Diamonds stormed to a comprehensive away victory at Uxbridge on Saturday afternoon.
After a lengthy stoppage due to an injury for a home defender, the visitors surged into an early lead with their first attack. The returning Claudiu Hoban delivered a cross from the left to the back post for Ryan Robbins to head towards goal, and the home keeper somehow allowed the ball to squirm through his grasp and roll into the back of the net. Uxbridge should have levelled shortly afterwards when Ben Heath parried a goalbound free-kick straight to Cole Brown, but he lifted his effort from point-blank range over the crossbar. Diamonds then proceeded to create a flurry of chances, and the first of these saw their lead doubled. A corner from the right found the onrushing Sam Brown whose header was blocked on the line, but it fell perfectly for Tom Lorraine to hook home off the underside of the bar in the six-yard box. Immediately afterwards Lorraine had a shot blocked and then was narrowly unable to turn home a Luke Fairlamb cross before captain Richard Bunting sidefooted a glorious chance wide after good approach play by Robbins. The chances weren’t limited to just the Diamonds though in what was an often frenetic and largely end-to-end encounter in the opening period. Home winger Brown had an effort pushed round the near post by Heath after cutting in from the left and then saw a shot from distance held by the Diamonds keeper, with Blaize Punter making a superb block in between these chances to divert a goalbound effort from home striker Dylan Kearney. Lorraine had further chances to add to his goal tally, with one effort being deflected just away from goal, another well saved after a strong run into the area and then a further shot clear the crossbar. The away side had a lot of joy in the first half with long balls over the top of the home defence, and it was via one of these which allowed Lorraine to eventually extend the Diamonds lead. Sam Brown played a lofted ball into the left channel behind the Uxbridge defence for the Rushden striker to run onto, and after cutting inside his marker he dispatched a low effort past the stranded home keeper from inside the area. The hosts had gone close prior to this with Brown firing an effort over after a jinking run, and Fairlamb had slammed a shot over for Diamonds, but Lorraine’s second of the game and his 60th for the club was the final scoring of the half.
The play was naturally calmer and played at a slightly slower tempo compared to the quick-paced nature of the opening 45 minutes. Home defender Harry Tucker had a header drift into the arms of Heath, and Robbins had a powerful attempt blocked away after checking inside from the right flank. Uxbridge’s Anthony Thomas and Dave Thomas, with a header and an ambitious overhead kick, both had efforts comfortably saved by Heath as they looked for any way back into the contest, but the Diamonds coped admirably with the pressure. Sam Brown had a low cross-shot kicked away from near the goal-line after a neat one-two with Robbins, and it was the striker who extended the Diamonds lead even further a short time later. Brown was involved again as he met a Joe Curtis corner from the left with a bullet header, and Robbins got a slight flick on the effort to turn it into the net and to bring up his fifth goal in his last two Rushden appearances. Another home header was saved by Heath before Tucker saw an attempt deflected over the goal, but the sting had been taken out of any Uxbridge hopes of a comeback and so the contest settled down further. Brown curled an effort from the left just wide for the hosts, and after three minutes of added-on time was announced the hosts did gain a consolation goal when substitute Callum Westwood tried to head a cross back to Heath, but only succeeded in looping a header over the Diamonds stopper and into the back of the net. The full-time whistle was blown shortly afterwards to confirm Diamonds’ largely comfortable victory, and to confirm their rise to third in the league standings.
Manager Andy Peaks made three changes to the starting XI that had come within seconds of a victory over table-toppers Moneyfields in their last league fixture. Sam Brown returned to the side at the expense of Ben Ford, Joe Curtis replaced Ben Farrell who was out with tonsillitis and Claudiu Hoban started ahead of Joel Gyasi. He, along with Ford, Callum Westwood and Ben Diamond, made up the four-man Diamonds bench. Shortly before kick-off it was announced that Fernando Bell-Toxtle had joined Basford United, a move with which the club wishes the midfielder all the best for whilst also thanking him for his efforts for the Diamonds this season.
The two sides entered onto the Honeycroft playing surface with the sun partially shining onto the pitch, but with a chill in the air also. Despite last week’s late disappointment Rushden came into the contest fifth in the Southern League Division One East table and having only lost one of their last eight league fixtures, whilst the hosts had lost four of their six home league matches, had not scored in half of those six games and had failed to keep a clean sheet in all competitions since the end of August prior to the fixture. After both sets of players had shaken hands and the coin-toss had been conducted, a one-minute silence for Armistice Day was impeccably observed to remember the fallen, and to honour those who had sacrificed their tomorrow for our today. Moments later referee Craig Kissi blew his whistle to signal the start of the contest, with Diamonds shooting towards the end where captain Richard Bunting scored a last-minute lob in the same fixture two seasons previously.
