AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18s / Malcolm Arnold Academy slumped to another defeat this afternoon, going down 3-1 to Braintree Town Academy. This, their third loss in three games, is the worse run since Darren Purse took over.
The scholars once again started slowly and fell behind early on. Just seven minutes in, a simple through ball evaded defenders Ben Peaks and Caley McTeggart and goalkeeper Kacper Watroba came out and the striker slid the ball underneath him to make it 1-0 to Braintree.
Things almost got worse for the academy boys, as 19 minutes in, McTeggart fouled the striker to give away a penalty. It was nice build up play by the away side to create an opening and the defender was the wrong side of the striker. Thankfully, Watroba was on hand to save the spot kick to keep it 1-0.
Matt Pinder had a good chance to bring the MAA boys level before the break. Good play from Harrison Desborough on the right, delivered the ball to Pinder on the penalty spot, but waited too long to get his shot away before being tackled.
Half Time: AFC R&D U18s / MAA 0 – 1 Braintree Town Academy.
Diamonds did improve in the second half but were still not at their best. Poor passing the main cause for concern. Manager Darren Purse made a couple of changes, introducing Joe Ackroyd and Luke Garner and it gave the scholars more impetus.
The changes did make a difference, 69 minutes in and Diamonds were level. Ben Peaks played the ball into substitute Ackroyd and he passed it onto striker Garner to hold up. Peaks had continued his run forward and Garner returned the pass. And Peaks’ shot was deflected into the net to make it 1-1.
Diamonds were back in the game and had their tails up. But the scholars fell out of their rhythm when Luke Garner clattered fairly into the opposition’s goalkeeper. This followed by a five minute injury break at the time when Diamonds looked to go on to score more.
But the scholars soon got what their performance deserved. With five minutes to go, Braintree scored a superb team goal to make it 2-1. Building up from the goalkeeper, the striker finished off a great move from 20 yards out into the top corner. Watroba had no chance.
To make matters worse, Braintree added a third just three minutes later. A long punt up-field and Peaks was caught on the wrong foot and when Watroba came out to narrow the angle, the striker slipped the ball the other side of him to make it 3-1.
Full Time: AFC R&D U18s / MAA 1 -3 Braintree Town Academy.
After the game I spoke to manager Darren Purse:
“It was a 6/10 performance today and it’s been a poor couple of performances recently. It looks like the last six months we have gone backwards, it doesn’t look like we’ve improved as a team. It’s not nice, it’s not good. There’s not a team spirit around the place and some people are playing as individuals. They’re worrying signs.
We’re very much looking ahead to next season now. But we still have a cup semi-final next week and we want to go one better than last season, but we must improve.”
Match Report by Hayden Pott.