A dramatic game saw AFC Rushden & Diamonds draw 2-2 with Eynesbury Rovers at the Dog & Duck on Tuesday evening. James Freshwater had given the visitors a half-time lead with a well-taken free-kick, and time seemed to be running out for the Diamonds after they had seen Alfie Taylor miss a second-half penalty. With less than 10 minutes left Taylor made amends by putting in a superb cross which substitute Lance Allen fired home. Then as the game entered added time the Diamonds took the lead with Sam Brown scoring his first goal for the club, but in the fifth minute of added time the referee awarded the visitors a penalty which Freshwater converted.
The point means the Diamonds still have their promotion fate in their own hands, needing seven points from their remaining three games to guarantee a promotion slot.
Diamonds manager Mark Starmer was able to name a more familiar back four for this game of Gillingwater, Hope, Deakin and Brown. Aaron King partnered Séan McBride in central midfield, with Jack Wisniewski returning to a wide midfield role.
With the game being so important, the Diamonds looked rather nervy in the first period, playing hurried balls forward which were often headed away by the impressive Reynolds, or they bounced on the hard pitch to keeper Wale. They did however create a couple of early chances, with Jake Newman dragging a shot across goal after an Alfie Taylor shot had been blocked by Rovers’ captain Woodend.
After 10 minutes the visitors took the lead. They were awarded a free-kick towards the left corner of the area following a run from Jack Weeden that appeared to avoid any serious challenges, and which was hotly disputed by the Diamonds. A three man defensive wall appeared to be encouraging James Freshwater to curl the ball into the top right hand corner of the goal – and he duly obliged.
The remainder of the first half was a scrappy affair, with both sides struggling to get a bouncing ball under control, although Jake Newman had two chances created by Gillingwater, one he headed into the keeper’s arms, and one he could not quite divert into goal from the right corner of the six yard box. At the other end the visitors found space for free headers with Cross making a save and seeing two others miss the target.
Half-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0 Eynesbury Rovers 1
After looking nervy in the first period the Diamonds looked far more threatening in the second period, with both full-backs getting forwards more. Sam Brown was able to cause problems with his long throws, one of which was diverted to Jack Wisniewski whose effort went over the bar.
With an hour on the clock Alfie Taylor picked up the ball towards the left byline, and as he headed towards goal he appeared to be tripped, and Mr Connolly awarded a spot kick. After some delay Taylor was able to take the kick, but his effort was well wide of the left post.
Taylor went close to making amends two minutes later, but his effort was block by bespectacled keeper Wale, who also tipped over a Gearing header.
At the other end both Bassett and Freshwater had a chance to complete a dangerous break with Bassett’s effort rebounding off Tom Cross and Freshwater putting the rebound wide. The visitors otherwise seemed content to try to defend their lead and to use up as much time as possible.
With Lance Allen and Ben Morgan introduced to the action, and 83 minutes on the clock, manager Mark Starmer gave Chris Hope the nod to move forwards and join the attack, but before he had got up field Alfie Taylor had received a pass from Aaron King on the right, as the Diamonds moved the ball slickly around the pitch, and his cross found Lance Allen who had engineered the space so he could fire home the equaliser.
The impressive crowd of 759 were then wondering whether the Diamonds would push for a winner, or try to defend a scoreline which would keep their promotion fate in their own hands. With Alfie Taylor leaving the action in favour of Brad Harris there was certainly a sign they might be trying to tighten things up, but as the game entered added time Sam Brown moved forwards down the left. His initial pass was cut out, but he picked up the loose ball, ran on and fired a powerful shot from the left side of the penalty area that arrowed into the roof of the goal and down into the net. The Diamonds celebrations were obviously inspired by having gone ahead after being a goal down, but there was still time for Rovers to push men forwards and get the ball into the area. Ben Morgan was tight on Lee Bassett, but the visiting player appeared to look for a touch from Morgan which wouldn’t be expected to floor a six-foot striker, but he went down and referee Connolly pointed to the spot. James Freshwater coolly netted the equaliser in what was the last action of the game.
The Diamonds now have to prepare for their trip to The Hollow to face Potton United on Saturday.
Sponsors Man of the Match chosen by acclaimdriving.com: Aaron King
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
17. Tom Cross
2. Jake Gillingwater
3. Sam Brown
4. Séan McBride
5. Chris Hope (capt)
6. Alex Deakin
7. Jack Wisniewski
8. Aaron King
9. Alfie Taylor
10. Jake Newman
11. Matt Gearing
12. Brad Harris (for Taylor 87)
13. Quincy Shorunmu
14. Lance Allen (for Newman 77)
15. Ben Morgan (for Gearing 79)
16. Deven Ellwood
1. Andy Wale
2. Nathan Field
3. James Ducket
4. Paul Reynolds
5 Darren Woodend (capt)
6. Rob Ducket
7. Ben Colmer
8. Charlie Binns
9. Lee Bassett
10. James Freshwater
11. Jack Weeden
12. Dion Sembie-Ferris (for R Ducket 84)
14. Ryan Inskip
15. Ross West
16. Liam Irons
17. Tom Coles
Goals: Allen (83), Brown (90+2)
Goals: Freshwater (12, 90+5p)
Yellow Cards: King, Wisniewski
Yellow Card: Freshwater
Referee: Mark Connolly
Assistants: Carl Henry, Martin Reed
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Images courtesy of Mal Swinden ©2013 Malcolm Swinden Photography
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