It initially appeared that they would be playing in a 4-4-2 formation, but it quickly became apparent that they were actually deploying a 3-4-1-2 formation with Cameron Gilchrist and Luke Fairlamb as wing-backs, and Hoban allowed a free role to roam in behind the strike partnership of Tom Lorraine and Ryan Robbins. They were onto the front foot from the get-go, with a couple of crosses from the right wing well cleared away by the Uxbridge defence, but the first real action of note came via an injury in only the fifth minute. Home player Ashley Quashie went down after a challenge close to the halfway line, but after a stretcher was initially signalled for and a leg-brace strapped to his right leg he was able to unstrap the brace and hobble off the pitch. It was clear he would be unable to continue though, and Lawrence Artik was summoned from the Uxbridge bench to replace the injured man.
The visitors were getting some joy down the flanks in the early stages, and after a Fairlamb cross from the left was cleared just before it reached Robbins, their next cross from a wide position brought a more fruitful reward. Hoban escaped down the left wing before delivering towards the back post where Ryan Robbins was in space. The cross sailed over a nearby defender and directly onto the head of the Diamonds front-man, but his header was directed straight towards Paul McCarthy and appeared an easy save for the home keeper. However, he inexplicably allowed the ball through his grasp and through his legs, and despite his attempts to retrieve it the ball rolled over the line to give Rushden an early advantage. It was Robbins’ fourth goal in his last 100 minutes of play in a Diamonds shirt, and a perfect start for the away side.
Moments later Robbins helped to almost create an immediate second goal. Hoban was again involved as he slid a precise ball through for the striker to run onto in the left channel, and his ball across the face of goal almost found Lorraine before McCarthy collected just ahead of the Diamonds man. Play swung swiftly down the other end, and Uxbridge were able to threaten for the first time in the match. A quick darting run from winger Cole Brown saw him pass Blaize Punter before the Rushden defender brought him down, and despite strong appeals for a penalty, the referee deemed the offence to have taken place outside the area and so awarded a free-kick right on the edge of the box. Striker Anthony Thomas stepped up and curled an effort towards the far post, and Heath was only able to parry the ball away before blocking a rebound. The loose ball span to Brown though with an almost empty net ahead of him, but under pressure he fired over the crossbar to give Diamonds a big let-off. Two minutes later James Burgess found some space to line up a shot from range, but his curling left-footed shot also cleared the top of Heath’s goal.
The hosts would be made to rue these missed opportunities as in their next attack the Diamonds doubled their lead. They earnt their first corner of the game on the right side, and the drilled delivery perfectly found the run of Sam Brown. His powerful header was almost turned in by Robbins before it was blocked on the line, but the rebound dropped for Tom Lorraine to fire home from close-range via the underside of the bar for his fifth goal of the season. It had been a highly entertaining opening twenty minutes, with the visitors looking dangerous everytime they attacked and turned around the home back-four. Straight away Lorraine went close to another goal, but his first effort was blocked before he was just unable to turn home an inviting Fairlamb delivery at the back post when the goal was gaping.
Diamonds were playing at a fast tempo and seriously troubling Uxbridge with quick balls forward, and one such attack led to a fantastic chance in the 26th minute. Robbins was found running in on the right and rather than attempt a shot at goal, he cleverly checked back before rolling the ball across the box for the onrushing Bunting. He was around 15 yards out in the middle of the area with no red shirt closing him down, but his sidefooted effort flew wide of the right post with McCarthy a rooted onlooker in the home goal. Although the contest could have arguably been over by this stage, Uxbridge themselves were still proving a threat when they attacked, especially Cole Brown, and it was the winger who almost hauled the hosts back into the game. He purposefully drove at Gilchrist and cut inside before hitting a shot towards the near post that required Heath to tip it round for a corner.
There was no sign of any let-up in the fast and often frantic nature of the game, and no sooner had the resultant corner been cleared that Diamonds were back on the offensive. Lorraine advanced down the right before pulling the ball back for Hoban just inside the area, but he had to run away from goal to meet the pass and so his resultant effort drew a comfortable save from McCarthy. The contest was now very end-to-end, and in keeping with this Uxbridge quickly advanced down the other end. A pass was slipped into the path of striker Dylan Kearney on the right of the box, and he superbly checked inside Liam Dolman before seeing his goalbound effort brilliantly blocked away by a sliding Punter. Brown then had a chance to shoot at goal from long-range, but his attempt was straight at Heath who was able to hold, and moments later Tarum Dawkins cut inside from the right before hitting a curling effort that drifted wide of the far post.
