Diggin delivers as Puritans sparkle against Diamonds

Steve Diggin turns away to celebrate after giving Banbury United the lead against AFC Rushden & Diamonds. Photo: Jake McNulty
Steve Diggin turns away to celebrate after giving Banbury United the lead against AFC Rushden & Diamonds. Photo: Jake McNulty

At last, a victory for Banbury United in the Evo-Stik League South.

It came in Tuesday’s premier division central clash with AFC Rushden & Diamonds and Steve Diggin’s first goal for the club earned all three points but United created enough chances to win more than just the one game.

In the end, one was enough against a Diamonds side that were down to ten men for most of the second half following the dismissal of former Puritan Jack Westbrook.

United – and Diggin in particular – got off to the perfect start with a goal in the second minute. Giorgio Rasulo’s deep corner was returned into the six-yard box by Charlie Wise and Diggin gleefully tapped home from close range.

Diamonds went close to a swift reply when United failed to deal with a free-kick and Liam Dolman was thwarted by Matt Taylor just as he was about to pull the trigger.

Boosted by the early breakthrough, United got on the front foot and went close again when the returning Ravi Shamsi latched on to Edmund Hottor’s pass, his cross found Diggin whose header was blocked with United appealing for handball. From Shamsi’s inswinging corner, Greg Kaziboni’s header was cleared off the line by Nathan Hicks.

Shamsi continued to cause problems with his pace and tricky, he set up Kaziboni who saw his drive deflected wide. A dangerous low cross from Kaziboni was cut out by keeper Ben Heath at full stretch just as Diggin was about to pounce.

United served up some great stuff. Diggin did well to find Rasulo who turned sharply in the box and beat Heath but the ball thumped against the post before coming off the keeper.

Taylor rescued the situation for Manny Agboola after he mishandled in the six-yard box just as Tom Lorraine was about to capitalise. United broke quickly with Diggin releasing Shamsi who raced into the box before firing over from a tight angle.

United poured forward at every opportunity. Kaziboni’s clever back-heel set-up Shamsi who fired over. Another excellent delivery from Shamsi evaded Heath but it also caught out Diggin who was just unable to turn the ball in at the far post.

The silky skills of Albie Hopkins provided the best moments for Diamonds but they struggled to create openings. United led by a solitary goal at the break but they deserved so much more from their first half display.

United picked up from where they left off after the restart and Kaziboni fired just wide from a tight angle.

Westbrook’s return to the Banbury Plant Hire Community Stadium lasted only five minutes into the second half when he got a straight red card for a challenge on Hottor. Surely, this would now be the night United would pick up a long overdue three points.

Diamonds rallied and Dolman’s header was deflected wide but it was a rare scare for United.

A super-quick counter-attack should have doubled United’s advantage. Diggin and substitute George Nash combined to release Shamsi who cut into the box but failed to beat the advancing Heath.

Shamsi released Diggin who cut into the box and from a tight angle tried to curl the ball into the far corner of the net but the ball drifted just past the upright.

In between, Lorraine’s tenacity saw him turn Wise and force his way into the box before firing over.

A great move involving Shamsi, Kaziboni and Rasulo set up Diggin who blazed over from a good position. Moments later, Shamsi and Kaziboni combined for Diggin whose low drive was comfortably saved by Heath.

Shamsi had Diamonds back-pedalling and he drove into the box before curling one just wide. That second goal just would not come, Diamonds were still in it and substitute Daniel Clifton’s speculative drive was deflected over.

But United saw out five minutes of stoppage-time and the three points were in the bag.