AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0-0 Biggleswade Town FC

Diamonds failed to break down ten-man Biggleswade in a scrappy encounter at Hayden Road.

The visitors threatened first when Joe Neal was played through on goal but denied, and home keeper Dean Snedker made another important save from Sam Squire’s effort following a long-throw. Though Rushden controlled most of the possession in the match, they struggled to create against a stoic Biggleswade rearguard. Nathan Tshikuna came close towards the end of the first half when his fizzing drive was well held.

Things opened up in the second half when the visitors were reduced to ten men. Robert Parker, who had been booked moments before, was shown a second yellow card for bringing down Connor Furlong. Diamonds tried to up the pressure as Alex Collard had a header saved and Ben Diamond glanced an effort off-target, but the Waders could have won it when substitute Magloire Muyembe’s strike was caught and a late deflected free-kick from Neal was also saved. The draw ends the hosts’ run of recent home defeats but leaves them winless in six league matches.

First half

Manager Peaks made just the solitary change to the side that had started the late defeat at home to Barwell on Tuesday evening. Nathan Tshikuna was brought in for Tom Lorraine which meant Ben Diamond began at centre forward. There was a place amongst the substitutes for new signing AJ George replacing Claudio Dias who had moved to Alvechurch.

Rushden came into the contest having lost three of their last four at home and having failed to emerge victorious in their last five league matches. Biggleswade sat 10th in the table but hadn’t won away from home so far this season and had lost their last four on the road without scoring.

The hosts started well with a series of neat passing exchanges and looked dangerous with balls in behind the away defence. Ben Diamond did well to flick a header onto Tshikuna for the creative midfielder to run into the area, but his pull-back was cleared away. The roles were reversed soon after when Tshikuna received a pass, jinked into space and curled an inviting delivery to the far post that the stretching Diamond just wasn’t able to reach. Alex Collard also met a Diamond cross, but his glancing header flew wide.

Biggleswade had the first clear opening when Diamonds lost the ball in midfield, and a quick pass released striker Joe Neal through on goal. His first touch took him into the area, but Dean Snedker was swift off his line to dive at the attacker’s feet and smother the effort. A few minutes later, they created the best chance of the game when a long-throw from the right was flicked on at the near post. It dropped for Sam Squire who was around 10 yards out on his own, and his snap-shot was parried away by Snedker. The rebound dropped for an away attacker, but a last-ditch challenge denied him.

Rushden dominated possession for much of the half and tended to keep the ball well, but much of it was in front of their opponents without much goal threat. Diamond almost got in behind on a couple of occasions only to be stopped by good defending, and Paddy Casey whipped in a dangerous cross that was cleared for a corner.

They forced away keeper Jake Alley into his first save when Ravi Shamsi cut in from the right before hitting a low strike from 25 yards out, and Tshikuna then jinked into space to strike from range that forced the keeper to make the catch above his head.

Half time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0-0 Biggleswade Town

Second half

The attendance was confirmed as 357 at the start of the second half and, like in the opening period, Diamonds looked to make an early inroad. Diamond looked like he was played through on goal by a clever ball over the top from Shamsi, but the offside flag was raised against the forward.

In the space of six minutes, Biggleswade then received three yellow cards. Firstly James Peters was cautioned for a sliding challenge on Connor Furlong, and then fellow midfielder Robert Parker received two yellow cards. The first one was for pulling back the advancing Jesse Akubuine, and he then stopped Furlong racing forward. Referee Martyn Fryer showed no hesitation in issuing a second yellow and then a red card to reduce the visitors to ten men.

Diamonds had just under half an hour to try and find a goal, and they began to have even more of the ball. Collard met a Shamsi free-kick to flick a header straight at Alley, and Diamond then met a good ball in from the overlapping Sam Warburton only for his glancing header to run away from goal. The pressure continued with a couple of corners, one which led to Tshikuna and Warburton having efforts charged down, but they were still struggling to break down a well-organised away defence.

In an attempt to break the deadlock, Lorraine was introduced for Tshikuna in the 75th minute. Soon afterwards, Will Jones was brought on for the busy Furlong, though it was Biggleswade who were to threaten. Substitute Magloire Muyembe intercepted a poor pass in midfield and ran forward, but his left-footed strike from outside the area was straight at Snedker. Ryan Hughes was booked for stopping a potential break-away from the visitors, and they also won a couple of set-pieces. One saw Neal line up a free-kick from distance, and his effort clipped off the wall only to be easily held by Snedker.

Rushden continued to work hard to try and find a late goal but, despite three minutes of additional time, a Collard header across goal that was cleared was the closest they came to snatching victory.

Full time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0-0 Biggleswade Town

Diamonds dominated the ball and had more pressure in the game, but they struggled to turn that into clear-cut opportunities and didn’t work the Biggleswade keeper too often. The visitors defended well and, though they only fashioned occasional attacks, they arguably had the best chances of the contest. The hosts defended strongly themselves as well, and the stalemate gives Rushden their first home clean sheet of the season.

They are soon back in league action as they travel to face Stratford Town on Tuesday evening (26 September), 7.45pm kick-off.

Attendance: 357

Diamonds Man of the Match: Sam Warburton

Match report by Ollie Mortimer

Diamonds: Snedker, Casey, Warburton, Akubuine, Hughes, Collard (C), Tshikuna (Lorraine 75), Bell-Toxtle, Diamond, Shamsi, Furlong (Jones 82) (subs not used: Slinn, George, Nixon)

Diamonds yellows: Akubuine (79), Hughes (86)

Biggleswade: Jake Alley, Joe Howe, Kane Farrell, James Peters, Matthew Hall, Shane Bush (C), Ben Stevens (Magloire Muyembe 67), Robert Parker, Joe Neal, Sam Squire, Luca Cardines (subs not used: Ronan Silva, Luca Purse)

Biggleswade yellows: Peters (58), Parker (60, 64), Farrell (87)

Biggleswade reds: Parker (64)

Images courtesy of Hawkins Images ©2021

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