AFC Rushden & Diamonds got their 2015/2016 pre-season campaign underway in fine style retaining the Chris Ruff Memorial Cup with a 2 – 0 win against Rushden & Higham United at Hayden Road on Saturday afternoon.
Manager Andy Peaks gave his whole squad a run-out during what was a competitive game against hard working opposition. In a goalless first half Sam Brown and Elliot Lamb-Johnson fired just wide early on, Jack Ashton had a fierce effort from the edge of the box on 35 minutes which was blocked wide and Tom Lorraine turned well in the box on 41 only to see his effort turned round the post. After 6 half-time substitutions the second half started with a bang. Second half substitute Courtney Herbert flicked home after just 40 seconds when played through in the box, and on 50 minutes another half-time substitute Liam Dolman strode out of defence, played a one-two just outside the box and coolly slotted home. The home side were strong in defence and created a few excellent shooting positions that had Matt Finlay working hard, and created two excellent one on one situations that they couldn’t convert. But it was Diamonds who dominated and will be pleased with the workout for the whole squad and the impact of the new signings and trialists.
Next up is a trip to Northampton Spencer on Tuesday evening.
Manager Andy Peaks selected two of his new signings in the starting line-up with Ollie Wilkinson lining up at right back alongside Jack Ashton, Brad Harris and Sam Brown at the back. Dan Quigley lined up alongside Richard Bunting in centre midfield with Elliot Lamb-Johnson and a trialist confirmed as ex Kings Lynn man Steve Spriggs out wide. Tommy Berwick joined Tom Lorraine up front.
Diamonds started brightly with Sam Brown firing wide from just inside the box on 3 minutes after a neat one two with Tom Lorraine. Dan Quigley was keen to get on the ball and looking to slide passes through a packed Rushden and Higham defence, and Steve Spriggs looked good in possession out wide firing in a pair of dangerous crosses and two free-kicks that forced good catches from the home keeper.
Elliot Lamb-Johnson was always in the play and latched onto Tom Lorraine’s through ball on 7 minutes and fired just wide.
Rushden & Higham were trying to play the ball out from the back which occasionally put themselves under pressure but were unable to support forwards who got into some good but isolated positions. They pounced on a good shooting position on 15 minutes as Brad Harris was unable to clear a bouncing ball but the shot from the edge of the box was well held by Matt Finlay in the Diamonds goal.
Tommy Berwick was challenging an aggressive home defence and latched on to a Tom Lorraine flick-on to turn his defender and fire in a dangerous cross on 17.
Tom Lorraine then headed over an Elliot Lamb-Johnson corner, and Jack Ashton hit a super through ball that Tommy Berwick just couldn’t bring down with the keeper smothering for a corner.
Jack Ashton was enjoying getting into the box at set pieces as ever and fired in a fierce effort on 35 from a corner which was deflected wide.
The neat Steve Spriggs swapped wings briefly with Elliot Lamb-Johnson and fired in a dipping volley from 25 yards that was also deflected wide.
On 41 Diamonds came close again as Sam Brown fed Tom Lorraine who turned his man superbly on the edge of the box only to see his shot turned wide but the half-finished goalless.
Half-time: Rushden & Higham United 0 – AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0
After 6 half-time substitutions the second half started with a bang. One of those substitutes Courtney Herbert latched onto an excellent through-ball and flicked home with the outside of his foot from 12 yards after just 40 seconds.
Before we had chance to settle Rushden and Higham had their best chance of the game. Good play through midfield opened up the Diamonds re-organised defence with a great through ball to a free man just inside the box. He fired in a shot that bobbled horribly and smacked Matt Finlay squarely in the head but fortunately went wide for the visitors.
Courtney Herbert then had a great chance to add his second latching onto a Richard Bunting ball into the channel and firing well over well placed.
The second goal wasn’t long coming though and came in spectacular style. Another half-time substitute Liam Dolman strode out of defence, played the ball to Dom Lawless on the edge of the box, it then fell to Courtney Herbert who slid the ball into Dolman who had continued his run and he coolly finished in the bottom corner.
Dan Quigley then fired in a superb rising effort that just faded wide of the left upright, and then fed Lawless in space who rounded the keeper but was forced wide and couldn’t quite get his shot past the retreating defender.
Jason Kilbride had shown real energy and purpose since he came on at half-time and fired in two excellent free-kicks that worked the home keeper. Herbert then looked to have added a third for Diamonds finishing well from a Jake Gillingwater through ball but he had been ruled offside.
Another raft of substitutions then took place with players returning to replace players who had played 70 minutes which confused this reporter….who feels special mention should go to Sam Brown as the only player to be asked to play the whole 90 minutes!
Dom Lawless soon had an excellent chance to open his account on 78 after a superb ball from Jason Kilbride had put the returning Tom Lorraine through to provide a cut-back which Lawless turned over the bar from 8 yards.
Kieran Fitzgerald grew into the game on the right hand side and started to look really strong in the closing stages, running at the tiring home defence and on 85 ran across the 18 yard line and fired in a fierce shot that was pushed wide.
The final action also came from Fitzgerald his last minute corner swung in firmly was headed onto his own bar by a home defender.
Final Score: Rushden & Higham United 0 – AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2
Manager Andy Peaks will have been pleased with what was a strong workout for his team on a warm day. The new signings all made a good impressions and the whole squad were made to work hard in the first half in particular for openings and chances by a hardworking home side. The half-time substitutions which saw Herbert, Lawless, Kilbride and Fitzgerald coming on made the difference in the game with Herbert scoring one of three good chances created. It showed the team has definite options up front and in the wide positions with Kilbride in particular a constant threat including at set pieces.
Reporters Man of the Match: Jason Kilbride
Attendance: Est. 200
Match Report by Paul Judd
Rushden & Higham United
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Not Confirmed……
17. Matt Finlay
2. Ollie Wilkinson (for Ashton 70)
3. Sam Brown
4. Jack Ashton
19. Brad Harris (for Bunting 70)
6. Dan Quigley
7. Elliot Lamb-Johnson
8. Richard Bunting
9. Tom Lorraine (for Quigley 70)
10. Tommy Berwick
11. Trialist (Steve Spriggs)
12. Jake Gillingwater (for Wilkinson 45)
13. Trialist (Ben Heath) (for Finlay 70)
14. Trialist (Kieran Fitzgerald) (for Spriggs 45)
15. Dominic Lawless (for Berwick 45)
16. Jason Kilbride (for Eliot Lamb-Johnson 45)
18. Trialist (Courtney Herbert) (for Lorraine 45)
5. Liam Dolman (for Harris 45)
Goals: Herbert (46), Dolman (50)
You can see the goals from this game here.