AFC Rushden & Diamonds played out an entertaining and dramatic draw with Lincoln United at a wet Dog & Duck stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The opening exchanges were largely quiet, with Kallum Smith for the visitors flashing a shot across goal from the left and then Fazel Koriya seeing a volleyed effort well parried away by Jake Turner in the Lincoln goal. However, the away side took the lead in the 18th minute when Andrew Toyne drove a fierce 25-yard effort past Finlay and into the back of the net via the post. Despite the hosts struggling to build a quick tempo and threaten the visiting goal on a regular basis, they did create opportunities: none more so than in the 32nd minute when Koriya jinked inside and then outside of his marker before seeing his shot well saved by Turner, with appeals for a handball on the rebound turned away. Moments before that Toyne almost doubled Lincoln’s advantage when he found space to hit a shot into the side-netting, and shortly before the half-time interval Smith should have done better with a free header inside the penalty area, but his effort was easy for Finlay to catch.
Diamonds were given a numerical boost three minutes into the second half when away top-goalscorer Jordan Hempenstall received a second yellow card for jumping into Brad Harris on the halfway line. Though they struggled to initially capitalise on the decision, they did grab a leveller in the 65th minute when a Sam Brown diagonal ball into the middle was met by a rising Tom Lorraine who powered a header into the corner of the net. Lincoln still were providing a threat on the counter-attack though, and substitute Gary King could have restored their lead when he met Smith’s left-wing cross, but his diving header flashed across goal. In response Leslie hit a half-volley narrowly wide for Rushden, and they themselves were then reduced to ten men when Brad Harris was given a second yellow for fouling Callum Ward. James Blunden had an excellent chance to potentially win it for the away side when a loose ball dropped to him in acres of space in the box, but he hurried his shot and it flew over the bar. Moments later the hosts went down to nine men when Koriya slid in on Smith and earnt himself another caution, and despite a couple of nearly moments for both teams, the full-time whistle was blown to signal a fair draw.
Diamonds manager Andy Peaks kept faith with the same eleven that had started the away victory at Gresley last Saturday, and after they had been rested for the Integro League Cup victory over Corby in midweek, there were recalls to the starting XI for Sam Brown, Rory Winters, Richard Bunting, Brad Harris, Fazel Koriya, Nabil Shariff and Tom Lorraine.
Both sides were coming into the game in good league form, with Rushden being unbeaten in 14 games and Lincoln having won their last three consecutive fixtures, and there was a keen sense of interest ahead of the fixture also due to the visitors having recently knocked Diamonds out of the FA Trophy in mid November. There was fine rain falling onto the Dog & Duck surface as the two teams entered the fray, and after the coin toss referee Mark Tinsley blew his whistle to begin the contest.
The early moments were a little quiet and short of goalmouth action, with midfield tussles and a struggle to maintain possession being prevalent. Lincoln top-scorer Jordan Hempenstall received a yellow card in only the second minute after leaving his foot in on a challenge with Tom Lorraine, and moments later Sean Wright almost tiptoed his way into the Diamonds area before first Winters won an important tackle and then Brown completed the clearance upfield. The away side then won a couple of corners, but the hosts dealt with both of them well.
Rushden won their own corner in the eighth minute on the right, and captain Richard Bunting stepped up to drift in a delivery to the back post that midfield partner Lewis Leslie met. He headed it towards goal, and although it was firstly blocked it was kicked back to the Diamonds number nine who reacted quickly, only for his effort to sail over the bar. Shortly afterwards Lorraine latched onto a long ball down the left flank and cut back to feed Shariff on the edge of the box, but the striker couldn’t keep his curling effort down and it comfortably cleared Jake Turner’s goal.
Lincoln had proved a constant threat with their neat link-up play and pacey attacks in the 3-3 FA Trophy draw in the original tie between the teams, and they begun to show these features again as the game passed the 10th minute. After a deep free-kick ended up being headed into the safe grasp of Matt Finlay, winger Kallum Smith, who had scored both goals in the 2-0 replay victory, threatened after receiving the ball on the left. He tricked his way forward and into the penalty area before flashing a shot towards the far post, but fortunately for the hosts the ball went just wide of the goal.
Diamonds quickly responded however, and they themselves created a couple of opportunities. Firstly Koriya chased a ball over the top of the away defence, and his quick turn-of-pace forced Turner to run out of his goal to rush his clearance. It fell straight to Shariff around 35 yards from goal, but after getting the ball out of his feet his chipped attempt bounced well wide of the post. Then two minutes later Shariff was involved again as he fed Leslie down the right, and he was able to float a cross towards the back post and the onrushing Koriya. The run was timed perfectly, and his precise volleyed effort drew a strong save by Turner down to his right as he parried it out for a corner. The subsequent dead-ball looked dangerous initially, but the Lincoln keeper got a strong fist to the ball and punched it away from danger.
Moments later, the visitors were to take the lead. A chipped ball over the right side of the Diamonds defence ran for Hempenstall to collect, but with limited options available in the middle he played it back to full-back Callum Ward. He quickly shifted it across to Andrew Toyne 25 yards from goal, and with no home player rushing out to close him down the midfielder struck a fierce effort that cannoned off the post and rolled into the other corner of the goal.
