Tamworth FC 0-1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Diamonds produced a superb performance and the perfect response to Saturday’s disappointment by deservedly defeating Tamworth on Tuesday night.

The only goal of the game arrived early on as Liam Dolman seized possession just inside the attacking half, stepped forward and launched a thunderous strike into the top corner from 35 yards out. The defender could have added to his tally when he powered a header off the post and leapt to head another cross over the bar, with the visitors looking dangerous every time they broke forward. Ravi Shamsi had an effort held before AJ George saw a deflected shot loop over but, in an entertaining opening period, Tamworth came back into the contest. Charlie Shaw hit a deflected effort that bounced off the post and the dangerous Shaquille McDonald had two attempts that went just wide.

The hosts pushed in the second half with a number of crosses and lots of possession, but Rushden stood up to the pressure and defended terrifically. Substitute Tyrell Waite had a shot well saved, he glanced a corner narrowly wide of the far post and McDonald hit the outside of the post after being played in behind. The Diamonds defence also made a succession of crucial blocks, clearances and headers to help see out the game and to claim a fourth away victory in their last five.

First half

Manager Peaks kept the same starting eleven that had been beaten by Stratford in their last game. The only alteration came amongst the substitutes as Connor Furlong made a welcome return to the squad.

Rushden came into the contest having won three of their last four on the road and, despite the loss on Saturday, emerging victorious in five of their last seven in the league. Tamworth sat two places behind in 10th and three points off Diamonds with two games in hand, though they had only won one of their last nine in the league and hadn’t won any of their last four at the CR MOT Centre Community Stadium.

The visitors started on the front foot, though Liam Dolman was required to make a strong block to stop a shot from the edge of the box. Soon afterwards Nathan Tshikuna won a free-kick and, following his sumptuous goal on Saturday, fancied his chances of repeating the trick. However, this time his low strike hit the defensive wall before he blazed the rebound harmlessly over.

In the 11th minute, they took the lead through a stupendous strike. Sam Warburton did excellently to keep a Tshikuna cross in on the left, and AJ George’s subsequent cross was only cleared as far as Liam Dolman. There appeared to be little danger as the centre half took a touch and stepped forward, but space opened up for him to shoot from 35 yards out. His hit flew like a rocket and nestled into the top corner leaving home keeper Jasbir Singh clutching at thin air and the Diamonds faithful behind the goal in ecstasy.

Diamonds continued their excellent start to the contest as they pressed well, forcing the hosts into mistakes, and breaking forward with pace and in numbers. One such example saw Ravi Shamsi accelerate forward before jinking inside and hitting a low effort towards goal, but Singh was right behind it to hold at the second attempt. Dolman then lobbed a ball into the area that his defensive partner Alex Collard almost reached only for Singh to catch the cross.

Warburton had a few opportunities to launch a long-throw into the area in the opening half, and one delivery was flicked on by Ben Diamond before it was importantly headed away ahead of an onrushing yellow shirt. Shaquille McDonald had a deflected effort held by Snedker down the other end, but this was a pretty rare excursion forward for Tamworth at this stage of the match.

George looked threatening and, just after the half-hour mark, he did brilliantly to jink inside from the left and past a couple of challenges before his resulting shot was deflected over. From the corner Shamsi’s driven delivery found Dolman all alone, but his thunderous header cannoned off the post and back into play. The defender then met another cross, this time from Warburton on the right, but his header flew over the bar.

After riding the pressure, the hosts started to grow into proceedings in the final ten minutes of the half. Left winger McDonald was particularly dangerous, though it was fellow midfielder Charlie Shaw who came closest when his hit from range took a couple of deflections to leave Snedker beaten, but the ball hit the upright and was cleared away.

Fernando Bell-Toxtle, who had another excellent game, thrashed a volley over after Shamsi’s corner was cleared to him, but play quickly swung down the other end. McDonald firstly cut inside before his fizzing drive flew narrowly wide of the near post and, minutes later, he went on the outside of Paddy Casey to crash a strike that went just past the far post.

Half time: Tamworth FC 0-1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Second half

The home side made their intentions clear at the very beginning of the second period as, within the first minute, substitute Tyrell Waite was fed through on goal just inside the area. He lashed wildly over the bar, though the offside flag spared the striker’s blushes.

The pattern of play for the second 45 minutes was set – the hosts having a lot of possession and territory, but Diamonds defending stoically and threatening on the counter-attack. One moment in the 56th minute saw George win a free-kick in a promising position and, though Shamsi’s curling strike was on target, it was easy for Singh to hold.

The visitors’ courageous performance, full of heart and togetherness, was typified by each and every player putting everything on the line to maintain the lead. Dolman made another good block, this time from Jordan Clements, just before the hour mark before a few Diamonds players quickly closed down McDonald to ensure his subsequent strike was deflected through to Snedker who easily collected.

Rushden were still creating opportunities themselves, with Tshikuna receiving a pass from Dolman in space before powering a 30-yard effort that flew straight at Singh. Shamsi was then fed by Casey to drive inside and have a fizzing strike that went narrowly wide. Tamworth quickly broke as Waite hit a bouncing shot that was well held by Snedker.

Waite came close again soon afterwards when he met an inswinging corner from the left, but his glancing wide flashed wide of the far post. A minute after Furlong replaced George in Rushden’s first change, Diamond then vitally headed away following a deep free-kick.

Tamworth’s clearest opening to level came 13 minutes from time when a precise ball in behind the away defence found McDonald. He was forced a little wide before his strike smacked off the near post and out for a goal-kick. A sea of yellow shirts converged on a home attacker soon afterwards to block another attempt, with Furlong and Shamsi also being denied at the other end by defensive blocks.

Slinn and Jones came on for Tshikuna and Deacon respectively as the time ticked down, with Diamonds still dealing with everything that was thrown at them. Four minutes of additional time were signalled, and one final heroic block was made following Snedker’s punch away. The keeper then superbly claimed a swirling cross from the left and, only moments later, the full-time whistle was blown.

Full time: Tamworth FC 0-1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds

This was an excellent all-round performance and a deserved success for the Diamonds. They attacked with verve and creativity, especially in the opening half, and could easily have scored more. They also defended with strength, courage and refused to let their lead slip which resulted in a well-earnt clean sheet. It’s Rushden’s first win against Tamworth since they reformed, and the victory moves them back up to seventh in the table.

Their next match sees them travel to take on eighth-placed Royston Town at Garden Walk on Saturday 18 December, 3pm kick-off.

Attendance: 421

Diamonds Man of the Match: Fernando Bell-Toxtle

Match report by Ollie Mortimer

Diamonds: Snedker, Casey, Warburton, Bell-Toxtle, Dolman, Collard (C), Tshikuna (Slinn 79), Diamond, Deacon (Jones 85), Shamsi, George (Furlong 76) (subs not used: Garwood, Nixon)

Diamonds goals: Dolman (11)

Tamworth: Jasbir Singh (C), Lucas Yeomans, Henri Wilder, Charlie Shaw (Kai Lissimore 60), Orrin Pendley, Christopher Cox, Shaquille Mcdonald, Jordan Clement, Daniel Creaney (Tyrell Waite 36), Jack Concannon (Liam Cross 74), Alexander Jones (subs not used: Keelan Fallows, Jordaan Brown)