AFC Kempston Rovers 1-4 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
At Steel Park, Corby
AFC Rushden & Diamonds capped a remarkable debut season in perfect fashion, by winning the Northants Senior Youth League Knock Out Cup with a 4-1 victory over Kempston in the final.
Following a 15 minute delay to the proceedings because of floodlight problems, the Diamonds fell behind early on after ‘keeper Ashley Foulger misjudged a free kick from Gareth Hunt. Rushden fought back strongly however, buoyed by the tremendous vocal support from the predominantly AFC R&D crowd, and led at the half time interval thanks to goals from Conor Bell and James Harrison. The second half saw the Diamonds stamp their authority on the game, and further goals from Bell and Fred Devereaux put the seal on a wonderful night for the fledgling club.
The match kicked off shortly after 8:00pm with only three of the four floodlights in operation, and Corby Town’s electrician frantically attempting to fix the remaining one. The Diamonds started the game well with some good spells of possession inside the opening stages, but nothing that troubled the Kempston defence.
With 8 minutes gone however, the Walnut Boys took the lead with the first meaningful shot of the game. A free kick was awarded some 30 yards from goal, in an area of the pitch close to the failed floodlight. Gareth Hunt’s driven shot bounced just in front of Ashley Foulger, zipping off the wet surface and deceiving the Rushden ‘keeper who got a hand to the ball but couldn’t keep it out.
Kempston were clearly lifted by the goal and it was they who had the best of the possession in the ensuing minutes. On 17 minutes Brad Clarke almost latched onto a ball into the Diamonds’ penalty area but he couldn’t quite bring the ball under control with only Foulger to beat. Foulger gathered the ball and quickly launched it upfield, where James Harrison flicked it on into the path of Conor Bell. Bell burst clear of the defence and into the penalty area, before calmly slotting the ball past Aaron Bodger in the Kempston goal to draw the Diamonds level.
With the crowd now louder than ever in support of the Diamonds, they upped their game and pressed for a second goal. With 21 minutes gone they came within inches of taking the lead when Ashley Meeks broke down the right flank and crossed into the penalty area, but Harrison’s excellent header cannoned back off the post and fell fortuitously into Bodger’s arms.
A minute later and Harrison set up Bell once more, this time with a low cross from the right hand side, but Bell’s shot was well saved by Bodger with the Kempston defence eventually clearing the danger following a goalmouth scramble. The Walnut Boys replied immediately with Kye Andrews finding Clarke on the edge of the box, but after turning away from Danny Bird the Kempston striker dragged his shot well wide.
Rushden were still on top at this point and again went close on 27 minutes. Harrison raced onto a ball through the middle, just reaching it ahead of the onrushing Bodger, but was forced wide of the goal. He was tripped just outside the box by a covering defender, and from the resulting free kick Louis Smith’s superb delivery was glanced inches wide by the unmarked Bell.
On the half hour mark another free kick from an almost identical position was driven goalwards by Fred Devereaux, with Bodger fumbling the ball towards his own goal, but unlike Foulger earlier in the game he managed to recover in time to prevent the ball from crossing the line.
Kempston started to threaten more as the half went on, and on 32 minutes a great run from Arron Ramsey saw him storm away from the Diamonds’ midfield and work a shooting opportunity, but his effort from just outside the box was wayward.
Harrison and Bell seemed to be completely in sync with one another, and their link up play was still causing the Kempston defence plenty of problems. They combined again on 35 minutes to fashion another decent chance, but Bell’s low cross from the right was just behind Devereaux who would have had a simple tap in.
The Kempston attack were looking more and more dangerous, but some desperate defending from the Rushden back line prevented them from any clear cut chances. They did go close on 41 minutes however after forcing the Diamonds into conceding a corner. The ball in was only cleared as far as Ramsey on the edge of the penalty area, and the midfielder created space for himself before hitting an excellent curling shot towards goal which beat Foulger, but was headed off the line by the well placed Ben Roche.
With the Walnut Boys now looking the most likely side to score again, the Diamonds would have been keen for the half time whistle to blow, but as the game entered stoppage time it was they who edged ahead. Alex McDonald played a superb pass over the Kempston defence and into the path of Harrison, who controlled the ball with an excellent first touch before sliding it past Bodger and into the bottom corner.
HT: AFC Kempston Rovers 1-2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Rushden started the second half in high spirits, and controlled possession once more. The Walnut Boys defended resolutely however, and it was they who mustered the first efforts at goal. With 55 minutes played Jake O’Neill fed Clarke on the edge of the Diamonds’ penalty area, but his shot was straight at Foulger who gathered at the second attempt.
