Woodford United 3-2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
AFC Rushden & Diamonds’ furthest away trip of the season ended in disappointment, as they lost by the odd goal in five at Woodford United. Rushden had looked strong in the first half, taking an early lead, but a disastrous 25 minute spell at the start of the second half saw the hosts hit back to lead 3-1. A late penalty gave the Diamonds hope but despite a 15 minute barrage at the Woodford goal, the visitors just couldn’t quite find an equaliser.
With the 4-3-3 formation proving unsuccessfully against AFC Kempston Rovers the previous week, Mark Starmer reverted back to a 4-4-2 with Jeron Thompson and Mason Thomas leading the attack. James Harrison had already played 70 minutes earlier in the day, so was only among the substitutes. There was a recall in midfield for Alex McDonald following the departure of Levi Freeman, while Elliot Ames continued to captain the side in Danny Bird’s absence.
The opening stages of the game saw little in the way of quality football, as both sides tried to adjust to the heavy, uneven surface. With the pitch making it difficult to string together many passes, Lewi Williams decided to try his luck from all of 30 yards, but his shot was well wide of the goal. A minute later, the same player tried a second effort from similar range, but this time his shot was sliced and turned into a perfect cross for Blake Helsdown who hit a looping left foot volley towards goal, but his effort needed a little more height on it to clear the head of the home ‘keeper, who made a comfortable save.
17 minutes were gone before Woodford looked like threatening the Diamonds’ goal, their first half chance falling to Kostiuk on the edge of the box, but he was charged down by a determined Elliot Ames.
Three minutes later, Rushden had a great chance to open the scoring. Mason Thomas sprinted clear down the right flank, getting to the byline before pulling the ball back to the unmarked Williams, but the pass was just behind him and he could only shoot straight at Frayne in the Woodford goal, who saved with his feet.
Conor Bell was next to trouble the Woodford goal, with a 20 yard shot that was well struck but unfortunately straight at Frayne, but the Diamonds only had to wait another minute for the opening goal. A clearance up field was brilliant flicked on by Jeron Thompson into the path of Thomas, who lobbed the ball over the head of one defender, outmuscled a second before sliding the ball underneath Frayne for his first competitive goal in an AFC shirt.
The hosts nearly hit back immediately with their first real attempt at goal, and it was a comedy of errors from the Diamonds that led to the opportunity. Ashley Foulger raced out of his box to clear a dangerous Woodford through ball, but only cleared it as far as A. Stewart. The winger’s attempted lob was heading straight into the arms of Foulger who had made his way back into the penalty area, but Zach Farden, unaware of his goalkeeper’s positioning, tried to head the ball clear, only succeeding to flick it over Foulger’s head. The Rushden stopper managed to get fingertips to the ball but it was still heading goalwards, and had to be volleyed off the line by Ames. He too mishit his clearance, but the ball fell fortuitously for Foulger who gratefully grasped it to his chest.
On 27 minutes, Handley set off on a great run down the left flank before squaring the ball to the unmarked Agyei 20 yards from goal. The midfielder hit a powerful shot which was deflected, taking the pace off the ball and leaving Foulger with an easy save.
Two minutes later the Diamonds went close to doubling their advantage. Thompson played the ball into the box where it was helped on by Farden to Williams who shot from 15 yards out, but his effort was brilliant blocked by Woodford captain Herbert, with the ball falling just wide of the post. From the resulting corner, the ball into the near post was cleared from just in front of the line, with Thomas latching onto the rebound and shooting towards to bottom corner, but he was denied by a well positioned defender on the post.
Woodford began to threaten more as the first half entered its final 15 minutes, aided by some sloppy defensive errors from the visitors. On 35 minutes, a loose pass from Ashley Meeks gifted possession to Handley who fired in a terrific shot from 25 yards that was well held by Foulger. Four minutes later, A. Stewart latched onto a ball down the right flank leaving Farden in his wake, before crossing into the middle where Ames read the game superbly, getting in ahead of his man to clear the danger.
Agyei then had another 20 yard shot blocked by the AFC defence, before the last effort of the half fell to A. Stewart, but his fierce, swerving 20 yard shot was well held by Foulger.
HT: Woodford United 0-1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
There were changes for both sides at the break, with Jeffery replacing Paul up front for the home side, and Ryan Ellmer replacing the unwell Zach Farden for the Diamonds. Ellmer took up his usual right back position with Meeks moving to left back.
Woodford started the half with a renewed energy and determination, while Rushden appeared to have not yet woken up again following the half time interval. Agyei once again tried his luck from distance, firing narrowly wide from almost 30 yards, before a low cross from substitute Jeffery went right across the face of the Diamonds’ 6 yard box and had to be cleared under pressure by Blake Helsdown.
