Godalming Town recorded back-to-back wins for the first time in over two months as previously unbeaten AFC Rushden & Diamonds were downed at a wet and windy Wey Court thanks to a second-half wonder strike from Louis Hutton.
The midfielder’s explosive, dipping effort left goalkeeper Matt Finlay with no chance, and on a slippery surface both teams ended the game with 10 men, the visitors Liam Dolman seeing red for a very late challenge on Johnny Gray, before Gs left-back Nick Hutchings received his marching orders for a similar slide on Tommy Berwick.
Ashley Lloyd returned to central defence having been rested for the derby with Guildford City midweek, and with Adam Cornell leaving the club Steve Laidler returned as the Gs lined up with 5 in midfield, captain Graeme Purdy leading the line in attack.
Hutton gave the Diamonds a warning as to what was to come later just 12 minutes in, a 25-yard rocket crashing back off the bar with Finlay rooted. The visitors had enjoyed a run to the 4th-qualifying round of the FA Cup, as well as 11 games in the league with no defeats, following promotion last season but were matched by the hosts in an even first half.
Their first threat came and went when Tom Willment headed an Andy Hall cross over his own bar, with Delroy Gordon lurking, and on the half hour Richard Ossai made his first save of the game when he did well to deny Hall. At the other end, Lloyd headed a Darren Wheeler free kick just wide of the far post, but it was Rushden who came closest to taking the lead, Berwick’s superb angled volley crashing back off the bar.
It was the visitors who again came close the other side of half time, Romanian striker Claudiu Hoban exchanging a neat 1-2 with Hall before shooting over, before Godalming stunned the Diamonds in the 62nd minute. Purdy nodded down a long ball to Hutton outside the box, and he looked up before firing a spectacular drive that dipped dramatically straight over the head of Finlay, flying into the back of the net for his second goal of the season.
Having taken the lead, the Gs kept their shape well with tireless running from Purdy offering a permanent outlet. Gray and Lloyd did well to block efforts inside the box as the visitors began to press, but they were set a severe setback when Dolman was dismissed with less than quarter of an hour to go. The big defender was atrociously late in his tackle on Gray, and referee James Vallance didn’t hesitate to produce red.
However, parity was restored just 7 minutes later when a similarly poor challenge from Nick Hutchings on Berwick caused Vallance to produce another red card though, the reduction in men didn’t unsettle the hosts, who continued to defend resolutely and retain possession well when further up the field.
In the 88th minute substitute Tom Liversedge forced Ossai into a save low at his near post and from the resulting corner Lloyd, thoroughly impressive since his return from injury and stand out in this match, made a superb sliding clearance to deny Berwick. Godalming continued to try and take advantage of a now 3 man Rushden defence and when George Frith rippled the side-netting following a finely placed pass from Purdy, some in the ground thought it was game over.
There was still time for Tom Lorraine to have one final chance, but Ossai parried the ball clear and Vallance blew for full time shortly after, culminating in an remarkable and deserved 3 points for the Gs. Andy Hunt’s men travel to Egham Town in the league cup on Tuesday before visiting Aylesbury in the league next weekend.
Goals: Hutton 62’
XI: Ossai; Wales, Hutchings, Willment, Lloyd; Gray, Laidler; Wheeler (Bassett 65’), Frith, Hutton; Purdy.
Not used: Edwards, Beswick, Lewington, Sellick.