Diamonds conceded a heartbreaking 95th minute equaliser at King’s Lynn on Saturday afternoon.
The opening exchanges were very competitive but lacking in clear-cut opportunities, and it wasn’t until the 27th minute when the first chance arrived. Home man Ryan Hawkins crossed in from the right for Harry Limb to head goalwards, but Ben Heath made a good save to parry the ball over the bar. This was the catalyst for further chances, with Diamonds hitting the post through Jack Bowen’s effort when through on goal and then Jack Westbrook terrifically deflecting a goalbound effort over down the other end. Sam Brown then made a superb covering challenge to stop a King’s Lynn attacker after they raced through and shot at goal, before Ben Farrell saw a driven effort from outside the box held by the home keeper just before half-time.
The second period saw Diamonds begin well and threaten through Declan Rogers’ long-range strike that flashed just over the bar, but the hosts always proved a danger and Heath was called into action to excellently tip over a Limb shot from the left after cutting inside. However, Rushden were the ones who took the lead when Rogers was found in plenty of space in the middle of the park, and he ran forward before dispatching a left-footed strike from outside the area past the keeper’s despairing dive and into the corner of the net. The hosts began to increase the pressure and Michael Gash saw a header well saved before Hawkins had a rising shot brilliantly beaten away by Heath. Diamonds still looked dangerous though and saw Rogers have a curling shot tipped over, Hicks slam a low effort across goal that Bowen was just unable to turn into the net and substitutes John Dean and Tom Lorraine link up for the latter to slam an effort over from close-range. The hosts had been pushing more and more as the game wore on but Rushden defended and repelled them excellently. There remained a sting in the tail though as, in the fifth minute of additional time, King’s Lynn’s pressure paid dividends when a deep free-kick was drilled into the area for defender Rory McAuley to head home to snatch a point.
Manager Peaks named the exact same starting XI to the side that had begun the draw at home to Barwell last time out. This meant a continuation of a 4-3-3 formation, with Jack Westbrook partnering Liam Dolman in the centre of defence, Declan Rogers, Ben Farrell and Nathan Hicks making up the midfield three, and Albie Hopkins and Ben Diamond supporting Jack Bowen in attack. The only alteration came amongst the substitutes as there was a welcome return for Jack Ashton at the expense of Nathan Pickworth.
The two teams entered onto the Walks playing surface on a warm, sunny autumnal afternoon in Norfolk, and an intriguing clash lay ahead. King’s Lynn had been the pre-season title favourites after losing in the play-off final last season, but they entered the contest in 14th place. They had only won one of their five home league games so far this campaign, but they were unbeaten in their last four matches. Diamonds came into the match one place above the hosts in the table and on the back of a three game unbeaten league run, meaning it was all set up for an entertaining affair. After the sides had shaken hands and the coin-toss had been conducted, referee Burridge blew the whistle to start the match.
The home side began quickly and enjoyed the better of possession and territory in the early few minutes. One neat move down the left saw a pass misplaced as it ran out for a goal-kick and then, after a Diamonds free-kick from deep was headed away, a long clearance downfield forced Ben Heath to come out to collect just ahead of an onrushing King’s Lynn man. Moments later a home through ball looked dangerous, but ended up running straight through to the Rushden keeper.
Diamonds threatened for the first time in the 12th minute when Bowen did excellently to win a flick-on to run away down the left, and his resulting cross led to a heavy touch by a Lynn defender which almost dropped for the lurking Farrell but the danger was cleared. Only a minute later King’s Lynn, nicknamed the Linnets, broke down the other end and a neat pass found Harry Limb in behind to fire past Heath into the far corner of the net, but the offside flag had long been raised against the attacker.
The early exchanges were largely fast and frenetic as both sides contributed to a high-octane opening, and the visitors were the next to fashion an opportunity when Zack Reynolds escaped down the right before his dangerous cross was well cleared away. Shortly afterwards play swung down the other end and Ryan Hawkins found space on the edge of the box to hit a shot goalwards, but it was a soft effort and led to an easy save for Heath.
Plenty of half-chances were being created, with the Linnets having a couple of efforts blocked in their next attack before ex-RDFC man Michael Gash slashed a wild effort over the bar. Diamonds responded moments later when Heath launched a long kick for Bowen to run in goal, but home keeper Alex Street anticipated the danger well and was quick to run out to clear the ball upfield.
The Linnets had another goal disallowed in the 22nd minute when a neat chipped ball over the top of the Diamonds defence found full-back Aaron Jones who netted on the slide but, as with Limb’s effort shortly before, the offside flag was up and the effort was ruled out. The end-to-nature of the contest didn’t look like abating, and so the visitors were the ones to create the next opportunity. They broke from a home attack and temporarily had a four-on-three situation, but the move forward slowed down until Brown’s attempted diagonal towards the back post was parried behind by Street for a corner. The resulting inswinging delivery from Rogers was inches away from finding Diamond for a strike at goal, but the ball deflected through for the keeper to collect.
