Diamonds exited the Southern League Challenge Cup on Tuesday night after fighting back from 2-0 down at half-time only to lose a penalty shoot-out 3-1.
Both sides picked strong line-ups with Callum Westwood and Declan Rogers the only changes made by Andy Peaks and Kempston putting a small number of their usual starters on the bench in advance of their big FA Cup tie on Saturday.
It was a strangely below par first half performance from Diamonds that ultimately cost them the tie. Uncharacteristic defensive errors and hesitations in defence and midfield gifted free flowing Kempston a series of chances and the two goals they deservedly led by at half-time. Benjamin Acquaye finished coolly on 19 minutes after Jermaine Hall had pounced on a Diamonds error to get in behind the Diamonds defence, and Jermaine Hall prodded home through Ben Heath’s legs on 34 after a poor challenge on the edge of the box had allowed him clear.
Diamonds were late coming out at the start of the second half and made two immediate changes as Andy Peaks clearly looked to shake-up his side. Zack Reynolds and Ben Farrell came on and Reynolds in particular was instrumental in getting Diamonds onto the front-foot and back into the game. His run and cross on 58 minutes saw Declan Rogers flick a header towards goal that caught a defender and went through the home keepers hands to make it 2-1. Jack Bowen then found the equaliser on 67 striding into the left of the box and firing under the keeper from an angle.
Diamonds dominated the remainder of game with but were denied by a series of goal-line clearances and in one mad scramble saw at least 4 efforts slammed towards goal from close range blocked by heroic Kempston defending. That first half display had left too much to do to win the game but Diamonds had given themselves a chance in the tie which proceeded straight to a penalty shoot-out.
The shoot-out got off to the perfect start with Ben Heath making a great save from the first Kempston kick but it was all down hill from there. Ben Farrell and Liam Dolman saw their efforts saved and despite Nathan Hicks converting along with the Kempston keeper Conway it was Zack Reynolds final effort that blazed over the bar that condemned Diamonds.
Next up for Diamonds a long trip to Needham Market on Saturday where they will look to replicate that much improved second half performance.
Man of the Match: Zack Reynolds
Match Report by Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Martin Conway
2. Robbie Goodman
3. Alex Collard
4. Mason Spence
5. Alfie Powell
6. Kyal McNulty (C)
7. Nathan Tshikuna
8. Ben Sheppard
9. Jermaine Hall
10. Shane Bush
11. Ben Acquaye
12. Daniel Akubine (for Shepard 70)
14. Luke Henigan (for McNulty 87)
15. Josh Crawley (for Acquaye 76)
16. Ty Deacon
17. Harlem Sambu
13. Ben Heath
2. Callum Westwood
3. Sam Brown
4. Jack Westbrook
5. Liam Dolman
6. Blaize Punter
7. Ben Diamond
8. Declan Rogers
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Jack Bowen
11. Nathan Hicks
12. John Dean (for Lorraine 80)
14. Ty Ward
15. Joe Curtis
16. Zack Reynolds (for Westwood 45)
17. Ben Farrell (for Punter 45)
Goals: Acquaye (18), Hall (34)
Miss (saved by Heath) 0-0
Kempston win 3-1
Goals: OG Collard (58), Bowen (67)
Farrell – Miss (saved) – 0-0 (from 1)
Hicks – Score 1-1 (from 2)
Dolman – Miss (saved) 2-1 (from 3)
Reynolds – Miss (over bar) 3-1 (from 4)
Referee: M Stevens
Assistants: J Wynne, M Bright
***Full report and match facts to follow***
Post Match Interviews with Man of the Match Zack Reynolds and Manager Andy Peaks can be found here Kempston Interviews