A 94th equaliser from Ross Oulton earned Diamonds a point from this six goal thriller at a rainy Dog & Duck on Saturday afternoon.

Nabil Shariff hit the post after just 30 seconds for Diamonds but it was free-scoring Gresley who took the lead on 31 as Pearson Mwanyongo fired under Matt Finlay from 12 yards after great work by Courtney Meade.  

After a great start to the second-half from Diamonds that saw away keeper Robert Peet make two outstanding saves it was the away side who doubled their lead on 53. The impressive Courtney Meade coolly finished one of a number of a swift breaks to seemingly clinch the game. Diamonds pressed hard to get back into the game though and it was the introduction of Tom Lorraine that turned the tide. His aerial presence played a part in earning a 65th minute penalty for handball that Nabil Shariff coolly finished on 65.

As Diamonds started to dominate Ross Oulton fired a 25 yard screamer in off the bar to level and the home side looked the more likely winners as a number of half chances went begging. Gresley showed impressive attacking intent throughout and finished the 90 minutes strongly. They took a dramatic lead on 93 minutes as Mwanyongo fired in superbly from 25 yards to seemingly clinch the points for a second time. But Diamonds bounced straight back and with virtually the last kick of the game Ross Oulton earned the home side a deserved point with a long distance free-kick through a crowded area on 94 that the keeper couldn’t stop from falling into the bottom corner.

The point sees Diamonds up to 8th in the Northern Premier League Division One South as they look forward to an exciting FA Cup trip to Canvey Island next weekend to take on Step 2 opposition in Concord Rangers.

 

Manager Andy Peaks was able to select one of last week’s injury victims with Kyal McNulty recovering to retain his right-back place. Jack Ashton wasn’t risked so Richard Bunting came into midfield with Brad Harris dropping into centre-half as he did so well in the FA Cup tie last week.

Persistent rain through the morning made for a slick surface for these two in form sides and it nearly produced the opening goal after just 30 seconds. Quick passing by Oulton and Orosz saw the ball break to Nabil Shariff who turned and fired off the left hand post from 18 yards.

The ball was pinging from area to area in the early stages and Brad Harris found himself in the referees book for a last ditch sliding challenge on Tendai Chitiza right on the edge of the box after a swift break by the away side.

Diamonds were starting to link much better as the game got established and created two good chances in quick succession in the 13th minute. First Robbie Parsons saw an 18 yard effort deflected wide after good build-up play involving Richard Bunting, and then Taylor Orosz held off a challenge to find Nabil Shariff in space on the edge of the box where he fired just wide of the left hand post.

The game then settled into a spell of midfield sparring with both sides neat in possession but not threatening in the final third. Diamonds were unfortunate on 25 when the impressive Ross Oulton was clearly felled just outside the box but referee Richard Price played advantage as the ball rolled well out to the left to Evangelinos whose attempted cross was blocked.

The away side have a real threat right across their forward line with Courtney Meade the linch-pin and he came close to opening the scoring twice in quick succession on 27. First cutting inside from the left to fire a fierce effort that Matt Finlay had to push away, and then as the ball was re-cycled back to him he lashed a similar effort past Finlay this time, but saw it crash back off the bar.

Gresley were starting to dominate at this stage and got a deserved opening goal on 31 from more good forward play. Tendai Chitiza whipped an excellent ball in behind the Diamonds back four where Courtney Meade collected, turned and cut back into the path of Pearson Mwanyongo who swept home from 12 yards under the hardworking Matt Finlay.

They nearly doubled the lead 5 minutes later as Meade again with a clever through ball to Mwanyongo who worked himself into space but fired straight at Matt Finlay when you fancied him to find the net again.

Diamonds were struggling to maintain attacking momentum as the half drew to a close but Ross Oulton was working so hard to get the team on the front foot. His interception tackle on 42 saw him collect the loose ball and drive at the Gresley back four where he encouraged Evangelinos to run onto his pass and the wide man delivered a superb cross that was just nicked off Nabil Shariff’s boot 5 yards out as he looked to be tapping home an equaliser.

Half time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0 Gresley FC 1

Diamonds had been second best for much of that first half but came out with real intent at the start of the second. Taylor Orosz was unfortunate to see a neat through ball catch his heels as he looked to run free into the area just a minute in, Liam Dolman ran onto the ball 40 yards out and hit a pile driver of an effort that drifted just wide, and Ross Oulton produced and amazing fingertip save from away keeper Robert Peet after a superb half volley that looked to be arrowing into the top corner all in the first 5 minutes.

