AFC Rushden & Diamonds recorded a Boxing Day victory over co-tenants Wellingborough Town at the Dog & Duck. A tight first half saw an Alfie Taylor penalty give the Diamonds a lead, and then Arron Parkinson restored that lead just before the break after the hosts had equalised. The Diamonds then took full control in the second period, with goals from Russ Dunkley and a second from Taylor securing the points.
The game went ahead after sterling efforts by volunteers from both sides to get the pitch playable, and they were rewarded by seeing a Bank Holiday crowd of over 850.
Diamonds manager Mark Starmer made three changes from the side that suffered a frustrating defeat at Boston, with Alfie Taylor and Fazel Koriya restored to the starting line-up, along with captain Arron Parkinson. His side lined up in their blue third strip, defending the Peter De Banke end in the first half. The Doughboys had to rearrange their side to cope with the absence of Joe Rich, Dan Burke and Josh Winters. Ex-Diamonds Jack Wisniewski and Nat Liburd started for the home side.
Both sides struggled to dominate in the early exchanges, with Russ Dunkley being on the receiving end of a number of early challenges from a physical home defence, whilst Jason Turner hit a cross from a dangerous position that was rather too high for his team-mates, and Rob Parker fired wide from close range. Arron Parkinson picked up an early knock, but after treatment he was able to continue.
Midway through the half the Diamonds started to create clear-cut chances, and good work from Alfie Taylor on the left saw a Dunkley header well saved by Brassington, although the linesman’s flag went up before there was an attempt to convert the rebound.
Three minutes later it was Dunkley who moved to the left, and backheeled a pass into the area in the path of Sam Brown who was tripped by Scott Liebscher. Liebscher picked up a yellow card, and with 25 minutes on the clock Alfie Taylor fired home the penalty low to the keeper’s right.
The hosts continued to battle, and after a corner was cleared by Brad Harris, Fazel Koriya was beaten to the loose ball by Michael Cirelli, and as Cirelli broke towards the left side of the area Koriya clipped his heel to give away a free-kick. The well-delivered free-kick found the head of Brad Piercewright who nodded home the equaliser.
As half-time approached it looked like a 1-1 scoreline would be a fair reflection of the first period, but after 43 minutes the Diamonds had a free-kick on the left, and the ball was only cleared as far as Arron Parkinson on the edge of the area, and he hit a sweet volley that gave Brassington no chance.
Half-Time: Wellingborough Town 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2
Although the first period had been fairly even, with a stop-start pattern due to the many free-kicks, the Diamonds quickly took control in the second period, and it took an excellent save from Jamie Brassington from a Jamal Clarke header to prevent them extending their lead after Koriya and Ling executed a neat short corner move.
The Doughboys might have been reduced to 10 men when Nat Liburd was late into a challenge on Arron Parkinson, but he only picked up yellow, as did Parkinson for his response to the challenge, despite long protests from the home bench.
The Diamonds then took full control of the game when Alfie Taylor made one of his trade-mark runs down the right, and although his first attempt at a cross was blocked, his second effort was converted by Russ Dunkley with 58 minutes on the clock.
Former Diamonds favourite Jack Wisniewski continued to shine, and he started to find some room on the right as the game wore on, but his team-mates were unable to build upon his efforts.
After 66 minutes the lead became 4-1, with Koriya and Harris linking to set up Alfie Taylor for the Diamonds fourth. Joe Henderson made his home debut shortly afterwards as he and fellow substitutes Matt Gearing and Aaron King joined the action, but there was concern the Diamonds might have to end the game with 10 men after a Cirelli challenge felled Joe Merrill – with Cirelli picking up a yellow card. Wisniewski made one of his familiar runs to ghost in at the far post for a header well-saved by Cross before referee Kadir signalled the end of the game.
Full-Time: Wellingborough Town 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 4
Alfie Taylor’s two goals take his seasonal tally to 25, and his Diamonds career total to 47 goals.
The crowd was swelled to over 850 with the help of a number of Kettering Town fans who took in the game after being unable to get their game on at Latimer Park. They would have had a sense of déjà vu seeing a Diamonds side recording an away win against their local rivals.
The two sides will meet again on New Year’s Day, but before then the Diamonds will host AFC Kempston Rovers on Saturday.
Diamonds Man of the Match: Arron Parkinson
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Jamie Brassington
2. Stuart Smeathers
3. Damon Herbert
4. Brad Piercewright
5. Tom Fountain
6. Scott Liebscher
7. Jack Wisniewski
8. Rob Parker
9. Jason Turner (Capt)
10. Nathan Liburd
11. Michael Cirelli
12. Chris Davies (for Liebscher 41)
13. Jamie Wright
14. Shane Lyons (for Parker 86)
15. Charlie Wixon (for Liburd 64)
16. Ben Ekins
17. Tom Cross
2. Joe Merrill
3. Sam Brown
4. Séan McBride
5. Arron Parkinson (Capt)
6. Jamal Clarke
7. Fazel Koriya
8. Brad Harris
9. Russ Dunkley
10. Alfie Taylor
11. Greg Ling
12. Matt Gearing (for Taylor 80)
13. Adam Whybrow(GK)
14. Alex Deakin
15. Aaron King (for McBride 73)
16. Joe Henderson (for Clarke 72)
Goals: Piercewright (32)
Goal: Taylor (pen);25, 66) Parkinson (43), Dunkley (58)
Yellow Cards: Liebscher, Herbert, Liburd, Cirelli.
Yellow Cards: McBride, Parkinson, Clarke.
Referee: Abdul Kadir
Assistants: Chris Brawn, Kieren Taylor