AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18s / Malcolm Arnold Academy will head into the David Joyce cup semi-final on the back of four straight defeats. The latest loss came on Monday afternoon as they fell 3-1 at Bishop’s Stortford Academy.

The scholars were once again with a threadbare squad as regular players were missing due to college reasons, and topscorer Luke Garner was injured in the U21’s 4-1 defeat to AFC Kempton Rovers on Saturday.

So the Diamonds lined up with goalkeeper Kacper Watroba at centre back alongside Caley McTeggart. Whilst Christy Nginamau was the only substitute, and he was carrying an injury.

The MAA boys were under pressure for most of the first half, and had to rely on Sam de Boer in goal to prevent the scholars from going behind. But the hosts had four or five golden chances to take the lead before the break but failed to do so.

The Diamonds were being passed off the park and were being outnumbered in the midfield. Midway through the first half, manager Darren Purse moved Connor Worrall back into the midfield from alongside Matt Pinder to try and get a foothold in the game. Also Nginamau replaced Jordan Freeman with an injury.

Half Time. Bishop’s Stortford Academy 0-0 AFC R&D U18s / MAA.

Second half, Diamonds came out the brighter of the two sides. Passing the ball well and creating chances.

The scholars took the lead after 51 minutes. Pinder beat the offside trap after a good through ball by Thomas Craddock and Pinder drew the goalkeeper out before squaring the ball to substitute Nginamau to slide the ball in to 0-1.

Just seven minutes later and the hosts were back on level terms. Watroba was caught out of position after a long ball forward, the striker was through on goal. de Boer came out to close the angle down, but the striker slid the ball down the opposite side to make it 1-1.

Bishop’s Stortford took the lead in the 71st minute. After some neat passing and a good spell of possession, the ball was worked out their right hand side. A deep ball into the box was misjudged by de Boer and following a goal mouth scramble, the ball was tapped in to make it 2-1.

Then with just five minutes left, another cross was put into the box and the goalkeeper collided with defender McTeggart and the ball fell loose to the striker who tapped it in for 3-1.

It was a result that the hosts deserved and it was a case of damage limitation with the side that the scholars had out.

Full Time. Bishop’s Stortford Academy 3-1 AFC R&D U18s / MAA.

After the game, I spoke to a very unhappy Darren Purse.

“We’d have had a great chance of winning this league, if we had a full strength side for the majority of the season, but we haven’t. It’s a national competition, it would have been great for the club and great for the school but that wasn’t to be.”

“I’m not happy with a lot of the lads, I’ve backed them 100% since I’ve been in charge and they’ve let me down, massively. They need to have a good look in the mirror and see what they want from it all. It’s a massive learning curve for me.”

Purse admitted he has decisions to make ahead of the cup semi-final this week.

“Christy [Nginamau] will now miss tomorrow night’s game, it looks like by coming on its made his injury worse. I did contemplate signing a load of the U16’s on who are coming into the scholarship programme next year, and playing a few of those but I haven’t got the time to get them signed on.

I expect it to be a good physical tough game but if we play like we have in the last four games, with the same attitude we will get beat. But if we play as well as we can do we’ll win the game. We’re a good side when we play well.”

Match report by Hayden Pott.


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