AFC Rushden & Diamonds / MAA U18 6 Birmingham City Junior XI 2

AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18 retained the Dale Roberts Memorial Cup by comfortably defeating a Birmingham City Junior XI made up of Junior Blues U16 players and U19 Development players at The Dog and Duck 6-2.

The newly formed Diamonds / MAA U18 side took a two goal lead into the break courtesy of goals from Sam Leeson and Man of the Match Matt Pinder. The Diamonds youngsters made sure of lifting the cup with four further goals in the second period. A double from Pinder sealed his hattrick before substitute Luke Garner got a brace, whilst City scored two from set pieces as a consolation.

Manager Darren Purse said after his sides 8-3 victory over Moulton College, that today’s game was a match that he wanted to win, and he sent out possibly his strongest side to face the Birmingham City Junior XI which was made up of Junior Blues U16 players and U19 Development players.

The match opened up as a cagey affair with Diamond’s looking to take control of the match and implementing a quick pressing game and short passes from back to front.

When Birmingham moved the ball forward, the young Diamond’s defence stood strong and showed their ability with the football as they escaped in tight areas to get out of trouble.

Diamonds took the lead in the 17th minute. A strong, direct run by Pinder caused problems for the Blues defence. Then Pinder tried to find Hewett but the ball was deflected kindly into the other winger, Leeson’s path who smashed it in from inside the penalty box.

Blues didn’t really threaten Redding’s goal as they were just restricted to long range efforts which sailed wide or Redding comfortably dealt with any crosses that did come in.

Darren Purse’s five man midfield was working well as his side was in control of the game and passes between the three central midfielders; Kirk, Ivett and Ackroyd were a constant source of chances for Pinder and the wingers.

Birmingham did have a good chance, ten minutes before the break. A swift counter attack briefly left the home side two against two as City broke and Newman was fouled on the edge of the box. However the wall stood strong to block Newman’s free-kick. 

It wasn’t undeserved when the MAA boys went two up before half time. 44 minutes played and Ackroyd was brought down for a penalty. The referee had played a good advantage after Ivett was fouled, but the referee allowed Diamonds to continue as Ackroyd had the ball and he strode into the penalty area, then was clattered both sides by two Birmingham defenders. Pinder cooly slotted home as he sent the goalkeeper the wrong way.

Half Time. AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18 / MAA 2-0 Birmingham City Junior XI

The second half continued in the same fashion as the first. Diamonds dominating play whilst restricting City to half chances, if any.

It didn’t take long for Diamonds to get their third. Just six minutes into the second half, Pinder made it three. A superb twenty yard through ball by Ackroyd found Pinder who fired past the ‘keeper into the bottom corner for his second of the game.

Then in the 57th minute, Diamonds scored an almost identical goal to the third. Once again Ackroyd turned provider for Pinder. The young forward used his pace to get past the last defender and despite being forced wide, he picked out the top corner to complete an impressive hat-trick.

One of Birmingham’s best chances of the second half came in the 66th minute. Newman troubled a solid Diamonds defence and it was his shot from no more than eight yards out that Redding had to get down quickly to save.

Diamonds did have chances to push further infront. First of all, Garner couldn’t quite lob the goalkeeper as Weeks had put him clean through. Then following a great solo run from Desborough, his shot didn’t trouble Abdi in the City goal.

Birmingham, however, did pull a goal back in the 80th minute. City won a free-kick 30 yards from goal. Substitute Skeldon took it and it deflected off of another sub Alcock who was beside the wall and Redding couldn’t get there, making it 4-1.

Then the youths instantly replied. Following good work on the left by Weeks, he carried Diamonds up the pitch and his cross allowed Pinder’s replacement Garner to tap in after 82 minutes.

But the frantic final ten minutes wasn’t done there. Diamonds then conceded from another set piece. Newman’s mazy run earnt his side a free-kick right on the edge of the box as Knapp brought him down. Then Newman scored direct from the free-kick as the Diamonds wall broke and it offered a glimmer of hope for the away side with three minutes remaining making it 5-2.

Finally, Diamonds confirmed victory by scoring a sixth in the 89th minute. Barnes’ strong run from the halfway line got his team a corner. From the resulting set piece City failed to clear and Barnes tapped in with a little help from the defender on the line.

Full Time. AFC Rushden & Diamonds / MAA 6-2 Birmingham City Junior XI.

Team: Redding, Peaks, Knapp, Kearney, Roache, Leeson, Kirk (c), Hewett, Ivett, Ackroyd, Pinder.

Subs: Barnes, Weeks (Leeson 52’), Desborough (Ivett 52’), Uddin (Roache 52’), Garner (Pinder 61’).

Manager Darren Purse was unhappy in the manner his side conceded the two goals. He said: “Birmingham weren’t a bad side so I’m really happy that we won the game. Yeah we’ve got a few goals, but I’m disappointed we’ve conceded two and the way we’ve conceded them. Yet another deflection for their first goal. That’s happened to us three or four times this year, it’s wrong-footed Rhys, so yeah a little disappointed but sometimes you have to ride that luck. Then for the second, the wall should never break so I’m also disappointed with that. It’s little habits like that will hurt us when we’re at 2-1 or drawing a game 2-2 and you need to secure it at the back, so still plenty to work on and they’re still learning a lot.” He continued: “We defended the corners really well, I’m just disappointed to concede especially from the second one when it’s gone straight through the wall. I explained to the lads that being hit only hurts for a few seconds but conceding a goal should hurt you a lot more than what that does.”

But the MAA boss was really pleased with how his side performed overall. “I told the boys when we’re out of possession we need to match the opposition for their work rate and that’s what we did today. We’ve done it for the last seven weeks since we got together. The work rate, the effort and the application they put in has been brilliant. They’ve set a bar now of their ability and they need to achieve it every week and if not, then there needs to be reasons why. You can forgive people for not keeping the ball properly because everyone has an off day but you can never stop people running around and their work effort was spot on.”

He finished by praising his sides attacking play: “Our three in midfield, were impressive today. I’ve got four or five midfielders I can put in when needed, they’ve all got good quality. Our wingers as well, I thought Ashley Hewett had a good game, went at his marker all game. All of the lads had a good game and that’s why we’ve ended up getting the result we did.” Substitute Luke Garner replaced man of the match Matt Pinder and he grabbed himself a brace. Purse said: “Luke is a quick, strong, physical lad and when the game got stretched with half an hour to go, we put him on and he runs in behind and he finished his goals well as well.

Looking ahead for Diamond’s next game, when they travel to face Tresham College in The English Colleges Premier Cup, Darren said: “We played their seconds and won 6-1 in the league but this is their first team so it’ll be another massive test for us. I think they’ll be similar to Birmingham today, if not better, so it’ll be interesting to see what the lads have learnt from today’s game.” Then when asked his ambitions for the competition, he replied: “To win it. There’s no point going into a cup competition and not wanting to win it. But it’s not all about winning, it is about preparing the lads for their football careers and outside of football, working on their attitudes and work ethic and that’s what it’s all about and if you can win a few things along the way, that always helps.

Report by Hayden Pott.


Match Gallery courtesy of Malcolm Swinden Photography (click on the link to access the Diamonds Photo Gallery for more images from this game and ecommerce options). Copyright Mal Swinden ©2014

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