Diamonds slipped to a first defeat of the season as they went down 3-1 at Stratford Town on Saturday afternoon.
Diamonds named an unchanged line-up and started brightly but struggled to fashion a clear chance. Jack Bowen had a half chance with a lob from wide right that went wide left, and Matt Sinn pulled a shot wide from the edge of the box. Stratford were very direct getting willing runner ex-diamond Chris Wreh into some good positions and created a number of good shooting chances when finding space in and around the edge of the box. The vital opening goal they had threatened came on 30 minutes as Jack Ashton looked to have a long ball over the top under control. He unfortunately slipped though allowing Chris Wreh to run on and finish off the far post from an angle. Jack Bowen had a great chance to equalise right on half-time but coming onto a free header 6 yards out he headed back across goal and wide to ensure it stayed 1-0 at half-time.
Just as Diamonds were looking for a second half reaction they annoyingly went 2-0 down. Just 2 minutes in a Diamonds attack broke down and quick passing saw Glover run goalside of the tracking Matt Sinn where contact brought the inevitable penalty. Callum Ball fired low left to beat Ben Heath and double the home sides lead. Diamonds responded with some good spells of pressure but kept letting themselves down with over hit crosses and misplaced passes to deny momentum. Tom Lorraine and Sam Brown had half-chances and good balls in from substitute Sam Johnson and Nat Gosnal-Tyler together with Sam Brown’s long throws threatened to create the chance but they were well defended by the Stratford defence.
Nabil Shariff had a great chance on the break to finish Diamonds but it fell to Chris Wreh to administer the killer blow. Another Diamonds attack floundered and quick passing saw Wreh run clear and finish calmly for 3-0. Diamonds did manage a consolation as the impressive Sam Johnson tried to get onto a penalty spot header but was challenged by a defender with the ball rocketing into the bottom corner.
Diamonds would have taken 3 wins from 4 to start the season but the manner of this defeat will be hard to take. They have the chance to bounce right back on Monday against St. Ives at Hayden Road.
Manager Andy Peaks named an unchanged line-up for Diamonds 4th game of the season having made just the one starting line-up change so far with Zack Reynolds staying in the side after coming in for the still injured Alex Collard last weekend.
On a very warm afternoon Diamonds started on the front foot with dangerous crosses from Sam Brown and Zack Reynolds and Jack Bowen almost breaking free all in the first two minutes. And Stratford showed their early intent too as Liam Hughes seized on a Diamonds error to fire in a decent effort that just went wide.
Jack Bowen was running the back line really well and he broke clear onto a good through ball that took him wide right of the area but he spotted the keeper off his line and lobbed him well but saw the ball fall just left of the goal.
Unfortunately Diamonds were starting to show the wastefulness in possession that would characterise the performance and Stratford were capitalising with quick breaks that saw Chris Wreh shoot straight at Ben Heath and Callum Ball meet a far post cross well but again held by Heath.
In what was still an even game the vital first goal on 30 minutes came as a real blow to Diamonds. A long ball over the top for Chris Wreh to chase looked under control until a rare slip by Jack Ashton allowed him to run on goal and finish off the far post.
Diamonds tried to respond and got a first shot on target on 33 minutes from Jack Bowen after good play by Nat Gosnal-Tyler. The same combination 5 minutes later almost saw Bowen in on a great cross, and then Zack Reynolds surged down the right a fizzed in a cross that just evaded Tom Lorraine.
Right on half-time Diamonds had their best chance as Jack Bowen came onto a free header at the far post but headed back across goal and wide holding his head in his hands as he realised how good a chance that was.
Half-time: Stratford Town 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0
Any attempts at a rousing half-time team talk were undermined just 2 minutes in. Another quick break by Stratford saw Glover goal side of the tracking Mat Slinn and contact brought an inevitable penalty. Callum Ball converted and Diamonds faced an uphill task to get something from the game.
Diamonds pressed and largely dominated possession but struggled to connect up play and create chances. Tom Lorraine headed just wide from a corner and a Sam Brown long throw was flicked on and cleared from near the line.
Substitutions won the game last week but they had limited impact today. Massiah McDonald and Ben Farrell came on to be joined by Sam Johnson later. Sam Brown made a number of runs up and into the box and on one occasion got deep into the area only to see his shot from an angle saved.
Nabil Shariff came on for Stratford who were finding joy in behind the high pressing Diamonds defence and he saw one effort on the break whizz just over the bar. Chris Wreh chased a ball down and fired across the 6 yard as Stratford came close to the clinching goal.
It duly came on 79 minutes as a Diamonds attack broke down and Stratford exploited the gaps in the Diamonds defence to get Chris Wreh away again. This time he finished coolly into bottom corner – game over.
Diamonds did continue to press and got a consolation that might have been interesting 15 minutes earlier at 1-0 down. In the 93rd Sam Johnson battled onto a left wing cross and under pressure from defender Cody Fisher the ball flew into the bottom corner.
Full time: Stratford Town 3 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
This was a disappointing first defeat of the season more in the manner of the performance than seeing it come against a good side in this league on their own turf. Diamonds struggled to build pressure on a previously leaky Stratford defence and were vulnerable to the quick break. Ex-diamond Chris Wreh showed how he has improved with two excellent finishes and the home side were worthy winners.
Diamonds still sit second with three wins in four and have a chance to bounce back quickly on Bank Holiday Monday at home to St. Ives.
Match Report by Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Elliot Taylor
15. Daniel Vann
5. Thomas Fishwick
2. Linden Dovey
18. Mitchell Glover
14. Liam Hughes
3. Cody Fisher
8. Ivor Lawton
19. Christopher Wreh
7. Lewis Wilson
10. Callum Ball
13. Sam Lomax
14. Nabil Shariff (for Ball 63)
15. Joel Gyasi
16. Kurtis Revan
17. Ross Oulton (for Glover 87)
13. Ben Heath
2. Zack Reynolds
3. Sam Brown
4. Jack Ashton
5. Liam Dolman (C)
6. Nathaniel Gosnal-Tyler
7. Ben Acquaye
8. Matt Slinn
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Jack Bowen
11. Nathan Hicks
12. Sam Johnson (for Reynolds 63)
14. Ben Farrell (for Slinn 54)
15. Ryan Dove
16. Julian McDonald (for Bowen 54)
17. Niall Cooper
Goals: Wreh (30, 79), Ball (47 Pen)
Goals: Johnson (90 +3)
Yellow cards: Hughes
Referee: Tommy Wright
Assistants: Andrew Ellis, Charles Humphrys