AFC Kempston Rovers 1-1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
AFC Rushden & Diamonds battled back after conceding an early goal, to share the spoils with AFC Kempston Rovers in a closely fought encounter at Hillgrounds Road.
The game was not quite 2 minutes old when the home side took the lead, becoming the first side to score against the newly formed AFC R&D in the process. A back-pass to Diamonds goalkeeper Ashley Foulger didn’t appear likely to cause any problems, but as a Kempston attacker closed him down, Foulger snatched at his clearance and only managed to find the feet of Kye Andrews 25 yards from goal. The Kempston midfielder still had plenty to do from his position close to the right hand touchline, but he superbly lobbed the ball back over Foulger and into the net. The shell-shocked Rushden side struggled to respond to the early setback, with the Walnut Boys gaining confidence as a result. On 8 minutes Arron Ramsey tried his luck from distance but fired straight at Foulger who comfortably dealt with the effort.
The game was becoming a rather scrappy affair, with Rushden working hard to deny the home side any possession in the final third, but giving the ball away cheaply when in possession themselves. On 20 minutes though Kempston had a great chance to double their lead when a right wing cross fell to Ben Walsh, but the winger inadvertently handled the ball while attempting to bring it under control, but fired his shot wide anyway. After 30 minutes, the impressive Andrews went close to netting what would have been a stunning second goal of the game, but his 25 yard volley was well saved by Foulger who held the ball at the second attempt.
Just one minute later, the Diamonds finally threatened the Kempston goal when a free kick into the box caused panic amongst the defence, but with the ball bobbling around on the 6 yard line, goalkeeper Aaron Bodger eventually managed to smother it before a Rushden player could get in a shot.
This near opportunity seemed to lift the Diamonds players and the mostly AFC R&D biased crowd, and the visitors finished the half slightly the stronger side. On 36 minutes, great tenacity down the left flank by Levi Freeman saw the attacking midfielder rob a Kempston defender and get to the byline before pulling the ball back to Alex McDonald on the penalty spot. McDonald steadied himself before firing in a shot towards goal, but although Bodger appeared to be beaten a defender was hand to head the ball away from just in front of the line.
Five minutes later, and with the Diamonds players clearly growing in confidence, right back Ashley Meeks surged forwards and hit a speculative shot from all of 35 yards, but his effort found only the top of the trees behind the Kempston goal. A minute later, Levi Freeman cut in from the right flank and tried his luck from 25 yards, but, like Meeks, he couldn’t keep his shot down.
HT: AFC Kempston Rovers 1-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
The second half started in a similar fashion to the first, and nearly resulted in an early Kempston goal again. Five minutes after the restart, a long ball forward caused confusion between Foulger and Danny Bird, allowing Tom Marvin the opportunity to pounce and tap the ball home, but the referee saw a slight push on the Diamonds captain and a free kick was awarded to the visitors. With Rushden looking for an equaliser the home side had a few opportunities on the break, with the lively Marvin once again close to capitalising on long ball forward, but Foulger was quickly off his line to clear the danger just ahead of the onrushing Kempston striker. Another break saw winger Gareth Hunt cut in from the left and hit a decent effort from the edge of the penalty area, but Foulger was down quickly to smother the shot.
The Diamonds responded well with Ashley Meeks getting forwards down the right and hitting a terrific diagonal ball into the area, but Matti Ellis sliding in at the back post was just inches away from getting a touch and turning the ball home. Almost immediately Kempston broke forwards again and won a corner, and from the resultant centre, the ball was only half cleared as far as Tom Roberts whose powerful volley was well stopped low down by Foulger.
Rushden were now beginning to cut out the sloppy passing that had hindered their chances to this point, and were stringing together the sort of passing moves that had led to them starting the game at the top of the Northants Senior Youth League Western Division. From one such move, Levi Freeman managed to shake off the attentions of a defender and hit a shot on the turn from 20 yards, but unfortunately sliced the ball well wide. Three minutes later Ashley Meeks, who had now moved into midfield with Brad Mellows taking his place at right back at the expense of Zaak Moon, hit another long range shot but although he sliced his effort it bounced awkwardly for the Kempston ‘keeper who was challenged by Blake Helsdown with the ball breaking loose in the area, but the defence managed to get back in time to clear the danger.
The Diamonds were now in the ascendancy, and finally got the goal they had been threatening on 72 minutes. Blake Helsdown hadn’t seen much of the ball throughout the game, but he finally received it on the right wing, with only one defender in front of him. His blistering pace took him past the Kempston full back and he sent over a perfectly placed low cross, allowing substitute Lewi Williams to slide in at the back post to net from close range.
The equaliser set up a mouth watering final 18 minutes as both sides looked for a winning goal. Rushden were first to go on the attack, with a great move down the left between full back Zach Farden and midfielder Matti Ellis, but the latter was denied by a great sliding tackle just as he burst into the area, with the ball going out of play for what looked like a corner. To the surprise of everyone in the ground, however, the referee signalled for a goal kick.
Two minutes later, Danny Bird became the first AFC R&D player to pick up a booking when he barged into a Kempston player as he shepherded the ball out of play. The Walnut Boys then almost fashioned a great scoring chance as Marvin latched onto a ball through the middle of the Diamonds defence, but Elliott Ames recovered well to deny the striker with an excellent tackle. The final ten minutes of the game was end to end action, with a vicious Meeks shot testing Bodger, before the home side forced a goal mouth scramble with a combination of firstly Foulger and then a defender blocking shots on the line. From the resulting clearance the ball was played back over the top with Kempston substitute Brad Clarke running through with just Foulger to beat, but the Rushden ‘keeper atoned for his earlier error with a stunning reaction save.
It was then Aaron Bodger’s turn for some heroics, as Ellis’ excellent through ball saw the pacey Williams outsprint the defence and get to the ball just ahead of the advancing ‘keeper, but his attempted lob saw Bodger just get his fingertips to the ball and it bounced narrowly wide of the post. There was just time for one more chance for the home side, as a low left wing cross seemed to present a Kempston striker with a simple chance, but Foulger just managed to get there ahead of him and deflect the ball off the striker and behind for a goal kick.
FT: AFC Kempston Rovers 1-1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
After the game, Mark Starmer told AFCRDTV that he was very pleased with the spirit and effort shown by his players, even though the overall performance was perhaps not up to the standard of the previous three league matches. With Woodford United having been defeated the previous night, AFC R&D now find themselves a point clear at the top of the league at this early stage in the season.
Man of the Match: Ashley Meeks
AFC Kempston Rovers
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
|1. Aaron Bodger
2. Adam Abbott
3. Oliver Whatton
4. Tom Roberts
5. Alex Smith
6. Jordan Darvall
7. Kye Andrews
8. Arron Ramsey
9. Tom Marvin
10. Gareth Hunt
11. Ben Walsh
|86. Ashley Foulger
2. Ashley Meeks
3. Zach Farden
4. Elliott Ames
5. Danny Bird (c)
6. Alex McDonald
7. Blake Helsdown
8. Zaak Moon
9. Levi Freeman
10. Jeron Thompson
12. Matti Ellis
12. Ben Souter
14. Jake O’Neill
15. Josh O’Neill (not used)
16. Sam Moroney (not used)
17. Brad Clarke
11. Lewi Williams (for Jeron Thompson)
13. Ryan Ellmer (not used)
14. Adam Ziolkowski (not used)
15. Brad Mellows (for Zaak Moon)
16. Kai Robertson (Levi Freeman)
Andrews (2 mins)
|Goals:Williams (72 mins)|
Bird (76, foul)
All Images courtesy of Mal Swinden