Radio Diamonds Weekly Update
Hi I’m Paul Judd and this is the weekly update from Radio Diamonds. This is the written version of the recorded update that will also be posted on the Radio Diamonds website.
The exciting news this week is the release of our fixtures for the coming season so we’ll take a look at some of the highlights, we’ll also look back at the first two games of the pre-season campaign which saw a win and a draw and the whole squad used, we’ve had a first chance to see a number of new signings and trialists so we’ll see what we’ve learned about them too, we’ll look at the games coming up this week including Saturday’s trip to Enfield, and we’ll round up some club news.
What a difference a league makes!! Fixtures published for the whole season in July, a fairly equitable home and away balance, and some sensible midweek scheduling. It’s just the names and places that will take some getting used to. I’ve already been caught out with the two Aylesbury’s in the league.
We start our Southern League Central campaign at home against also newly promoted Petersfield Town from Hampshire. Petersfield have achieved back to back promotions through the Wessex League clinching the Premier League by 7 points last season so a fascinating match-up first up.
We then have back to back away games with a trip to St Ives Town for one of our “local” fixtures on Tuesday 11th, before our first longer trip 60 miles down south to Ware on Saturday 15th. St Ives finished 9th last season and Ware 10th so a couple of games which will help us judge our level in the new league.
It’s then 3 home games to round of August against Aylesbury United (13th), Chalfont St. Peter (16th) and Bedford (17th) on Bank Holiday Monday. It’s difficult to tell based on last year’s finishing position but this looks like a first 6 games which gives us a real chance to make our mark on the League. But I bet all 6 opponents will fancy their chances of a win against a newly promoted side, so it’s going to be an exciting August.
The midweek away trips that are scheduled look to be sensibly nearer rather than farther trips, and the Boxing Day away trip to Bedford will please some of our loyal fans. The tricky period is pre-xmas with the longest trips of the season to Godalming (95 miles) on November 14th, Petersfield Town (114 miles) on November 28th, and the last two Saturdays’ before xmas see us heading to Uxbridge (69 miles) and Chalfont St Peter (63 miles) ….at least we’ll avoid the xmas shopping.
New Years Day we are at home to Arlesey Town and being another of our “local” opponents we visit them on Easter Monday. We finish at home too against Godalming Town on April 23rd.
One other fixture announcement this week is the Red Insure Cup (for Southern League sides). We’ve been drawn against Premier League side Histon FC in a home tie, but it doesn’t take place until w/c 12/10.
This week’s action
Diamonds have had two games this week to kick-off the pre-season campaign, both against United Counties League opposition and both away.
The first was the now regular pre-season opener against Rushden & Higham United at Hayden Road played for the Chris Ruff Memorial Cup. The teams had both previously won once, with Diamonds the holders after a 2-0 victory last July.
The sides are now two levels apart in the non-league world and although a competitive workout for the whole squad the difference did show through. New signings Dan Quigley (centre midfield) and Ollie Wilkinson (right back) started along with trialist Steve Spriggs all three looking comfortable and slotting in well to the 4-4-2 system. The first half was goalless with a limited number of chances that fell mostly to Diamonds who looked solid and well motivated and fit.
6 half-time substitutions including a whole new front 4 sharpened the forward line and early goals for Courtney Herbert and Liam Dolman clinched the result, with a number of other chances for Herbert, Lawless, Kilbride and Fitzgerald also created. 3 players returned to the action in the second-half meaning all except poor old Sam Brown played about 70 minutes.
The trophy was lifted at the end of the game in front of a healthy 200 plus crowd.
Tuesday night saw a trip to one of our favourite grounds – Kingsthorpe Mill to play Northampton Spencer. It was a tad more laid back on Tuesday than the promotion clinching game at the end of our first senior season, in fact we had rain and drizzle, all be it warm, for most of the game.
We may have seen a nod towards a preferred starting eleven with Herbert and Lorraine starting up front, Kilbride and Spriggs out wide, and Quigley and Harris in centre midfield. Joe Merrill came in at right-back alongside Dolman, Ashton and Brown. The first half was certainly the better of the two for diamonds with Spriggs in particular involved in most of Diamonds good work, and Herbert always threatening the last man. Chance were at a premium as the opposition was definitely a step-up and in second half in particular a confident Spencer side put some pressure on the Diamonds defence.
