Stocksbridge Park Steels 2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3

AFC Rushden & Diamonds made it three wins against higher ranked opposition in a week when they defeated Stocksbridge Park Steels 3-2 in South Yorkshire on Saturday afternoon.

Nabil Shariff opened the scoring in the first half from the penalty spot after Lewis Wilson was pulled down in the area. The Diamonds doubled their lead immediately after the break when Nic Evangelinos nodded home from close range after good work from Wilson on the right. The hosts pulled a goal back within a couple of minutes from a controversial penalty following handball by Jack Ashton who appeared to have been sent flying. The Steels went on to equalise, but once again the Diamonds showed their determination and doggedness as Shariff scored his second with less than five minutes left on the clock.

The Diamonds hero was goalkeeper Ben Heath who made a number of outstanding saves, especially in the first half as the hosts had the better of the play despite the scoreline – they also hit the woodwork several times during that period.

Diamonds Manager Andy Peaks made two changes to the side that defeated high-flying Spalding United in midweek. Although Jason Lee had deputised for Sam Brown at left back in that game, neither player was available for this game, with Lewis Wilson making his first Diamonds start with Kyal McNulty moving to left back. Up front the partnership between Jake Newman and Nabil Shariff started a game for only the second time since the opening league fixture, with Tom Lorraine dropping to the bench. Matt Finlay made a welcome return to the bench.

The match was being played at the scenic ground in South Yorkshire, with a fine view over Bracken Moor from the main stand. A threat of rain before kick-off had subsided, so it was just a cold wind blowing across the pitch that the players and the 75 or so Diamonds fans had to deal with. The stadium was effectively only three sided, with the far touchline area being out of bounds.

The Diamonds kicked off attacking the end where their fans could get close to the action behind the goal – the opposite goal near the club house had an apron between the covered terrace and the goalline. The visitors made a bright start, with Wilson on the right, Evangelinos on the left causing some problems by running at the home defence as they linked with Shariff and Newman. A quick kick-out by Heath almost set Jake Newman free inside the first 10 minutes, but defender Matt Reay was able to reach the loose ball first. Newman then picked up a Bunting pass and broke into the area before hitting a powerful shot that keeper David Reay did well to parry.

This early pressure was rewarded as the game reached the quarter-hour mark with Lewis Wilson picking up the ball on halfway near the right touchline and linking with the run of Newman, his pass to Shariff was squared across the area where Wilson was ready to pick up the ball in a dangerous position, only to be fouled by Matt Reay and seeing the referee award the Diamonds their fifth penalty of the season. Reay picked up a yellow card, and Nabil Shariff was able to maintain his 100% success rate from the spot, although the keeper did come close to making a save.

After the Diamonds bright start there was an expectation they might build upon this opening goal, but it was the home team that took the most inspiration and quickly dominated the action. After 24 minutes Nathaniel Crofts found himself in a lot of space on the right and was able to hit a powerful shot that thudded against the crossbar. Three minutes later Ben Heath made the first of a sequence of memorable saves as this time it was Ruthven who was allowed rather too much time to get in a shot.

Jake Newman did produce a chance for Nic Evangelinos with a break down the right seeing a low ball across the area reach Evangelinos but he was unable to keep his shot on target.

With seven minutes to go before the break it was Joe Lumsden’s turn to hit the woodwork, and Crofts was offside as he tapped in the rebound. Heath made further good saves from Hinchcliffe, Lumsden, Ruthven and Crofts as the Diamonds struggled to maintain their lead until the break, although a late chance fell to Lewis Wilson after he broke from his own half, but he was forced slightly wide and saw his effort blocked by keeper Reay. The last chance of the half fell to Richard Bunting from a Newman pass, but he was unable to connect with a heavy pass.

Half-Time: Stocksbridge Park Steels 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1

The Diamonds fans would have been mulling over the first half with the reflection that their team would “need another goal” to win this game – but few would have expected this to come within a minute of the restart. Lewis Wilson found space on the right, and his ball in the box deflected across the area courtesy of a Nabil Shariff touch and a flick off a defender, to present a simple close range header for Nic Evangelinos to double the Diamonds lead.

As always, the consideration them was whether the Diamonds could avoid a quick reply from the hosts before closing the game down. However, within five minute the lead had been halved in controversial circumstances. Jack Ashton was attempting to shepherd a loose ball over the byline whilst under pressure from Lumsden, and it appeared the Diamonds defender was given a hefty push which meant his flailing arm came in contact with the ball. Referee Oldham did not see anything wrong with the challenge and awarded the spotkick which Harrison Biggins converted.

The Diamonds were now subjected to further pressure by the home side, but a combination of good defending and wayward finishing meant their lead was preserved, whilst a number of chances on the break looked like they might produce something until the final ball lacked real quality other than a good ball from Evangelinos that Wilson worked back to Shariff, but his effort was blocked.

With about a quarter of an hour remaining the hosts got their equaliser, as a low ball from the right was met on the turn by Joe Lumsden whose shot left Heath with no chance to repeat his heroics of the first half.

There was perhaps then an assumption that the Diamonds might settle for a draw, but perhaps the confidence that came from two recent wins, especially from the late winner at Spalding, meant that they continued to press, and it looked like either team might get a winner.

With under five minutes of normal time remaining the winner came, and it was Nabil Shariff who was on hand to turn home an Evangelinos corner after keeper Reay fumbled the ball under his challenge, bringing back immediate memories of the recent winner at Spalding.

There were late chances for Taylor Orosz on the break and a late shot from the hosts that skimmed the post. Whilst the final whistle was celebrated by fans and players alike, but there was a concern to see Liam Dolman limping off down the tunnel.

Full-Time: Stocksbridge Park Steels 2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3

The Diamonds are on the road for the third league game in a row on Tuesday evening when making the shorter trip to face Rugby Town ahead of the FA Trophy game next weekend.

Diamonds Man of the Match: Ben Heath

Attendance: 163

 

Stocksbridge Park Steels

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

1. David Reay

2. Josh Meade

3. George Grayson

4. Corey Gregory

5. Liam McFadyen (Capt)

6. Matt Reay

7. Adam Hinchcliffe

8. Harrison Biggins

9. Joe Lumsden

10. Scott Ruthven

11. Nathaniel Crofts

 

12. Ben Rhodes

14. Jack Poulton

15. Jake Whelan

16. Kumarni Smith

17. Lee Thompso

17. Ben Heath

2.   Rory Winters

3. Kyal McNulty

4. Jack Ashton

5. Liam Dolman

6. Brad Harris

7. Nabil Shariff

8. Nic Evangelinos

9. Jake Newman

10. Lewis Wilson

11. Richard Bunting (Capt)

Subs

12. Taylor Orosz (for Newman 88)

13. Matt Finlay

15. Tom Lorraine (for Wilson 68)

16.  Ben Ford

Goals: Biggins 49 (pen), Lumsden 76

Goals: Shariff 16 (pen), 86, Evangelinos 46

Yellow Cards: Reay, McFadyen

Yellow Cards: Ashton, McNulty, Winters

Red Cards:

 Red Cards:

Referee: James Oldham

Assistants: Jamie O’Connor, David Maran

 

 

Updated player profiles with details from this game are now available.

 Match Gallery courtesy of Stephanie Webb Photography Copyright Stephanie Webb Photography ©2016

 

 

 

 

 

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

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