AFC Rushden & Diamonds ran out 4-1 winners against Raunds Town in an entertaining pre-season friendly at Kiln Park on Tuesday evening.
After Raunds had come close twice in the opening stages only to be denied by brilliant Matt Finlay saves it was Diamonds who opened the scoring on 14 minutes. Nic Evangelinos swept home Nabil Shariif’s squared ball at the far post. They doubled the lead on 38 with Evangelinos the provider this time, his dangerous cross only cleared to the edge of the box where Taylor Orosz took a touch and fired hard and low into the bottom corner.
They added two more by the hour mark with Nabil Shariff striking from the edge of the box into the bottom corner on 51, and Jake Newman forcing a goal-line scramble home with his head on 61. Multiple substitutions gave the whole squad a run out and although Diamonds continued to press it was Raunds who would finish the scoring with a breakaway goal superbly chipped over the advancing Finlay on 85.
Manager Andy Peaks went with another solid back four combination with Aidan Bradshaw joining Jack Ashton, Sam Brown and Lewis Jackson at the back. A trialist teamed up with Brad Harris in centre midfield with Taylor Orosz out wide one side with Nic Evangelinos the other and Nabil Shariff up front with Jake Newman.
On a warmish night it was a lively start with Jake Newman getting in behind inside the first minute where his cross went too deep, but it was a lively Raunds who had the first chance. A quick break saw space on the edge of the box for a superb strike that Matt Finlay tipped over at full stretch.
After Newman almost got in again another quick break by Raunds on 5 forced a mistake at the back allowing the centre forward to run in on goal unmarked. Matt Finlay was out quickly and made an excellent low save but Raunds will feel they should have taken the lead.
Diamonds were starting to gain the ascendency in midfield though at this stage and were particularly dangerous down the right. Taylor Orosz was played in beautifully on 9 mins but fired just over from inside the box before the opening goal came on 14 mins again down the right. This time Nabil Shariff held the ball well then surged into the box squaring the ball through the pressured Raunds defence for Nic Evangelinos to sweep home on the far post.
With the trialist a spitting image for Richard Bunting in appearance and style of play it looked a very familiar set-up for Diamonds and they were getting runners through the Raunds defence on a regular basis. Jake Newman and Nabil Shariff both fired efforts into the keeper’s midriff but Raunds looked on the edge of breaking the Diamonds rear-guard on a few occasions only to be denied by good cover defence and last ditch tackles.
Newman and Shariff were proving a real thorn in the Raunds defence with Newman getting in behind on a regular basis and his strike partner picking up loose balls and showing great control around the area. On 29 he seized on Newman’s work again to hit a low shot from just 10 yards that came to him quickly, the home keeper making a good low save.
Diamonds were looking dangerous right across the field with Nic Evangelinos and Taylor Orosz prominent and they combined on 38 to double the lead. Evangelinos had got a couple of decent efforts away in the preceding minutes but this time got in down the left and his cross was just cleared to the edge of the box where Orosz took a good touch and fired left footed into the bottom right corner.
There was time for Newman and Shariff to combine again on 42 when Newman headed a deep cross back across goal at pace where Shariff tried to guide a quick volley towards goal but saw it just fly over.
Half-time: Raunds Town 0 – AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2
Manager Andy Peaks made one change at half-time with Richard Bunting coming in for Jack Ashton. Brad Harris dropped into the back four allowing Bunting to play centre midfield alongside his doppelganger the trialist.
After a low key start to the half Nabil Shariff upped the pace to run at the Raunds defence on 51 minutes to add Diamonds third. His trickery earning him space on the edge of the box to fire a low shot back across the keeper into the bottom left corner as he was falling.
Taylor Orosz had another quick break down the right on 59 earning a corner. Then found the ball break to him 15 yards out with goal gaping but he fired well over.
He left the field on 60 with Nic Evangelinos to generous applause with Robbie Parsons and James Harvey entering the fray. Lewis Leslie then replaced Trialist and saw Diamonds make it 4-0 almost immediately. A corner was only half cleared, the ball played back into the box falling right under the bar where Jake Newman forced the ball home with his head.
More Diamonds subs saw Chris Wreh, and Tom Lorraine replacing the starting strikers Jake Newman and Nabil Shariff on 70 mins.
It took a while for the game to settle after all the substitutions although Diamonds continued to press. Lewis Leslie nearly wriggled free just outside the box on 80 mins and then Chris Wreh really should have got his goal on 83 as he tricked his way into the box but scuffed a bouncing ball just wide.
Raunds continued to show energy and desire to get forward seeing one cross shot fired across the face of goal, before they grabbed a deserved consolation goal on 85. The lively winger broke the offside trap into acres of space down the right and ran at the advancing Finlay and coolly chipped the ball past him into the centre of the goal.
One final surge from Raunds was denied at the near post as the home side finished strongly but the game ended with the final score 4-1 to the visitors on the night.
Final Score: Raunds Town 1 – AFC Rushden & Diamonds 4
This was an entertaining pre-season game in front of a healthy c.250 crowd. Raunds probably should have opened the scoring after an uncharacteristic defensive mistake but Matt Finlay came to the rescue. Diamonds gradually got on top with some good passing and movement both in midfield and by their two very mobile strikers and will have pleased manager Andy Peaks with the energy and intensity shown in the game. The whole squad got a run out again and are shaping up well for the new season.
There is just one more pre-season friendly for Diamonds before the new season starts at Newcastle Town on August 13th. Next Saturday Diamonds travel to Hednesford Town of the Northern Premier League Step 3.
Reporters Man of the Match: Nabil Shariff
Attendance: Est 250
Match Report by Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. ***not confirmed***
17. Matt Finlay
2. Aidan Bradshaw
3. Lewis Jackson
4. Jack Ashton
5. Sam Brown
6. Brad Harris
7. Taylor Orosz
9. Jake Newman
10. Nabil Shariff
11. Nic Evangelinos
12. Richard Bunting (for Ashton 45)
13. Trialist (GK)
14. Lewis Leslie (for Trialist 60)
8. Robbie Parsons (for Orosz 60)
18. Tom Lorraine (for Newman 67)
19. James Harvey (for Evangelinos 60)
21. Chris Wreh (for Shariff 67)
Goals: 7 (85)
Goals: Evangelinos (14), Orosz (38), Shariff (51), Newman (61)
Yellow Cards: 9 (40)
Referee: ***not confirmed***