Friday night is football night!

So Friday night is football night for one week only at the Dog & Duck with the visit of Yaxley tonight.

Radio Diamonds will be foregoing the usual drink after work, fish and chips for tea, CrackerJack at 5 to 5, and listening to “Friday night is music night” on radio 2 (a couple there for the older listeners…) for the delights of the commentary box to bring you live coverage of our penultimate home game of the season.

After that heartbreaking ill deserved last minute defeat to Spalding last week our realistic aim is probably now third in our first season in the UCL prem. Having said that Huntingdon’s 3 2 defeat to Peterborough Northern Star in midweek opens up just a chink of light given they have to play Spalding twice including tomorrow. So what did we all make of Spalding? I thought they were impressive defensively – both centre halves in particular – they pressed really well in midfield and real energy and desire throughout which never slackened. Maybe not as impressive going forward as they had been at Spalding, but put the ball in dangerous areas consistently making our back four work hard which they certainly did and I thought impressed.

They are undoubtedly worthy champions…and showed that with the late goal they didn’t perhaps deserve..and have a consistency in terms of ball control and passing that we must aspire too. If they keep that squad together including Tidswell who was injured last week, they should do well in the Southern league.

What of Diamonds? Well the team is changing and evolving isn’t it. I noted only 3 starters who were with us last season, and the team has a possibly more youthful, more mobile, more composed look about it compared to earlier in the year and that’s maybe a sign of the direction the team will take into next season. Will it be under Andy Peaks? I think there is a lot to be said for someone who has UCL pedigree, and knows how we do things and what our philosophy is as a club. I’m proud of the way our players and management generally behave compared to some, and it’s important to me that we stay that way. A hard edged UCL “professional” might change that and turn us into something we don’t like. You might say so what if we’re successful, but I think how we are and behave as a club is an important part of our identity and needs to be retained.

So there is very little left of the season, and we need three wins I think to fight off Deeping and Cogenhoe for third place. And if Spalding can in some way take four points from the two Huntingdon games then 2nd might just still be on. We have the “visit” of Wellingborough on Easter Monday and then that fun fun fun visit to Corby on the last Saturday of the season. It won’t be like Spencer away last year, but we’ll still be there for Radio Diamonds.

Jon Wilkinson on Radio Northampton asked me this week how the fans feel about another season in UCL prem. I said I thought we probably expected at least two seasons in the league, that we’ve enjoyed being competitive and for a little while we did genuinely hope for more. Our team is changing and improving, and we’re looking forward to another fight in the top 6 next season with old rivals Oadby bound to challenge (if not win the league by Christmas!!), Wisbech who you’d expect to be more consistent, Deeping, Huntingdon and Cogenhoe again…maybe even tonight’s impressive opponents Yaxley and our ground-share partners Wellingborough Town also in the mix. So looking forward with optimism and genuine hopes for a title push next season.

So let’s embrace Friday football night, create a great atmosphere and see the lads to another home win, and if you can’t make the game tune in to Radio Diamonds and we’ll bring you all the action and atmosphere!!

Paul Judd
Radio Diamonds Presenter

Harborough review

Another big week for AFC Rushden & Diamonds as the UCL Prem season moves into its final month. A big win in the sunshine in Market Harborough, two new strikers – one of which scored two of the best debut goals you’ll ever see – a player who has been a massive part of AFC’s history moving out on loan, and AFC Rushden & Diamonds night on the UCL Facebook page!!

 

I do some preparation for the games I’m commentating at, looking out information about opponents, the UCL league situation, and player stats for our team, and had spotted the signing of Tom Lorraine so included him in that for Saturday. Then I hear when arriving at Harborough that we’ve signed another striker, Scott Joseph ….didn’t he play against us recently…yes for Kempston so I find a spot for him in my notes. Then realising Alfie Taylor is not on the bench so a line about his 50 goals can come out…..it seemed like all change.

 

And it links to something I’d spotted from the previous weeks team. The starting 11 that day contained only 3 players who were with the club last season.  It was the same number on Saturday and for some reason this surprised me a little.  Sean Mcbride and Joe Merrill are out injured of course, but it is a sign of how the team and squad has changed over this season. My list of players having made an appearance or scored goals for the club is running off the page now!!

