Rushden & Higham United 1 – AFC Rushden & Diamonds 4

AFC Rushden & Diamonds retained the Chris Ruff Memorial Cup with a 4-1 victory against Rushden & Higham United at a sunny Hayden Road in the traditional pre-season opener on Saturday afternoon.

Nabil Shariff opened the scoring on 40 minutes after a competitive first period. A loose ball 25 yards out saw a Jake Newman block tackle on the Rushden & Higham keeper spin towards goal for Shariff to finish. 2 minutes into the second half a superb free-kick from trialist Lewis Jackson was turned home on the far post by Jack Ashton.

It was 3-0 on 65 as Luke Gardner who had only been on the field 2 minutes superbly finished a through ball with a deft lob over the Rushden & Higham keeper. Rushden & Higham pulled a goal back on 72 as centre-half Wayne Abbott got to a right wing corner with a downward header to make it 3-1. The scoring was completed on 79 as another trialist Remy Forrester on as a second half substitute broke clear down the left after great interplay and in trying to find Jake Newman saw his cross from 40 yards drift on the wind over the hapless Rushden & Higham keeper.


Manager Andy Peaks included 5 of his new signings along with three trialists and two U21 stars in his match day squad giving it a very different look to the one that finished last season. The starting back 5 were reassuringly familiar in Matt Finlay, Brad Harris, Jack Ashton, Liam Dolman and the returning Sam Brown. Midfield was all new with James Harvey (U21) and Lewis Jackson (trialist) joining new signings Joe Curtis and Pradeep Bahrey. Up front the returning Jake Newman partnered Nabil Shariff.

The game was very competitive especially in the early stages with both side working hard to get a hold on the game and closing down the respective oppositions. Rushden & Higham were the first to create space in the final third, twice getting free on the left-hand side of the box but finding cut-backs and crosses well covered by the diamonds back four.

Lewis Jackson put in a vital blocking challenge on 5 minutes and then looked to find Jake Newman making a run in behind the Rushden & Higham defence with an excellent long ball but the keeper just gathered on the edge of his area.

Joe Curtis was next to feel a strong challenge in centre midfield earning a free kick 40 yards from goal on 14. He took the kick deep to the far post where it was dropped by the keeper under challenge from Brad Harris the rebound fired over from an angle.

Diamonds were starting to link up well in midfield and came close twice in quick succession on 18. Great interplay between Sam Brown, Jake Newman and Nabil Shariff earned a corner for Diamonds which fell to Jack Ashton on the far post. His turn and volley was cleared off the line but Diamonds retained possession and worked the ball into Shariff deep in the box who turned and chipped the keeper from a tight angle only to see the ball clip the angle of bar and post.

James Harvey was showing good composure on the ball and some dynamic running down the right side for Diamonds, twisting the full-back in and out on 26 and firing his cut-back cross that just evaded Bahrey on the far post.

Jake Newman won a crunching challenge 40 yards out on 28 and manged to feed Nabil Shariff who ran in on goal only to see his effort under challenge pushed wide by the keeper.

Rushden & Higham were bright in possession and trying to push forward and earned a free-kick 25 yards out on 30 minutes. It was fired in Gareth Bale style but Matt Finlay at full stretch pushed it wide.

James Harvey was continuing to please the Diamonds faithful with his touch and pace and he came close on 36 collecting a loose ball on the edge of the box, turning inside and curling a left foot effort just wide of the far post.

The opening goal Diamonds had started to threaten finally came on 40 minutes. Rushden & Higham lost the ball at the back and it broke towards Jake Newman who challenged the out rushing keeper on the edge of the box seeing the ball spin away towards goal where Nabil Shariff forced it home.

Half-time:  Rushden & Higham United 0 – AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1

The second half was only 2 minutes old when Diamonds doubled their lead. They pressed down the right to earn a free kick just outside the box. Lewis Jackson curled a well flighted ball towards the far post which caused panic in the Rushden & Higham defence allowing Jack Ashton to force the ball home.