The equaliser duly arrived on 55 minutes. With the Rushden defence all at sea, Kostiuk turned Adam Ziolkowski and burst into the area squaring the ball to the unmarked A. Stewart. Elliot Ames was struggling to get back with the Woodford striker, and slid in in a desperate attempt to block the cross, but only succeeded in diverting the ball past Foulger for an own goal.
It took Rushden until the 60th minute to register a second half shot, Meeks winning a 50/50 ball 35 yards from goal before shooting wide of the post.
It was hardly surprising when on 62 minutes the home side took the lead. The impressive Kostiuk once again did the hard work, turning past two AFC defenders before beating a third and crossing for N. Stewart to volley home from close range. Three minutes later, the Diamonds almost conceded a third in quick succession, as a deep corner found the unmarked Agyei who volleyed towards goal but fortunately found the hands of Foulger.
The home side didn’t have to wait much longer for their third goal however, as on 71 minutes they made the game safe. Kostiuk completed a hat trick of assists, turning Ames before playing a great ball through to A. Stewart who raced clear and finished in style from the edge of the box past the despairing Foulger. Despite vociferous appeals for offside from the Rushden bench, the assistant referee’s flag stayed down and the goal was allowed to stand.
Mark Starmer’s response was to replace Williams and McDonald with James Harrison and Matti Ellis, and to revert to a 3-4-3 formation with Meeks pushing up into midfield. Within 3 minutes the change paid off as the Diamonds got themselves back into the game. Helsdown and Harrison linked well down the right flank, with the former bursting through on goal. His attempted cross was blocked, but from the rebound he fired in a shot towards goal which was parried straight to Harrison. Although the substitute’s shot just missed the target, he was clattered late by an awful two footed lunge from Merry with the referee having no option but to point to the penalty spot. The only surprise being that Merry somehow escaped further retribution for such a dangerous challenge. Mason Thomas stepped up to smash home the penalty into the ‘keeper’s top left corner.
The goal set up a frantic final 14 minutes, where the Diamonds did everything but score an equalising goal. Harrison played a good ball through to Conor Bell, who in turn set up Thompson. His shot was blocked with the ball falling to Meeks 20 yards from goal, but his powerful effort was well held by Frayne. A great move 5 minutes later saw Ames surge forward from defence, playing in Conor Bell who touched the ball off to Thompson, who in turn set up Meeks again on the edge of the area, but his curling shot just cleared the crossbar with Frayne well beaten.
As the game entered injury time Thomas tried his luck from 25 yards but fired well wide, before the Diamonds then won a corner which allowed Foulger to come forward. Meeks’ high, inswinging cross cleared the crowd of players in the middle of the area, falling to the unmarked Ellmer at the far post, and his sweetly struck half volley produced the save of the match from Frayne who acrobatically tipped the ball over the bar. The resulting corner saw the home side break up the other end with Foulger still in the opposition half, but before a shot could come in the referee blew up to signal the end of another enthralling encounter.
FT: Woodford United 3-2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Mark Starmer told AFCRDTV of his frustration and disappointment that his team had undone all of their hard work with the complacent 25 minutes at the start of the second half. He warned that they simply can’t afford to do the same again next week as the Diamonds take on Northampton Town in their eagerly awaited Boys U18 Cup match, previewed HERE.
Man of the Match: Mason Thomas
Photos courtesy of Malcolm Swinden email : firstname.lastname@example.org
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
2. L. Williams
3. J. Hinton
4. R. Merry
5. E.Herbert (c)
6. N. Stewart
7. A. Stewart
8. P. Agyei
9. B. Paul
10. E. Kostiuk
11. J. Handley
|24. Ashley Foulger
2. Ashley Meeks
4. Elliot Ames (c)
15. Adam Ziolkowski
3. Zach Farden
7. Blake Helsdown
6. Alex McDonald
9. Conor Bell
11. Lewi Williams
10. Jeron Thompson
16. Mason Thomas
12. G. Jeffery (for Paul, 45 mins)
14. M. Harrison (for Handley, 66 mins)
15. R. Kightley (for Hinton, 82 mins)
8. Zaak Moon
12. Matti Ellis (for McDonald, 73 mins)
14. Ryan Ellmer (for Farden, 45 mins)
17. James Harrison, (for Williams, 73 mins)
19. Mark Rust
Ames o.g. (55 mins)
N. Stewart (62 mins)
A. Stewart (71 mins)
Thomas (22 mins)
Thomas (76 mins, pen)
Williams (93 mins, dissent)