On a changeable evening in the Bedfordshire countryside, AFC Rushden & Diamonds Under 21s side renewed their relationship with AFC Oakley MD&H FC. Last year, the Diamonds came second best in a bruising encounter 2-1. Unfortunately, history repeated itself.
Diamonds kicked off wearing their change strip of yellow shirts, black shorts, and yellow socks, with Oakley dressed in their all royal blue strip. The visitors lined up with their customary 4-5-1 formation, with the hosts utilising a more traditional 4-4-2. It became quickly apparent that Oakley were not only much older and experienced that the Diamonds side, but they were also slightly ahead on their pre-season campaign, ahead of their season opener against Marston Shelton Rovers. The”Oaks” quickly took control of the game with some swift passing moves, although few chances were created all game.
Diamonds eventually got into the swing of the game, and began to answer with their own steady interplay. Rogers and Platt teamed up nicely down the left flank, and it was winger Rogers who fizzed a shot-cum-cross across the bows of the Oakley goal, which was deflected for a corner.
It was then the “Oaks” turn to attack, with the ball being lost in midfield. Oakley looked dangerous on the attack, and were not afraid of shooting from distance. One shot cannoned back off the right hand post, leaving young ‘keeper Rossheart motionless. The ball then fell back to an “Oaks” player, who evened the score up by hitting the outside of the right hand post.
But with the rain falling, the “Oaks” took the lead. The right back bombed forward, and as space opened up, hit a speculative shot, which was deflected past the stranded Rossheart, into the Diamonds net.
The “Oaks” had probably edged the half up to that point, but certainly took control over the rest of the half from that point. Centre backs Harris and Kumar dealt manfully with the task, and somehow prevented the lead being extended. The half-time whistle came about a minute early, much to the relief of the Diamonds.
With the hosts making a couple of changes at the break, it was surprising to note that the Diamonds had not made any changes, although it wasn’t long into the second half that messers Tulley and Baron saw their first action.
Diamonds took the tie to the hosts a bit more, and pressed for parity, without creating any clear cut chances. It was therefore a surprise when Oakley broke down the Diamonds end, and were awarded a free kick on the far hand side. Once again, Rossheart was given very little chance with a clinically taken penalty.
The rest of the game was a mixed affair with the Diamonds side more than holding their own against a robust opponents, but there were no clear cut chances for either side. The game closed just before dusk, with both teams being happy with the game. Diamonds will be pleased with the manner of performance, and optimistic ahead of their tie at home to Oxford City Under 21s on Saturday, and then their final away friendly against MK College on Wednesday 2nd September. Details of their forthcoming campaign are here.
The Diamonds U21 side lined up as follows:-
- Nathan Rossheart
- Luke Gardner RB
- Richard Platt LB
- Joe Harris CB
- Matt Kumar CB
- Sam Leeson RM
- Tom Rogers LM
- Danny Atkins CDM
- Jack Plummer CDM
- Lewis Fisher AM
- Luke Garner FORWARD
Substitutes were James Barron and Patrick Tulley (used on a rolling-sub basis).