AFC Rushden & Diamonds defeated local rivals Rushden & Higham United 4-0 at Hayden Road on Saturday afternoon in front of a UCL Division One record crowd of 1,157 paying spectators. After the hosts had got off to a better start, goals from Alfie Taylor and Joe Merrill gave the Diamonds a two-goal lead at the break, then a third from Jack Wisniewski followed by an own goal when defender Campion headed a Ben Morgan cross into his own net sealed the victory on an excellent autumn afternoon.
Mark Starmer made a change to the side that won in the league at Rothwell, with Joe Merrill pushed forwards into right midfield, with Jake Gillingwater getting his first league start at right back, meaning that Peter Okechukwu took a place on the bench. Jake Newman was not included as he had only returned from holiday less than 24 hours before.
Lankies manager Aidy Mann started with his two recent signings from Wellingborough Town, twins Craig and Daryl Lawman. Before the game there was a minute of silence in memory of long-serving Rushden & Higham United Secretary Chris Ruff.
It was the home side who started the brighter, and could have gone ahead as early as the first minute when an Aynsley McDonald slip on the greasy surface let in Craig Lawman, but the ex-Doughboy shot just wide. The Lankie won a number of corners in the first ten minutes, with Tyler Merries finding space to head back across the area, but none of the home strikers could get the touch needed to open the scoring.
Jake Gillingwater was having his best game to date for the Diamonds, with he and Joe Merrill allowing each other the opportunity to get forwards down the right, and a Gillingwater cross reached Alfie Taylor with seven minutes on the clock, but the shot was saved by Patterson. Gillingwater then went close himself after a one-two with Ellwood, but at the other end Harrower might have made more of a chance when he picked up a loose ball.
A long free kick from the Lankies found Lewis O’Dell who forced Quincy Shorunmu into a fine double save, having to punch away the loose ball.
The first quarter of the game could rightfully have seen the home side “ahead on points”, but after 21 minutes the game changed completely in the Diamonds favour. A long throw from Joe Merrill on the right bobbled in the area to Alfie Taylor, and the Diamonds striker once again showed his instinct for goal as he coolly slotted home into the right corner of the net.
The home side seemed to lose a little of their initial energy with this setback, and Jake Gillingwater saw a left-foot cross from the right headed clear before Taylor and Ellwood combined to set up a chance for Gilsenan who appeared unlucky to see one of the few uneven bounces on what appeared an excellent pitch that was enough to make him shoot just over the bar.
Séan McBride was winning a lot of ball in midfield, and he set up a chance for Taylor who shot over, but the Diamonds superiority at this stage of the game was rewarded when Sam Brown linked up with Deven Ellwood who flicked it sideways allowing Jamie Gilsenan to step over the ball allowing Joe Merrill to hit a screaming shot high into the goal – possibly the best goal seen to date by Diamonds fans, and quite a way for him to score his first goal in senior football.
There was now some really slick one-touch interplay by the Diamonds in all areas of the pitch, as they threatened to have the game sewn up by half-time.
There was one scare for the Diamonds before the break when Shorunmu misjudged the flight of a free-kick, and allowed it over his head, but the ball was scrambled clear.
Half-Time: Rushden & Higham United 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2
The second half followed the pattern of the second quarter of the game, with the Diamonds well on top. Alfie Taylor was presented with a one-on-one chance with Patterson after great work by Séan McBride to win the ball in midfield and dissect the home defence with a neat pass, but the Diamonds striker couldn’t get a clean contact on his effort on goal, and Patterson blocked. McBride presented Deven Ellwood with another good chance, but his effort was also saved. The home keeper was having a good game, making sure he was ready to clear any ball that got past his back-four.
McBride and Gilsenan combined to set up Taylor with another chance, and perhaps the Diamonds striker was a little too unselfish as he tried to present Ellwood with a chance that was cleared. That proved to be Taylor’s last contribution to the game as he fell awkwardly in a brave challenge with a home defender and left the game with an arm injury. Séan McBride picked up a yellow card shortly following this incident, possibly for his protests about the challenge.
After a couple of chances for the home side the Diamonds made the game safe when Jack Wisniewski showed excellent ball control with a through-ball from Joe Merrill and fired home past Patterson after 69 minutes.
The Diamonds appeared to have a good penalty shout turned down when a home defender appeared to fall on the ball, with captain Aynsley McDonald picking up a yellow card for what appeared to be his protests about the decision.
The final goal of the game came with about 10 minutes left, as Ben Morgan made a raid down the left and fired a dangerous cross into the area, only to see home defender Aaron Campion head firmly into his own net.
There was still time for several more Diamonds chances, with the lively Jack Wisniewski coming close to increasing his impressive tally for the season, Deven Ellwood heading over and Ben Morgan seeing a shot deflect onto the post.
Full-Time: Rushden & Higham United 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 4
The Diamonds return to FA Vase action next weekend with a trip to Yaxley. The post-match concern will be the injury to Alfie Taylor, who has now scored 11 goals this season, and has scored in every league game the Diamonds have played.
Attendance: 1157 (TBC)
Diamonds Man-of-the-Match: Séan McBride
Rushden & Higham United
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Craig Patterson
2. Ben Lord
3. Ashley Green
4. Chris Walton (Capt)
5. Ryan Kalla
6. Tyler Merries
7. Daryl Lawman
8. Lewis O’Dell
9. Darren Farrar
10. Craig Harrower
11. Craig Lawman
12. Stuart Goosey (for C lawman 59)
14. Aaron Cormack
15. Jory Mann (for O’Dell 68)
16. Aaron Campion (for Green 75)
17. Barry Deacon
17. Quincy Shorunmu
2. Jake Gillingwater
3. Sam Brown
4. Séan McBride
6. Aynsley McDonald (Capt)
7. Jack Wisniewski
8. Jamie Gilsenan
9. Alfie Taylor
10. Deven Ellwood
11. Joe Merrill
12. Ben Morgan (for Taylor 68)
13. Ashley Foulger
14. George Cox (for Hope 70)
15. Peter Okechukwu (for Gilsenan 79)
16. Louis Smith
Goals: Alfie Taylor (21), Joe Merrill (36), Jack Wisniewski (69), Campion (og) (79)
Cards : None
Cards: McBride, McDonald
Referee: Peter Ellis
Assistants: Martin Germany, Jonathan Crook
For match highlights click here.
Images courtesy of Mal Swinden ©2012 Malcolm Swinden Photography
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