Tom Lorraine earned AFC Rushden & Diamonds a 2-2 draw against Basford United with a thumping header from a Nic Evangelinos 73rd minute corner to retain an 8 game unbeaten run for the home side.
Diamonds pressed in the early stages with Nic Evangelinos coming close twice firing just wide left from the edge of the area and then seeing his effort from a similar position deflected up over the keeper also just over the bar. Nabil Shariff also came close to connecting with a bouncing ball in the box in just the first minute and then did connect to prod over the away keeper in 21 only to see the ball spin agonisingly wide.
Basford took the lead however on 32 as Kyle Dickson saw his shot ricochet off Liam Dolman and while appeals for handball were being waved away Courey Grantham reacted well to swivel and hit a low shot from 8 yards past Matt Finlay. The lead lasted just 2 minutes as Diamonds earned a penalty for handball that Nabil Shariff converted coolly from the spot for the 4th time this season. After Sam Brown nearly lit up the Dog and Duck with a stunning left foot drive that just missed the left hand post Basford retook the lead right on half time as Courey Grantham fired in from close range after Matt Finlay had saved his first effort.
Diamonds pressed through the second half with Orosz coming close and Nic Evangelinos escaping his markers to fire in a number of efforts that couldn’t quite breach the Basford defence. They looked to just to be running out of steam when the equaliser did come on 73 as Tom Lorraine thumped home a Nic Evangelinos corner from inside the 6 yard box.
Diamonds tried but were unable to work up any genuine momentum in the latter stages and had to settle for a 2 2 draw that extends the unbeaten league run to 8 games.
After two league wins in a week Manager Andy Peaks made just the one forced change to his starting line-up. Jake Newman returned to the starting line-up for the first time since the opening day of the season allowing Tom Lorraine to drop into Richard Buntings centre midfield role. Joe Curtis returned to another strong looking bench along with Jack Ashton, Robbie Parsons, midweek goal scorer Lewis Wilson and Joe Haynes.
With a very healthy 689 crowd enjoying Community Day and the “Pay what you want” initiative Diamonds started very much on the front foot. A Sam Brown long throw after just 30 seconds dropped over a defender and Nabil Shariff came so close to prodding it past the advancing keeper.
Basford responded in kind on 2 minutes as lively midfielder Kyle Dickson hit a fierce long distance effort that forced Matt Finlay to push away to his right.
Jake Newman then got away down the left in the third minute pressuring the full-back before pulling the ball back to the supporting Sam Brown to swing a dangerous cross deep into the box and very close to Taylor Orosz.
Nic Evangelinos cut inside on 7 and hit a right foot shot from a central position just wide of the left hand post and then came in from the left to get his head to a Kyal Mcnulty cross again from a central position and again just off target.
Basford began to settle into the game at this point defending strongly and looking to hit the ball forward quickly and long to turn the Diamonds back four. They earned a free-kick right on the edge of the Diamonds box on 20 after a quick break but Tyrelle Shannon-Lewis found he was too close in to get the ball up and over the wall and saw his effort clear the Peter De Banke stand.
Nabil Shariff was as impressive as ever and came from nowhere on 21 to get between retreating defender and goalkeeper to lift the ball towards the empty net but saw it spin agonisingly wide.
Nic Evangelinos got yet another shot away on 27 again cutting in from the left and seeing his effort deflected high over the keeper but again just over the bar.
Diamonds looked to be in some degree of control at this point but conceded a surprise opening goal to the lively visitors on 32. Kyle Dickson picked up the ball wide left and fired a fierce effort that hit Liam Dolman drawing penalty appeals for possible handball. While they were being waved away Courey Grantham was alert to the loose ball heading towards the 6 yard box and he hit a low shot on the turn under Matt Finlay.
The lead lasted just two minutes though as Diamonds responded well with real pressure in the Basford box eventually producing a penalty award for handball. Nabil Shariff stepped up for the 4th time this season and for the 4th time slotted coolly home on 34.
