Diamonds were held to an entertaining 1-1 draw at Hayden Road on Saturday in front of a 620 crowd on Pay What You Want Day. Jack Ashton’s 23rd minute looped header was cancelled out by Matthew Rutterford’s 55th minute curled effort.
Manager Andy Peaks made just the one change to his side from the excellent 1-0 win against Kings Lynn last week with John Dean replacing Ben Farrell who dropped to the bench.
Diamonds started brightly with Declan Rogers fizzing an early effort just wide after picking up in midfield and driving forward but Leiston were equally bright with Matt Burke forcing his way into the Diamonds box but slicing his effort high and wide. Ben Diamond then came oh so close to setting up top goal scorer Tom Lorraine with a sensational ball in behind the Leiston back four and Declan Rogers struck a pair of free-kicks that threatened but were just cleared away. Keys responded for the away side with snap shot close in after finding space in the box.
After the even first period the threatened breakthrough came for Diamonds on 23 minutes. Patient build up between Reynolds, Hicks and Diamond down the right set Diamond up for a deep cross where the onrushing Jack Ashton got his head on the ball and looped his header back across goal into the far corner.
Leiston bounced straight back with a series of chances on the break first Finch headed just wide at the far post from a good ball in and then the same player and Matt Burke had shooting chances in a goal mouth scramble that Diamonds just cleared away. Zack Reynolds had been at the heart of a lot of Diamonds best moments and he drove right through to the box on 38 minutes only to see two crossing chances blocked by desperate defending. The last action came for Leiston who had another good break by Finch whose excellent cross just evaded colleagues at the far post.
Half-time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 Leiston 0
Leiston started the second half with real intent and after a good spell of attacking play got their deserved equaliser on 55 minutes. They had just seen a looped cross fall onto the crossbar before Matthew Rutterford drove into the left hand side of the box and hit a superb curling effort into the far corner past Ben Heath.
It sparked a 20 minute period of dominance for the away side who saw a shot from Matt Burke cleared off the line, a last ditch tackle by Declan Rogers deny them, and Matt Burke get the better of Liam Dolman before forcing Ben Heath into a fine save. Diamonds were struggling to get a foothold in the game despite the best efforts of John Dean and Jack Ashton combining down the left.
Jack Bowen was introduced on 70 minutes and was instrumental in a much improved last 15 minutes that saw Diamonds finally get some purchase on the game. His combination with Tom Lorraine was proving dangerous and prompting some robust challenges as both sides tried to force the winner.
Tom Lorraine came closet climbing to meet a great cross on 80 minutes but guiding his header straight at the away keeper. John Dean then had a quick break just blocked away for a corner. It was played into space in the box but just evaded the Diamonds men falling to Leiston who broke quickly finally being denied by Jack Ashton who took a ball in the face for the second time in the game.
Diamonds fall 5 points outside the play-off places and Leiston drop to 10th but both sides will feel a top 10 finish is highly likely but a play-off position is just receding. Both sides will also feel this is fair reflection of pre-season ambitions but will know that turning draws into wins could just give them an outside play-off chance.
Next up for Diamonds another tough home game with the visit of 3rd placed Stratford Town to Hayden Road on Tuesday night.
Man of the Match: Jack Ashton
Match Report: Paul Judd
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