A much improved second half performance failed to clinch the win for Diamonds. St. Ives had conceded just 5 goals so far and denied a Diamonds side who had notched 7 goals in their first 2 home games. A low key first half saw wide man Joel Gyasi blocked twice by excellent St. Ives defending and Nathan Hicks scrape the outside of the post right on half-time with a superb strike.
Diamonds were much stronger in the second half with Tom Lorraine striking just wide in the first minute and then heading down and wide from the far post when well placed. A strong penalty appeal for handball was waved away as the ball was prevented from falling to unmarked Ben Diamond and then Joel Gyasi glanced a header wide from 8 yards.
St. Ives threatened more as the half wore on hitting the side netting late on and having the ball in the net from what was a clear offside position. Diamonds always looked the more likely scorers with Jack Bowen seeing a header cleared off the line, Liam Dolman hitting the bar with his header and Ben Diamond firing wide from 15 yards.
Manager Andy Peaks went with a flexible 4 3 3 formation for this 3rd home game of the season for Diamonds with Nathan Hicks at right back alongside Blaize Punter and Liam Dolman with Sam Brown at left-back. Dan Chilton held the midfield berth alongside Jack Westbrook with Joel Gyasi, Jack Bowen, Ben Diamond and Tom Lorraine circulating amongst the front positions.
It was a fairly low key start to the game in terms of goal mouth action with both sides working hard to deny the other space and neither being able to build periods of pressure.
The first half chances came to Diamonds around the 10 minute mark with Joel Gyasi guiding a first time effort over the bar from an angle after good work by Jack Bowen, and Tom Lorraine getting free down the right side of the box but his cut back just evaded Ben Diamond in the 6 yard box.
St. Ives were well organised and solid defensively throughout but always keen to move the ball forward quickly and neatly. They created half chances of their own on 11 minutes through Owen Wallis who hit straight at Ben Heath from close in on the right side of the box, and on 15 minutes when a deep corner was headed onto the roof of the net from a free far post header.
Joel Gyasi was moving in off his left sided slot to good effect earning a 30 yard free-kick on 25 minutes when he was felled only to see it rather wasted by a poor strike, and so nearly coming onto an open goal chance after Nathan Hicks ball into the 6 yard box was just blocked away as he was about to finish.
Gyasi was looking the most likely to force an opening in what was a low key kind of game nearly digging a chance out on 38 as he again came in from the left hand side along the 18 yard line but the ball got caught under his feet as he was challenged, and breaking quickly from half way on 44 minutes, beating the full-back but seeing him recover well to block his cross.
The best moment of quality in the game came for Diamonds right on half-time. The ball broke across the 18 yard line from some good build up play to on rushing Nathan Hicks who struck the moving ball superbly towards the far post with the keeper beaten only to see it scrape the outside of the post.
Half- time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0 St. Ives Town 0
Diamonds were much improved in the second-half and out of the blocks quickly with 5 decent chances in the first 10 minutes. First Tom Lorraine was sent into space by a beautiful outside of the boot weighted pass by Dan Clifton after just a minute, he out muscled the defender and struck crisply but just over the angle of bar and post.
Two minutes later Lorraine got onto a great deep cross by Ben Diamond heading down towards the far post but it bouned just wide. A minute after that Jack Bowen struck the keepers legs with a close in effort from the right side of the box, and 2 minutes later Diamonds had the first of two good penalty appeals in the second half. On this occasion the ball was worked well down the right before being whipped towards an unmarked Ben Diamond 8 yards out only to be blocked away by what could have been a St. Ives hand but appeals were waved away by the referee.
Just 2 minutes later Joel Gyasi really should have scored with an unmarked header of all things from the middle of the 6 yard box but he glanced it just wide.
The game then settled into a pattern of Diamonds probing and moving the ball well but not quite able to get the crosses and final balls into the box quite right, and St. Ives defending solidly and breaking quickly and neatly but without really pressuring the Diamonds back four.
On 67 minutes Diamonds had the second and probably clearer penalty appeal of the half as Tom Lorraine challenged the away keeper at the far post and saw the ball fall down towards goal. It was going in before an away defender with his arms in front of him bundled the ball away on the line. The players and the Peter De Banke terrace were adamant it had hit the arms and interestingly a photo by the local newspaper photographer did seem to confirm it but it has to be judged in real time and it happened very quickly with the referee again vigorously showing the crossed arms sign to show no penalty after looking towards his assistant.
St. Ives then had their best spell with a good swift break seeing a close range effort fired into the side netting and another neat move cutting through the Diamonds defence seeing the ball fired home by an unmarked forward. Fortunately for Diamonds he was well offside and it was picked up by the assistant.
Diamonds did build some real momentum in the last 10 minutes with Jack Bowen seeing one headed effort cleared off the line and Liam Dolman seeing his header come back off the bar and get hacked away from the line.
Probably the best chance of the half, then came with just 5 minutes remaining as Diamonds got the ball in behind the St. Ives defence at last. The initial move was blocked by a St. Ives defender but fell to the on rushing Ben Diamond with a clear sight of goal from 15 yards he screwed his effort agonisingly wide with the keeper beaten.
Full-time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0 St. Ives Town 0
Diamonds were much improved in the second half after what had been a low key first half that had seen the two sides broadly cancel each other out. They might easily have scored in an excellent opening salvo to the second half which would have forced a much more open game. In honesty though the decent passing and movement was a little let down by the final ball or the quality of the cross. They hit the bar and saw a header cleared off the line in a late surge and had two very strong penalty appeals turned down but a draw was probably a fair result against an underrated St. Ives side who concede very few goals.
Next up for Diamonds a trip to old friends Kempston Rovers in the Southern league Challenge Cup on Tuesday before a long trip to Needham Market in the league next Saturday.
Man of the match: Jack Westbrook
Match Report by Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
St. Ives Town
13. Ben Heath
2. Nathan Hicks
3. Sam Brown
4. Jack Westbrook
5. Liam Dolman (C)
16. Blaize Punter
7. Joel Gyasi
8. Dan Clifton
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Jack Bowen
11. Ben Diamond
12. John Dean (for Gyasi 82)
14. Ty Ward
15. Declan Rogers (for Lorraine 73)
17. Ben Farrell (for Clifton 66)
18. Callum Westwood
1. Sam Wilson
2. Joe Hood
3. Mark Coulson
4. Tom McGowan
5. Sam Cartwright
6. Jarvis Wilson
7. Owen Wallis
8. Robbie Parker
9. Dylan Wilson
10. Danny Kelly
11. Oliver Snaith
12. Ben Barker (for Parker 66)
14. Ben Seymour-Shove (for Dylan Wilson 76)
15. George Bailey
16. Jordan Patrick (for Oliver Snaith 86)
Yellow cards: Clifton (59), Westbrook (83)
Referee: Oliver Mackey
Assistants: Michael Butterworth, Minesh Gupta