Woodford Utd 1 Rushden & Diamonds 4

Diamonds won the Northants Hillier Senior Cup with a convincing 4-1 victory over Southern League side Woodford United at a bitterly cold Byfield Road. A penalty converted by Lee Tomlin was cancelled out within a minute, but a Chris Beardsley hat-trick brought the silverware back to Nene Park.

Diamonds had reached the final with wins over Cogenhoe United, Ford Sports Daventry and Rothwell Town, They had previously won the County Cup on two previous occasions, beating Northampton Spencer in 1994 and Raunds Town in 1999, although this was their seventh appearance in the final. Garry Hill announced a side which combined youth and experience, with eight youth team players in the squad. Recent signings Matt Baker and Mark Wright both made their debuts, while Mark Albrighton had permission to play in between his two match suspension.

This was Woodford United’s first appearance in the final, having defeated Raunds Town, Wellingborough Town and Brackley Town in the previous rounds. Manager Phil Mason announced two changes from the side which beat Berkhamsted Town at the weekend. Carl Standen replaced Jason Burnham in defence and midfielder Tom O’Brien came in for Craig Pearman.

Diamonds had the better start, with Tomlin and Beardsley both testing the Reds defence early on. It was Lee Tomlin’s quick turn of speed inside the area on 8 minutes that led to Tom Fountain bringing down the teenage striker, with referee Chris Knowles pointing to the penalty spot. Lee Tomlin got up to fire the penalty low to the right of the keeper and although Matt Finlay guessed the right direction, the ball went under his body to give Diamonds the lead.

The lead was short lived however. Within a minute of the restart, Neil King was given time to send a long diagonal pass from the middle of the park forward to Nicky Gordon. He fired a spectacular equaliser past the helpless Matt Baker and into the top right corner of the goal.

The goal seemed to give Woodford some confidence, with Neil King causing problems in midfield for Dave Savage. His surge on goal ended with a rather weak shot which Baker was able to collect easily. Diamonds regained the lead on 16 minutes when Ugo Udoji took the ball down the right and fired in a superb cross to find Chris Beardsley. He controlled the ball, turned and fired past Finlay from six yards.

Diamonds remained in control, although a Woodford attack on 30 minutes looked threatening before Lawrence Lambley got back to clear the ball for a corner. Ben Milner also had a good chance from the corner kick sending the ball back across the six yard area, before being put behind again. Josh Green then fired a header high and wide from the next corner. Within a couple of minutes, Diamonds had increased their lead. Lee Tomlin showed what he is capable of by leaving three defenders chasing shadows. His cross from the right found Chris Beardsley waiting in the centre to slot the ball into the far corner.

Ugo Udoji had an inspired first half constantly causing problems down the right, while Ben Reynolds in left midfield was also able to get forward on several occasions. Tomlin fired over the bar and Beardsley struck a fierce shot at the keeper before the break as Diamonds kept up the pressure. A slip by Josh Green just before the half time whistle nearly gifted Beardsley another.

Half-time: Woodford Utd 1-3 Rushden & Diamonds

 

As the second half progressed, Woodford tried to gain the initiative but Diamonds continued to stamp out any danger and Matt Baker had a fairly uneventful debut. Lambley shot over on 53 minutes following a cross from Michael Bostwck, while a one-two between Beardsley and Reynolds ended with the ball going over the bar.

Beardsley’s hat-trick finally came on 68 minutes when Lee Tomlin took the ball through the middle. He passed to Lambley on the right, who cut the ball back for Chris Beardsley to tap the ball over the advancing keeper.

Woodford continued to press forward in the remaining twenty minutes as they tried to salvage something from the game. A strong run by King almost released Gordon, but the ball was shielded out to safety. Top scorer Glen Hawkins also had a good chance to convert a cross, but the striker was unable to get a touch.

The final chance of the game fell to Diamonds when Tomlin took the ball forward again from the centre midfield. He released Lambley to unleash a fierce drive at the keeper, but he held on firmly as Alex Bolt ran in for the rebound.

Full-time: Woodford Utd 1-4 Rushden & Diamonds

 

Diamonds were presented with Cup at the end of the game, with Dave Savage lifting the trophy. While the experience of Savage, Chris Beardsley, Mark Albrighton and Matt Baker helped to win the game, it should be remembered that all the other players were under 20 years of age. Garry Hill must have been impressed with the likes of Ben Reynolds, Ugo Udoji and Lawrence Lambley who all played their part in the victory. Alex Bolt, Sean O’Keefe and Dominic Langdon all did well as substitutes, in fact Bolt was the only member of the team to have played in all the previous rounds of the competition. Diamonds will now have the chance to regain the Maunsell Cup they won two years ago when they take on Northampton Town in the Final to be played as a pre-season fixture.

Teams:

Woodford United – Matt Finlay, Lewis Travers, Carl Standen (Jason Burnham 75), Ben Milner, Josh Green, Tom Fountain, Aaron Parkinson (c), Neil King, Nicky Gordon, Glenn Hawkins, Tom O’Brien (Elliot Grey HT).

Subs not used: Terry Fitton, Darren Beckett, Kai Ridley.

 

Rushden & Diamonds – Matt Baker, Ugo Udoji, Mark Wright, Glenn, Wilson, Mark Albrighton, Dave Savage (Alex Bolt 59), Lawrence Lambley, Michael Bostwick (Dominic Langdon 84), Chris Beardsley (Sean O’Keefe 77), Lee Tomlin, Ben Reynolds.

Subs not used: Martyn Margarson (GK), Callum Reynolds.

Goals – Tomlin 9p (0-1), Gordon 10 (1-1), Beardsley 16 (1-2), Beardsley 33 (1-3), Beardsley 68 (1-4).

Booked:      –

Sent off:      –

Referee:      Mr Chris Knowles (Northants)

Attendance: 298.

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