St Neots Town 3-3 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Following a convincing win on Tuesday evening at Crawley Green, AFC Rushden & Diamonds faced much stiffer opposition at Rowley Park as they met newly promoted Southern League Premier side St.Neots Town. Despite going three goals down in the opening 20 minutes, Matthew Brady pulled a goal back on 23 minutes with a deflected effort before Deven Elwood scored another before half-time. Jack Wisniewski levelled the scores just after the half-time break, and it was Diamonds who were perhaps unlucky not to take the victory.
Manager Mark Starmer made four changes to the starting line-up from Tuesday evening, with Aynsley McDonald and George Cox both rested, and Jamie O’Grady and keeper Quincy Shorunmu dropping to the bench. Former R&DFC youth keeper James Broadbent started in goal, Joe Merrill and Lee Gotch went into the defence, with Matthew Brady in midfield.
Despite an air of optimism as the referee started the game, Diamonds made the worst possible start. Within two minutes of the kick-off, Lewis Hilliard fed the ball through for Jack Werndly to fire home past Broadbent from 20yards.
Diamonds responded with Alfie Taylor making a dangerous run on the edge of the area – going down under a heavy challenge, before Peter Okechukwu shot wide. The Saints quickly got on top again however and grabbed a second goal on 11 minutes when Lewis Hilliard’s one-two with Ben Mackey allowed the former Diamonds midfielder to race clear of Joe Merrill and slot the ball past Broadbent.
On 17 minutes, Mackey struck the bar for the Saints with a long range effort before they increased the lead again just three minutes later. This time, Troy Johnston was dispossessed by Hilliard deep inside the Diamonds half, and his pass allowed Ben Mackey to get on the score-sheet.
It looked like St.Neots were going to run riot as Broadbent did well to foil another chance for Mackey, but after a poor opening quarter, Diamonds started to come to life. Alfie Taylor had a shot saved from the edge of the area before Matthew Brady pulled a goal back on 23 minutes when his 25yard shot deflected off the boot of Layne Eadie – the ball creeping just inside the post.
Diamonds continued to press forward and Okechukwu’s cross from the left found Elwood in space, but he was closed down as he tried to be too precise with his effort. On 38 minutes, Diamonds deservedly pulled another goal back after Sam Brown’s cross from the left was converted in spectacular style by Deven Elwood with an overhead kick which left the trialist St.Neots keeper with no chance.
Broadbent did well to block a further chance from another Saints trialist just before half time, but Diamonds went into the break just a single goal behind.
Diamonds made one change at half time, with Elliot Dent replacing Johnston in midfield, while the home side made six changes to their side and with just over one minute of the restart, Diamonds were level. Okechukwu was fouled some ten yards outside the penalty area, and his free kick was glanced in by the head of Jack Wisniewski, for his first goal for the club.
As the half progressed, Taylor headed wide from Wisniewski’s cross, and Okechukwu had a shot saved as their confidence grew. Mark Starmer made several substitutions on 61 minutes, with Jake Gillingwater, Jamie Burrow and keeper Quincy Shorunmu replacing Deakin, Okechukwu and Broadbent. Shorunmu was quickly called into action – making a brilliant save from Saints’ Chris Manangu, while another shot from Hilliard was deflected wide for a corner.
At the other end, Elwood had a shot deflected over the bar before being replaced as Jamie O’Grady, Immanuel Soetan and Ben Morgan all came on for the remaining 20 minutes. Ashley Meeks and Louis Smith were also brought on and despite all the changes, Diamonds still impressed, taking the game to the home side in the final period of the game.
Manangu headed wide for the Saints, but Gillingwater, Soetan and Morgan all came close for Diamonds as the game entered the final phase. Saints pressed in the final few minutes as young substitutes Shay Simons’ effort just cleared the bar, while Kane Felix attempt was blocked away by Gillingwater. Shorunmu also blocked another shot from Layne Eadie, but with the referee bringing an end to the game, manager Mark Starmer could be well pleased with a fine team effort.
Diamonds Man of the Match: Jack Wisniewski
Photographs courtesy of Mal Swinden
|St Neots Town||AFC Rushden & Diamonds|
|24. James Broadbent
2. Joe Merrill
3. Sam Brown
4. Lee Gotch (c)
5. Alex Deakin
6. Matthew Brady
7. Jack Wisniewski
8. Peter Okechukwu
9. Alfie Taylor
10. Deven Ellwood
11. Troy Johnston
20 Elliot Dent for Johnston 46
14 Jake Gillingwater for Deakin 61
19 Jamie Burrow for Okechukwu 61
86 Quincy Shorunmu for Broadbent 61
12 Ben Morgan for Taylor 68
15 Immanuel Soetan for Elwood 68
21 Jamie O’Grady for Merrill 68
16 Ashley Meeks for Wisniewski 76
18 Louis Smith for Brady 76
|Goals: Jack Werndly 2 (1-0), Lewis Hilliard 11 (2-0), Ben Mackey 20 (3-0)||Goals: Matthew Brady 23 (3-1), Deven Elwood 38 (3-2), Jack Wisniewski 47 (3-3)|