AFC R&D U18s / MAA 4-4 Lowestoft Town U18s

AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18s / Malcolm Arnold Academy battled out a 4-4 draw with Lowestoft Town U18s in their second league game of the season.

Darren Purse’s boys went into the game on the back of four straight wins, scoring a total of 16 goals in the process. However some key players were missing with niggling injuries and Purse wanted to rest them ahead of a busy week next week, which sees the scholars in action three times in five days.

With the lads surely brimming of confidence, it was a surprise that they didn’t start the game well against a Lowestoft team who had been thumped 7-1 by Braintree Town a week earlier. The opening ten to 15 minutes, the lads really found themselves on the back foot.

So it was no surprise when the scholars fell behind after ten minutes. It was a really poor goal to concede as a long ball over the top, was not dealt with by the two centre-halves. And left the Lowestoft striker free to slot past Sam De Boer in the Rushden goal. It was a comedy of errors which set the tone for the whole game.

Mid-way through the first half, Diamonds woke up and began to get a foothold in the game. Lowestoft’s main weakness, was that they weren’t very quick at the back, so Luke Garner used his pace to get in behind of the defence. Then on the edge of the penalty area, Garner chipped the ball over the goalkeeper into far corner of the net, to bring Diamonds level after 31 minutes.

Soon after, MAA and Garner got his second to put the scholars in front. In similar fashion to the equaliser, Garner was in behind the defence and although the goalkeeper came out and stood up, Garner made no mistake by sliding the ball underneath him.

Half Time. AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18s / MAA 2-1 Lowestoft Town.

If the scholars had of taken all of their chances in the first half, they would have been comfortably leading by three or four at the break.

But straight after the break, Diamonds made it 3-1. Superb energy and high pressing from kick off, forced a mistake in the Lowestoft defence. It was an electric start which Garner dispossessed the full back and finished into the bottom corner of the net, to complete his hattrick.

On the hour mark, the scholars looked relaxed and in control as they got on top even more. This is when Purse made a substitution which would change the game. Purse later admitted, he was to substitute a first year scholar, rather than Harrison Desborough. But on came Matt Pinder at a time where Lowestoft had a free-kick in a dangerous position.

From the resulting free-kick, Pinder was involved straight away. As the ball came into the box, Pinder went up for the header, but had two hands into the back of the player. Perhaps it was a soft penalty but it was the right decision. And Lowestoft pulled a goal back, making it 3-2 on 60 minutes.

It was clear that Lowestoft were poor at the back, as the scholars had a number of chances, but the visitors’ had a front three that were dangerous and always posed a threat.

Five minutes after the penalty made it 3-2, Diamonds conceded the equaliser. From an attacking corner, it was defended and cleared by Lowestoft, who hit Rushden on the counter attack – the striker rounds Sam De Boer to make it level once again.

With 15 minutes left to play, the scholars fell behind for the second time in the game. Having not learnt their lesson the first time, Lowestoft scored another counter-attack goal as the pacey striker once again beat De Boer to make it 4-3 to the visitors.

Having fell behind once again, it was clear that the Diamonds’ youngsters were wound up, frustrated because they had thrown their lead away.

However that wouldn’t be the end of the drama. As in the last minute of the game, Pinder scored a late equaliser. Diamonds had a free-kick, which everyone piled forward for, and Pinder got on the end of a whipped in cross to make it 4-4.

Full Time. AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18s / MAA 4-4 Lowestoft Town.

After the game, I spoke to manager Darren Purse and he couldn’t contain his disappointment.

“We weren’t good enough today, I can’t reiterate it enough – we played terrible. That performance didn’t match the standards that we have previously said and it shows that there’s a lot of work to be done with some of the first years.

We didn’t work hard enough, there were too many errors in build up to the goals and the lads didn’t take their chances. It would have made the game easier for ourselves if we did, but because we didn’t, they were always in the game. Lowestoft deserved to get the draw out of it.”

Although Purse admitted there is a lot of work to be done, next week brings opportunities for the players to bounce straight back.

“There’s a lot of work to be done and the lads know that. They know I’m not happy with that standard of performance. But I gave them the benefit of doubt and I just told them a few home truths. If it comes to November / December and we play like that again, then I won’t be happy.

We have a busy week ahead next week, The FA Youth Cup is of greater importance, then the league game. Hopefully a few of the lads who were missing today can be involved Monday evening. I’ll use the English Schools’ Trophy game on Friday to give the first years guys to show me what they can really do, because I don’t believe today was a reflection of their abilities.

There’s always a chance to bounce back straight away in football, and that’s what we’re hoping for on Monday.”


Report by Hayden Pott.