On Saturday morning, AFC Rushden & Diamonds U21 side travelled to Latimer Park and were beaten 4-2 by a physically-dominant Kettering Town Elite U21 side.
Kettering’s promising forward Silvano Obeng put in an inspired performance for the Poppies, proving a nuisance for the young Diamonds defence and scoring a hat-trick in the process.
Manager Andy Keen made six changes from last week’s 4-1 defeat against Desborough Town, with Joseph Ackroyd, Karlos Augustine, Luke Gardner, Luke Garner, Jake Lacey and Jack Plummer making way for James Barron, Dan Campbell, Will Glean, Matthew Kumar, Richard Platt and Alex Vitue.
The difference in size between the two teams was evident from the start, and just five minutes into the game the Poppies took the lead through a neat turn and shot from 18 yards which caught out the Diamonds defence and left Vitue in goal helpless.
Ten minutes later, the home side’s physical advantage paid dividends for them as the Diamonds defence struggled to deal with an aerial ball from a corner before failing to sufficiently press the second ball, leading to a second goal for Kettering from distance.
The young Diamonds lacked their usual levels of composure and were punished when the ball was given away to Obeng whose shot took a huge deflection to end up in the back of net, making it 3-0 to the home side.
However, from the 30th minute the team began to impose themselves on the game and eventually the team’s efforts paid off when a break down the left flank enabled Fisher to drive a low cross into the near post which was turned home by Barron to make it 3-1.
Rushden continued to build pressure, but saves by the Kettering keeper meant that they could not breakthrough before Kettering got the ball quickly to Obeng whose shot took a wicked deflection which took it beyond the reach of Vitue.
With the score at 4-1, things had to change after half-time and they did as an improving Diamonds team began to control posession. Deservedly, they pulled another goal back in the 70th minute to make it 4-2 when Kumar headed in from a free kick.
Substitute Gardner then went clear but was denied by a last-ditch tackle from Kettering, which was followed by both Harvey and Campbell both having shots blocked.
All in all, the game was a vital learning experience for the AFC R&D U21s and they competed well with bigger, older and more physical players.
Diamonds: Alex Vitue, Danny Atkins, James Barron, Dan Campbell, Lewis Fisher, Will Glean, James Harvey, Matthew Kumar, Samuel Leeson, Richard Platt, Patrick Tulley. Subs: Edward Bates, Luke Gardner, Jack Plummer, Tom Rogers.