AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18s / Malcolm Arnold Academy suffered their first league defeat of the season on Wednesday afternoon as they fell 5-3 to FootballCV Reds.

Following on from the scholars’ defeat to Biggleswade Town on Monday, which saw Darren Purse and his side knocked out of the FA Youth Cup, the young Diamonds fell to their first league defeat.

The FA Youth Cup defeat took its toll on the scholars as after a physical game, a number of players were ruled out of Wednesday’s match due to injury.

Diamonds were without the likes of second years, Luke Garner, Ieuan Ivett, Ashley Hewett, Joe Ackroyd, Jacob Kearney and captain Ben Peaks, was only fit enough for a place on the bench. Therefore manager Darren Purse name a very young side.

The game didn’t get off to the best of starts for the scholars, as just three minutes on the clock, and the Diamonds were behind. The FootballCV Reds’ striker was to be a handful all game. And following a mix up between Jordan Freeman and Caley McTeggart, the striker was able to nip inbetween the central defenders and roll the ball under goalkeeper Sam de Boer.

Things soon went from bad to worse for Purse and his time, as just half an hour played, Jordan Freeman suffered a head injury and was concussed. Therefore captain Ben Peaks was forced to come on and take his place, playing over an hour with an injury. The manager later revealed that Peaks had only been included in the squad to make the numbers up.

However after 33 minutes, Diamonds did get a goal back. The scholars won a free-kick around 35 yards out. With the wind in their backs, Matt Pinder decided to try his luck at goal. His fiercely struck shot, hit the bar, bounced over the line, back out again and then hit against the keeper and rolled in. It was a great strike that was clearly wind assisted, but a goal that deservedly got the scholars back in the game at 1-1.

Before the half time whistle, the MAA boys had a great chance to go in at the break ahead. In a superb attacking move, the midfielders switched the play, from left to right twice, and then the ball came back to Christy Nginamau on the angle, but a good save from the FootballCV Red goalkeeper, kept the scores level at the break.

Half time. FootballCV Reds 1-1 AFCR&D U18s / MAA.

With the wind now against the scholars in the second half, you felt that the young Diamonds’ would be under the cosh.

And that’s exactly what turned out to be the case, as after comical defending, they found themselves 3-1 down within ten minutes of the second half.

The U18’s went 2-1 behind as they were hit on the break. Players were exposed out of position, and after a simple move down the Diamonds’ left, the ball was crossed in for the opposite winger to tap in at the back post in loads of space.

Then shortly followed the third. Almost a carbon copy to Football CV’s second, the ball was once again on the Diamonds’ left, but this time it was converted at the near post, to put Diamonds 3-1 down.

Matt Pinder gave his side a life-line by bringing the score back to 3-2 from the penalty spot. Diamonds was awarded a very dubious penalty from inswinging corner. The referee had seen a ‘push’. Pinder placed the ball down and scored his second of the game.  

But any glimmer of hope of a comeback was wiped straight away. As straight from kick off, you’re at your most vulnerable. The midfielders didn’t press the ball, the home side carried the ball forwarded and the attacker unleashed a stinging 30 yard drive, and with the wind behind him, it went into the top corner, giving de Boer no chance. A stunning strike to put the home side 4-2 ahead.   

The scholars finally managed to get a foothold in the game and got to grips with the wind. Thomas Craddock pulled Diamonds once again one goal behind. Craddock hit a 20 yards strike into the bottom corner for his first goal of the season, bringing Diamonds back to 4-3.

With 15 minutes to go, a huge turning point in the game. The scholars were awarded a second penalty. Christy, Nginamau was brought down. Perhaps regretting his decision to award Diamonds with their first penalty, it was the linesman who decided to give a second spot kick. However, this time, Matty Pinder didn’t step forward for the chance of his hattrick. Instead, as captain, Ben Peaks stepped forward with a chance to bring Diamonds level. However the goalkeeper saved Peaks’ penalty, and the defender couldn’t convert the rebound, instead firing over.

It was a real blow for the young Diamonds. They could have then gone on to steal a victory but instead fell further behind. As the home side grabbed a fifth in the final ten minutes.  

Full Time. Football CV Reds 5-3 AFCR&D U18s / MAA.

After the game, I spoke to manager Darren Purse;

“It’s been a tough week for a small squad like ours, and it hasn’t gone particularly well so far. We couldn’t handle the amount of games with the injuries we have. It’s a learning curve for me too, I won’t be arranging three games in five days. I’ve learnt that it’s hard for the lads. But now it’s up to them to learn from their mistakes.

We’re playing well and creating chances but the inexperience is costing us. Caley McTaggart has done well so far at the back, but we’re missing Jacob Kearney, were struggling in the defensive areas – there’s not a great deal I can do about it.”

Report by Hayden Pott.


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