A minute later a swift counter attack saw Clarke find Ben Walsh in space on the left wing, but as he bore down on goal Bird recovered well to put him under pressure with the resulting shot being an easy one for Foulger.
There then followed a spate of bookings in quick succession, which threatened to ruin a hugely entertaining game. Walsh was first to enter the referee’s notepad after a late tackle on McDonald, and from the resulting free kick Smith tested Bodger but found the ‘keeper equal to his curling effort. McDonald then saw yellow himself after a third foul on Andrews. Three minutes later Meeks burst down the right flank only to be caught by Andrews, and the referee stopped play to book the Kempston midfielder despite Meeks having picked himself up and kept the ball in play.
With 65 minutes on the clock Devereaux beat his man 20 yards from goal and hit a powerful shot which Bodger did very well to hold on to. With 20 minutes remaining though, the Diamonds finally opened up some breathing space between the two sides. Harrison showed great strength and determination to win back possession deep inside the Kempston half, and he was subsequently tripped just outside the penalty area. Smith’s perfect delivery curled in towards the far post allowing Bell to glance the ball into the top corner with the merest of touches.
The Walnut Boys were now really up against it and desperately needed a quick response to work their way back into the game. However, it was the Diamonds who continued to control the game and just 6 minutes later they put the icing on the cake with a fourth goal. A ball over the top of the Kempston defence saw Harrison deliberately obstructed by Darvall as he attempted to reach the ball, with the Kempston skipper booked for his troubles. From the resulting free kick Devereaux stepped up to smash the ball towards goal, with it deflecting off the wall, wrong footing Bodger, and finding the top corner via the underside of the crossbar.
The game wasn’t finished there however, with Kempston, to their credit, still playing for pride and the Diamonds keen for a fifth goal. The Walnut Boys tried their luck with a 25 yard free kick as the final 10 minutes approached, but Hunt’s effort flew agonisingly wide. McDonald responded with a similar effort as the game entered injury time, but he too was just off target.
The last effort of the game fell to Kempston as Walsh broke clear down the left and knocked in a dangerous low cross. The ball looped up off Bird and looked destined for the top corner, but Foulger pulled off a stunning save to tip the ball over the bar at full stretch.
FT: AFC Kempston Rovers 1-4 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
It is often said that youth football is not about winning or losing, but about the development and nurturing of young talent. Whilst there is no denying the truth in that statement, the importance of occasions such as this cannot be overlooked, and winning the NSYL Knock Out Cup is the perfect way to end an incredible season, and a fitting tribute to the efforts of everybody involved with AFC Rushden & Diamonds.
The season is not quite finished just yet though, with a friendly against Hinckley United at the Dog & Duck next Thursday. Click HERE for the match preview.
Man of the Match (chosen by the NSYL): Danny Bird
AFC Kempston Rovers
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
|1. Aaron Bodger
2. Josh O’Neill
3. Ollie Watton
4. Arron Ramsey
5. Kye Andrews
6. Jordan Darvall (c)
7. Jake O’Neill
8. Gareth Hunt
9. Ben Souter
10. Brad Clarke
11. Ben Walsh
|86. Ashley Foulger
4. Elliot Ames (c)
5. Danny Bird
15. Ben Roche
2. Ashley Meeks
6. Alex McDonald
8. Fred Devereaux
13. Louis Smith
3. Zach Farden
9. James Harrison
10. Conor Bell
12. Tom Roberts (for Andrews, 65 mins)
14. Tom Marvin
15. Alex Smith
16. Sam Moroney (for Hunt, 90 mins)
17. Jack Harding (for Souter, 80 mins)
7. Blake Helsdown
11. Lewi Williams (for Devereaux, 84 mins)
12. Matti Ellis
16. Jeron Thompson (for Harrison, 88 mins)
17. Zaak Moon (for Farden, 76 mins)
Hunt (8 mins)
Bell (17 mins)
Harrison (45+1 mins)
Bell (70 mins)
Devereaux (76 mins)
Walsh (57 mins, foul)
Andrews (63 mins, foul)
Darvall (76 mins, foul)
Ramsey (90+3, dissent)
McDonald (60 mins, persistent fouling)
Match Highlights are availale Here
All Images Courtesy of Mal Swinden
Click Here to download a PDF of the official Matchday programme NORTHANTS SENIOR YOUTH LEAGUE CUP FINAL PROGRAMME 2012