 

The game itself in windy conditions on a bumpy pitch was surprisingly good. Even in the early stages when Harborough had energy and tried to get the ball forward and into the box to put pressure on the back four. Both defences had trouble at times with the strong wind and it made for some interesting penalty area action.

 

There was an impressively good attitude from the diamonds team to get the ball down and play when it wasn’t easy to control the ball or hit a first time pass. It maybe a function of freshness and individual players confidence but there seemed a subtle change to players desire to stick with a passing style of play.  There was consistent movement of the ball in and out of the feet of the mobile front players and composure and short passing from the wide players to complement some excellent deeper crosses. I’m not sure it’s a complete change in tactics, more sticking to the ones we’ve always been trying to play, but added to the change in personnel it contributed to a good performance which was good to watch, and some great goals.

 

All 6 were incredible even more so given the conditions.  The first more for who the scorer was….we all want to dance with goalscorer Brad Harris!! Then Fazel crashed a volley in off the bar and early in the second half turned home after a composed sweeping move. Supersub debutant Scott Joseph then headed Sam Browns well struck cross back past the keeper in great style, and superbly curled home from the edge of the box when many would have blasted it…possibly over! And finally Viva Matt Gearing’s controlled drive from the edge of the box…almost a trademark finish.

 

So we head into the last Saturday home game of the season this weekend against champions Spalding in good heart, maybe reminiscing about Alfie Taylors major contribution to the excitement we’ve had – Thrapston, Cambridge City, Dover – amongst 50 others!!, but also looking forward to a re-shaped forward line showing the champions that they may have won the league, but they haven’t beaten Diamonds!!

 

We came out of the AFC Rushden & Diamonds night on the UCL Facebook page night relatively unscathed, and it was good to get a Radio Diamonds article in there, and a personal one from Adam which was a good read. Some of the comments aimed at us can be annoying and down right stupid at times (sometimes made worse but a few of our so called fans making things worse) but it wasn’t too bad on Sunday, and hopefully people are starting to see the real AFC Rushden & Diamonds family.

 

Radio Diamonds will be at all the remaining games deploying our full squad, maybe rotating the forward line and the filming team to keep things fresh, and really look forward to Spalding on Saturday. There will be a preview on the website later in the week.

 

Enjoy your week…..

 

Paul Judd

Radio Diamonds Presenter

Desborough

The last of the Tuesday night games?

 

Is this the last of the Tuesday night games? – well we still have Yaxley to arrange so maybe just one more after tonight’s re-arreanged match against Desborough…but it could be and we’re looking forward to bringing you coverage on Radio Diamonds

 

The reverse fixture was played in atrocious conditions back in late October which the Radio Diamonds commentary team particularly enjoyed. It was only Diamonds 7th league game of the season after August and Septembers cup exploits, and a hard fought game was won by Diamonds 2-0 with goals from Sean Mcbride just before half-time, and Fazel Koriya late on. It was the start of a run of 4 consecutive away games for Diamonds which included the draws at Wisbech and Peterborough Northern Star, and was followed by that home defeat to Huntingdon.

 

It was a tricky spell with some doubt as to Diamonds credentials for finishing high-up in the league, but the following victory against Cogenhoe started the sort of incredible winning run we’ve come to expect from Diamonds.  It included victory at Spalding and cemented our genuine top 2 challenge which has carried on into the 2014.

 

Desborough lie 12th in the table and seem to be the genuine unpredictable team encapsulated in the last 3 games. An impressive 1-1 draw at Huntingdon followed by disappointing 3-1 defeat at home to Newport Pagnell followed by last weeks excellent 2-1 home win against Holbeach. They have only played 13 away games (compared to 16 at home) and have won 3, drawn 4 and lost 6 with just 45 goals in those games, amongst the lowest in the league…so maybe low scoring will be the order of the day tonight (!)

 

Since the return to action after the enforced rain break Diamonds have played 6 – 4 away and 2 at home – and won 4 drawn 1 and lost 1….and that seems a pretty fair reflection of the form they have shown. They have been dominant in significant periods of most games despite having to play different formations with different line-ups.  The matches against fellow top 2 contenders Cogenhoe and Deeping were real challenges and the team came under significant pressure in both those games but ultimately matched strong opponents to just about deserve draws in each game. The late soft penalty that denied them that draw against Deeping last Tuesday hurt the most, but of course the away win at Newport Pagnell was courtesy of equally late but way more exciting goal with Richard Buntings magical free-kick.

