Thursday, 5 December 2013

AFC Rushden & Diamonds - The Dog & Duck Stadium

AFC Rushden & Diamonds FC / Wellingborough Town FC
The Dog and Duck Stadium
London Road

07986 358973

Ground Number: 319
Tuesday 3rd December 2013
AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2-1 Newport Pagnell Town
United Counties League - Premier Division

I was looking to do something fairly local tonight, as I have another game in Portsmouth v Wycombe on the Wednesday, and what with starting at 4am on both the Wednesday and Thursday mornings, I was concerned about getting tired. Initially I selected a few games from some of the step 5 leagues I am looking to complete - the Hellenic and the Spartan but then Anwar suggested AFC Rushden & Diamonds v Newport Pagnell Town. It sounded like a good shout and was fairly local, so it was planned in.

I had seen AFC Rushden earlier this season as they lost 2-1 at Winslow United in a friendly match. From what I could gather it was very much an experimental side, so it would be interesting to see how their first team did in a competitive game. AFC Rushden and Diamonds of course, were formed from the ashes of their old club after the original Rushden and Diamonds went into financial meltdown a few seasons back.  The club were formed in 2011, playing their first season as a youth side due to being unable to find a senior league to join in time. They finished 5th and won the NSYL Knockout Cup 4-1 against AFC Kempston Town. The following season they converted to a senior side, entering the United Counties League Division 1 and winning promotion at the first time of asking. The club shared at Raunds Town for the first year of their existence, however since becoming a senior side they had moved over to Wellingborough. Strangely I had not been to either of those grounds, not even for pictures and though it was nice to see a game at Wellingborough, it would have been nice to get pictures of Raunds, a feat made impossible by the fact that it gets dark at 4PM at this time of year.

Looking at the league table, AFC Rushden sat in 5th place in the table on 38 points, while Newport Pagnall were down in 19th on 14 points. I had visited quite a few of these grounds on the way up to Grimsby a few weeks back, one of those was Spalding United who are walking the league - winning all 17 games of their league campaign so far. The league had an odd number of teams - 19 - this owing to Woodford United's decision to drop 2 leagues following their relegation from the Southern League Division 1 Central last season. I had actually seen a game in this league before, as recently as last season. I was on my way to Derby for a concert and needed a game to go to. Out of several options I chose Shepshed Dynamo v Deeping Rangers which ended in a 3-2 win for the visitors. Shepshed have now moved sideways to the Midland Alliance League and are struggling, however Deeping are still in the league and are amongst the front runners.

On the day I had the day off work so just lazed about at home. It was getting noticeably colder as winter was setting in so I made sure I wrapped up warm when I left at 5PM. I got to Anwar's at 5.35 and for once he was waiting for me which showed how keen he was! There was a bit of traffic on the way, nothing serious, although we did have the horrible experience of having to go through Milton Keynes, which is becoming ever familiar now. We got there just after 7 and were looking for somewhere to eat. There was nowhere we fancied within walking distance, not without cutting it fine for kick off so we went straight to the ground.

First stop was the club shop, which unusually for non league was outside the ground. It was excellent and from what I gather it was shared with Wellingborough Town. I got a few nice things in there - the night's programme for £2, a book called 'Ten of Diamonds' which told the story of the formation of the original Rushden & Diamonds club, a book about the troubles at Brighton under dodgy owners Archer and Belotti for 50p and finally an AFC Rushden & Diamonds pen for £1. I had noticed the entrance to Wellingborough Whitworths FC right next door when I walked into the entrance to the ground - sadly the dark stopped me getting some pictures of it.

We paid our money to get in and after checking Facebook for updates I took my camera out, ready to take a picture to upload to Instagram. As I fired up the camera app the floodlights went out and I feared I'd had a wasted journey. Despite around a 20 minute delay though, they fixed the problem and the kick off was delayed by just 5 minutes. I passed the time by getting some chips, which although not the nicest I have tasted, were a good portion size and a good price at £1.50.

During the game I met Stacey who I had briefly spoken to on Facebook a while back and we had a good chat about the old days of when our teams used to face each other in the football league. I also met a bloke who looks on the non league forum that I post on and who had seen I was coming. He told me lots of interesting stories, including the tragic death of their former goalkeeper Dale Roberts, which proved that Paul Terry was just as much of a git as his more famous brother. The short story is, that Terry had an injury and had to go to treatment every day. As he lived so far away, Roberts offered him a place to stay. Then while Roberts was away with the team, Terry was shagging his girlfriend behind his back. This led to the couple splitting up, although they did get back together eventually. Unbeknown to the team, Roberts was suffering from depression and one day when he didn't turn up to get the coach to Eastwood for an FA Trophy game, the manager sent Roberts girlfriend round to see what was up. It was then that she found he had hanged himself. A very sad story in which there were no winners and a tragic waste of a young life. In his memory there is a nice bar at the ground, which has lots of his pictures and old shirts up, including the one from his final game for England C.

Below is the match report from the AFC Rushden & Diamonds website....