After this small period of Uxbridge pressure Rushden stepped up their attempts to find a potentially decisive third goal. A long ball forward found Lorraine running in behind the home defence, and although his first touch was slightly heavy, the striker was still able to cut back inside to hit an effort that was deflected narrowly away from goal before the danger was cleared. A minute later Lorraine was again found, this time by Hoban, and he ran into the area and in on goal before his effort was strongly beaten away by McCarthy. In the next phase of play the two combined again as Hoban jinked away from his marker on the left to pull a cross back for the striker, but Lorraine’s subsequent effort on the stretch went over the bar.
A very slight lull of a couple of minutes punctuated what had been a largely frenetic opening forty minutes, but it wasn’t long until another chance arose. Uxbridge’s Brown controlled a diagonal ball adroitly on the left wing before pushing the ball past Gilchrist and running away from the Diamonds wing-back but, after cutting inside in the area and seemingly doing all the hard work, he blazed his shot over Heath and over the crossbar also. A minute later, and again fitting in with the end-to-end action, Diamonds created a chance when the quietly effective Curtis calmly slipped a pass into the path of the galloping Fairlamb, but after advancing into the left side of the area his effort flew over the bar.
The game ticked into stoppage time at the end of the engrossing first 45 minutes, but there was still time for Diamonds to further extend their advantage by adding a third goal. Another long ball in behind the Uxbridge defence, this time by Sam Brown, found Tom Lorraine running on the left and after using his strength well to hold off a retreating defender, he cut inside and slammed a right-footed shot past the helpless McCarthy and into the back of the net. The strike brought up his 60th goal for the club, a superb achievement for the popular front-man, and also gave the visitors further breathing space in the contest. After two minutes of additional time the whistle was blew for the end of the half, one which was highly entertaining and which could have easily seen more goals than the three which had been scored by the Diamonds.
Half Time: Uxbridge FC 0-3 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
The sun had notably retreated, with the glare of the floodlights now shining onto the pitch, and the temperature had dropped as both sides emerged from the changing rooms ready for the second period. Neither manager had made a change at the break, and so the referee quickly got the contest underway again. Rushden began the half in a similar vein to the first with some further pressure on the home goal, but a couple of crosses into the area were cleared away before finding a white shirt.
Uxbridge created their first opening of the half in the 51st minute when a cross from the left found the rising Harry Tucker at the back post, but his drifting header was caught by Heath. The action again swung quickly down the other end, and Fairlamb speedily moved down the left before whipping a delivery across the face of goal that hat-trick-hunting Lorraine just missed. Moments later a home mistake in midfield allowed Bunting to seize possession, and he attempted to play in Robbins on his right who was in space. The pass was slightly overhit though and forced the striker wide, but he still managed to cut inside before his powerful effort was blocked away.
Diamonds weren’t prepared to sit on their lead in any way and clearly sensed the opportunity to add more goals to their tally. They earnt another corner on the right side, and Curtis’ curling delivery in towards the busy six-yard box ended up flicking the top of the crossbar as it dropped behind the goal for a goal-kick. However Uxbridge hadn’t given up hope of getting a goal back and trying to find a way back into the match, and another cross from the left towards the back post found Thomas whose header was held by Heath by the post. Shortly afterwards a home corner from the right was cleared only as far as defender Dave Thomas, and his improvised overhead kick was impressive but lacked power, meaning Heath could easily collect.
The pace and general tempo of the match had understandably dropped slightly after the half-time interval, but chances were still aplenty. Sam Brown, in an attempt to inject some urgency, charged forward from defence for Diamonds before playing a neat one-two with Robbins and moving into the area. It looked as if he would unleash a shot goalwards, but the angle narrowed and his eventual shot across goal was cleared away by a covering defender. However, the visitors didn’t have to wait long for their fourth goal, and Brown was again involved. The attack was similar to the second goal as a corner, this time from the left, was played in by Curtis and found the onrushing Brown to thump a header goalwards. It passed a group of players before it reached Ryan Robbins who got a slight flick on the ball to help it on its way past McCarthy into the net, with the striker noticeably claiming the goal and taking the celebrations of his fellow Diamonds players.
