Diamonds felt the disappointment of away defeat for the first time since August as they went down 3-2 in Sutton Coldfield against Romulus FC.
Diamonds started and finished the game totally on top and will wonder how they ended up losing on this very cold Birmingham afternoon. After creating a number of early chances they took the lead on 9 minutes as Sam Brown’s long throw was flicked on by Tom Lorraine at the near post for Nabil Shariff to smash into the roof of the net from 4 yards out. Romulus are a strong passionate side and they worked their way into the game from the 15 minute mark but found Diamonds solid 4-3-3 formation denying them much joy in the final third. Early balls forward and dangerous crosses were just repelled but eventually the ball dropped to a striker in a good shooting position and it was Jordan Francis who pounced on a knock-down from a corner to hit a fierce half-volley that Matt Finlay nearly saved from point blank range. Diamonds had some good chances in the closing minutes of the half as Ben Farrell will have fancied he was nailed on to score just a minute after that equaliser but hit his 15 yard shot wide, and again when he danced into the box on 45 but just lost control of the ball as the keeper closed him down.
Having conceded that late first half goal the last thing Diamonds needed was to gift a second goal early in the second half. But that was just what happened as Richard Bunting tracking a ball in behind the Diamonds back four tragically miss hit his back pass allowing Yohan Ruttty-Smith to nip in and lob Matt Finlay. It ushered in a nervy few minutes for Diamonds as Romulus pressed to clinch the game but Diamonds gradually got on top and went onto to pretty much dominate the last half an hour. Nabil Sharif just headed over a corner he had won on 56, Tom Lorraine twice crossed dangerously through the 6 yard box on 60, the second ball headed onto the bar by Richard Bunting. Romulus were a constant danger on the break but Diamonds would get their deserved equaliser on 70. After a mad scramble in the box the ball came out to Nabil Shariff on the right, his pin point cross headed home in style by Tom Lorraine.
Diamonds looked the most likely winners of the game at this point as Liam Dolman had a 25 yard free kick just saved under the bar, Taylor Orosz on as a second half sub had a close range shot blocked and a glancing header go just wide, and one almighty goal mouth scramble somehow cleared by all parts of Romulus anatomies on 81. But then as Romulus appeared to be running the ball out to relieve the pressure a move down the left saw a cross come shot from Guyes drift over everyone into the very far top corner. It may not have been meant but it was harsh on Diamonds who just couldn’t grab a second equaliser in a frantic finish. Romulus had a 2 0n 1 break that should have made it 4-2 which would have been doubly harsh but the final whistle on just 3 added minutes as Diamonds were pressing surprised everyone but drew and entertaining game to a close with a 3-2 win for the home side.
Just the one change for Diamonds from the midweek win against Rugby with Brad Harris in off the bench to replace injured Rory Winters in the back four. Ben Ford returned to the bench in his place.
On a very chilly day a game most probably saved by the Sutton Coldfield Town ground’s artificial pitch started with the away side very much on the front foot. Ben Farrell nearly found Tom Lorraine with a neat ball over top after 3, Sam Brown nearly made it two goals in two with an arrowed drive from the edge of the box just wide on 4, Tom Lorraine forced the home keeper into a brilliant point blank save on 6, and Sam Brown again saw another fierce effort deflected wide on 8.
The pressure finally tolled on 9 with more Sam Brown involvement. A long throw from the right this time was allowed to bounce in the area before Tom Lorraine nodded it over the goalkeeper to an unmarked Nabil Shariff who took a great first touch and blasted it into the roof of the net from 4 yards to his obvious delight. It was the strikers first of the year and only his second since the end of November and a just reward for an enterprising start for the away side.
Romulus reacted well and started to gain some midfield momentum getting Francis away on 12 to fire in two decent crosses both cleared from the 6 yard box, the second by a diving Brad Harris header.
They gradually built pressure but as Rugby found on Tuesday night they were being repelled every time they reached the Diamonds box. A ball in behind Sam Brown was seen out before Francis could pounce on 18, a dangerous cross on 24 was smashed clear by Brad Harris before it could fall to Rutty-Smith, and Ben Farrell tracked back on 26 to make a vital clearance in between a pair of strikers with a volleyed back heel and that he really had to time perfectly.
Nabil Shariff had a good break when he nearly found Fazel Koriya on 21 and Tom Lorraine came close to converting a corner earned after another good break on 28 but it was Romulus who were building momentum and the equaliser duly came on 34.
If you keep getting balls into the box with some quality eventually it will break for you and that’s what happened for Romulus. A free-kick forced a diving clearance from inside the 6 yard box but fell to Francis who struck fiercely on the half-volley. Matt Finlay nearly pulled off an amazing point blank save but the ball flew in off the left hand post.
Incredibly Diamonds should have been back in the lead just 3 minutes later. A corner was half cleared but kept alive and fed across to Ben Farrell 16 yards out on an angle but in space and he must really have fancied hitting the back of the net but saw his effort slide just wide.
