Diamonds fell to another away defeat at a clinical Rushall Olympic on Saturday afternoon.
The fifth-placed hosts took the lead after only 11 minutes when Evangelos Empochontsif was adjudged to committed a foul inside the area, and Alexander Fletcher stepped up to send Dean Snedker the wrong way. They should have extended their lead when Callum Coyle fired into the side-netting, but Diamonds responded and went close through Andy Kanga and Jack Connor. An equaliser was found when Peter Abimbola latched onto a loose ball before crashing a strike into the roof of the net.
Less than a minute had elapsed in the second half when Rushall retook the lead after Sam Mantom fired an unerring strike into the top corner. Kieran Cook then extended the advantage when he headed home from close range and, though Diamonds continued to fight and saw Abimbola hit the post, they were unable to find a way back into the contest.
Diamonds, under the interim management of Academy Coach Matt Vernon, made three changes to the side that had narrowly lost at Hitchin on Monday evening. Ryan Hughes returned from injury along with Harrison Bunga in defence, and Conor Tee was also brought back in.
Rushall, nicknamed the Pics, came into the match occupying the final play-off place after reaching the play-off semi-finals last season. They were unbeaten in their last six (W3 D3), had only lost one of their last ten in the league (W6 D3 L1) but only had the 17th-best home record in the division compared to the best away form. Diamonds sat second-bottom having lost all but one of their away games so far and had lost their last three consecutive games.
The hosts started the brighter and could have led inside seven minutes when a crucial block by the away defence stopped a close-range effort. However, they didn’t have to wait much longer to take the lead. A long ball in behind saw a Rushall man and Evangelos Empochontsif battle, and the Rushden defender’s shoulder-barge inside the area was adjudged by referee Richard Eley as a foul. Alexander Fletcher confidently tucked the resulting penalty past Dean Snedker to put Rushall ahead.
They continued to threaten with a series of swift attacks and stretching the Diamonds backline, with full-back Kristian Green flicking a cross narrowly wide before Callum Coyle nicked the ball off Bunga as the visitors tried to play out from the back. The home man found himself with just Snedker to beat, but his effort hit the side-netting.
Rushden then began to become a presence as a neat passing exchange found Andy Kanga in space, but his 25-yard effort flew wide. In their next attack Jack Connor showed good close control to find a shooting opportunity, but his curling effort was easily held by Jacob Weaver in the Rushall goal.
They soon found a leveller as, following their first corner of the contest, another set-piece was cleared only as far as Peter Abimbola. He did well to get away from a couple of close challenges before he thrashed a strike past Weaver and into the roof of the net from just inside the area.
Coyle was proving a nuisance with his clever movement and ability to find space in between Rushden’s defence and midfield. In the 35th minute he jinked inside from the left before his effort was deflected just off-target, and five minutes later a loose ball dropped for him in the box only for his attempt to flash wide.
Half time: Rushall Olympic 1-1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Play had got back underway for less than 40 seconds when Rushall forged ahead again. A long-throw saw the loose ball drop for Sam Mantom whose first-time attempt sailed into the top corner leaving Snedker rooted to the spot.
The hosts scored again in the 56th minute when a long free-kick was flicked on and Kieran Cook was first to react to head in from close range.
Diamonds tried to respond with a series of substitutions as Jenson Cooper, Courtney Lashley and debutant Mitchell White were all introduced but, despite some promising situations, they were unable to create sustained pressure or many chances against a well-drilled Pics defence. The hosts almost made the scoreline even more comfortable when Cook drilled wide of the near-post before Jordaan Brown hooked over.
The visitors almost pulled a goal back in the third minute of stoppage-time when Abimbola hit a powerful effort from range, but it somehow hit the inside of the post and fortuitously ricocheted to Weaver’s grateful grasp.
Full time: Rushall Olympic 3-1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Diamonds battled and fought throughout the contest, scored an excellent goal and had some brief moments, but they were simply beaten by the better side on the day. Rushall posed a threat throughout and defended strongly to see the game out.
Rushden remain second-bottom, seven points off safety, and they next face third-bottom Alvechurch on Saturday (3rd December) in a 12:30 pm kick-off.
Match report by Ollie Mortimer
Diamonds are on the road to Dales Lane for their Pitching In Southern League Premier Division Central match against Rushall Olympic on Saturday, 26th November (kick-off 3:00 pm).
Admission prices are as follows:
Adult: £10 (18-60 years)
Concession: £7 (Seniors over 60, 16-17 year-olds, students with valid NUS card, Emergency Services, NHS staff and Armed Forces with valid ID)
Under 16: £4
Under 12: £1
Meetings between the clubs
Can’t make the game?
Our Radio Diamonds team will be providing live commentary as the action unfolds – tune in at mixlr.com/radiodiamondsafc. Listeners will be able to message with their comments and thoughts on 07394 309591.
|Date||Time||League||Season||Match Day||Attendance||Man of the Match||Captain|
|Sat, 26th Nov, 2022||3:00 pm||Southern League Premier Division Central||2022/23||21||313||Peter Abimbola||Hamilton Bunga|
|Referee||Assistant Referee 1||Assistant Referee 2|
|Richard Eley||Shaun Currall||Harry Hudson|
|Dales Lane, Rushall, Walsall, West Midlands WS4 1LJ|