Following on from the opening victory against Hanwell Town on Saturday, AFC Rushden & Diamonds continued their winning ways with an impressive display to beat Thame United 3-0 on Tuesday evening in the first away game of the season. Nabil Shariff fired a brace to make it four goals in just two games; and a first half Liam Dolman header also helped to seal the three points for the Diamonds.
Manager Andy Peaks makes just one change to the starting eleven from the opening game. Striker Chris Dillon came off injured in the previous game so Tom Lorraine deputised in the number 10 role, while young defender Chief Boateng comes in on the bench.
The game started brightly with both sides having good chances after a couple of minutes. Thame striker Ben Sturgess tested goalkeeper Ben Heath from distance, but his effort went straight into Heath’s arms. The Diamonds then went up the other end with winger Luke Fairlamb down the left hand side before crossing for Shariff who lofted the ball over on the volley.
The Diamonds took the lead after just seven minutes. Thame defender Ellis Hercules got caught on the ball and outmuscled by Lorraine before laying off to Shariff who took a touch before curling a left footed shot into the corner from just inside the area.
The majority of the first half saw a plethora of chances for the Diamonds as they dominated defensively and looked threatening with Lorraine and Shariff going forward.
On ten minutes, Fairlamb had a wonderful effort saved well by Henry Craven in the Thame goal. The industrious winger went past his man before firing a powerful low effort that the keeper could only parry out for a corner. The following corner was whipped in by Fairlamb to defender Sam Brown on the back post whose header across goal was seemingly cleared off the line for another corner; which also saw a goalmouth scramble before the Thame defence desperately cleared their lines.
However, the Diamonds did manage to double the lead on 15 minutes. A long throw in from captain Brown from the left found Dolman who flicked his header into the corner of the net.
A rare first half chance for Thame came on 24 minutes when a cross from the right was headed over by winger John Dennis.
On 29 minutes, Diamonds had another good chance. A long ball into the box from the right from full back Callum Westwood was flicked on by a defender to Fairlamb on the corner of the box. The winger worked himself some space before curling past the far post with his right foot.
A minute later, tireless winger Joel Gyasi worked some wondrous skill on the right flank before crossing in for Lorraine who tried to cheekily flick his effort into the night but he could only loop the ball over.
Thame United found themselves a bit more into the game towards the end of the first half, having a few chances and creating more space in midfield. With five minutes left of the half, a good piece of team work in midfield led to a long effort from Goss but his shot was blazed over.
It was almost a goal back from the home side as Goss fought his way into the box with Westwood on his tail, and the young full back’s challenge spread the ball dangerously across the face of the goal but full back Ben Ford was there to clear the danger.
The Diamonds almost made it three moments before half time with a dangerous counter attack. Gyasi broke away with the ball – three attackers on two defenders – before laying off for Lorraine but his left footed strike flew just wide.
HALF-TIME: Thame United 0-2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
The Diamonds opened the second half in ruthless fashion; extending their lead further on 50 minutes. Fairlamb flicked the ball through to Shariff who cheekily lifted his effort over the onrushing keeper into the net.
It was a quiet second half following on from the goal but the home side had an effort on 58 minutes. The ever threatening Goss fired a powerful low effort from the edge of the 18 yard box but it was held low comfortably by Heath.
Ben Ford almost added a fourth for the Diamonds in accidental fashion as his deep cross floated over the keeper and bounced off the top of the crossbar.
Both sides made their first changes of the game on 67 minutes. Midfielder Joe Curtis was replaced by Fernando Toxtle-Bell. Thame made two changes, with Luke Ricketts and Chid Onokwai coming on for Dennis and Adam Morris.
Again, it was almost four for Diamonds when Fairlamb’s in-swinging cross from the right found Lorraine with a free header from ten yards out but his effort was saved and held low by Craven.
The ever present Lorraine made way for Darryl Smith on 77 minutes for the Diamonds’ second change of the game.
Shariff almost bagged a hat trick with ten minutes remaining. Gyasi worked the ball well on the right before passing to Sharriff with his back to goal. The forward managed to get a shot away as he was turning but his effort was gathered easily by the keeper.
Both sides made their final changes a minute later. Young attacker Boateng replaced the impressive Fairlamb for Diamonds while Abdi Farah came on for Ben Connelly for the home side.
Thame had a good chance to grab a goal with five minutes remaining. Substitute Farah broke forward into a dangerous area before passing to Goss on the edge of the area; who fired an ambitious effort wide.
With three minutes to go, there was some good work from Shariff to catch the defence in possession before bursting into the area and laying off to Boateng, who turned his defender to get himself one on one with the keeper. There were cheers for a fourth goal from the Diamonds fans as it looked as if Boateng’s effort was creeping in but the defence managed to just clear off the line and past the post.
Gyasi hobbled off in stoppage time to leave the Diamonds down to ten men briefly, however the referee called time moments later to seal a well earned 3-0 victory in the first away game of the season.
FULL-TIME: Thame United 0-3 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
With five goals from the two opening games with no return, it’s an encouraging start to the season for Andy Peaks’ side as they go into the FA Cup Preliminary Round at the weekend, where The Diamonds return to the Dog & Duck Stadium sooner than expected to face Wellingborough Town in a much anticipated local derby.
Man of the Match: Nabil Shariff
Match Report by Adam Benney
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Henry Craven
2. Calvin Evans
3. David Lynn
4. Ellis Hercules (c)
5. Matt Johnston
6. Tom Ashworth
7. Ben Connelly
8. Lynton Goss
9. Adam Morris
10. Ben Sturgess
11. John Dennis
12. Liam Smyth
14. Chid Onokwai (on for Morris, 67)
15. Harry Mepham
16. Luke Ricketts (on for Dennis, 67)
17. Abdi Farah (on for Connelly, 81)
13. Ben Heath
2. Callum Westwood
3. Ben Ford
4. Sam Brown (c)
5. Liam Dolman
6. Ben Farrell
7. Joel Gyasi
8. Joe Curtis
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Nabil Shariff
11. Luke Fairlamb
12. Chief Boateng (on for Fairlamb, 81)
14. Darryl Smith (on forLorraine, 77)
15. Blaze Punter
16. Fernando Toxtle-Bell (on for Curtis, 67)
17. Matt Finlay
Goals: Shariff (7, 50), Dolman (15)
Referee: Mr Daniel Simpson
Assistants: Mr Spencer Brewer
Mr Matthew Flerner
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