AFC Rushden & Diamonds won an exciting penalty shoot-out to beat UCL side Desborough Town in the quarter-finals of the NFA Hillier Cup on Tuesday night. The game had finished 2-2 after 90 minutes and Diamonds ran out 6-5 winners on penalties.
Manager Andy Peaks picked a strong side utilising the same 16 who beat Barton Rovers on Saturday afternoon. They got off to a dominant start and took the lead on 17 minutes as Tom Liversedge swept home Claudio Hoban’s squared pass. Desborough equalised on 30 a little against the run of play as full-back Bradshaw swept the ball past Matt Finlay after a great run and one two on the edge of the area.
The goal inspired Desborough to a much improved performance from then on and the game became a much closer affair. Desborough arguably had the better chances in the early part of the second half but Diamonds regained momentum and scored what seemed to be the vital second on 75 through Tommy Berwick firing home on the turn just 2 minutes after coming on as a second half substitute. Just as Diamonds seemed to have seen out the game Dodci Agbenu fired in a speculative effort from 25 yards in the 91st minute that found it’s way in off the left hand post to bring Desborough level.
With no extra-time available the game went straight to penalties. Liam Dolman missed Diamonds first kick and after an excellent series of spot kicks Dodci Agbenu had chance to clinch the tie for Desborough but fired well over. Two more successful kicks from Sam Brown and Dan Quigley put pressure on Mark Redding and he fired Desborough’s 7th kick against the bar and out. Diamonds went through 6-5 on penalties after converting 6 of their 7 spot kicks.
Manager Andy Peaks selected a strong side for this quarter-final tie with the 4 changes he made promoting players from the bench on Saturday to the starting line-up tonight. Charlie Butt, Brad Harris, Tom Liversedge and Scott Joseph coming in for Ollie Wilkinson, Richard Bunting, Tom Lorraine and Tommy Berwick who all joined Alex Vitue on the bench.
In a slightly lower key atmosphere to last week’s 1000 plus FA Cup replay crowd Diamonds did start brightly and Tom Liversedge had the first chance, turning and firing wide from an angle in the second minute after great interplay between Scott Joseph and Claudio Hoban.
Diamonds were getting joy with balls in behind the Desborough back four and Andy Hall fed Scott Joseph on 10 who squared to Tom Liversedge only for the big striker to slip as he had a clear view of goal scuffing his shot from 12 yards wide.
Desborough were working hard in midfield and trying to get early balls over the top of the Diamonds defence too and earned a corner on 15 from one long ball forward that was poorly cleared. The resultant corner was flicked on at the near post and flashed across goal but went just wide.
But Diamonds skill and patience on the ball finally told on 18 as Claudio Hoban was played into space on the edge of the box, he drew the defence and keeper towards him and squared to Tom Liversedge for a the big striker to sweep home for his first for the club.
Scott Joseph was enjoying the space he was finding in and around the Desborough area and he fired a curled effort just over from 20 yards on 21, and Claudio Hoban was terrorising the left hand side of the Desborough defence clipping the outside of the post with a great effort after a mazy run.
After Scott Joseph had an audacious back heel from a corner fall just wide Desborough worked up some momentum and grabbed an equalizer on 30 minutes. Full-back Aidan Bradshaw surged from the half-way line played a one two on the edge of the area and as he fell he managed to scoop the ball towards goal the ball getting through Matt Finlay and into the bottom corner.
Desborough were definitely energised by the goal that had come a little against the run of play and became more of a threat in game. Luke Cummins came close on 38 with after a long ball was allowed to bounce and he got a shot off which he just screwed wide.
Diamonds were forced to up their game in the closing stages of the half and they did regain some momentum mainly through the dangerous Claudio Hoban. He worked himself two good shooting chances from just outside the box on 40 and 42 firing just wide from the edge of the box on both occasions at the end of good runs.
Half-time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 – Desborough Town 1
Desborough continued the higher intensity of their play in the early stages of the second half pressing the home side at every opportunity. Play become disjointed and error strewn though as neither side built up any momentum. Charlie Butt did have one great run into the area surging past his man and firing his cross through the 6 yard box to be picked up by Scott Joseph beyond the far post but he could only fire over from 12 yards.
