AFC R&D U18s / MAA 3-2 Romford Reds

AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18s / Malcolm Arnold Academy secured a less than impressive victory over Romford Reds on Wednesday, with many regulars not being available.

A goals from Jamie Mastropiero, and a brace from Luke Garner helped the scholars to victory but manager Darren Purse admitted “it was the worst performance of my time managing the U18s.”

The MAA boys were without eight players due to college reasons, and this resulted in Joe Ackroyd, Jacob Kearney and Ashley Hewett being rushed back from injury to start the first game of 2016 – Kearney who hadn’t played in six months. Also recent first-team debutant, Matt Pinder, lined alongside Kearney at centre half.

It started brightly for the young scholars, or rather the visitors, Romford Reds started slowly. The first goal came just two minutes in. Diamonds had a free-kick 40 yards from goal. Matt Pinder had a direct shot, which was on target, and the goalkeeper spilled the ball straight to Jamie Mastropiero, who was the only person to follow in, and he comfortably tapped home after two minutes, to put the scholars 1-0 up.

And shortly after, the young Diamonds doubled their lead. Five minutes in, once again Pinder started the goal, with a long diagonal free-kick, out wide left to Ashley Hewett, who on the volley, crossed it into box where Luke Garner was waiting to volley home. It was one of those goals that would only happen once in 100 attempts. The ball didn’t touch the floor from Pinder’s free-kick until Garner had volleyed it in to make it 2-0.

After the opening five minutes, the game slowed down with the scholars having the better of few chances.

However after 30 minutes, Romford should have got a goal back. A cross was whipped in and goalkeeper Kacper Watroba couldn’t collect the ball and following a goal mouth scramble, the ball was cleared off the line.

Half Time. AFCR&D U18s / MAA 2-0 Romford Reds.

Diamonds had had several warning signs in the first half, that they would be punished if they continued to be wasteful in possession. And sure enough, just seven minutes after the break, Romford made the scholars pay.

Romford won the ball back in midfield and after a good play of passing, they cut through the Diamonds defence and the attacker got behind Matt Pinder to tuck the ball under Watroba to make it 2-1 after 52 minutes.

But the MAA boys soon got their noses infront by two goals again. 78 minutes played and thanks to good pressure high up the pitch by Luke Garner, he won the ball from the defender. And first time slotted the ball right footed into the corner of the goal to make it 3-1.

Then with just eight minutes to go, Diamonds were punished once again for their sloppy possession. Having not learnt from the first goal they conceded, the ball was lost once again, and a simple ball through was finished off to make it 3-2 and set up a nervy final few minutes.

Full Time. AFCR&D U18s / MAA 3-2 Romford Reds.

After the game, I spoke to a very disgruntled manager, Darren Purse.

“It was a case of needs must really, people filling in in their unnatural positions. Ashley [Hewett] hadn’t played for almost two months, Jacob [Kearney] hasn’t played in six months and Joe [Ackroyd] shouldn’t have really started. None of them lads were 100% fit.  

It was a terrible performance, they gifted us three goals, and I’m this result bucks their ideas up. It was simple errors that let us down. Simple five yard passes and we ended up giving the ball away. Just simple, basic errors that you’d expect under 10’s to make.

The best spin I can put on it is that we played terrible, but won the game. But there were three or four really good performances. Jacob, I couldn’t have asked any more from him, Joe got through 90 minutes for me with a really sore ankle and Matt for filling in at centre back.”

Report by Hayden Pott