AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18s / MAA advanced to the final of the David Joyce Cup as they and Wellingborough Whitworth needed a penalty shootout to separate the two sides following a 2-2 draw after 90 minutes.

Ashley Hewett scored the decisive penalty as the scholars won 4-2 on penalties which meant they had again won two games in the space of three days.

The scholars took the lead with only 15 minutes on the clock. Captain Ryan Kirk played a great through ball inbetween the full back and the centre half, to winger Ashley Hewett who took a touch and fired past the keeper to put Diamonds 1-0 up.

Diamonds were comfortably for the whole first half with Whitworths only really troubling with a ball over the top towards their pacey strikers and set-pieces.

However the home side did manage to get back on level terms in an area where the scholars struggle the most – set pieces. Whitworths made in 1-1 after 30 minutes as Diamonds failed to clear the ball away at the first attempt and the ball found its way back out wide, which was re-delivered and was bundled in at the back post.

Half Time. Wellingborough Whitworth 1-1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18 / MAA.

The game was an even one with both sides knowing what was at stake.

But Whitworths had the better of the play in the opening stages of the second half, and they made their good play pay after 70 minutes. Once again, the Whitworths goal came from a set-piece which was poorly dealt with. Centre back Chris Knapp was dragged out wide occupied trying to win the ball. The Whitworths play beat Knapp to it but he recovered well to block the cross for a corner. The resulting corner was whipped underneath Rhys Redding’s cross bar and Whitworths scored with a free header from four yards out to make it 2-1.

But with time running out and it seemingly looking like Diamonds would fall at the final hurdle in the county cup, substitute Matt Pinder cut inside onto his right foot and bent the ball into the top right corner with the help of the post and bar. Forcing the game into a penalty shootout in the 90th minute and a 2-2 draw.

Full Time. Wellingborough Whitworth 2-2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18 / MAA. AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18 / MAA win 4-2 on penalties.

Team: Redding, Peaks, Knapp, Roache, Uddin, Ackroyd, Kirk (c), Leeson, Ivett, Hewitt, Weeks.

Subs: Barnes, Pinder, Desborough, Kearney, Grundy.

Manager Darren Purse revealed after the game he had a few selection headaches for the semi-final. “I thought long and hard on Thursday morning about the team. Two games in two days is tough. I decided to leave Matty [Pinder] and Harrison [Desborough] on the bench as I feel we didn’t have anything on the bench to come on and change the game. Matty played 90 minutes the day before so he needed a bit of a break and I see Harrison as an impact player. It probably worked out to be the right decision as both players came on and had an impact.”

Purse continued by praising his side’s fitness levels throughout the game, despite playing two games in two days. “We didn’t start the second half well enough, and we should have been out of sight really. There’s every chance that could be because they were tired, they run themselves into the ground. Ryan Kirk was doing 30 yard sprints in the 88th minute which shows how good their fitness levels are. As a team they never stop believing and working hard. When I first come to the club in September last year and met the lads, I said ‘by training everyday you’ll be as fit as fit as the teams you come up against’ and I do work them hard, and it pays dividends. Although we played a game 24 hours before, we still looked fitter than them and that’s testament to the lads and the way they prepare for the game.”

Looking ahead to the final, Purse didn’t have any preferences on who to face. “I don’t really care who we get in the final, we’ve just done brilliantly to get there. I’m not going to rest on my laurels now, I want to go and win it, if we can. It would be a great first season for the boys if we can win the league, and win the cup. Even if they don’t win it, as long as they win the league, having got the final of the county cup is a great achievement for our first season together. But now we’re in the final, I want to go and win it. We obviously don’t know when, where or who we will have in the final, but I will get them back after the Easter break and make sure they’re prepared in the right manner. They can eat as much chocolate as they want because I’ll make sure they run it off!”

Diamonds will now face either, Rothwell Corinthians, Northampton Town or Peterborough United in the final which is a venue is yet to be decided, along with a date.

 

Match Gallery courtesy of Malcolm Swinden Photography (click on the link to access the Diamonds Photo Gallery for more images from this game and ecommerce options). Copyright Mal Swinden ©2015
 
 
 

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