AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 Hanwell Town 0
By Clive Cooke
Match report to follow
Our miserable run of results continued despite a very spirited performance watched by a crowd of 532 at high flying AFC Rushden & Diamonds.
Our side showed just one change from the previous game with Danilson Vicente replacing the unavailable David Manu but there was a change in formation with a back five, with three of the four Duffy brothers, Tom, Calum and Oliver,lining up in central defender roles.
Recent results have meant that our opponents after being front runners for the title at one time had dropped down to fifth place so the three points were crucial to both sides but for different reasons.
Rushden were quicker out of the blocks and dominated the opening minutes and we were fortunate that after Sam Hurrell had committed a foul in a dangerous position that Andy Hall's resultant free kick went right across our goal area without anybody being able to apply the finishing touch. At the other end, Sam picking up a loose ball fired a shot over the bar. Rushden won several corners in quick succession and it was from one of these that Rushden took the lead in the nineteenth minute. Claudiu Hoban's near post kick was headed back into his path and his follow up was blocked, the ball flying up into the air to land on the head of Liam Dolman who headed it home from close range, typical of the sort of luck that we have been enjoying recently. Shortly afterwards, the home side were forced into a substitution, Robbie Parsons replacing the injured Elliott Sandy.
Spurred on by this goal, our opponents began to peg us back and we were very rarely seen as an attacking force. Another corner by Hoban was headed goalwards by Lewis Leslie but we managed to scramble it clear and Martin Herdman then raced out of his area to clear a long ball forward with Jon Stevenson bearing down on him. A free kick by Hoban was punched clear by Martin and he then had to be alert to palm the ball over the bar after yet another Hoban corner saw the ball deflected goalwards from Tom Duffy's head. It was something of a relief when the half time whistle was blown and we were just one goal down.
The second half was almost a reversal of the first with us enjoying much greater possession with Michael Buckley leading from the front as he began to dominate mid field. Early in the half, Michael's free kick was only cleared as far as Sam and he brought the first save of the game out of the Diamond's keeper Matt Finlay who had enjoyed a very comfortable afternoon until then.
Ten minutes into the half we made our only substitution of the game, Ryan Egan coming on in place of Danilson Vicente who despite working hard alongside Connor Duffy had got little change out of the two Rushden central defenders Dolman and Jack Ashton.
With Martin at this stage of the game almost just an observer in our goal we pressed forward in search of an equaliser and Sam brought another save out of Finlay diving to his right to smother the ball. Rushden made their second change, Shawn Richards replacing Hall and they made a third substitution when Tom Liversedge replaced Parsons. With twenty minutes remaining Calum Duffy moved out of the back line to join Ryan up front as we searched for that elusive equaliser. However, try as we did we just could not carve out any scoring opportunities with our main attacking threats only coming from dead ball situations, with Michael swinging the ball into their penalty area but unlike the goal that we conceded, the ball just would not fall for us and it was a relieved Rushden crowd when the final whistle was blown.
Congratulations must be given to match referee Akil Howson who was excellent throughout.