Rushden had fallen behind three times in the original FA Trophy game before fighting back on each occasion, and this opening goal meant they would have to come from behind again if they wished to maintain their unbeaten domestic run. They took a little while to mount another attack, but when they did it caused problems for the away defence. Lorraine showed good speed and acceleration to move away from his marker down the right, and as he reached the byline he cut back inside, with a Lincoln defender being left on the floor. However, the striker took a little too long in hitting his shot, and so his left-footed effort was eventually blocked away by the recovering defender. Shariff was then tumbled in a central position around 30 yards from goal, but Bunting’s resulting effort never troubled Turner as it whipped over the crossbar.
Shortly before the half-hour mark Brown had his first chance to trouble the opposing defence with one of his long-throws, and his lengthy pitch found Dolman at the near post. The defender couldn’t carry on his recent goalscoring exploits, however, as his flicked header dropped onto the roof of the net. Lincoln, despite not threatening since their goal, still looked capable of troubling the Diamonds back-four, and they could have added to their advantage in the 31st minute. Goalscorer Toyne was found on the edge of the box by a neat ball from Luke Hornsey, and he easily ran into the area before seeing his angled effort hit the side-netting.
A minute later the hosts sprung down the other end, and they were almost able to bring the game level. Shariff fed Koriya just inside the Lincoln half, and the winger sprinted forward before jinking inside and then outside of Hornsey as he made his way into the box. Turner flew out and was able to save the low effort, with James Blunden able to clear the danger away for a corner amidst calls for handball after the ball had initially bounced up into him. The game had become an end-to-end affair, with Lincoln then creating a chance two minutes after the opening for Koriya. Hempenstall did well to turn into space on the left side, and his quick cross almost caught out the Diamonds defence to reach Rob Norris running into the area, but Finlay was aware and able to gather at the second attempt.
Though Rushden were still lacking a tempo and rhythm to much of their play, they were fashioning chances only for a lack of instinct or final ball to commonly let them down. This was shown by Leslie himself turning adroitly on the left and crossing into the middle only for Lorraine to mistime his header as the attempt ran out of play, and then by Shariff seemingly playing the attacker in on goal only for the offside flag to be raised. The hosts then mixed it up by having an effort from distance just before half-time after Shariff found Bunting who then in turn laid it across to the marauding Winters, but the defender’s well-hit effort was charged down by a sliding Lincoln man.
There remained one final chance of the half before the interval, and arguably the visitors should have doubled their lead from it. Wright advanced down the right wing before driving a pinpoint cross to the back post for Matthew Cotton to head back into the danger area. Smith was in a lot of space as he ran onto it, but his subsequent header was slightly weak and Finlay easily caught the ball in his grasp.
Half Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0-1 Lincoln United
The Diamonds players were sent out a few minutes earlier than their Lincoln counterparts ready for the start of the second period, and after their blue-shirted opponents did re-emerge back onto the playing surface, the referee was able to get proceedings underway again.
The home side looked to gain momentum and the upper hand immediately from the restart, and they had the first chance of the half when Bunting clipped a ball into the box for Lorraine, but although the striker rose well, he couldn’t direct his header on target as it dropped wide of the mark.
Shortly afterwards the game, or more specifically the second half, took its first dramatic turn as the visitors were reduced to ten men. A ball looped up for Harris just ahead of the halfway line, but with the surface still being slick the ball bounced up high and allowed Hempenstall to try and win it. However, the Diamonds man got to the ball just before the Lincoln striker, and so Harris ended up on the floor as the away number nine jumped into him. The referee was quick on the scene, and he wasted little time in showing a second caution and then a red card.
The pattern of the next twenty minutes was now set as Diamonds naturally had more of the ball, with Lincoln seemingly content to hold onto their lead and try to strike on the counter-attack. Gary King was introduced for Cotton as the visitors went to a 4-4-1 formation, and after Lorraine had received treatment for an off-the-ball incident that had gone undetected by any official, Koriya delivered a teasing cross from the left that almost reached Lewis Wilson at the far post, but a header clear by Ward in the nick of time stopped any attempt at goal.
Lincoln briefly threatened just after the hour mark when Smith darted down the left wing and advanced into the area before lifting his effort over from a tight angle, and although the hosts were monopolising more possession with the man advantage, they were still struggling to make penetrating inroads into the away backline. Lincoln had closed down their opponents quickly and effectively up to this point, and when Koriya tried to do the same near the dugouts, he tripped King and was penalised for his troubles.
Despite their lack of incision and small amount of clear-cut opportunities, Diamonds grabbed an equaliser in the 65th minute. The ball was swept from midfield across to Brown halfway inside the attacking half, and he stepped forward a couple of paces before looking up and drilling a diagonal ball into the heart of the penalty area. There was Tom Lorraine, and the attacker did remarkably well to rise above his marker and direct a header past Turner into the corner of the goal.
