Diamonds bounced back from a 4-0 FA Trophy defeat on Saturday with an encouraging 4-0 home victory against Yaxley on Tuesday night in the Southern League Challenge Cup.
A pleasing early first half-goal from the returning Nat Gosnal-Tyler wasn’t really build on as Yaxley worked hard to deny a slightly underwhelming Diamonds. The second half was very different with a quality goal from Nathan Hicks putting Diamonds in control before the returning Nabil Shariff joined the action. After pressing for more goals for much of the half the strong Yaxley resistance finally gave way with two great goals in the final 3 minutes. Jesse Aqubuine and Nabil Shariff provided excellent assists for Ben Acquaye who found his finishing boots to make it 4-0 with an edge of the area strike and rounding the keeper in the final minute.
Manager Andy Peaks made 6 changes to his side on the night for this Southern League Challenge tie but it was still a pretty strong looking line-up. Jack Ashton and Patrick Casey came into the back four in place of the rested Zack Reynolds and the injured Alex Collard. Jesse Aqubuine and Nat Gosnal-Tyler replaced rested Ben Farrell and Matt Slinn who still sat on the bench. Ryan Dove and Jordan Macleod renewed their partnership up front in place of the rested Tom Lorraine and Morgan Roberts who had been recalled by Northampton Town and then surprisingly sent out on loan to Diamonds rivals Banbury United. Youngsters Seth Patrick, Will Jones and Reece Kelly were on the bench with returning Diamonds hero Nabil Shariff.
Diamonds were lively right from the off with Ben Acquaye straight into the action. He ran down the left in the first minute standing up great cross that was well defended, and another break 10 minutes late saw him deep into the Yaxley box before they just saw him away.
The returning Mat Gosnal-Tyler then combined with Patrick Casey to get a dangerous cross in before Diamonds finally opened the scoring through Gosnal-Tyler on 16 minutes. Ben Acquaye was involved again in the build-up charging down the left and crossing beautifully to the far post for Nat Gosnal-Tyler to tap in.
The two wide players were involved in much of Diamonds good play but there was a lack of urgency overall as Diamonds failed to push home their advantage. Gosnal-Tyler curled an effort wide, the hard-working Ryan Dove was only denied by a last ditch challenge, and the same player set up a decent opportunity in the box after a good run but Diamonds rather wasted the chance.
Half-time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 Yaxley 0
The second half saw a more energised Diamonds side really start to show what they were capable of. Jesse Aqubuine had been running well at Yaxley and on 47 minutes set-up Ryan Dove whose quick strike just crept wide. And minutes later it was Sam Brown’s turn to get to the by-line and cross to the well placed Ryan Dove who directed his effort agonisingly wide.
Diamonds didn’t have to wait long for the 2nd goal though and what a goal it was. Nathan Hicks ran onto a ball on the edge of the box and it absolutely flew into the back of the net. It was so nearly 3 a couple of minutes later as Sam Brown tried the same feat from more of an angle but his effort across goal went just wide.
On 65 minutes Nabil Shariff joined the action on his return to Diamonds in place of Ryan Dove and never looked like he had been away. The next chance as Diamonds were now well in control was a classic Liam Dolman penalty area header that he put back across goal and seemingly into the net before Butcher in the away goal brilliantly saved at full length.
Nabil Shariff had a trademark spin and turn before firing an effort just wide on 80 minutes with youngsters Will Jones and Seth Patrick coming on for some excellent experience.
The further goals Diamonds threatened came late but again were quality goals. On 87 minutes the impressive Jesse Aqubuine played a superb ball into Ben Acquaye to control really well and fire home from the edge of the box. 2 minutes later it was Nabil Shariff playing in Ben Acquaye and he superbly rounded the keeper to make it 4-0 with his 2nd on the night.
Full-time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 4 Yaxley 0
Andy Peaks really wanted to win this tie and although he made changes he picked a strong side and they repaid his faith. A slightly underwhelming first half saw Diamonds lead through a pleasing Nat Gosnal-Tyler but not really push home their advantage against a hard working Yaxley side. The second half was very different with some excellent pressing football and 3 quality goals. Nathan Hicks will never let anyone forget his wonder strike (which was great to see though), but Ben Acquaye picked up Man of the Match for his two late goals and for posing such a threat all night.
This was the boost Diamonds needed going into a run of fixtures to the end of the month that include Alverchurch away on Saturday and Lowestoft and Stourbridge at home. Sandwiched in between don’t forget the NFA Hiller Cup quarter final at home to Brackley next Tuesday.
Man of the Match: Ben Acquaye
Match Report: Paul Judd
**Line-ups and stats to follow**