Rushden & Diamonds 1 AFC Wimbledon 0

Rushden & Diamonds recorded a superb first win of the season when they outclassed joint league-leaders AFC Wimbledon at Nene Park. An excellent solo goal from man-of-the-match Rene Howe after 65 minutes gave the dominant Diamonds their first victory in seven games.

The Diamonds performance and domination of possession would have left neutral viewers wondering how they had started the game at the bottom of the division, and the Howe goal was worthy of being the first the Dons had conceded this season.

Justin Edinburgh made a single change to the team that faced Barrow at the weekend, with the enforced absence of Jamie Stuart meaning a starting place for Shane Huke at centre back – and also meant that Huke would be the oldest member of the starting Xi – aged just 24. New signing Nathan Koranteng took a place on the bench, as did Jamie Day.

AFC Wimbledon manager Terry Brown also made a single change, with Rashud Yussuff replacing Ricky Wellard.

The Diamonds first half performance was certainly their best of the season, although the visitors really should have taken the lead with only four minutes on the clock when a Hatton cross was met by a powerful header by Ismail Yakubu, forcing a great save from Dale Roberts – but Luke Moore should have knocked home the rebound, but his effort landed on the top of the net.

The Diamonds then dominated play for the remainder of the half, with the best chance falling to Ryan Charles on the stroke of half-time, when he beat the Dons offside trap to run clear, but his attempted chip was caught by keeper Brown. Dominic Green had the other shot that forced Brown into a save after he cut in from the left, but his right-foot shot lacked power. Charles did almost set up Matt Johnson with a great chance, as he beat Hatton on the left and saw his cross shave the head of Andre Blackman to deny Johnson.

The Diamonds midfield was taking advantage of the space their runs were creating and at times the Diamonds passing game was the best seen for some time. Both Porter and Power also took opportunties to get forwards, and Power was unfortunate to slip when trying to get a shot away. Power also narrowly missed setting up Dominic Green when he contolled an incisive pass from Curtis Osano, and chose to try to dissect the space between the Dons defence for Green to run onto, rather then directing it straight at Green. 

Max Porter was felled by Yakubu on the edge of the area, but the free kick was a repeat of the three similar ones seen on Saturday as Dominic Green chipped it over the bar. On his home debut Green was causing the Dons defence almost as many problems as Rene Howe, with his marker Sam Hatton (who had had such a torrid time against Lee Tomlin at Kingsmeadow last season) replaced by Ryan Jackson before half-time after picking up a knock.

At the back for the Diamonds Shane Huke and Curtis Osano were keeping the Dons attack quiet, assisted by Corcoran and Robinson, and Osano even had time to make a forward run and hit a rasping shot from almost 40 yards that flew just wide of the right-hand post.

Half-Time : Rushden & Diamonds 0 AFC Wimbledon 0

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first half, with the Diamonds continuing their dominance. The Dons made a further change at half-time, bringing on the pacey Christian Jolley on the left, but although he worked hard, there was little goal threat from the visitors.

The decisive period of the game came around the hour mark. Despite the Diamonds being in control of the game, the Dons did create one chance when Jolley evaded a tackle on the left edge of the box and crossed for Sammy Moore, but his effort was well saved by the impressive Dale Roberts. At the other end Rene Howe was showing his abilities in setting up his team-mates, and just after the hour mark a Howe cross from the left seemed to present Ryan Charles with an easy chance but he seemed to stumble and the ball carried on across the area and to safety,

The disappointment that the second gilt-edged chance of the game for the Diamonds having been spurned didn’t last long, as within three minutes they were ahead, and it was a magnificent solo effort from Rene Howe as he picked up a ball forwards from Dominic Green, ran at his marker before making space to rifle a powerful shot that went in-off the crossbar.

To their credit Rushden continued to press, and Matt Johnson almost got on the scoresheet when his long throw was headed out to him, but his shot was deflected for a corner. Other efforts from Power (long range shot), Howe (header and shot), Porter (shot) and substitute Lewwis Spence almost gave the Diamonds some breathing space, and at the other end Huke and Osano continue to quell any danger.

Nathan Koranteng came on for his Diamonds debut shortly before the end of the game as the visitors were reduced to appealing for decisions to go their way from referee Martin who had been consistent throughout the game.

The only negative on a memorable night was the third booking of the season for Michael Corcoran – a card picked up during some confusion about whether he was to be substituted following an injury he collected in the penalty area.

The referee extended the added time to over five minutes following the Corcoran incident and a late booking for Ryan Jackson, but the Diamonds held firm, with Dale Roberts confirming his clean sheet with some confident handling of anything played into the area.

Full-Time : Rushden & Diamonds 1 AFC Wimbledon 0

After picking up their first win of the season the Diamonds will be looking to build upon this with the visit of Grimsby Town on Saturday afternoon.

Teams :

Rushden & Diamonds : Dale Roberts, Michael Corcoran (Capt) (Justin Miller 90+1), Kurt Robinson, Max Porter, Shane Huke, Curtis Osano, Alan Power, Matt Johnson, Ryan Charles (Nathan Koranteng 82), Rene Howe, Dominic Green (Lewwis Spence 79)

Subs Not Used: Jamie Day, Joe Day (GK)

AFC Wimbledon: Seb Brown, Samuel Hatton (Ryan Jackson 22), Andre Blackman, Steven Gregory, Ismail Yakubu, Brett Johnson, Sammy Moore, Rashid Yussuff (Reece Jones 79), Danny Kedwell, Jon Main (Christian Jolley 45), Luke Moore

Subs Not Used: Jack Turner, Fraser Franks

Goal: Rene Howe (64)

Yellow Cards: Yakubu, Blackman, Corcoran. Jackson.

Referee: S Martin (Staffordshire)

Attendance: 1365

Diamonds Man of the Match (Chosen by Moore-Stephens): Rene Howe

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