AFC Rushden & Diamonds defeated Raunds Town 4-0 at Kiln Park on Saturday afternoon. First half goals from Alfie Taylor, Ben Morgan and Séan McBride had put the Diamonds in command at the break, and Jake Newman finished off the scoring early in the second period.
With Oadby Town slipping to defeat at the same time, the game between the Diamonds and Eynesbury Rovers on Tuesday evening will be the biggest game in the Diamonds history to date, with both teams knowing that victory will give them the edge in the push towards promotion.
Diamonds manager Mark Starmer was presented with a number of team selection challenges in defence for this game. Arron Parkinson had been ruled out after a recurrence of a medical condition that may keep him out for the remainder of the season, a condition he had before joining the Diamonds (and which the Diamonds Management / Board were aware of when he signed for the club) – he was at Kiln Park supporting his team-mates. Chris Hope and Joe Merrill were both recovering from illness and were not risked for the game to improve their chances of being available for the game on Tuesday. Added to that was the one-game suspension for Alex Deakin, but there was also the welcome news that Sam Brown was available and he started at left back. Jake Gillingwater moved to centre-back, and was partnered by Brad Harris who dropped back from midfield. Jack Wisniewski was drafted into the right-back role. U18 player Alex McDonald was given a place on the Diamonds bench as defensive cover.
Ben Morgan returned to the Diamonds starting line-up in right midfield, alongside Aaron King, Séan McBride and Matt Gearing, with Alfie Taylor and Jake Newman up front.
The Shopmates were also without two of the players who started their most recent game.
On a very pleasant afternoon at Kiln Park, a crowd of over 500 surrounded a playing surface that looked in good condition, although there were a number of bumps as one might expect after a long (and wet) season as the pitches finally get a chance to dry out.
An early Diamonds free-kick saw Aaron King set up his midfield partner Séan McBride for a header which went wide. A feature of Diamonds’ keeper Tom Cross’ game has been his distribution, and one ball over the home defence allowed Alfie Taylor to run and hit a shot that was saved by home keeper King. Jake Newman then had a similar chance, but his effort went wide.
Ben Morgan was settling in well to the right midfield role, harrying his opponents into mistakes, one of which saw him battling to win the ball and cross for Jake Newman, who was adjudged to have fouled his marker.
Mid-way through the half the Diamonds appeared to step up a gear, and Jake Newman shot over when Aaron King backheeled a Jake Gillingwater throw into his path.
Two minutes later the Diamonds took the lead with a well taken goal from Alfie Taylor who was found by an incisive pass from Matt Gearing.
That goal seemed to settle things and the Diamonds began to make their domination tell, and the second goal soon came as a cross-field ball from Sam Brown was neatly flicked by Jake Gillingwater to Ben Morgan who celebrated his return to the starting line-up with a goal.
Less than 5 minutes later the Diamonds third goal came in a rather unusual fashion. A Shopmates’ clearance was headed back towards them by Séan McBride, with the ball taking a higher than expected bounce over the head of the advancing keeper King, who could only help the ball into the net.
Half-Time: Raunds Town 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3
With Diamonds having had a number of games where they had led by 3 goals at half-time during the season where they hadn’t capitalised upon the lead, it was important to fully put the game to bed, and they did this after 49 minutes when Jake Gillingwater knocked the ball into the path of Jake Newman, who outpaced his marker whilst taking a neat first touch with his head before dropping his shoulder to wrong-foot keeper King and roll the ball into the net.
That goal was Newman’s 23rd for the club, taking him one goal ahead of Alfie Taylor in the battle to be the Diamonds leading scorer in their inaugural season.
Newman almost turned provider a few minutes later when he wrong-footed his marker near the goal-line on the left before firing a cross which Alfie Taylor almost connected with. Matt Gearing made an excellent break down the left beating two men before seeing his shot saved.
Perhaps the only real Shopmates’ threat of the game came from a dead-ball situation which resulted in Matt Gearing clearing off the line and then Tom Cross tipping over the bar.
The remainder of the game slumbered on the warm afternoon, with Mark Starmer taking the opportunity to plan ahead for the big game against Eynesbury Rovers on Tuesday evening with a number of substitutions.
Full-Time: Raunds Town 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 4
With Oadby Town dropping points for the fourth game running, Eynesbury Rovers now join Diamonds and Sileby Rangers in having control of their own promotion destiny. Eynesbury visit the Dog & Duck on Tuesday evening knowing that a win will take them ahead of the Diamonds in the promotion race.
Diamonds Man of the Match: Brad Harris.
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Kris King
2. Nick Harrison
3. Jamie Gambrell
4. Ash Hunt
5. Marc Harrison
6. Tom Redding
7. Jim Le Masurier
8. Charlie Fowler
9. Matt Redding
10. Alex Wills
11. Martin Brown
12. Karl King (for Gambrell 35)
13. Phil Turner
14. George Westley (for T Redding 71)
15. John Aldridge (for M Redding 81)
17. Tom Cross
2. Jack Wisniewski
3. Sam Brown
4. Séan McBride
5. Jake Gillingwater
6. Brad Harris
7. Ben Morgan
8. Aaron King
9. Alfie Taylor (Capt)
10. Jake Newman
11. Matt Gearing
12. Alex McDonald
13. Quincy Shorunmu
14. Lance Allen (for Newman 67)
15. Deven Ellwood (for Taylor 76)
16. Elliot Dent (for Morgan 67)
Goals: Taylor (25), Morgan (30), McBride (35), Newman (49)
Yellow Cards : Fowler
Yellow Cards: None
Referee: Shaun Wills
Assistants: Sarah Grundy, Kieren Taylor
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Images courtesy of Mal Swinden ©2013 Malcolm Swinden Photography
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