AFC Rushden & Diamonds drew 2-2 away to Cockfosters in the FA Cup with Budweiser on Saturday afternoon. The hosts took the lead twice, but goals from Alfie Taylor and Russ Dunkley earned the Diamonds a replay at the Dog & Duck on Tuesday evening. Once again the Diamonds had to survive a late scare to remain in the competition.
Diamonds manager Mark Starmer kept faith with the side that had won in FA Vase in midweek, with Joe Merrill not starting his suspension until 14 days after his red card offence.
After heavy overnight rain and a wet morning the weather was fine as the game kicked off. The hosts created an early chance following a good move on the left involving Kane and Ali, but the Diamonds went down the other end with Fazel Koriya linking with Nat Liburd on the right, with Liburd’s cross met by a glancing header from Alfie Taylor that slid across goal. Koriya and Liburd had started brightly, and Koriya made a good run ended by a right-foot shot flying wide.
With the hosts having the better of the first 10 minutes they forced Tom Cross into a smart save from a Marks shot. Cross then made a quick clearance which was skilfully controlled by Aaron King who then made a run into the penalty area, but he was muscled off the ball at the last minute. King and Liburd then combined to set up Koriya for another shot that was well saved by Cennolli. Dunkley and Taylor also worked an opening in the left channel by Taylor saw his shot caught by the hosts’ keeper. This duo linked up again a few minutes later, but were only rewarded with a corner.
After 27 minutes one of the best Diamonds moves of the game involved a Cross clearance that was flicked forwards by both Dunkley and Taylor to Liburd, whose effort was cleared as far as Joe Merrill whose left foot cross just eluded the head of Fazel Koriya.
Brad Harris was having another solid game, and he got back to clear a dangerous cross from Cook just ahead of Blackburne. A Liburd cross caused a mix-up between Cennolli and one of his defenders, but the ball ran to safety. The Diamonds were having the lion’s share of possession, but it seemed that they were reluctant to play the sweeping passing moves or runs down the wing seen in recent games as they tried to compensate for the bumps on the pitch.
By this stage of the game the Diamonds were on top, but Jamal Clarke was penalized for a foul just inside the Diamonds half, when it looked like Protain had been backing in to him. The resultant free kick was well struck, but the Diamonds defence must have been wondering how Emond Protain was able to head the ball into the path of Stuart Blackburne who had found space to force the ball home after 41 minutes.
The goal seemed to refocus the Diamonds, and they were level inside two minutes, as Alfie Taylor lashed a shot into the left hand side of goal after Russ Dunkley had headed a King pass on to Nat Liburd who in turn had played the ball into Taylor’s path.
The Diamonds quickly forced two more corners but had to be content with the scores being level at half-time.
Half-Time: Cockfosters 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
As the Diamonds fans reflected on the first half they must have been wondering whether their side would go on and win the game in the second period, as they had done in their recent cup replays, or would they have to be content with coming back from a goal behind once more.
A Dunkley cross resulted in an effort from Nat Liburd having a shot cleared off the line and over the bar by veteran Fergus Moore, but otherwise the Diamonds were struggling to get going in the second half, and more poor defending after 64 minutes saw the hosts retake the lead. Another excellent cross from Adem Ali on the left found Stuart Blackburne in far too much space and his looping header easily beat Tom Cross.
This time there was no rapid reply from the Diamonds – and in fact the hosts might have increased their lead with substitute Bradley Robinson and Emond Protain both creating chances for themselves. Stuart Blackburne had been replaced by Robinson due to a leg problem – possibly cramp.
However, after 71 minutes the Diamonds got back on level terms for a second time, reaping an immediate reward for getting their wide players to cross from near the by-line. Liburd and Koriya combined on the right, with Koriya’s cross being headed home at the near post by Russ Dunkley.
With the match all-square again the game followed a similar pattern to the Diamonds first game in the competition at London Colney, with the Diamonds looking the more nervous as the final whistle approached, and they were perhaps fortunate that another cross from Adem Ali once again found Emond Protain unmarked in the area, but he headed what looked a straight-forward chance wide of goal, meaning the two sides must replay the game on Tuesday evening.
Diamonds Man of the Match: Brad Harris
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Mario Cennolli
2. Damion Cruickshank
3. Phil Kane
4. Fergus Moore
5. Adam Pepera
6. Paul Marks (Capt)
7. Adem Ali
8. Mark Woolley
9. Emond Protain
10. Stuart Blackburne
11. Jack Cook
12. Liam O’Keefe (for Marks 90+1)
14. Peter Okechukwu
15. Bradley Robinson (for Blackburne 69)
16. Elias Moses
17. Fabio Valenti (for Woolley 74)
GK. Darren Bonfield
GK. Adam McWeeney
17. Tom Cross
2. Joe Merrill
3. Sam Brown
4. Brad Harris
5. Alex Deakin
6. Jamal Clarke
7. Nat Liburd
8. Aaron King
9. Russ Dunkley (Capt)
10. Alfie Taylor
11. Fazel Koriya
12. Séan McBride
13. Quincy Shorunmu
14. Jake Gillingwater
15. Lance Allen
16. Elliot Dent (for Liburd 83)
Goals: Blackburne(41, 64)
Goals: Taylor (42), Dunkley (71)
Yellow Cards: Moore
Yellow Cards: Clarke
Referee: Ian Corner
Assistants: Tommy George, Gary Herbert
See here for video highlights of this game.