Second-half goals from Matt Gearing and Alfie Taylor gave AFC Rushden & Diamonds a 2-1 victory over Yaxley after they had gone behind shortly after the break. This game would always be a test of character after the drama of the game at the weekend, and so it proved, as the Diamonds had to battle against a side who might consider themselves unlucky not to have earned at least one point from the game. The Diamonds winner came from Taylor after 87 minutes, and during added time the misery for the hosts was compounded when substitute Kyle Nolan was shown a straight-red card for a challenge on Aaron King.
The Diamonds line up featured Fazel Koriya in a central role to replace Russ Dunkley who had picked up a knock at the weekend, with Greg Ling taking Koriya’s wide-left role. Tom Cross returned in goal.
On a cold evening the crowd were looking for something to warm them up, and it almost came after 5 minutes, when a strong run from Joe Merrill saw him dissect the Cuckoos defence to find a clearly onside Alfie Taylor, who ran clear on goal, but his effort was too close to keeper Butcher, who was able to palm the ball towards the corner of the six yard box. Taylor then fired a follow-up effort at Butcher and the danger was averted.
The Diamonds forced a number of corners in the first quarter which were easily dealt with, and Butcher also pushed an effort from Taylor around the post after he made a rare run on the left.
One talking point in the first period was a yellow card awarded to Jamal Clarke, as he had to take desparate measures to halt a Yaxley breakaway, following referee Hopton getting in the way of a Diamonds attack and diverting a Brown pass into the Yaxley midfield.
Koriya and Taylor combined to thread a ball through to the impressive Matt Gearing, whose quick feet helped to make space for a shot, but the effort was dragged across the face of the goal.
The Diamonds had the better of possession and chances in the first period, but a late chance fell to Rob Hughes after good work from left-back Gale.
Half-Time: Yaxley 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0
The half-time interval saw the majority of the crowd retreat to the impressive Leading Drove Clubhouse, and before they had all emerged the hosts were ahead. Joe Merrill was adjudged to have handled the ball by a referee who had allowed similar contact to go unpunished in the first period. The free kick by Rob Hughes took a big deflection and could only be pushed into the path of Wayne Morris who netted after 47 minutes.
The goal made the Diamonds get rather more direct, and after Koriya went close after good work from Greg Ling, the equaliser came after 52 minutes. Richard Bunting picked up the ball just in front of the Diamonds dug-out on the left, and he hit a tremendous cross-field ball into the path of Matt Gearing who was able to take the ball forward and hit a low shot into the corner of the net.
The game then became very scrappy with a number of errors from both sides – as well as some good goalkeeping from Tom Cross. Nathan Horne made some impressing runs down the Cuckoos right, and his cross found the head of Jamie Graham who could have done better. Cross did well to tip over an effort from Stuart Wall, and then an effort from Hook evaded Cross but hit the base of the post.
With Richard Bunting also having picked up a yellow card the hosts seemed to focus their efforts on convincing referee Hopton he should be given a second one, with some rather questionable histrionics, but it was a Diamonds free-kick that settled the game, as Sam Brown was fouled and the kick from Cross was bundled around the area and back out to Joe Merrill whose ball was worked by a combination of Jamal Clarke and a defender into the path of Alfie Taylor who kept his cool to slot home the winner after 87 minutes.
The hosts tried to reply, and Tom Cross saved well from Jamie Graham as the match went into added time.
It was the hosts who received the red card, when substitute Kyle Nolan was given his marching orders on his first game back after a ban, as he checked an Aaron King run with his arm.
Full-Time: Yaxley 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2
Diamonds Man of the Match: Alfie Taylor
The Diamonds travel to face Sleaford Town on Saturday – preview here.
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Aaron Butcher
2. Nathan Horne
3. Olly Gale
4. Stuart Wall
5. Matt Holland
6. Wayne Morris
7. Jamie Graham
8. Liam Hook
9. Andy Furnell
10. Ricky Hailstone (Capt)
11. Rob Hughes
12. Gavin Cooke
14. Andy Coleman
15. Kyle Nolan (for Hook 83)
16. Matt Cook (for Hailston 90+1)
17. Luke Hipwell (for Furnell 71)
17. Tom Cross
2. Joe Merrill
3. Sam Brown
4. Séan McBride
5. Arron Parkinson (Capt)
6. Jamal Clarke
7. Matt Gearing
8. Richard Bunting
9. Fazel Koriya
10. Alfie Taylor
11. Greg Ling
12. Brad Harris (for Bunting 85)
13. Jake Gillingwater
14. Aaron King (for McBride 82)
15. Alex Deakin
18. Ben Morgan (for Koriya 82)
Goals: Morris (47)
Goals: Gearing (52), Taylor(87)
Red Card: Nolan (90+3)
Yellow Cards: Clarke, Bunting
Referee: Matthew Hopton
Assistants: Shaun Gregory, Peter Wilson
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