Jake Bettles then had two great chances for a Desborough side growing in confidence. First he worked his way into the left hand side of the box and fired a rising effort that Matt Finlay impressively held, and then he really should have hit the target from 12 yards when found in space on the right side of the box with an excellent cutback but he scuffed his effort wide.
Desborough were certainly pushing more men forward as they sensed a chance for an upset win and had a header from a corner cleared off the line on 62, and Luke Cummins fired a fierce effort from 15 yards straight at Matt Finlay on 65.
They came even closer on 72 as Cummins rounded Matt Finlay after he got to a long through ball first but he scuffed his shot towards the empty net allowing Finlay to recover and gather.
Tommy Berwick became Diamonds first substitution 73 and he made an immediate impact as he grabbed the vital 2nd for Diamonds just 2 minutes later. Charlie Butt’s long throw from the right was flicked on to Berwick on the far post for him to swivel and fire low and hard past Jones in the Desborough goal.
Desborough kept trying to push forward and Luke Bettles remained their biggest danger cutting inside again on 78 but firing low past the left hand post.
Diamonds appeared to be seeing the game out comfortably with Andy Hall coming close with a side footed lob that keeper Jones just held, but there was a final sting in the tail from the visitors. Dodci Agbenu picked up the ball 25 yards from goal and fired in a speculative effort that found its way into the net off the left hand post.
Full-Time Score: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2 Desborough town 2
With no extra-time allowed in the competition the game moved straight to penalties taken in front of the Peter De Banke Terrace.
Liam Dolman stepped up for Diamonds first penalty which produced the only save of the shoot-out, low to the right by Desborough keeper Chris Jones. Ben Sunderland then scored emphatically to give Desborough the advantage and next 6 penalties were also impressively converted by Tommy Berwick, Claudio Hoban and Tom Lorraine for Diamonds, and Luke Cummins, Aidan Bradshaw, Aaron Davies for Desborough.
Andy Hall then had to convert for Diamonds which he duly did leaving Dodci Agbenu with the chance to put his side into the semi-finals. He struck deliberately and firmly but over the angle of bar and post to the right of Matt Finlay to keep Diamonds in the contest.
Sam Brown then stepped and converted, followed by Marvin Hill for Desborough as the pressure mounted. Dan Quigley came next and struck firmly into the roof of the net to give Diamonds a 6-5 lead. Mark Redding also then struck firmly but saw the ball crash back off the bar and away to seal the result.
Diamonds seemed to have to win this game 3 times having dominated the opening stages only to be pegged back, took a late lead only to be pegged back again, and then winning a penalty shoot-out when they faced a cup exit.
It was their first win in three attempts in the NFA Hiller Cup and they now progress to the semi-finals with the other quarter-finals being played next week.
Man of the Match: Sam Brown (chosen by fans via an in-game voting app for the first time)
Match Report by Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
17. Matt Finlay
2. Charlie Butt
3. Sam Brown
4. Delroy Gordon
5. Liam Dolman
6. Brad Harris
7. Andy Hall
8. Dan Quigley
9. Tom Liversedge
10. Scott Joseph
11. Claudio Hoban
13. Alex Vitue
14. Richard Bunting
15. Ollie Wilkinson
16. Tom Lorraine (for Liversedge 84)
20. Tommy Berwick (for Joseph 73)
1. Chris Jones
2. Aidan Bradshaw
3. Daniel Wells
4. Ben Sunderland
5. Leo Adams
6. Aaaron Davies
7. Mark Redding
8. Will Arnold
9. Luke Cummins
10. Dodci Agbenu
11. Jake Bettles
12. Luke Reay
14. Michael Boyle-Chong (for Bettles 79)
15. Marvin Hill (for Arnold 79)
Goals: Liversedge (18), Berwick (75)
Dolman (miss), Berwick, Hoban, Lorraine, Hall, Brown, Quigley
Goals: Bradshaw (30), Agbenu (90+1)
Sunderland, Cummins, Bradshaw, Davies, Agbenu (miss), Hill, Redding (miss)
Referee: Ellis Clark
Assistants: Stephen Glazewski, Stephen Biggs
Updated player profiles with appearance and goalscoring details are now available.
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