AFC Rushden & Diamonds were 6-0 victors over Woodford United in the First Round Proper of the FA Carlsberg Vase on Saturday afternoon at Byfield Road. The Diamonds failed to take advantage of their dominance in the first half, reaching the break only a single goal ahead when a Russ Dunkley header rebounded down off the bar and into the net off the back of home keeper Roggero. Within seven minutes of the restart the Diamonds were 3-0 ahead, as Nat Liburd scored the second, then Alfie Taylor netted the third after another Dunkley effort came back off the bar. Twelve minutes later Matt Gearing had added the fourth. With 39-year old Lee Colkin marshalling the Woodford team during the first half, his departure allowed even more freedom for the Diamonds forwards. A cameo appearance from Fazel Koriya, aided by fellow substitute Lance Allen, saw him net a brace, his first coming within a minute of his arrival on the pitch.
Mark Starmer made a number of changes in order to ensure his squad are all getting game-time ahead of the intense period in the league in the next few weeks. Joe Merrill and Nat Liburd were restored to the starting XI, and there were also starts for Alex Deakin and Séan McBride. Young goalkeeper Adam Whybrow took a place on the bench for the first time in a league game. Woodford manager Mitch Austin brought in the experience of 39-year-old Lee Colkin into midfield, who had seen Football League action with Northampton Town.
The Diamonds quickly established their domination of the game, and an early chance fell to Alfie Taylor after a quick throw from Sam Brown was flicked on by Russ Dunkley but Taylor could not connect properly. Dunkley then saw a header tipped over the bar by Roggero from a Liburd cross, but Russ Dunkley did even better with his next attempt from a Merrill cross, as his header struck the bar and bounced down, possibly crossing the line before hitting the back of Roggero to remove any doubt it had crossed the line.
The remainder of the first-half was a combination of good work from Roggero, with Colkin rearranging the home formation, plus some poor finishing from the Diamonds. Roggero palmed a Gearing cross over the bar, Joe Merrill shot just over and Aaron King wide. Sam Brown was linking well with Matt Gearing, who could perhaps have been a bit more selfish when he tried to set up Russ Dunkley when he had made space at the end of a good run in the area.
Diamonds captain Arron Parkinson tried to show the forwards how it was done as King and Dunkley combined at a corner, but his attempted Donkey kick went wide. Alfie Taylor hooked a chance over the goal and saw a left foot shot go wide before Dunkley and King missed further chances before the break.
Half-Time: Woodford United 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
The second period started with a further missed chance from a Dunkley header, but within six minutes Nat Liburd had scored his first goal for the club as he moved into the left channel, to pick up a King pass, and hit a low shot that left the impressive Roggero wrong-footed.
A minute later the Diamonds had their third, as the alert Alfie Taylor fired home after a Dunkley header from a Merrill cross came back off the bar.
Aaron King missed a further chance, but was then unlucky to see a well-hit shot deflected for a corner. Lance Allen replaced Alfie Taylor before Joe Merrill also went close with a volley after controlling the ball with his chest.
After Dunkley had headed wide, the hard-working Matt Gearing got on the scoresheet, as he made space in the area to pick up a pass from Séan McBride after a neat interchange with Lance Allen, fire home the Diamonds fourth. This signalled a further Diamonds change as Fazel Koriya replaced Russ Dunkley, and within a minute he was on the scoresheet as he headed home a Liburd cross from the left.
Koriya went close with a neat chip, and Roggero did really well to tip away a misplaced header from one of his defenders as he tried to clear a Liburd cross. A short corner move almost paid off when Matt Gearing received the ball back from Joe Merrill and proceeded to run across the face of the area, but his shot cleared the crossbar. Lance Allen was causing a different kind of problem for the home defence with his close control and strong runs, and he set up Fazel Koriya for the Diamonds sixth goal, before an even better Allen run saw a shot just miss the left-hand post and the outstretched foot of Koriya.
The final Diamonds change came when goalkeeper Adam Whybrow was brought on to replace Tom Cross and make his senior debut.
Tremendous credit must go to the Woodford players for their positive attitude, passing encouragement to each other rather than criticism, but it will be the Diamonds who are in Monday’s draw.
Full-Time: Woodford United 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 6
Diamonds Man Of The Match: Nat Liburd
The Diamonds are now in the hat for the Second Round – which will be played on the weekend of 16th November, meaning that the trip to face Holbeach United will be rearranged. The draw will be made on Monday and published around lunchtime.
There is now a break of almost a month from cup football, so the team can fully focus on their league games, with two games per week. This starts with trips to face Desborough Town on Tuesday and Wisbech Town on Saturday.
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Dom Roggero
2. Izi Hassan
3. Ridwan Emran
4. Steve Grimley
5. Keiran Worrall
6. Craig Fowkes
7. Jasek Sokolaj
8. Lee Colkin
9. Eddie Stewart
10. Harry Beckley
11. Luke Beastall
12. Ryan Charles-Comery (for Stewart 68)
14. Lee Golding (for Colkin 68)
15. Eathan Curtis
16. Chris Fury (for Hassan 59)
17. Thomas Queripel
17. Tom Cross
2. Joe Merrill
3. Sam Brown
4. Séan McBride
5. Arron Parkinson (Capt)
6. Alex Deakin
7. Nat Liburd
8. Aaron King
9. Russ Dunkley
10. Alfie Taylor
11. Matt Gearing
13. Adam Whybrow (for Cross 78)
14. Lance Allen (for Taylor 59)
15. Fazel Koriya (for Dunkley 65)
16. Jamal Clarke
18. Brad Harris
Goals: Dunkley (11), Liburd (51), Taylor (52), Gearing (64), Koriya (66, 79)
Yellow Cards: Sokolaj
Yellow Cards: None
Referee: Mr Paul McVey.
Assistants: Ms Sarah Grundy, Mr Martin Reed