The hosts’ tails were up, and they swiftly won the ball straight from kick-off before launching an attack down the Lincoln right. Sharif travelled far with the ball at his feet and moved into the box before attempting to find a fellow white shirt with his pull-back, but it ran just too far from Lorraine and the away defence was able to clear the danger away. Moments later Peaks made his first alteration as Taylor Orosz took to the field to replace Wilson, and then only shortly afterwards Harris was shown a yellow card for a cynical challenge as Smith looked to launch a quick break forward.
The contest moved past the 70th minute and was delicately poised, with both sides posing a threat when moving the ball forward quickly and with pace. For the visitors, Smith was looking the most likely to produce an opportunity, and he did this in the 73rd minute when he jinked his way into space on the left and flashed a pacey delivery into the middle. It reached King just outside the six-yard box, but he couldn’t make a true connection with the ball and so his header drifted harmlessly wide of the target. Down the other end Lorraine cushioned a header into the path of the advancing Leslie, and he hit a dipping half-volley that looked like it may trouble Turner before it flew wide of the near post.
After his impressive performance versus Corby during the week, Jake Newman was introduced into the action at the expense of Shariff in the 79th minute, though it was Lincoln who threatened immediately after the substitution when a loose ball fell to King on the edge of the box, but his effort was weak and easily dribbled wide of the post. Moments later the match swung again when Harris was shown a red card after fouling Ward who had overlapped past Smith and looked to drive towards the penalty box. As soon as he went down referee Tinsley was quick on the scene again, and like with Hempenstall at the start of the half a second yellow card was issued to make it ten versus ten.
A minute before Diamonds reacted to the dismissal by sending Kyal McNulty on for Leslie, the visitors had a golden chance to notch what may have been the winner. A ball into the Rushden box was only half cleared away, and as it looped up in the air a Lincoln head knocked it forward into the area and into the path of Blunden. He had acres of space in which to take his time and direct a shot goalwards, but he snatched at his attempt and it flew well over the crossbar.
The match moved towards the end of the regulatory 90 minutes, but shortly before it actually reached that mark there was another sending-off. Smith tried to bring the ball away on the left after a Diamonds move had broken down, and after Koriya slightly pushed the winger he then slid in to try and win the ball but missed it. Whether the referee had signalled a foul for the original tackle or the latter was unclear, but what was made clear was that another yellow card was being issued to the Rushden man and that the hosts would have to play the rest of the match with only nine men.
A makeshift 4-3-1 was now in operation with Orosz, Lorraine and Bunting behind the lone striker Newman, though it didn’t appear that they were at a disadvantage as they broke forward on the left shortly into stoppage time. Newman was fed by Brown who then continued his run and picked up the ball just inside the area, but unfortunately for the Diamonds he couldn’t pick out a supporting player and the ball was whipped away.
Lincoln had a four-on-four situation straight from that home move, but they were unable to capitalise on it and unable to force much pressure on Matt Finlay’s goal in the closing stages. After three minutes of additional time the whistle was blown to signal the end of a frenetic and dramatic second half in particular, with the end result being a fair one.
Full Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1-1 Lincoln United
It was difficult to weigh up whether this was one point gained or two points dropped for the Diamonds, as after equalising and being at a one man advantage they would have fancied their chances of going on to emerge victorious, but the loss of two men late in the game naturally led to a point being gratefully accepted. Credit must go to Lincoln who contributed to a topsy-turvy and largely end-to-end affair, and just like the 3-3 draw the two sides played out a month ago neither side deserved to lose. Rushden have now drawn six out of their nine home league games this season, but the unbeaten domestic run is now extended to fifteen games and the team still lie on the cusp of the play-offs as they near the busy festive period. Their next fixture will be played in a week’s time on Saturday December 17th when they travel to table-toppers Shaw Lane AFC, who are thus far unbeaten at home in the league.
Diamonds Man of the Match chosen by match sponsor Glenis Haynes: Fazel Koriya
Match Report by Ollie Mortimer
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
17. Matt Finlay
2. Brad Harris
3. Sam Brown
4. Rory Winters
5. Liam Dolman
6. Richard Bunting (C)
7. Nabil Shariff
8. Fazel Koriya
9. Lewis Leslie
10. Tom Lorraine
11. Lewis Wilson
12. Ben Farrell
13. Ben Heath
14. Kyal McNulty (for Leslie 85)
15. Jake Newman (for Shariff 79)
16. Taylor Orosz (for Wilson 67)
1. Jake Turner
2. Luke Hornsey
3. Callum Ward
4. Sean Wright
5. Michael Jacklin (C)
6. James Blunden
7. Robert Norris
8. Andrew Toyne
9. Jordan Hempenstall
10. Matthew Cotton
11. Kallum Smith
12. Daniel Brooks (for Hornsey 38)
14. Gary King (for Cotton 53)
15. Luke Smithson (for Norris 73)
16. Jack Wilkinson
17. Cain Hutchinson-Wilkes
Goals: Lorraine (65)
Goals: Toyne (18)
Yellow Cards: Harris (70, 82), Koriya (61, 88)
Yellow Cards: Hempenstall (2, 50)
Red Cards: Harris (82), Koriya (88)
Red Cards: Hempenstall (50)
Referee: Mark Tinsley
Assistants: Adrian Walker, Ian Ruddock
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