 

So what can we expect tonight? Most likely a competitive game, with goals hopefully, passion certainly, good crowd, great atmosphere and your Radio Diamonds team raring to go.  So if you can’t get down, tune-in and we’ll bring you all the action and the usual banter for what should be an enjoyable Northamptonshire derby….

 

Paul Judd

Deeping

Is it just me or has tonight’s big game come around very quickly? Having gone through weeks of no football at all the rhythm of Saturday/Tuesday hasn’t quite kicked in!!

 

And tonight’s game against Deeping Rangers is a big one, a really big one that fits into the potentially season defining category along with forthcoming games here at the Dog & Duck against Spalding and Wellingborough. For all three of these games Diamonds have the chance to claim a season double having won the away fixture, in the case of Deeping as far back as the opening day of the season.

 

The 3- 2 win that day had us full of optimism for our first UCL prem season, but I don’t think we realised what a good result it was. Deeping went on a fantastic run pushing Spalding in the early months of the season scoring plenty of goals, while Diamonds had a few wobbles with defeats against Huntingdon twice and Peterborough Northern Star at home before that fantastic pre-xmas run of wins.

 

Both sides have been in and around the top 5 all season and are now looking to be in a 3 way fight with Huntingdon for second place behind runaway leaders Spalding. Cognehoe keep winning though to keep in the hunt, especially after both Deeping and Huntingdon drew their last two games. The first a hard fought 1-1 draw between the two sides a weeks ago, which was followed by unexpected home draws for both on Saturday to Yaxley and Desborough respectively.

 

Diamonds have returned to action after the watery break in decent form with 3 wins in 4 and a hard fought draw at bruising Cognehoe. The second of those wins was thanks to a last minute winner at Newport Pagnell Town from what looked like a tiring side deprived of key players through injury. They bounced back with a good second win in 2 weeks against Holbeach on Saturday though so the challenge will be getting up again for tonight’s Lincolnshire midweek challenge.

 

Joe Merrill returned on Saturday from injury collected at Cognehoe with a man of the match performance, but another defensive re-shuffle was needed with debutant Ryan Walker slotting in a centre half.  Joe Henderson who was Radio Diamonds man of the match played a holding midfield role but still managed to have probably most shots on goal, and should already have had 1 or even 2 before turning the ball home for his first Diamonds goal to seal the win deep into the second half.

 

Tuesday night games generally see a drop in attendance of around 100 and it’s a shame this game had to be moved to a Tuesday, but I’ve a feeling it might push the Tuesday night league attendance record this season of 521 for that first Tuesday night game against Sileby back in August.

 

So hopefully you’ll be able to get down to the Dog & Duck tonight to help create a great atmosphere for what should be a really good contest. If not tune in to Radio Diamonds and we’ll bring you all the action…Adam, Douglas and myself raring to go and see if we can get the first of those season doubles against Lincolnshire’s finest.

 

Paul Judd

Radio Diamonds Presenter

Holbeach again

So we’re back at the Dog & Duck on Saturday for the first time since 18th Jan, and first time in the league since 11th Jan…that’s 8 weeks!!

 

We lost three home fixtures to the weather in that time…the big games against Spalding and Deeping and the Northants derby against Desborough.  We also lost away games at S&L Corby and Cogenhoe this year along with the New Years Day home fixture against Wellingborough. All those games have been re-arranged now, with the Cogenhoe game have been played already in the middle of last week’s 3 games in 8 days.

 

It was a tough return to action for Diamonds after a 4 week lay-off but the first of those games was an impressive, all action at it from the start performance against Saturdays opponents Holbeach bringing a 3-1 win. The mid-week game against Cogenhoe was impressive for different reasons with a hard fought battling performance to first stay in the game and then dominate the last half-hour against excellent if very physical opponents for an bruising 0-0 draw. The third game at Newport Pagnell saw an almost expected dip in performance after a tough week on heavy pitches, but a 2-1 win thanks to one of the best and most exciting goals you’ll see by a Diamonds player. Richard Bunting’s magical last minute free-kick was his second game winning goal after that stay on your feet dribble saw him claim what turned out to be the winner at Spalding.

