalty made it 4-0 to the students.

Diamonds continued to play at a better tempo with Nathan Tshikuna having a real impact on the closing stages. He carved out a chance for Connor Furlong that was fired over and then won the ball back high up the field and flicked the ball past the keeper towards Towey who could only stab wide.

Towey who has come on as a second half sub then managed to use his experience to wriggle away from his defender and draw a challenge in the box that earned a penalty. Connor Furlong stepped up and slotted home well for Diamonds consolation goal.

There was time for one last chance created by Connor Furlong who tricked his way into the box and squared towards Fraser Corden who couldn’t quite connect with goal gaping.

Final Score: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 Loughborough Students 4

This was undoubtedly a disappointing result and overall performance at this stage of pre-season. Loughborough looked well drilled as a team and pressed Diamonds from the off. Diamonds struggled in the middle and final third and were repeatedly broken open by positive Loughborough running and passing putting pressure on the back four.

The energy and confidence of Connor Furlong and Courtney Lashley introduced at the start of the second half prompted an all-round lift in levels as Diamonds dominated as they would have hoped to do. They started to show the promise that Andy Burgess can see in this group.

Defensive issues still saw Loughborough create chances and they got a 4th before Diamonds got a deserved consolation through a Connor Furlong penalty.

Next-up is the trip to Cogenhoe United in the NFA Hiller Senior Cup on Saturday to see our old friend Scott Carling who is the Cooks’ new manager.

Reporters Man of the Match: Connor Furlong

Attendance: nil – Behind closed doors

Match Report: Paul Judd