AFC Rushden & Diamonds / MAA U18 4 Rushden & Higham U18 0

AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18 / MAA recorded a comfortable 4-0 victory over local rivals Rushden & Higham United, who finished with nine men, to progress into the semi-finals of the David Joyce Cup, in their first year since the amalgamation. 

It was a feisty affair from the off, with both sets of players knowing what was at stake – a place in the semi-final of the county cup.

The scholars could have been reduced to ten men as early as the fifth minute. Striker Luke Garner put in a terrible tackle on the defender, yet got away without even a yellow card.

The rest of the first half was quiet with neither time giving much away but the game carried on in a physical style.  

Half Time. AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18 / MAA 0-0 Rushden & Higham United.

The second half started brightly with the scholars on top and it took just three minutes after half time to break the deadlock in fortunate circumstances. Matt Pinder’s cross-cum-shot was fumbled into the Rushden & Higham goa by the goalkeeper, to put the scholars deservedly 1-0 up.

Then with the game opening up, Diamonds began to have more chances. The following few minutes is where the game was won for Purse’s lads. Following a foul which the defender got booked for, Diamonds scored once again. 61 minutes in, Chris Knapp got his second goal in as many matches. Captain Ryan Kirk delivered a free-kick from out wide, and the centre-back found himself unmarked and his powerful free header from 10 yards out doubled the MAA boys’ lead.

Just a minute later, the Lankies’ player who had just been shown a yellow card was given his second yellow. Diamond had been awarded another free-kick following a foul on Joe Ackroyd, who the away side tried to wind up all game. As Ackroyd was getting up, the player grabbed hold of Ackroyd’s private parts, which the referee saw and gave him his marching orders. 

With Rushden & Higham down to 10 men, the gaps started opening up for the scholars’’ to take advantage of. 64 minutes in, Harrison Desborough ran down the line on the break, and his shot was blocked and it fell kindly to Sam Leeson 30 yards out. With one touch, he spotted the goalkeeper was off his line and chipped it over him into the bottom corner to make it 3-0.

But the game wasn’t dead there. Rushden & Higham were reduced to nine men in the 70th minute. The MAA lads had seen a corner cleared away and as Matt Pinder controlled the ball, he was taken down by a strong, reckless two-footed tackle which was over the top of ball.

With the game all but over, Harrison Desborough struck the final blow in the 78th minute. With the Rushden & Higham players all at sea, substitute ran it from his own half, beat the last defender for pace and slotted under the goalkeeper to put the scholars 4-0 ahead and into the semi-finals.

Full Time. AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18s / MAA 4-0 Rushden & Higham United.

Team: Redding, Grundy, Knapp, Roache, Uddin, Kirk (c), Ackroyd, Leeson, Hewett, Pinder, Garner.

Subs: Peaks, Desborough, Weeks, Wedderburn. 

After the game, a delighted Darren Purse spoke to me. “It was a physical game, but we were the better side than them. The lads stayed composed and didn’t get involved with the scraps, despite getting kicked about and let the football do the talking.”

Looking ahead to the semi-final, Darren said he will take a look at the potential opponents for the final, if, his side can beat Whitworths. “I’ll probably go to the Rothwell Corinthians v Northampton game, but there’s no point getting carried away and looking to the final yet. We have a semi-final against Whitworths first that we need to win. We have an excellent opportunity to get the final of the county cup.”

The Diamonds youngsters will now be hosted by Wellingborough Whitworth in the semi-final on Thursday 12th March – see here for the full draw details, and here for the U18 fixture list.


Report by Hayden Pott.