 

Saturdays opponents Holbeach were league winners last year of course, but chose not to take up promotion and lost most of the squad to the likes of Deeping and Spalding. They are re-building and after the shock of that early Diamonds onslaught 2 weeks ago which saw us take a 2-0 lead in 10 minutes, they held their own in the rest of the game and will be no pushover on Saturday. They remind me of Yaxley, Wellingborough or Wisbech, competent hard-working teams with enough quality to trouble and beat any side on their day.

 

With UCL life returning to normal now the league is definitely shaping up with places in that top 6 starting to look clearer. Yaxley are staying in there after a fantastic run but have played a lot more games than everyone else, and Cogenhoe similarly have played more games and with their failure to beat Diamonds last week are making it difficult to see them break into the top 4 now. So it’s looking like Deeping, Diamonds and Huntingdon in a fight for 2nd/3rd/4th behind Spalding.  Deeping had a midweek draw against Huntingdon which tightens things up even more of course, and Cogenhoe are impressive and play some of the top sides so could maybe just force their way back in.

 

Spalding are not only well ahead in points, but their most dangerous looking fixtures – against Diamonds, and Huntingdon twice come after the point they are likely to have claimed the title if they keep churning about big wins against mid table sides. There is plenty to look forward too for Diamonds fans on the run-in though, such as making it a double against Spalding…I’d so love that…the same against Wellingborough and Deeping…that would be nice….and getting on another season concluding winning run like last season and clinching 2nd place. Which would be an excellent outcome for our first step 5 season.

 

If you can’t make the game on Saturday join us on Radio Diamonds for all the action and get in touch and tell us what you think.

 

And tell us your highlights of being part of Diamonds very near 1000 days of existence. More on that from the team nearer the time but we’d love your thoughts….

 

Paul Judd

Radio Diamonds

Off to see The Swans

Another new ground for Radio Diamonds to get the hang of as we head south for a change tomorrow to Buckinghamshire and Newport Pagnell. There is much more to it than the name given to a motorway service station. It’s a lovely historic town, mentioned in the Doomsday Book, home of Aston Martin, and a wonderfully named hotel called The Swan Revived. It’s actually 90% of my journey to work but on Saturday it’ll be a drive for pure pleasure….

We visit “The Swans”…Newport Pagnell Town…at Willen Road of course. They are great at publicising their matches with some creative posters and are seemingly really looking forward to our visit. We played them earlier in the season of course, winning 2-1 at the Dog & Duck in early December thanks to a late Russ Dunkley winner when it looked like more home points would be dropped. The Swans have a unique UCL away record of having lost all 12 of their games so not a single away point. They are 4 places off the bottom of the league though in 16th thanks to what is a decent mid-table type home record including 5 wins so they are going to be tough opposition at Willen Road.

They have just 1 win in 9 though, and Diamonds come into the game unbeaten in 5 with only one defeat in 14. Prior to that pre Christmas defeat at Boston you have to go back to August for the only other away defeat, at Huntingdon, so there will be confidence Diamonds can get a result. That game at Huntingdon was the first Diamonds had failed to score in, and with the goalless draw at Cogenhoe on Tuesday being a first you’d expect goals on Saturday (commentators curse!!).

Tuesday’s game will have a number of players with knocks to recover from keeping Physio Kim Barton busy this week. It was a bruising physical encounter from an impressive and aggressive Cogenhoe who could and probably should have won the game early on. But they tired noticeably in the second half and got more desperate in their tackling as the superior fitness and in the end playing ability of the Diamonds side nearly won the game. They had an impressive last half-hour after the battering they had received and it was a strong statement of intent and playing style from Mark Starmers men. They stood up to the onslaught, came through the intimidation, and ended up dominating very good opponents. Really good UCL stuff.

So join us on Saturday in “sunny” Buckinghamshire. We’ll be aiming to be on air by 2.45 to bring you all the action. Get in touch and join in the debate on Tuesday’s game or what unfolds on Saturday, and let’s hope we’re heading back north on Saturday evening after another great UCL occasion.

Paul Judd

Radio Diamonds Presenter

First 0-0 draw;but full of action

Diamonds set another first in their short history last night, the first ever 0-0 draw. It was a hard fought, physical, come-back of a performance after being dominated early on, and given the quality of the opposition and the way the game went it’ll go down as a decent point.

