For the third game running the Diamonds recorded a victory after going a goal behind when they defeated Sleaford Town 2-1 at Eslaforde Park on Saturday afternoon. After the hosts had taken the lead just after the hour mark, Aaron King was in the right spot to fire home after a Gearing corner had seen Brad Harris go close to his first Diamonds goal. Once again it was Alfie Taylor who netted a late winner after another Gearing corner fell to him, and the Diamonds then survived several late scares to make it four away wins on the trot.
The Diamonds started without Russ Dunkley, Fazel Koriya and Richard Bunting who were all recovering from knocks, and with Deven Ellwood absent following the birth of his daughter the Diamonds had only four substitutes, which included Ben Morgan who had been involved with the earlier U21 game. Aaron King was given the number nine shirt and a forward role to support Alfie Taylor, in front of central midfielders McBride and Harris. Greg Ling continued in the wide-left role.
At the smart new ground in South Lincolnshire, both teams struggled to create many clear-cut chances in the first period, with the Diamonds having a little more possession, but the hosts had rather more clearcut chances. Séan McBride had one of the better chances after good work from Brown and Gearing shortly before a clumsy challenge from Greg Ling earned him a yellow card after 15 minutes. Referee Manolescu was doing well to referee his own game despite constant “advice” from home players, and took no further action when Ling made another tackle a few minutes later.
McBride had another chance when a neat dummy by Taylor to a low cross from Ling meant he saw the ball coming to him rather late and took a touch before shooting. At the other end Siddons and Coupland both missed good chances as wide-player Ben Garrick was causing the Diamonds defence plenty of problems.
Half-Time: Sleaford Town 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0
Diamonds fans are yet to see a goalless draw, but for a while it looked like that record might be broken as the second half started in a similar manner to the first, with the Diamonds having better possession without forcing home keeper McGann into a challenging save. Matt Gearing had two early chances as he was ably supported by the impressive Joe Merrill, but the first came to him on his left foot and the second he fired narrowly wide.
On the hour mark there was a major scare for the Diamonds when Alfie Taylor needed lengthy treatment on the sidelines, but he showed the determination to rejoin the action and “run-off” the injury.
However, after 63 minutes the hosts took the lead, when a quick break down their right saw Garrick and Coupland set up a chance for Tom Siddons who fired home.
As in the game at Yaxley in midweek, going a goal behind gave the Diamonds fresh energy, with Joe Merrill getting forward and testing keeper McGann before Sam Brown forced a corner on the left. The Matt Gearing corner found the head of Brad Harris, and his effort looked goalbound before appearing to strike the hand of a defender on the line and then the goalpost. Before referee Manolescu had to make a decision about a possible penalty and red card, with the help of Jamal Clarke the ball reached Aaron King in the centre of goal just outside the six-yard box, and he lashed home.
After 75 minutes another Harris header struck the post following a Gearing corner, with Greens captain Coupland missing a clear chance at the other end – and perhaps both sides might have settled for a point at this stage – but as on Tuesday evening the Diamonds pushed for a winner, and forced another corner on the left. This time home keeper McGann had to leap to palm the inswinging effort away from goal, but it fell to Alfie Taylor who coolly hooked it home. After sending on Ben Morgan for Greg Ling, and then bringing on their two remaining outfield substitutes with two minutes left there were still two late scares. The first came when a tackle from Aaron King picked up a yellow card with the hosts bench calling for a red card. There was then a huge goalmouth scramble in the fifth minute of added time that the Diamonds somehow scrambled clear.
Full-Time: Sleaford Town 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2
Diamonds Man of the Match: Joe Merrill
After the four games on the road, the Diamonds return to the Dog & Duck on Tuesday evening, when Stewards & Lloyds Corby are the visitors.
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Phil McGann
2. Seb Firman
3. Will Rawdon
4. Adam Weston
5. David Hone
6. Terry Fleming
7. Jack Pemberton
8. Richard Jackson
9. Tom Siddons
10. Scott Coupland (Capt)
11. Ben Garrick
12. Gavin Gordon (for Siddons 88)
14. Ben Greenwood
16. Fraser Cobb
17. Ryan Parnell (for Pemberton 88)
18. Matt Burks (GK)
17. Tom Cross
2. Joe Merrill
3. Sam Brown
4. Séan McBride
5. Arron Parkinson (Capt)
6. Jamal Clarke
7. Matt Gearing
8. Brad Harris
9. Aaron King
10. Alfie Taylor
11. Greg Ling
12. Ben Morgan (for Ling 84)
13. Adam Whybrow (GK)
14. Jake Gillingwater (for Gearing 88)
15. Alex Deakin (for Taylor 90+5)
Goals: Siddons (63)
Goals: King (69), Taylor (80)
Yellow Cards: Hone
Yellow Cards: Ling, King
Referee: Nicolae Manolescu
Assistants: Tony Sharrock, David Avison
For video highlights and post-match interviews see here.