AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18s / Malcolm Arnold Academy bounced back from four consecutive league defeats to hold title challengers Brentwood Town to a 3-3 draw.
Following the scholars’ success in reaching the David Joyce Cup Final, they hosted Brentwood looking to regain some form in the league.
The Diamonds started well although the away side created the first opportunity.
Brentwood’s winger nicked the ball off of Ashley Hewett and he bared down on goal. The ball looked to be heading towards the bottom corner but goalkeeper Sam de Boer pulled off a fantastic save early on.
Just nine minutes in, the score could have been 1-1. Harrison Desborough caused problems all afternoon, and his run down the right created space to pull the ball back to Matt Pinder 12 yards out. Pinder attempted the volley but it managed to somehow evade him. A good chance wasted.
However shortly after, the MAA boys went ahead. 18 minutes on the clock and Pinder was on the scoresheet. Once again, Desborough troubled his full back and this time when Desborough pulled the ball back, Pinder made sure his shot hit the target to make it 1-0.
37 minutes in and The Blues were back on level terms. A Diamonds’ lapse in concentration was punished. A free-kick on the half way line allowed for a short pause in play, where the lads went to rehydrate. When the game got back underway, the ball was punted into the scholars’ box and after the ball was bouncing about, the striker hit a fierce shot on the half turn, over his shoulder, leaving de Boer no chance. 1-1.
The scholars who had played well and held their own in the first half made sure they went into the break with the lead. A minute before the break, Ryan Baird nicked in behind his man and as he carried the ball across the defender, Baird was caught for a penalty. Pinder confidently stepped up to make it 2-1.
Diamonds had played well in the first half and deservedly led at the break.
Half Time. AFC R&D U18s / MAA 2-1 Brentwood Town.
Shortly into the second half, manager Darren Purse introduced Christy Nginamau and Luke Garner to bring some pace to the attack.
The substitutions paid off as after 67 minutes, the young Diamonds went 3-1 up. Luke Garner was set free down the right and he used his strength and power to burst through the defence and finished into the bottom corner. Garner’s strength and determination shown as he muscled his way into the box.
However there was to be two late twists. The first, set up for a nervy ending.
85 minutes on the clock, and after from frantic defending, the scholars cleared for a corner. However from the resulting corner, a Brentwood player was unmarked to head in at the far posting making it 3-2.
And then the three points were thrown away in the 89th minute. A visiting corner was cleared to the edge of the box, and the shot from the edge of the box was right into the path of the goalscorer of the first goal, in acres of space and it ricocheted off him and into the net to make it 3-3. The scholars’ immediately appealed for offside, but the linesman’s decision stood.
Full Time. AFC R&D U18s / MAA 3-3 Brentwood Town.
After the game, I spoke to manager Darren Purse:
“I thought we deserved to come away with a win to be honest. The lad looked offside for the final goal, but at the end of the day, the referee’s decision is final and we will have to accept that.
After four really poor performances in the previous games, we’ve had two good ones [ON Chenecks and today]. The lads just need to learn how to keep a lead and need to concentrate more. We could have won the game by three or four but it wasn’t to be.”
Report by Hayden Pott.