As my colleague Douglas said in commentary last night it was actually good to see Diamonds be put under such pressure by a good side, not something they have experienced that often, and come through. And the physical approach by Cogenhoe which seemed somewhat deliberate once it was clear what the referee would, allow put the whole team, and some individuals such as Joe Henderson under tremendous pressure. I think they stood up to it and handled it well and it was good to see. Joe had his shins scrapped, feet stamped on, and was pushed to the ground a number of times and credit to him he kept playing and kept getting up and carrying on and was close to man of the match for me.

I heard some people say it was good old fashioned tackling – including folk who took great delight in chipping in all night – but when you go to ground from distance and take the opponents legs out you are out of control of the tackle in my book, and that is usually punished. The referee did punish the very worst offences with cards, but too little too late and it’s sad to see that kind of challenge allowed, and even welcomed by some “knowledgeable” people at this level. Diamonds players got stuck in themselves don’t get me wrong and were rightly punished for it. Although the irony of Russ Dunkley being punished for persistent fouling late on was not lost on the majority of the crowd given repeated much more physical fouls by certain Cogenhoe players who were arguably lucky to finish the game.

But that shouldn’t overshadow what was a really good competitive game of football. Cogenhoe dominated the first half, playing real quick powerful, attacking football and created a series of first half chances that they either wasted or that brought the best out of Radio Diamonds Man of the Match Matt Finlay. A header off the bar and point blank header put wide he couldn’t influence, but shots were brilliantly blocked and cleared off the line and his handling was excellent. Diamonds had a better spell mid-half and a Dunkley free-kick was well saved, Gearing put a shooting chance just wide from a similar position to the one he netted so well at Yaxley, and another Gearing volley was clutched just under the bar by Watts in the Cogenhoe goal.

Diamonds got stronger and more dominant as the second half wore on, fitness maybe telling again, and really should have scored in the latter stages to pinch an unlikely win. Koriya’s introduction helped create pace against a tiring Cogenhoe defence, and a couple of scrambles in the box, blocked shots by Watts, and a header from Parkinson than nearly got past Watts just under the bar were real opportunities.

It was a fair result on balance, maybe even a touch hard on Cogenhoe for their first half dominance. The good people of Cogenhoe were welcoming and good to see as ever, they are decent club and as a place I always enjoy going there. There were certainly some opinions flying round the back of the Cogenhoe stand between members of the crowd and ourselves, with some good debate on the game and how it was playing out. The Cogenhoe people couldn’t have been nicer.

Anyway, it was a really good night overall, a good advert for UCL Prem despite the poor tackling, and we roll on to Newport Pagnell on Saturday. We’ll have a preview at the end of the week and look forward to bringing you the action from Buckinghamshire.

Northamptonshire UCL Derby….Cogenhoe Here We Come

It’s almost certainly the biggest Northamptonshire derby of the UCL season? 3rd against 2nd, two genuine contenders for top 2, both playing good passing football when they can, few miles apart, and off the back of a good quality competitive first fixture earlier in the season at the Dog Duck. Also 2 well run clubs with decent welcoming knowledgeable people who love their football and play a full part in the UCL…it has the makings of a great occasion.

 

That game in early November finished 4 2 to Diamonds and started them on this fabulous run of 12 wins in 13 in the league. It ended a poor period in the season with home defeats by Huntingdon and Peterborough Northern Star and draws at Wisbech and PNS. That recent run includes the win at Spalding of course, but also defeat the following week at Boston…but Diamonds are 100% in the league in 2014…all two games!!

 

Cogenhoe have been in the top 5 all season and only dropped to 3rd on Saturday thanks to “dropping points at Huntingdon”. As we know only too well a point at Huntingdon as a great point – we got nothing over there – and Cognehoe’s previous game was a fantastic 2-0 win at Deeping. They had the misfortune of playing Spalding in consecutive weeks in January losing both, but those last two results have them bang back in form so with Diamonds returning to action with that impressive 3-1 win at Holbeach on Saturday we’ll have two form teams tonight.

 

AFC Rushden & Diamonds have played at Compton Park twice of course losing both times at U18 level. A humbling 7-0 defeat against a superb Cogenhoe side in the first season of our existence in the Northants Youth League – we were 5-0 down after 25 minutes in front of over 200 – and the play-off final of last years Youth League losing 4-2 to Yaxley.

