It probably couldn’t have been a better outcome on Saturday for Diamonds first game of the new season – a clean sheet, 3 points and the defenders scoring again.
It was a day for defenders to shine and ours did superbly, not a foot wrong anywhere when it would have been understandable given the conditions. Liam Dolman and Alex Collard commanded everything into the box and with Jack Ashton, Sam Brown and Nat Gosnal-Tyler they were all precise with contact on the ball and anticipated the action so well to deny Barwell too many meaningful chances. When those few chances fell Ben Heath was on top form, parrying away, blocking close range efforts and punching and catching at all the right times.
The new look midfield combination of Matt Slinn, Ben Acquaye and Nathan Hicks worked so hard to match Barwell’s physicality in the middle third and they tried to play out in the right situations with the support of the impressive Nat Gosnal-Tyler and reliable Sam Brown. The front two of Jack Bowen and Tom Lorraine worked incredibly hard and pressured the Barwell back line all afternoon taking some physical punishment into the bargain from the Barwell defenders who didn’t cope with the conditions quite as well as the Diamonds back line.
Blocked shooting chances inside the box (one of which was quite possibly handball), shots and headers on the break (one of which nodded over the keeper was cleared off the line) kept you thinking Diamonds were going to get that vital opening goal if they could keep defending solidly.
And the nature of the finish by Liam Dolman said everything about the care he and his fellow defenders had taken over contact with the ball in swirling conditions. A clever Sam Brown throw had the waiting Barwell defenders retreating to make contact and they could only flick the ball into Liam’s path. The concentration on technique and hitting the target were clear to see and the celebration with the travelling Diamonds fans behind that goal was reminiscent of his last goal on that ground!!
The second goal came after Declan Rogers came on and a change in corner technique drew dividends. With the wind blowing away from goal a low driven corner found the run of Jack Ashton who not only got ahead of his defender at the near post but was able to direct his header down and back across goal into the far corner. More massive celebrations.
Barwell had chances in between those goals and Diamonds rode their luck a couple times when more precise close range finishing could have earned the men in lime green a share of the spoils. It is fine margins at this level of football and you felt Diamonds worked hard to push those margins in their favour.
Can Diamonds follow up tonight against Leiston who will have travelled 3 hours plus on a Tuesday night from out on the East Coast to get to Hayden Road? They started their campaign with a home draw against Coalville Town on Saturday after finishing one place outside the relegation zone last season. They were clear in terms of points and not really in danger towards the end of the season and will be hoping to land a sucker punch on a confident Diamonds fresh off that opening day win.
My home town side Stourbridge have got off to a flying start after a change of management with the ex Alvechurch manager bringing a lot of his players with him to the War Memorial Ground. A 3-1 home win last night against a strong Stratford side (Nabil Shariff scored their goal) and a 2-1 away win on Saturday are pleasing my hometown friends and raising levels of optimism after play-off heartbreak last season.
Our visitors on Saturday fancied Nuneaton Borough probably had the shock result at the weekend with a 3-0 home reverse to old friends Kings Langley who have moved across into our league. I always feel an away win should be worth more than a home win so that would make Diamonds, Stourbridge and Kings Langley the opening day leaders!!
Radio Diamonds returned on Saturday and I thoroughly enjoyed being back behind the microphone, especially calling those two goals. We love the feedback, texts, twitter mentions and likes so please get in touch and tell us what you are thinking. We’ll be back tonight of course to hopefully call another Diamonds win.
Enjoy the game