The game finished goalless with Diamonds dropping off in terms of performance and intensity in the second-half, certainly in the final third, but the work out for the whole squad over the two games including defensively in this match has been exactly what Andy Peaks will have wanted.
It’s always difficult to judge players in pre-season games but we’ve had our first look at the new signing so what did we think…
Dan Quigley – slotted in really well alongside both Bunting and Harris, works hard to win the ball back and likes to pick a positive pass particularly out wide. Likes to make near post runs at corners and flick the ball on and although slight of frame is strong in the air. A definite contender to start in central midfield
Ollie Wilkinson – reads the game well at both full-back where he played in the first game and centre half in the second. Not the tallest and I was struck how he reminded me of Jack Ashton in his leaping for the ball against taller defenders and sheer physical effort, good in possession and a good addition to the back four squad
Jason Kilbride – quick feet as you’d expect from a Futsal international, pacey and happy to cut inside at pace or go outside and an excellent crosser of the ball. Took some excellent free-kicks and corners in the first game and looks a possible Matt Gearing replacement in that respect, although Steven Spriggs may have something to say about that
Dominic Lawless – busy striker who was part of the impact substitutions at half-time in the first game. He links the play well around and outside the box as he did for Liam Dolman’s goal against R&H. Not had much in the way of chances to show his finishing bar a strike just over the bar from 8 yards in the first game from Tom Lorraine’s cutback. Adds to the squad of striking options
Courtney Herbert – started as a trialist but has now signed-on, immediate impact with a goal after 40 seconds against R&H, bright, mobile, aggressive and keen to get run the channel to get in behind defences. One great finish, and two maybe not so great in the two games, but a real threat and if he signs would likely be first choice.
Steve Spriggs – played a half in each match and very impressive. Particularly in the Spencer game where he got some fantastic passes to enable him to run at and frankly torment the left-back, and great end product too. A variety of types of crosses, plus a couple of dangerous free-kicks show he could be a main man for diamonds if he signs.
Kieran Fitzgerald – grew into the first game and looked pacey and lively particularly cutting inside, got shots off in both games when coming onto the ball at the edge of the area. Not dissimilar to Elliott Lamb-Johnson although taller, confident and a potentially good squad player
It looks like we have some excellent signings who can help us adapt to the next level we’ve now moved to, with some other possible options that would really enhance our team and squad. Let’s see what happens in the coming weeks.
Over the next week we have tough looking trip to Enfield Town, another fan owned club who play in the Ryman Isthmian League Premier Division, a step above Diamonds. They finished 7th last season and had 16 of their 21 wins games at home. I noticed they have friendlies against Brighton & Hove Albion and Crystal Palace alongside AFC Rushden & Diamonds.
On Tuesday night we make the first of 4 appearance at the Dog & Duck as we build towards the start of the season with the visit of Southern League Premier side Biggleswade Town. The waders finished 4th bottom of the league last season but well clear in terms of points and will certainly be stern opposition for Diamonds.
The club AGM was held on Wednesday evening…more details on what was discussed in next week’s update, but you can see the annual accounts for 2014/2015 on the member’s website.
Ground maintenance continues at the Dog & Duck all by volunteers. Teams that have been down so far have undertaken a range of work including painting a large section of fence, as well as old club shop/new tea bar area, Jetwashed astroturf areas, cleaned various barriers/pitchside boards, repainted dugouts, weeding around the entire stadium perimeter completed, various doors rubbed down, filled and prepped for undercoat. There is more needed to be done to finish off much of this good work so if people can offer an hour or two Saturday or Sunday please contact Darren via the main website. I’m told free bacon sarnies are on offer!!
There has been a fantastic response to the U12 and U14 training sessions for the new girls section of the club, and it has prompted expanding to offer sessions for U7/8 and U9 & U10. With qualified coaches and the emphasis on fun and development it’s a great chance for more of the Diamonds family to get involved in playing the game. Look on the main website for details.
So the pre-season is underway, the new players are bedding in, tough pre-season games are coming-up, and we have a fixture list for the whole season, it’s an exciting time. Enjoy the pre-season games you can get down to and remember it’s only 3 weeks until that opening game against Petersfield Town and the return of Radio Diamonds.