But it was the dangerously breaking away side that grabbed the second goal of the game on 53 as a swift break saw Courtney Meade collect the ball just outside the box in space move it to his right and slide home under the advancing Matt Finlay.

Diamonds looked to react with some good pressing and movement but with limited impact in the final third until Tom Lorraine was introduced on 61 for the frustrated Robbie Parsons. He had an almost immediate impact as he challenged twice for good crosses into the box, the second of which broke for a shot from the edge of the box that was blocked by a Gresley hand and a penalty was awarded. Nabil Shariff sent the keeper the wrong way in front of a relieved Peter De Banke who saw a chance for their side to get back into the game.

Taylor Orosz came close to an equaliser almost immediately as he closed in from an angle and looked to fire just inside the post but Peet was equal to it again. Nabil Shariff then wriggled free in the box to be denied by a superb last ditch challenge earning a corner as the home crowd roared them on.

The corner was cleared out to the right where Sam Brown took a surprise short throw to Ross Oulton who cut inside to the angle of the penalty area and fired in a stunning strike that crashed into the net off the bar to bring the home side level on 72.

Diamonds were very much on top at this stage and sensed a chance to win a game that had looked lost earlier. Ross Oulton fancied another great goal as he lashed in a fierce drive from 20 yard just a minute after his stunning equaliser that went just wide. Nabil Shariff then headed wide from a Sam Brown long throw this time but the go ahead goal just wouldn’t come.

Gresley started to contain Diamonds much better in the last 10 minutes as the home side tired and looked to break forward again to try and restore their grip on the game. Brad Harris showed his value to the home side as a tracked the pacey Mwanyongo and made a vital clean challenge inside the box to deny the wide man.

Liam Dolman fired in another long distance pile driver that Peet initially fumbled as Diamonds tried to press themselves, and then Matt Finlay had hearts in Diamonds mouths as he similarly saw a long distance drive bounce off his chest as Gresley pressed, the ball scrambled away for a corner.

Chris Wreh made his league debut for Diamonds on 90 minutes as they tried to push for a winner but it was Gresley who would get the games 5th goal in incredible fashion on 93 minutes. Pearson Mwayanogo looked to be held up down the right wing, but he cut inside and fired a fantastic effort high across Matt Finlay into the net prompting incredible scenes of celebration from the away side who clearly thought the game was won.

It wasn’t to be though as just a minute later Diamonds showed that never say die attitude by piling forward and winning a free-kick 45 yards from goal. With everyone crowded into the box Ross Oulton hit a long distance free-kick that found its way through the crowd and into the bottom corner via keeper Peet.

It was a dramatic finish to a high quality game as referee Price blew his whistle virtually straight from the re-start.

Final Score: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3 Gresley FC 3

Diamonds showed real spirit and determination to come back twice in the game to earn a well-deserved point. Gresley are an excellent attacking side and scored some quality goals to get a grip on the game in the first hour. But Diamonds, driven on by a passionate home crowd and the impressive Ross Oulton never gave up and despite the agony of conceding a 93rd minute wonder goal showed their own passion to grab that late late equaliser.

Diamonds return to FA Cup action next week travelling down to Canvey Island to take on Step 2 side Concord Rangers in the 2nd Qualifying Round.

Man of the Match: Ross Oulton

Attendance: 402

Match Report by Paul Judd

 

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

Gresley FC

17. Matt Finlay

2.   Kyal McNulty

3.   Sam Brown

4.   Richard Bunting

5.   Liam Dolman

6.   Brad Harris

7.   Nabil Shariff

8.   Robbie Parsons

9.   Taylor Orosz

10. Ross Oulton

11. Nic Evangelinos

Subs

12.  Aiden Bradshaw (for Orosz 86)

13.  Joe Haynes*

14.  Luke Gardner

15.  Tom Lorraine (for Parsons 60)

16.  Chris Wreh (for 92)

1.   Robert Peet

2.   Jamie Barrett

3.   Josh Eggington

4.   Jake Carlisle

5.   Lucas Harrison

6.   Eddie Samba

7.   Pearson Mwanyongo

8.   Morris Reece

9.   Tendai Chitiza

10. Courtney Meade

11. Ben Harris

Subs

12. Ryan Walker (for Samba 82)

13. Matt Roome

14. Matt Melbourne (for Harris 70)

15. Michael Pearson

16. Toby Fura (for Meade 80)

Goals: Shariff (65 Pen), Oulton (72 & 94)

 

Goals: Mwanyongo (31 & 93), Meade (53),

Yellow Card: Harris, Oulton

Yellow Cards: Harrison

Red Cards:

 Red Cards:

Referee:  Richard Price

Assistants: Scott Chalkley, Peter Crowe

 

 

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