On Saturday, AFC Rushden & Diamonds U21 side picked up a hard-fought 2-1 victory against the previously unbeaten Histon U21 side at Manor School.
New signing Mate Kadar made his debut on the left hand side of midfield in the young Diamonds side who lined up in a 4-5-1 formation, making five changes from last week’s defeat against Kettering Town Elite U21s.
The Diamonds started the game brightly and within a minute Atkins played Karlos Augustine in to the right of the penalty area, who got the ball out of his feet and struck an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net to give Diamonds an early lead.
Diamonds gained real confidence from the early goal and throughout the first half put on a positive attacking display with Atkins and Ackroyd marshalling the midfield. This allowed the attacking quartet of Kadar, Harvey, Gardner and Augustine to continuously create chances. Demonstrating good footwork, Harvey created space for a shot but his effort was well saved by the Histon keeper.
On 25 minutes Atkins was cautioned for tripping the dangerous Histon number 9.
Histon came back in to the match but rarely troubled Lacey in the Diamonds goal.
Just before half-time, it looked as though Diamonds would double their lead when Gardner was put through on the right flank but the ball did not drop as he may have wished and his eventual shot was blocked.
The second half started with the young Diamonds playing at a high tempo, but in the 55th minute two of the team’s best performers on the day in Ackroyd and Kadar left the field to join up with the first team for their FA Cup match against Ashton United. This inevitably had an impact of the pace of passing, but did not diminish the Diamonds’ determination to see the game out. Rogers came on for Kadar, and scholar Matt Pinder made his U21 debut as a striker as Augustine dropped deeper and Harvey joined Atkins in a holding midfield position.
Histon thought they had equalised after pouncing on a rebound but the shot was adjudged to be offside, much to the annoyance of the away bench.
On 70 minutes Rogers went on a driving run and drove the ball low across the box and the Histon keeper parried the ball out to the anticipating Matt Pinder who fired the ball home for his first goal at U21 level.
Histon again thought they had pulled a goal back on 78 minutes but yet again it was ruled offside, a decision which caused real annoyance from both the Histon players and management towards the referee. This resulted in a couple of cautions for the Histon team including their keeper who had raced from his goal to remonstrate with the referee.
After an extended period of pressure, Histon did finally pull a goal back in the 83rd minute.
Rogers went through on a strong run from the left in the 86th minute and hit a powerful shot with the outside of his left foot which crashed off the crossbar.
Overall, this was an outstanding team performance to bounce back from last week’s defeat against Kettering Town Elite U21s which showcased some top-quality attacking football – particularly in the first-half.
Diamonds Team: Jake Lacey, Joe Ackroyd, Danny Atkins, Karlos Augustine, Luke Gardner, Joseph Harris, James Harvey, Mate Kadar, Matthew Kumar, Sam Leeson, Richard Platt. Substitutes: James Barron, Edward Bates, Matt Pinder , Tom Rogers, Patrick Tulley.