The Diamonds took an early lead when Alex Deakin headed home a Gillingwater free kick with five minutes on the clock, but the Swans levelled shortly before the break. After a fairly even third quarter the Diamonds got back on top in the last 15 minutes, and Russ Dunkley headed home the winner from a Merrill cross after 83 minutes.
The Diamonds had to reshuffle their back four once again for this game. Jamal Clarke was serving the third of his four game ban, Arron Parkinson was absent due to illness, and Sam Brown was missing his first league game of the season as he prepares for important exams. Fortunately Joe Merrill had recovered from the knock he took on Saturday to take his place at right back, with Jake Gillingwater at left back and a centre back pairing of Brad Harris and Alex Deakin. Fazel Koriya was fit to take a place on the bench.
The game started with a bang for the Diamonds, as after five minutes Greg Ling tried to burst forwards and was fouled about 35 yards from goal. Jake Gillingwater powered a well hit free-kick into the area, where Alex Deakin rose to head home.
The next half-hour was fairly quiet, although a slick Diamonds move involving neat flicks from both Dunkley and Taylor saw Matt Gearing burst into the area, but a fine tackle denied a shooting opportunity. The best chance for the Swans came when Tom Cross saved a Ieuan Riley effort after good work from Ben Shepherd.
Aaron King was not as involved as in recent games, but he did lay a ball into the path of Gearing as he burst towards the by-line on the left, but the effort on goal was wide.
As the game neared the break Alfie Taylor had a shot saved by McAdoo, but after 43 minutes the visitors were level. Sam Parrish worked space for a cross on the right, and it was met by Jamie Nicholls who fired home the equaliser, and then celebrated with passion.
After a Gearing free kick went just wide Referee Chalmers signalled half-time.
Half-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 Newport Pagnell Town 1
With the visitors having drawn level before the break, it spurred them to even greater effort, as they won the lion’s share of “second ball” in the third quarter, although they rarely tested Tom Cross.
As the game entered the final quarter there was a blow for the Diamonds when Alfie Taylor pulled up as he chased a ball down the left flank, and he was replaced by Ben Morgan. Morgan narrowly missed getting on the end of a ball across the area with his first touch as the Diamonds started to get on top. Joe Merrill was having a fine game, and a neat 1-2 with Matt Gearing saw him fire the ball low across the box, but somehow nobody got the touch needed.
Séan McBride had been the Diamonds mainstay in midfield, and he fired a shot that looked goalbound until deflected over the bar.
After 83 minutes the Diamonds retook the lead. Joe Merrill ran forward in a more central position to try to pick up loose ball, and although it then bounced off a defender he was able to loop outside Matt Gearing and then clip a cross onto the head of Russ Dunkley who made no mistake and found the back of the net.
The Swans had a good travelling contingent, and they would have been disappointed to concede a late winner after such a battling performance.
Fazel Koriya joined the action, and quickly had two efforts on goal, the second a well-hit shot that forced a good save from Josh McAdoo.
Full-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2 Newport Pagnell Town 1

After the game we set off home and made good time. I was back at Anwar's around 11.15, arriving back at mine around 11.40. I was still wide awake having got up quite late and so stayed up until just after 1, getting just 3 hours sleep. This is precisely what I wanted to avoid as I had another game at Portsmouth v Wycombe the following day.

The less said about that journey the better. Going down there took over 3 hours - double the time it should take. An hour of it was being trapped in Eastleigh as Paul needed the toilet. Normally it wouldn't be a problem and would be a few minutes delay but we got stuck in the one way system getting back on the motorway - the level of traffic caused by the accident on the M27 that made up the other 30 minutes of delay. Then on the way back, my satnav took us back via the A3. Inconsiderate roads people failed to signpost a diversion where there was a closure, and so a huge detour was needed, adding 40 minutes onto the journey. I was knackered by the the time I got home at 1am.

The time in Portsmouth was decent though. I went to a pub with a great range of ciders for a couple of pints. Then onto the Chinese takeaway which was brilliant as it was when I came to Portsmouth last time. I got in with perfect timing, just getting up into the stand as they were kicking off. We played our part in an entertaining 2-2 draw and although there were plenty of positives and plenty of negatives to take from the game, overall the draw was an excellent result.

THE DOG AND DUCK STADIUM (or the Woof and Quack as it is sometimes called) is a decent ground for this level and is probably fit for step 4 football. It has seen a few improvements since AFC Rushden moved in with Wellingborough, The new stands added are a terrace called 'The Peter De Banke Terrace' (they had one of that name at their old ground Nene Park This is a metal stand so it can be taken with them when they move. The other addition is some cover on the dugouts side. All in all these 2 have added around 500 extra covered spaces in all. The one remaining stand from Wellingborough is a decent main stand, holding around 200. The rest of the ground is open and flat standing.

As mentioned above, the club shop is excellent with a decent range of stuff for sale. The tea bar and bar are pretty standard for non league level. In addition there is Dale's Bar, in memory of their late keeper Dale Roberts. This has a good range of drinks, sweets and crisps. Especially good value are the hot drinks, which come in a very big cup for the decent price of £1.

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