The goal marked the second away game in the last three in which Diamonds had scored four goals and ultimately put the result beyond any doubt, but to their credit the hosts still pressed in search of a gaol of their own. Three minutes after Robbins’ goal an Uxbridge cross resulted in a header from close-range, but Heath was again able to confidently hold the ball and preserve his clean-sheet. Diamonds then made their first change, with Westwood coming on for Gilchrist in a like-for-like alteration in defence, and shortly afterwards the hosts created another chance through a cross into the box. A free-kick was earnt on the left side and the delivery was only half-punched away by Heath, but the visitors did well to recover and deflect Tucker’s rebound over the bar. The corner ultimately came to nothing, and then Rushden made their final two substitutions with Ben Diamond and Ben Ford respectively replacing the dangerous Robbins and captain Bunting.
The match ticked into the final ten minutes of regulation time, with Rushden looking pretty comfortable and defending well to limit Uxbridge to mainly half-chances. In the 81st minute home midfielder Adam Humphries found time and space around 30 yards out, but his stinging effort was straight at Heath again who was able to collect and hold. A minute later Diamond found Hoban down the right, and after some superb close control and skill by the number seven, he looked to get a shot off at goal. However, he ran out of room eventually and the danger was cleared away upfield. Home danger-man Brown then again jinked inside into space, but his effort ultimately didn’t trouble Heath as it curled wide of the far post.
Three minutes of added-on time was signalled as 90 minutes elapsed, but just as it appeared that the Diamonds would close out their 10th clean sheet of the season, they let in a late consolation. A few minutes before a cross from the right looked dangerous but had been calmly chested back to Heath by Dolman, and a similar cross in by the hosts only reached Callum Westwood at the back post. He similarly attempted to play the ball back to Heath, but his header was too powerful and sailed over the Rushden keeper on its way into the back of the net.
After a couple of minutes of low-tempo midfield action referee Kissi signalled the end of the contest, with Diamonds fully deserving the success and continuing their impressive from of having now won six of their ten away matches in all competitions whilst only having been defeated in one.
Full Time: Uxbridge FC 1-4 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
This result represented a largely clinical and comprehensive victory for the Diamonds. Though they could, and arguably should, have scored more goals especially in an all-action opening period, the frequency with which they created chances and the consistent danger they posed to an overworked Uxbridge defence is a big positive that can be taken from the contest. The 3-4-1-2 formation looked fluid and very interchangeable particularly on the wings and in attacking positions, but also provided a defensive solidity that nullified much of the home threat and one that was only punctured by the late own-goal. The link-up play between Fairlamb, Hoban, Robbins and Lorraine especially caused no end of problems for the home side, and will undoubtedly threaten many other sides if they can play in a similar vein. Credit has to go to Uxbridge for their never-say-die attitude and for the way in which they didn’t let their heads drop even when falling 4-0 behind, but Diamonds were comfortable for large parts of the game and saw out the game well in the latter stages. The win moves Rushden up to third in the table ahead of their next league fixture against Northwood (Saturday November 18th) at Hayden Road, but before then they face a second round home clash in the BigFreeBet.com Challenge Cup against Kettering (Tuesday November 14th, 19:45 kick-off).
Diamonds Man of the Match: Sam Brown
Match Report by Ollie Mortimer
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Paul McCarthy (C)
2. Cory Watson
3. Ashley Quashie
4. Harry Tucker
5. Dave Thomas
6. Adam Humphries
7. Tarum Dawkins
8. James Burgess
9. Anthony Thomas
10. Dylan Kearney
11. Cole Brown
12. Lawrence Artik (for Quashie 9)
14. Adam Mohammed (for A. Thomas 67)
15. Rhys Rabess (for Dawkins 57)
16. Brad Gilmaney
17. Josh Bramwell
13. Ben Heath
2. Cameron Gilchrist
3. Sam Brown
4. Blaize Punter
5. Liam Dolman
6. Richard Bunting (C)
7. Claudiu Hoban
8. Joe Curtis
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Ryan Robbins
11. Luke Fairlamb
12. Callum Westwood (for Gilchrist 69)
14. Ben Ford (for Bunting 79)
15. Ben Diamond (for Robbins 75)
19. Joel Gyasi
Goals: OG (90+3)
Goals: Robbins (10, 66), Lorraine (19, 45)
Yellow Cards: None
Yellow Cards: Punter (14)
Referee: Craig Kissi
Assistants: Lawrence Torz-Brown, Adam Jones
Updated player profiles with appearance and goalscoring details are now available.
Match Gallery courtesy of Stephanie Webb Photography Copyright Stephanie Webb Photography ©2017