A relieved Diamonds pressed forward to try and build on that response and Sam Brown so nearly scored a Sam Brown classic, coming onto the ball on the left hand side of the area he looked to have struck it superbly into the bottom corner only for it to slide just wide into the side netting.
Basford were coming under significant pressure at this point but a long clearance from another Diamonds attack turned the tables completely. The ball bounced in behind the retreating Diamonds back four where the energetic Courey Grantham dispossessed Liam Dolman and fired in a close range effort that Matt Finlay saved. The ball came back to Grantham though and he made no mistake second time firing under Finlay from an angle to give the visitors a half time lead.
Half time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 Basford United 2
Basford started the second half with their own penalty appeal as another ball bounced in behind the Diamonds back four where Jason Lee challenged Grantham again who went to ground but nothing was given.
On 7 Taylor Orosz had a great chance for a Diamonds equaliser as the ball was fed into him in space on the right side of the box after a period of pressure but his effort was blocked by the Basford keeper Saul Deeney.
Basford responded with two close efforts themselves as first after a corner the ball was fired in through the 6 yard box with no-one able to get a touch, and then Courey Grantham rose superbly to attack a deep cross on 56 only to see his header go wide.
Diamonds began to consistently push forward as the hour mark approached with Tom Lorraine getting a clear header on a deep free-kick only to see it blocked, Nic Evangelinos working space three times to fire in close efforts two of which went just over and a third was well saved by the Deeney.
Lewis Wilson then joined the fray for the excellent Taylor Orosz as the pressure mounted but Diamonds looked to have been running a little out of steam when the equaliser did finally come on 73. Nic Evangelinos hit a superb curling inviting corner for Tom Lorraine to crash home a header from 4 yards out in front of a delighted Peter De Banke terrace.
Basford responded again with another free-kick earned from a quick break fired in hard and low but well held by Matt Finlay.
Diamonds tried to build momentum for a winning goal but it never really materialised despite yet another well worked shooting chance for Nic Evangelinos that went just wide, and a Nabil Shariff effort just over after cutting inside the box onto a Sam Brown ball.
Basford managed the final minutes well though and the only scare was a deep free-kick into the area that Liam Dolman headed just wide.
A frustrating afternoon for Diamonds who would have felt two goals against a solid Basford side would have won them the game but defensive errors cost them and Basford’s pace in turning the diamonds back four won them two well finished goals.
Andy Peaks will probably feel 7 points from 3 games in a week is a decent return with this draw against the toughest of those three opponents but also that a full 9 was there for the taking with a slightly better defensive display.
Diamonds have a much needed midweek off before they return to FA Trophy action next weekend with the visit of Northern Premier League side Coalville to the Dog & Duck
Diamonds Man of the Match Chosen By AFC Rushden & Diamonds Community Section: Nabil Shariff
Match Report by Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
17. Matt Finlay
2. Kyal NcNulty
3. Sam Brown
4. Jason Lee
5. Liam Dolman
6. Brad Harris
7. Nabil Shariff
8. Nic Evangelinos
9. Taylor Orosz
10. Tom Lorraine
11. Jake Newman
12. Jack Ashton
13. Joe Haynes
14. Robbie Parsons (for Newman 82)
15. Joe Curtis
16. Lewis Wilson (for Orosz 66)
1. Saul Deeney
2. Robbie McNicholas
3. Jamie Walker
4. Riece Bertram
5. Lewis Carr
6. Deon Meikle
7. Ashley Grayson
8. Kyle Dickson
9. Courey Grantham
10. Callum Smith
11. Tyrelle Shannon-Lewis
12. Jack Wood (for Smith 64)
14. Billy Bennett
15. Fabian Smith
16. Jack Duffy (for Grantham 82)
17. Jake Wood
Goals: Shariff (34 Pen), Lorraine (73)
Goals: Grantham (32 & 44)
Yellow Card: Brown,
Yellow Cards: Grantham, Wood
Referee: Richie Watkins
Assistants: Thomas Kidd, Scott Tallis
For video highlights and post-match interviews click here.