AFC Rushden & Diamonds were perfect from the spot to clinch the penalty shoot-out 6-5 to reach the quarter-finals of the Integro league Cup after a hard fought 0-0 draw on Tuesday night.
Spalding were unchanged from their weekend line-up and had the better chances in the first half with Bradley Wells and Jordan Lemon coming close early on before Taylor Orosz and Robbie Parsons had decent shooting chances for a much changed home side. Wells again should have scored for the away side late in the half, Ben Heath palmed over a Jordan Lemon shot and saw a superb strike from Lee Beeson come back off the post into his arms.
Diamonds were much improved in the second half with Taylor Orosz twice failing to convert excellent opportunities. Jake Newman struck a good effort just wide and Liam Dolman twice came close to converting corners from close in. Spalding made three early substitutions and played the last 10 minutes with 10 men when a late injury was picked up.
Diamonds couldn’t force a late winner but were impressively perfect from the spot as were Spalding until Ben Heath saved penalty number 6. Jake Newman stepped up to joyfully take Diamonds into the quarter-finals.
The Diamonds line-up for this last 16 League Cup tie had a strong look despite Manager Andy Peaks making 8 changes from the win against Loughborough on Saturday. Ben Heath and Kyal McNulty came into the back four to join Brad Harris and Liam Dolman along with Ben Ford. Lewis Leslie joined Ben Farrell in centre midfield with a new but experienced front four of Robbie Parsons, Lewis Wilson, Jake Newman and Taylor Orosz. Matt Finlay and Sam Brown were joined on the bench by Ollie Brown-Hill, Chris Wreh and Harry Desborough.
Spalding were clearly taking the competition seriously with a side unchanged from their weekend 2-1 win against Chasetown and had the best of the opening stages. Bradley Wells blazed over from the edge of the box after 2 minutes after seizing on a mistake in the Diamonds back four, and a longer range effort from Jordan Lemon was held by Ben Heath at the second attempt on 9 minutes.
Diamonds gradually worked their way into the game though and Taylor Orosz nearly set-up Robbie Parsons on 15 with a great knock-down header but the ball just wouldn’t fall for the youngster to get a shot away. Lewis Wilson was then set-up with some neat midfield play but his shot was first blocked then hurriedly cleared.
The game then settled into a fairly uneventful phase as both sides adapted to each other’s formation and Diamonds changed line-up settled into a solid shape. A long throw from Matt Varley created a far post chance for Spalding’s Leon Mettam who hit the side netting, but it was the home side who carried a little more threat in this phase. Robbie Parsons and Kyal McNulty had decent shooting chances well saved and Ben Ford hit a delicious cross in behind the Spalding back four that just evaded the onrushing Diamonds forwards.
Spalding then really should have taken the lead on 34 as Bradley Wells somehow headed against the far post after a deep free-kick was headed back to him in space. Jake Newman responded with a header from a deep cross that the away keeper just managed to drop on, before Spalding went close again with a stinging effort from Jordan Lemon brilliantly palmed over by Ben Heath. Nathan Whitehead nearly glanced the resultant corner home across goal.
Spalding were really pressing in the closing stages of the half as first a superb 35 yard curling effort from Lee Beeson crashed back off the post into the arms of Ben Heath, and then Ben Heath did well again to deflect a goal bound effort from Nathan Whitehead just wide from 12 yards.
Half time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0 Spalding United 0
After that very strong finish to the first half by Spalding it was Diamonds who started the second half brightly. Taylor Orosz latched onto a great through ball from Robbie Parsons but rolled his shot agonisingly wide in Diamonds best chance on 47.
Lewis Leslie then wriggled free in the middle of the park and got a shot away that the keeper turned away for a corner and then came close to converting the resulting kick with a close range header.
It was Taylor Orosz turn next as he cut inside to see his shot heavily deflected just over the bar. Ben Farrell was running strongly for Diamonds in midfield and his ball out to Jake Newman on 63 saw the big man cut inside and hit a left footed fizzer just wide.
Spalding had made all three changes since half-time and as the game opened up Bradley Barraclough tested Ben Heath with a low stinger that the young stopper held well.
Diamonds first substitution introduced Ollie Brown-Hill and he had an early impact driving forward to find Taylor Orosz to hit a really dangerous cross that Spalding just cleared at a stretch. The forward then broke the off-side trap for Diamonds best chance on 75 breaking into the area and seeing his first effort saved by the away keeper and the second just blocked away for a corner. Liam Dolman had two efforts at converting the corner but just couldn’t force the ball home against some desperate Spalding defending.
Diamonds were really pressing for the goal that would avoid the dreaded penalty shoot-out and after Liam Dolman came close to converting another corner, Ben Farrell’s neat through ball so nearly found Ollie Brown-Hill 0n 79.
Spalding were then forced down to 10 men as Paul Walker picked up an injury forcing him from the field with Spalding having used all 3 substitutions.
Ben Ford was still flying forward for the home side and his dangerous ball in was just cleared on 90 and then Liam Dolman hit a deep free-kick that was again cleared by the hard working Spalding defence to earn a penalty shoot-out as the game finished 0-0 after 90 minutes
Final Score: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0 Spalding United 0
The penalty shoot-out was taken at the Peter De Banke…
Spalding – Whitehead – scores 1-0
Diamonds – Dolman – scores 1-1
Spalding – Miller – scores 2-1
Diamonds – Parsons – scores 2-2
Spalding – Stainfield – scores 3-2
Diamonds – Farrell – Scores 3-3
Spalding – Varley – scores 4-3
Diamonds – Leslie – scores 4-4
Spalding – Higginson – scores 5-4
Diamonds – Brown-Hill – scores 5-5
Spalding – Lemon – saved Heath 5-5
Diamonds – Newman – scores 5-6!!
Diamonds win 6-5 on penalties….
Diamonds hit a perfect 6 from 6 penalties to keep up the incredible 100% penalty record for the season and Ben Heath capped a fine performance with the vital save from the unfortunate Jordan Lemon to take Diamonds through to the quarter-finals.
A full strength Spalding side had created the better first half chances but the strong but much changed Diamonds line-up improved in the second half and looked the side more likely to win the contest in normal time.
Manager Andy Peaks will have been pleased with performance of the players called into the side showing the depth of his play-off chasing first team squad.
He will have some interesting but welcome selection decisions to make for the long trip to Sheffield FC on Saturday.
Man of the Match: Ben Farrell
Match Report by Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
17. Ben Heath
2. Kyal McNulty
3. Ben Ford
4. Brad Harris
5. Liam Dolman
6. Ben Farrell
7. Lewis Leslie
8. Robbie Parsons
9. Lewis Wilson
10. Jake Newman
11. Taylor Orosz
13. Matt Finlay
14. Ollie Brown-Hill (for Wilson 64)
15. Chris Wreh
18. Sam Brown
1. Richard Walton
2. Paul Walker
3. Adam Jackson
4. Matt Varley
5. Nathan Stainfield
6. Kern Miller
7. Lee Beeson
8. Nathan Whitehead
9. Bradley Weeks
10. Leon Mettam
11. Jordan Lemon
12. Bradley Baraclough (for Mettam 45)
14. Jonney Lockie (for Wells 59)
15. Connor Higginson (for Beeson 55)
16. Terry Fleming
17. Michael Duggan
Penalties: Dolman, Parsons, Farrell, Leslie, Brown-Hill, Newman
Penalties: Whitehead, Miller, Stainfield, Varley, Higginson – Lemon missed
Yellow Card: Orosz, Ford, Newman
Referee: Daniel Hanna
Assistants: Thomas Beeton, Michael Dunkley