AFC Rushden & Diamonds fell at the first hurdle in this season’s Emirates FA Cup when they lost by a single goal at Enfield Town on Saturday afternoon.
After largely dominating possession against a home side content to soak up pressure and hit on the break they suffered the sucker punch with second half exciting sub Mahammadu Faal firing in after a mazy run on 72 minutes. Nathan Hicks, Ben Farrell and Nat Gosnal-Tyler had good shooting chances in the first-half, and Ryan Dove, Ben Acquaye and Sam Brown came close in the second with the home keeper forced into two point-blank saves and a brilliant tip-over but it wasn’t to be for Diamonds.
Manager Andy Peaks made three changes to his starting line-up from the 1-1 draw at Redditch with Alex Collard replacing suspended Jack Ashton, Tom Lorraine up from the bench to replace Massiah McDonald and Nathan Hicks also up from the bench to replace Joe Curtis. The returning Mat Slinn joined Curtis on the bench with Sam Johnson, Jack Bowen, and Niall Cooper also joined by Patrick Casey and Jesse Akubuine.
After an even start Diamonds began to turn good possession into openings with Ben Acqauye doing well on 8 minutes before crossing deep for Nathan Hicks to fire just wide. Acquaye then won a free-kick on the edge of the area which Liam Dolman laid off for Ben Farrell who saw his deflected effort fall into the keeper’s arms. A minute later Hicks had another good effort just wide after good work by Nat Gosnal-Tyler and 4 minutes after that it was Gosnal-Tyler with a side footed effort after a lay-off by Ryan Dove that was just blocked by the home defence.
The home side were largely content to sit back and soak up Diamonds possession and look for opportunities on the break which they got on 30 minutes. A defence splitting pass put Billy Bricknell away but Ben Acquaye tracked well and blocked the ball out for a corner.
After a Sam Brown long throw nodded on by Ryan Dove was cleared off the line and Tom Lorraine had an effort well over the bar Ben Heath drew the half to a close with a good low save from Ken Charles.
Half-time: Enfield 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0
Diamonds continued in the same vein of possession dominance in the second-half with Tom Lorraine nearly getting clear but able to hold the ball up for Ben Acquaye to test the home keeper.
Sam Brown was as dangerous as ever with his long throws coming close to on 53 minutes to setting up Tom Lorraine but it just went over the strikers head. The full-back then got on the end of a dangerous free-kick but headed just over.
The vital change in momentum came on 62 minutes with the introduction of Muhammadu Faal for the home side. He came close to a creating an immediate goal running deep and setting up Ryan Blackwell to fire over from the D but didn’t have to wait long for the real impact. Fed by Ryan Blackwell on 72 minutes he set off on a mazy run and finished from the edge of the box past Ben Heath’s outstretched fingers.
Diamonds continued to largely dominate possession and opportunities but couldn’t create that killer chance to earn a replay. Home keeper Nathan McDonald was forced into two point-blank saves from goalmouth scrambles and tipped over Ryan Dove’s header from a Sam Brown long-throw. Enfield had chances to kill the game on the break but Ben Heath saved from Billy Bricknell and Lewis Taaffe. One final scramble from a Nat Gosnal-Tyler cross was only half cleared before Ben Farrell fired over.
Full-time: Enfield 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0
A disappointing early FA Cup exit for Diamonds after yet another away draw pitted them against very tough opponents. Despite that Diamonds largely dominated possession against a home side content to soak up pressure on their own ground and look to hit on the break. Diamonds did more than enough to win the game but clear chances were limited. Diamonds had a number of good opportunities from which you would have expected them to score at least the once but the home keeper made some good saves and Enfield defended the box well. The brilliance of second half-sub Muhammadu Faal lifted the home side and a mazy run and finish won them game.
Next-up for Diamonds a return to league action at Hayden Road with the visit of old foes Royston Town.
Man of the Match: Ryan Dove
Match Report by Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Nathan McDonald
2. Sam Hatton
3. Joe Payne
4. Scott Thomas
5. Marc Weatherstone (C)
6. Jon Muleba
7. Sam Youngs
8. Ryan Blackman
9. Billy Bricknell
10. Ken Charles
11. Lewis Taaffe
12. Muhammadu Faal (for Charles 61)
13. Tyler Forde
14. Junior Mubayi
15. Sam Bantick (for Bricknell 84)
16. Nathan Livings
17. Charles Brown
18. Callum Ellesley
13. Ben Heath
2. Zack Reynolds
3. Sam Brown
4. Ben Acquaye
5. Liam Dolman (C)
6. Alex Collard
7. Nat Gosnal-Tyler
8. Ben Farrell
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Ryan Dove
11. Nathan Hicks
12. Patrick Casey
14. Joe Curtis
15. Jack Bowen (for Lorraine 79)
16. Sam Johnson (for Acquaye 79)
17. Niall Cooper
18. Mat Slinn
19. Jesse Akubuine (for Hicks 86)
Goals: Faal (72)
Yellow Card: Thomas
Referee: Farai Hallam
Assistants: James Keane, Alphie Ibrahim