There was still time for more long throw mayhem caused by Sam Brown drawing the home keeper into a brave punch clear, another chance for Rutty-Smith who couldn’t convert from a similar position to Francis for the home sides goal, scuffing his half-volleyed effort, and for Ben Farrell dancing into the box but just loosing possession as he advanced on the keeper.
Half-time: Romulus FC 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
After conceding that late first half goal the last thing Diamonds needed was an early second half blow but that is just what came in agonising fashion. Richard Bunting who has been a real stalwart of this Diamonds midfield tracking back tragically miss-hit his back pass allowing Yohan Rutty-Smith to nip in and lob the ball over the already advancing Matt Finlay.
It seemed to rattle Diamonds who had a nervy few minutes as Romulus sensed a chance to kill the game. Matt Finlay made an important punch to clear one dangerous ball and collected at the feet of Masidi to snuff out more danger.
Diamonds settled though and started to exert what would become pretty relentless pressure for the remainder of the game. Nabil Shariff got away down the left and won a corner on 56 that he came close to converting with a glancing header. Matt Finlay nearly earned an assist for a free-kick just inside his own half on 58 as his ball fell over the retreating back four and nearly found Fazel Koriya, and the impressive Tom Lorraine set-up Richard Bunting for a diving 8 yard header that crashed back off the bar on 60.
Manager Andy Peaks made a double substitution on 63 with Taylor Orosz and Lewis Leslie introduced and Orosz would be a real threat right from his introduction as he was against Rugby on Tuesday night.
But it would be often unsung Diamonds hero Tom Lorraine who would get his side back in the game. After just glancing a right wing cross wide on 66 he more than made up with a thumping finish on 70. A scramble in the area was cleared out to the right where Nabil Shariff hit a beautiful cross for the big striker to thump home in trademark fashion in front of the delirious travelling faithful.
It was no more than Diamonds deserved and they surged forward in pursuit of another late winner. Sam Brown crashed a 45 yard volley off the bar on 73 although it turned out his side had been awarded a free-kick. Liam Dolman took it from 25 yards testing the home keeper up in the top corner.
Taylor Orosz was so energetic for the visitors and came close to breaking the back line again on 77 as he nearly tricked his way past Kyle Burke, and just a minute later glanced a header just wide from a whipped in right wing ball.
He was then blocked with a superb sliding challenge as he looked to finish from 10 yards on 80 and was involved on 81 as an almighty scramble in the box that saw all parts of Romulus players anatomy used to block desperate stabs at goal.
As Romulus ran the ball clear from more pressure on 85 seemingly happy to relieve the situation by running towards the corner Jean-Michel Guyes cut inside and hit a cross, or was it a shot that went high and long and nestled right in the far top corner of the goal.
It was the classic sucker punch as Diamonds had looked like the side more likely to clinch the game after a dominant second half-performance. They tried to equalise again with Liam Dolman pushed up front and part of another goalmouth scramble just cleared and nearly getting his head to a late free-kick.
Romulus should have made it 4 on 90 as a 2 on 1 break was messed up as Diamonds were all pushed up field, but as Diamonds were threatening again the final whistle came after just 3 added minutes which surprised everyone in the ground.
Final Score: Romulus FC 3 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2
Diamonds will wonder how they lost this game after totally dominating the early stages and much of the second half. Individual errors and a fortunate late winner denied them having scored two good away goals and threatening many more.
Romulus were a hard working passionate side with two really dangerous forwards as we have seen so often in this league and really enjoyed their win that ended the best away run in the league.
Two defeats in just over a week were very different in nature and Manager Andy Peaks will feel there was not a lot wrong with this performance.
They go again next weekend at the Dog & Duck against Loughborough Dynamo, but not before possibly the most important moment in Diamonds short history on Wednesday night at the Members Forum to decide on the home for this wonderful football club from next season and beyond.
Man of the Match: Tom Lorraine
Match report by: Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Leighton Smith
2. Richard Dudley
3. Mark Branch (C)
4. Cameron Lee
5. Kyle Burke
6. Malachi Farquharson
7. Jordan Francis
8. Jourdain Masidi
9. Nathan Waite
10. Yohan Rutty-Smith
11. Jean-Michel Guyes
12. Jake Donnelly (for Guyes 87)
14. Todd Evans
15. Anthony Smith
16. Ben Welsh
17. Lamar Graham
17. Matt Finlay
2. Kyal McNulty
3. Sam Brown
4. Brad Harris
5. Liam Dolman
6. Ben Farrell
7. Nabil Shariff
8. Fazel Koriya
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Richard Bunting (C)
11. Joe Cyrtis
12. Taylor Orosz (for Koriya 63)
13. Ben Heath
14. Lewis Leslie (for Curtis 63)
15. Robbie Parsons
16. Ben Ford
Goals: Francis (34), Rutty-Smith (49), Guyes (85)
Goals: Shariff (9), Lorraine (70)
Yellow Card: Francis
Referee: John Roskelly
Assistants: Jonathan Price, Ricky Brookes