 

There are a couple of notable players with links to both sides. Alfie Taylor played for Cogenhoe in his early years – first time I saw him play – and goalkeeper Matt Finlay has recently moved from Cogenhoe to Diamonds making his debut at Holbeach on Saturday. He’ll be expecting much more involvement in the game than he did on Saturday afternoon.

 

Diamonds fans who follow the UCL facebook page will know the excellent balanced contributions from Chairman Derek Wright a stalwart of the UCL, and then there are those of Colin Cooper……. Seriously there is a good relationship between the clubs and we’re looking forward to bringing you coverage on Radio Diamonds tonight….and who knows we get some input from our Cogenhoe friends.

 

So if you can’t make the game, please listen in, get in touch and tell us what you think and enjoy a cracking Northamptonshire derby in the UCL tonight.

 

Paul Judd

Radio Diamonds Presenter

Back up and Running…

It was great to be back in the commentary box (or should I say seat at the back of the stand) for Saturday’s return to action for Diamonds against Holbeach. It was one of our longer away trips on a breezy but bright day, enough to blow a few cobwebs out, but there was no sign of sluggishness on the part of the team. Diamonds started really strongly, were aggressive from the off, closing down at every opportunity, and moving the ball well and quickly right from the off.

 

Greg Ling was having one of his most impressive games running at and past defenders regularly. Matt Gearing was equally involved down the right hand side supported by Joe Merrill, and there was plenty of movement and inter change across that front line with Alfie Taylor and Russ Dunkley both holding it well and running in behind. Aaron King was picking the ball up in centre midfield and moving it quickly along with Sean Mcbride who was breaking up Holbeach possession and challenging for every ball.

 

The two early goals came from excellent Greg Ling runs into the box with cutbacks to Russ Dunkley.  The first saw Russ’s shot part blocked by the keeper allowing Matt Gearing to prod home from 2 yards, the second saw Dunkley’s volley from the edge of the box handled with Gearing calmly converting the penalty. 2-0 up inside 10 minutes.

 

There were a regular supply of chances after that with Gearing coming close to hat-trick with a lob and a late shot across goal, and Alfie Taylor nearly squeezing one in at the near post. Holbeach improved their ability to hold and use possession later in the first half but rarely troubled the solid Diamonds defence of Brown, Parkinson, Henderson and Merrill. Debutant goalkeeper Matt Finlay had little to do apart from claim a couple of crosses, although a poor backpass resulted in his hurried clearance being part blocked.

 

Holbeach were much improved in the second half which was down to them pushing men forward more readily, moving the ball more quickly themselves, with a willingness to get beyond the man in possession and take more risks to try and get back into the game. They didn’t really convert that into chances though, and the energy and willingness to track and to challenge by the Diamonds back four and midfield continued to be an impressive feature of the game.

 

Diamonds chances were coming but with less frequency than the first half but the introduction of Fazel Koriya and Richard Bunting stepped up the energy levels and it was a great run by Koriya deep into the box from a Bunting pass that created the third goal. His cutback to Alfie Taylor swept into the net for a trademark Alfie Taylor goal….his 49th for the club.

 

Sam Brown had been carrying a knock for a while which was aggravated just before the goal, and he came off to be replaced by Alex Deakin.  The re-shuffle at the back did seem to contribute to the immediate response by Holbeach. A great through-ball in behind Joe Merrill who had moved across to left-back gave Bayliss the chance to run in on goal and finish well. There were no-more serious problems for the Diamonds defence and they ran out comfortable and deserved 3-1 winners.

 

That’s 12 wins in 13 and up to 2nd spot after Tuesday night’s opponents Cogenhoe took just a point from their trip to Huntingdon but that is a good point as we know and helps Diamonds in that quest for second place as Huntingdon still edge us overall in terms of points dropped but they do have a lot more games to play on the run-in.

 

We had new equipment for the team of myself, Adam and Douglas which we think helped, and I was asked to do live updates on Radio Northampton through the afternoon so it was a good day all round for Radio Diamonds and the team.

 

We’ll be previewing the Cogenhoe game tomorrow and hope you’ll join us for what is the closest UCL ground for both myself and Douglas. Should be a cracking Northamptonshire derby…

 

Paul Judd

Radio Diamonds Presenter