Hanwell Town 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
League Leaders triumph
Not for the first time this season Town came away without a point, having lost by just a single goal. That the league leaders were held at bay for seventy minutes was once again down to a battling performance from the whole team, with the three at the back and ‘keeper Sam Bunting particularly deserving praise. Strangely, the final twenty-plus minutes saw Hanwell playing their best football of the game and threatening to steal a point right up to the final whistle.
The first fifteen minutes of the match were played almost totally in Hanwell’s half with Olly and Calum Duffy making numerous clearances and interceptions and Sam saving well from a Ryan Fairlamb free kick. The Hanwell custodian was at full stretch again as the twenty minute mark approached after a neat turn and snap-shot from Joel Gyasi looked to be heading for the top corner of the goal. It was then Calum’s turn to come to Town’s rescue, somehow turning away Ben Farrell’s powerful low cross while facing his own goal. Joe Chandiram then got a vital touch on another low cross causing Ryan Robbins to mis-cue from close range.
The Hanwell mid-field got more into the game as the half progressed with Jesse Kewley-Graham, Luke Aifano, Alfie Cain and Ned Clarke all getting on the ball more, but the visitors continued to have territorial advantage. As the half entered its final minutes Hanwell created a half-decent chance, with Mason finding Charlie whose shot hit the side netting. This close call only served to inspire the Diamonds and Sam was required to save bravely at Farrell’s feet. The ball broke to Tom Lorraine who blazed the ball over the bar. Ryan Robbins, who had been caught off-side on a number of occasions, made himself some space in the final minute of the half, but his goal-bound effort was blocked by Olly. There was still time for the visitors to actually get the ball into the net, but Sam Brown was adjudged to be off-side as he headed in from Liam Dolman’s accurate chip into the box.
Hanwell were pleased to still be level at the half-way point and began the second period with Sam Pekun replacing the injured Jesse. The visitors, however, continued to dominate possession and create chances. Two minutes into the half saw Joe Curtis fire wide when through, immediately followed by Sam Bunting saving from Farrell and Lorraine (with help from the post) in quick succession. The next incident of note came in the sixty-seventh minute when Sam, once again, denied Lorraine. This prompted Hanwell into action and, following a dribble and cross by Charlie Mitchell, Mason Welch-Turner fired inches wide from outside the area.
Three minutes later the Diamonds finally got the goal their attacking efforts warranted, and for which their considerable following was getting a little desperate. A tricky run and low cross from Fairlamb was met by Lorraine under pressure from Sam resulting in both ball and striker ending up in the back of the net. The ball was quickly taken out to the centre spot but it took rather longer for the goal-scorer to re-join the fray, having had a nasty collision with the boards behind the goal.
Some of the more pessimistic Hanwell supporters feared that that, the dam having been breached, there would be a flood of goals. That, however, proved not to be the case. The final twenty minutes plus added-on time saw Town in the ascendancy. The home side had more possession than before and went close to grabbing an equalizer. Alfie went close from twenty-five yards, Charlie turned two defenders inside out before forcing ‘keeper Ben Heath to save at the near post and the hard-working Ned had a shot turned for a corner after good work by Alfie. The league leaders’ only goal threat during this period came when Gyasi shot straight at Sam when through.
The final whistle saw Rushden relieved, Hanwell having looked as if they might snatch a goal and a point right up to the very end. The result, a thoroughly deserved victory for the visitors, did not dismay the home supporters as much as some others this year. In fact, the battling performance against a very good side, augured well for the rest of the season and there was a note of optimism could be heard around the Powerday Stadium.
TEAM: 1.Sam Bunting 2.Charlie Mitchell 3.Mason Welch-Turner (12.Harvey Killeen 89) 4.Oliver Duffy © 5.Calum Duffy 6.Joe Chandiram 7.Jesse Kewley-Graham (14.Sam Pekun 46) 8.Alfie Cain 9.Peter Dean 10.Ned Clarke 11.Luke Aifano.