AFC Rushden & Diamonds stretched their unbeaten run to 15 games as they defeated neighbours Wellingborough Whitworth 3-1 at Victoria Mill on Bank Holiday Monday afternoon. First half goals from Jack Wisniewski and Jake Newman had given the Diamonds a comfortable lead at the break, and although the Flour Men had a better spell at the start of the second half, a solo effort from Jake Newman wrapped up the game before a late consolation from Cavell Jarvis.
With Joe Merrill’s unavailability to add to the ailing Arron Parkinson and injured Sam Brown, Diamonds manager Mark Starmer’s options were rather limited, after the excellent 10-man performance against Oadby Town on Saturday. He decided to start with a back three of Alex Deakin on the right, Chris Hope in the middle and Jake Gillingwater on the left. Brad Harris returned to the side to take a place in the front of the back four, with the four in midfield being Wisniewski, King, McBride and Gearing, behind Taylor and Newman, who lined up against his old club. Elliott Dent was fit for a place on the bench.
On a chilly afternoon the Victoria Mill pitch appeared to have plenty of grass on it, with Diamonds fans on all four sides swelling the gate to the highest Bank Holiday Monday crowd in Northamptonshire of 581.
After a quiet opening it was the hosts who had the first opening when Ryan Lovell engineered an opening past Alex Deakin as he settled into his new role, but the effort hit the side-netting. Jake Gillingwater tried a shot from the centre-circle that went just wide when Aaron King spotted up a quick free kick for him. Jack Wisniewski shot just wide after Jake Newman carved a hole in the hosts’ defence.
After 11 minutes the Diamonds got the opening goal to settle any nerves. Matt Gearing took a free kick on the left which Chris Hope won in the air, and a challenge from Jake Newman saw keeper Baxter juggle the ball allowing Jack Wisniewski to slot home to maintain his excellent recent goalscoring record, with Alex Deakin also on hand if Wisniewski hadn’t got the contact needed.
The Diamonds were now dominating play, and mid-way through the half Jake Newman broke clear only to see his effort rebound off a post followed by a scramble which saw an Alfie Taylor effort saved and a Séan McBride follow-up blocked.
After 32 minutes the Diamonds got a contentious second goal, with Jake Newman credited with converting a Gearing corner, although the hosts claimed the ball had struck his hand, and that it had not crossed the line.
Brad Harris had impressed throughout the first half, always seeming to find a team-mates with a pass after he broke up things in midfield, and on a rare excursion forwards he saw an effort go narrowly over that might have opened his account for the club.
The game was becoming more physical, with Matt Judge picking up a yellow for a foul that must have been close to warranting a red card, then escaping with a warning when he committed another robust challenge shortly afterwards.
Half-Time: Wellingborough Whitworth 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2
The Diamonds were forced into a change at half-time with Jack Wisniewski replaced by Lance Allen. The lively Allen seemed to be the target of a number of fouls early in the half, but Séan McBride saw a shot curl across the face of goal after good work by Harris and Taylor. With the wind favouring the hosts they started to pressure the Diamonds defence for the first time in the game, and Quincy Shorunmu was unable to pull-up in time as he chased a wide ball towards the left-edge of his area and picked up a yellow card for accidentally handling outside of the area.
Matt Gearing was putting in another high-workrate performance, and his defence were grateful as he covered back and blocked an effort from Jarvis as the hosts hinted they might get a goal back to increase the tension.
Any threat of a nervous end to the game was banished after 71 minutes when Jake Newman got on the end of an excellent pass from Séan McBride to break clear down his favourite left-side and fire past Baxter.
Further opportunities fell on the break to Lance Allen whose effort hit a defender, and Matt Gearing, who executed a neat one-two with Newman before firing over the bar.
The third goal had signalled the introduction of Ben Morgan who helped to close things down on the Diamonds right, with some tenacious tackling, close control and good distribution, but his enthusiasm got the better of him with the game deep in injury time as he received the ball from Deakin near the byline, but tried to run it away across his area, and his pass was intercepted by Cavell Jarvis who netted a consolation goal. There was even time for Matt Judge to waste a golden chance to make the scoreline even closer, after a mistake by Deakin, before referee Martin brought the game to a close.
Full-Time: Wellingborough Whitworth 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3
With Oadby Town and Eynesbury Rovers also victorious, but Sileby Rangers dropping three points, the Diamonds remain in second place in the league, but still need a couple of slip ups from their rivals coupled with extending their excellent recent run. They will next travel to face Northampton ON Chenecks at the weekend.
Diamonds Man-of-the-Match: Chris Hope
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Lee Baxter
2. Dan Thompson
3. Ryan Baxter
4. Kris Line
5. Ant Sharp (capt)
6. Paul Smith
7. Jonny Hazell
8. Dan Bendon
9. Cavell Jarvis
10. Matt Judge
11. Ryan Lovell
12. Jamie White (for Bendon 60)
14. Matty Freeman
15. James Mallows
16. Lee Purser
17. Joe Judge
17. Quincy Shorunmu
2. Jake Gillingwater
3. Brad Harris
4. Séan McBride
5. Chris Hope (capt)
6. Alex Deakin
7. Jack Wisniewski
8. Aaron King
9. Alfie Taylor
10. Jake Newman
11. Matt Gearing
12. Ben Morgan (for Taylor 72)
13. Ashley Foulger
14. Deven Ellwood (for Newman 83)
15. Elliot Dent
16. Lance Allen (for Wisniewski H/T)
Goals: Jarvis (90+3)
Goals: Wisniewski (11), Newman (32, 71)
Yellow Cards : R Baxter, Judge
Yellow Cards: Shorunmu, Gillingwater
Referee: Trevor Martin
Assistants: Paul Speakman, Keith Lawrence
Match Highlights and Post-Match interviews are available here.
Images courtesy of Mal Swinden ©2013 Malcolm Swinden Photography
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