A midweek trip for the Rovers - up the A6 to near-neighbours AFC Rushden & Diamonds for another league fixture.
Rovers Manager Tony Fontanelle shuffled the pack from Saturday’s match introducing new signing Drew Phillips to the starting line-up along with Brandon Carney and Jamie Nicholls who both made debuts from the subs bench on Saturday, Tom Peverall slotted in at right back with Danny Watson playing in a midfield role.
Diamonds opened up strongly and, with a stiff breeze at their backs, were soon working the Rovers back four with winger Joel Gyasi making some piercing runs down the Rovers right flank. The Diamonds midfield were dominating and Rovers finding any possession short-lived and, with the run of play, no surprise when, on 11 minutes, Diamonds’ Ben Farrell volleyed home from a corner on the left to open the scoring 1-0 Diamonds. Liam Dolman the Diamonds captain was next to threaten when he spotted Rovers keeper Adam Harpur off his line but his clever lob just cleared the bar. Diamonds had an iron grip on the game and with Rovers finding it difficult to get the ball down and play it into Diamonds territory. In the 22nd minute Rovers were caught out when a clever short free-kick again found Dolman and he was able to rifle one out of Harpur’s despairing reach and into the Rovers net to make it 2-0 Diamonds. Worse was to come when 2 minutes later Farrell volleyed home an unsaveable effort from a right wing cross by Gyasi 3-0 Diamonds and a mountain to climb for Rovers. Diamonds continued to pile on the pressure and came close on several occasions to increasing their goal tally before half-time with Harpur getting in the way and some wasteful finishing meaning half-time came and Diamonds went in with a 3-0 lead.
Perhaps with the wind at their backs second half, Rovers could mount a fightback but the half began much as the first 45 minutes with Diamonds stroking the ball around comfortable and Rovers simply unable to break this pattern. Two minutes into the half Diamonds’ centre-forward Tom Lorraine smacked one of the crossbar so an escape for Rovers. Ben Ford the Diamonds left back was next to strike Rovers woodwork with a cracking shot that rebounded from the post to safety in the 61st minute. Diamonds striker Nabil Shariff bagged Diamonds fourth goal on 77 minutes with a rather weak-looking header from a right side corner that begged questions of the Rovers defending. To add salt in the wounds Rovers conceded a fifth score in the 82nd minute when Jack Keating inadvertently cracked a sweet volley into his own net from an attempted Rovers clearance.
Worryingly, for the Rovers Manager, players and support there was nothing by way of convincing midfield battling, ability to win important challenges up front, retainment of possession and most importantly confidence emanating from this display. However, let’s not belittle the performance of this Diamonds side who proved far superior on the night and, on this display, will surely be in the thick of the promotion battle as the season progresses.