Jake Newman then made a trademark run from half-way as Diamonds started to dominate in midfield firing in a blistering effort from 30 yards that was deflected wide. Liam Dolman headed the resultant corner just over at the far post.

It should have been 3 on 57 after a neat Joe Curtis ball got Nabil Shariff away down the left, his cut-back fell to Bahrey then Curtis who fired over. James Harvey had time for one more classic piece of wing play before being substituted picking the ball up wide right running at then nutmeging the full-back before firing a neat cross to the far post that Rushden & Higham just cleared.

He was replaced to a generous round of applause by Luke Gardner on 63 but the right wing threat most definitely continued. Having been on just 2 minutes Gardner pushed forward as Diamonds broke through midfield collected a bouncing ball on the edge of the box, took one look and neatly lobbed the keeper into the top corner to make it 3-0.

Trialist Chris Weah had joined the fray at this point replacing Nabil Shariff, and soon after the goal another trialist Remy Forrester came on for Jack Ashton. Lewis Jackson dropped into the back four.

Rushden & Higham had freshened themselves with substitutions and started to create more of a threat to the Diamonds back four. On 71 a break from midfield got the right winger away, he bounced off a Diamonds challenge on the edge of the box but still managed to get a low effort in that was turned away for a corner. The resultant corner found centre-half Wayne Abbott free on the far post to guide a downward header into the bottom corner.

Chris Weah was running hard at the Rushden & Higham defence for Diamonds twice coming close to getting in down the left hand side of the area with great trickery and direct running. Down the right Luke Gardner was carrying on the excellent work of James Harvey jinking down the right and deep into the box only to see his cross shot from a tight angle go just wide.

Richard Bunting then made an entry for Sam Brown with Remy Forrester dropping into left back from where he would make an incredible contribution. On 79 he linked well with Joe Curtis and Pradeep Bahrey and raced away down the left wing. Seeing Jake Newman in space he attempted an early cross but over hit it and saw the ball drift on the wind from 40 yards out high over the hapless keeper into the top corner for Diamonds 4th.

There was time for Alex Vitue to get 10 minutes experience in goal replacing Matt Finlay, and one more opportunity for Jake Newman who broke away after some swift Diamonds passing coming into the left hand side of the box but hesitated as Bahrey and Weah chased in to support him and between the three they weren’t able to get a shot away.

Final Score: Rushden & Higham United 1 – AFC Rushden & Diamonds 4

It was a good workout in the sunshine for both sides with plenty of effort and endeavour to please the respective managers. Diamonds gradually dominated with some good passing and interplay in the final third to achieve a 3rd victory in this traditional pre-season opening contest.

The new signings and trialists fitted in well but the stars were the two U21 players down the right wing. James Harvey and goal scorer Luke Gardner showed skill and pace, were physically robust and had a definite eye for goal.

Next up for Diamonds is the Maunsell Cup Final against Peterborough United at the Dog & Duck on Thursday.

Reporters Man of the Match: James Harvey

Attendance: 257

Match Report by Paul Judd


Rushden & Higham United

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

1. ***not confirmed***

















17. Matt Finlay

2.   Brad Harris

3.   Sam Brown

4.   Jack Ashton

5.   Liam Dolman

6.   Lewis Jackson (trialist)

7.   James Harvey

8.   Joe Curtis

9.   Jake Newman

10. Nabil Shariff

11. Pradeep Bahrey


12.  Alex Virtue (for Finlay 80)

13.  Chris Weah (trialist) (for Shariff 65)

14.  Luke Gardner (for Harvey 63)

15.  Richard Bunting (for Brown 75)

16.  Remy Forrester (trialist) (for Ashton 67)


Goals: Shariff (40), Ashton (47), Gardner (65), Forrester (79)

Yellow Cards:

Yellow Cards:

Red Cards:

 Red Cards:

Referee:  ***not confirmed***




 Match Gallery courtesy of Stephanie Webb Photography Copyright Stephanie Webb Photography ©2016