An outstanding performance by the 10-men of AFC Rushden & Diamonds saw them draw 2-2 with Oadby Town at the Dog & Duck on Saturday afternoon after Alex Deakin had been sent off early in the game. Deakin appeared to have been pulled back before he committed the foul that resulted in the red card, and the penalty was doubly controversial as the challenge had started outside of the area. The resultant spot kick gave the visitors the lead, before Alfie Taylor levelled things at half-time. A controversially awarded free-kick saw the Poachers go ahead again after a mistake by Quincy Shorunmu, but a 40-yard goal of the season contender from Aaron King gave the Diamonds the point they richly deserved.
A magnificent crowd of 827 saw the game – the largest home crowd in AFC Diamonds history.
Diamonds manager Mark Starmer had to contend with the loss of both Sam Brown and Arron Parkinson, but he was able to welcome Quincy Shorunmu back in goal behind a back four of Gillingwater, Hope, Deakin and Merrill. Matt Gearing was restored to a role on the left, and Séan McBride returned to the side after his three-game ban, meaning Brad Harris was the unlucky player to have to take a place on the bench.
After a quiet start, the direction of the contest was dictated by a refereeing decision after 12 minutes. A long ball forwards saw Alex Deakin turn towards goal with Michael Reeve trying to get past him, and although it appeared Reeve had pulled at Deakin to slow him, allowing him to get past the Diamonds defender, who was forced to return the compliment, with a challenge that started outside the area before continuing into the box. Referee Shaun Wills had been on duty at the Dog & Duck on Tuesday evening, when he had failed to see the challenge on Sam Brown that left him with a hospital visit, but here he felt he saw only Deakin commit a foul, and that this started inside the area, despite being well behind the action, and with no decisive input from his linesman he decided to award a penalty and show a distraut Deakin a red card. Jon Stevenson duly converted the penalty.
The prospect of playing the next 78 minutes with only 10 men didn’t cause the Diamonds to panic, with the versatile Gillingwater moving to Centre-back, and Jack Wisniewski dropping to right-back, with Alfie Taylor moving to a right midfield role, leaving Jake Newman on his own up-front.
The lone role really seemed to suit Newman, who worked hard to hold the ball for either Taylor or King to get up in support. After 19 minutes he did well to get to the by-line on the left to get in a cross for Alfie Taylor whose effort was blocked and Jack Wisniewski could not force home the rebound. Aaron King then had a shot saved as the Diamonds put pressure on the visitors.
The Diamonds pressure forced a deserved equaliser after 26 minutes, when Newman received a throw-in on the left, found space down the left channel and crossed for Alfie Taylor to fire into the roof of the net.
The half continued in a similar pattern, with the Diamonds looking the most likely to get the next goal, and it nearly came after 38 minutes when Matt Gearing held off two challenges on a forward run and squared the ball for Alfie Taylor to hit, but with the ball coming to him at knee height Taylor tried to chip the advancing keeper, only to see his effort hit the top of the bar and away to safety.
Half-Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 Oadby Town 1
The Poachers were forced into a change early in the second half with Stefan Oakes being replaced by Che Adams. Referee Wills made his second game-changing decision of the game after 54 minutes when he penalised Aaron King for a challenge that appeared to involve little contact just outside the corner of the area. Jon Stevenson took the kick, and it appeared to present a routine catch for Quincy Shorunmu, but somehow he allowed the ball to slip from his hands and into the net.
Referee Wills added the name of Aaron King into his notebook for the second game running, and again the Diamonds midfielder might have felt that far worse tackles had gone unpunished, especially as he appeared to lift his foot only to control the ball, and he was followed into the book by Jake Newman who was obviously also upset by earlier decisions.
For many teams, the major blow of going behind for a second time with only 10 men might have seen their heads drop, but the determined Diamonds seemed to redouble their efforts to get something from the game, despite the key decisions going against them. After 62 minutes they were back on terms in most memorable fashion. Aaron King received a lay-off from Jake Newman 40 yards from goal, and to the surprise of many he decided to shoot, but his powerful effort gave Hinds no chance, as it soared into the net for one of the Diamonds goals of the season, meaning referee Wills was able to write King’s name in his notebook for the right reasons this time.
Other teams might have settled for a point at this stage, but the Diamonds pushed on, creating a great chance for Jake Newman who broke clear only to see his effort well blocked by Hinds, with King putting the rebound wide. Jack Wisniewski saw an attempted chip go just over the bar, and then substitute Lance Allen almost scored within a minute of joining the action as he broke clear, but a great challenge from defender Dodd robbed the ball off his toe just before he could shoot.
The final whistle signalled celebrations from the visitors as their point reinforces their status as promotion favourites, but the Diamonds have the most to be proud of in their performance, with the whole team putting in an exemplary performance under such difficult circumstances.
The Diamonds now have to focus on their next game on Easter Monday, when they make the trip “next door” to Victoria Mill to face Wellingborough Whitworth.
Diamonds Man of the Match sponsored by EA Sports: Séan McBride
The current UCL League Table can be found on the AFC Diamonds website here, and the updated Match Stats, Player Stats, Form Guide and Attendance figures are found in the summary stats area here. Updated player profiles are also available.
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
17. Quincy Shorunmu
2. Jake Gillingwater
3. Joe Merrill
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. Deven Ellwood
13. Ashley Foulger
14. Ben Morgan (for Taylor 90+3)
15. Brad Harris (for McBride 81)
16. Lance Allen (for Newman 85)
1. Denham Hinds
2. Mason Hirst
3. Callum Earls
4. Joe Cobb
5. Jim Dodd (Capt)
6. Stefan Oakes
7. Jake Duffy
8. Elliott Wright
9. Michael Reeve
10. Jon Stevenson
11. Ollie Brown-Hill.
12. Che Adams (for Oakes 49)
14. Ross Trevor
15. Rob Morgan
16. Luke Dalby
17. Wayne Dean
Goal: Taylor (26), King (62)
Goal: Stevenson (12, 54)
Yellow Cards : King, Newman
Red Card: Deakin (12)
Referee: Shaun Wills
Assistants: Matthew Whitwell, Mark Ward
See here for video highlights and post-match interviews.
Images courtesy of Mal Swinden ©2013 Malcolm Swinden Photography
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