Despite the open-ended nature of the match neither goalkeeper had been forced into a real save, but that all changed in the 27th minute when the first clear-cut opening was fashioned. Hawkins did well to peel away from Dolman and spin away into space down the right before his pinpoint cross found the free Limb around eight yards out. His downfield header was on target, but it was directed straight at Heath and the keeper put his body in the way of the ball to direct it over the bar. Only a minute later the hosts won a free-kick on the right, but the delivery was deflected away out for a corner. The subsequent set-piece was very threatening and looked like it only needed a touch to end up in the net, but it somehow flicked across the area and away from danger.
Barely a minute was passing without some action of note in what had been a largely breathless half an hour, and on the half hour mark Diamonds created a superb chance of their own. It was simple in execution as a Heath long ball was well flicked on by Diamond for Bowen to run onto just inside the area with only the keeper to beat. The striker confidently hit a side-footed effort past Street and it sped towards the far corner, but it smacked off the base of the post and ran out for a goal-kick.
Shortly afterwards King’s Lynn had another opportunity. It started with a Diamonds throw-in in the left-back area that was headed back forward by a home head, and Hawkins collected in the middle of the pitch before running forward into space. He faced up the back-four and slipped a pass across to his left for Gash in acres of room, and the striker took a couple of touches to steady himself before shooting from 12 yards out. It looked odds-on to find the back of the net and to break the deadlock, but Westbrook threw himself in front of the effort to deflect it over the bar; a goal-saving challenge if there ever was one. The resulting corner found a home head, but the effort looped up for Heath to easily catch.
There was then a five minute period of no action and scrappy play, a rarity in the otherwise action-packed first half. In the 37th minute Diamonds attacked down the left as Brown lofted a diagonal cross towards the far post for Bowen to flick on, but it was just collected by Street ahead of a Diamonds player. Both sides were guilty of giving the ball away in potentially threatening situations after the half-hour, and one such moment saw an away attack break down and the ball cleared upfield. Gash won a key flick on the halfway line that took two defenders out of the game, and suddenly the Linnets had a two-on-one situation. Limb ran through on the left despite Hawkins being free on his right, and as he entered the penalty area he shaped up to shoot. However, Brown timed his covering challenge to perfection, and the effort was deflected through for Heath to collect at the second attempt.
As the first half ticked onto 45 minutes, there remained one final chance. The adventurous Reynolds advanced down the right before his cross was headed away, but only as far as the lurking Farrell on the edge of the area. The midfielder took a touch to set himself before striking a left-footed effort towards goal, but Street made a simple save to collect.
Moments later the referee called time on the opening period, a half in which the play was frenetic and tremendously quick-paced with plenty of chances created, but ultimately a half that had seen no goals.
Half Time: King’s Lynn Town 0-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Discussion at the half-time interval was dominated by which side would be able to find the all-important goal, and if the frantic nature of the opening half would be replicated in the second. Both sets of players returned to the pitch and, after a quick count of both teams, the referee blew to get the game underway again.
Diamonds were swift to get on the attack, and created a chance within two minutes of the resumption. Rogers was fed a pass from Brown in space in an attacking position, and he turned before running forward and fizzing a left-footed effort from around 30 yards out that flashed just over the crossbar. Then, after a Linnets corner from the right saw the delivery skim off a home head, Chris Henderson was brought down as he broke forward, but play was waved on and Hawkins latched onto the loose ball before drilling a shot wide of the target from outside the area.
Heath had made one good save in the first half, but he made an even better one to keep the scoreline level in the 53rd minute. Henderson played a good pass from inside his own half over the top for Limb to collect on the left, and he managed to jink inside before thrashing an effort towards goal that the Diamonds keeper did excellently to leap and tip over the bar. A couple of minutes later Gash was almost found by a neat flick at the back post, but Heath reached out his right hand to confidently collect.
These saves were made even more important and crucial when Diamonds took the lead in their next attack. Hicks played a neat pass that bypassed the hosts’ midfield and found Declan Rogers, and the midfielder advanced forward at the back-four before hitting a left-footed effort from just over 25 yards out. It flew through the air before bouncing just in front of Street, and it passed the keeper’s despairing dive as it nestled in the far corner of the net.
The scenes amongst the Diamonds fans behind the goal were loud and memorable, but there was still a long way to go in the game. Moments later, on the hour mark, a home attack saw the ball played out to the left for full-back Frazer Blake-Tracy, and he jinked into a crossing position just before the byline to stand up a delivery to the far post. Gash got the leap on Brown to head goalwards, but Heath did well to save to his left and parry it behind for a corner. Blake-Tracy was involved again shortly after when his cross almost resulted in a mix-up between Heath and Westbrook, but the away keeper was able to drop onto the loose ball in the end.
Heath was having a sensational game for Rushden, and he made another excellent save in the 63rd minute. A quick throw-in on the left saw Limb cushion the ball back for Hawkins to strike at goal from just inside the area, but the Diamonds keeper was there again to fling himself to his right to tip the attempt round the post. Despite the home pressure the visitors still represented a threat whenever they went forward, and only three minutes later they almost doubled their lead. A neat passing move down the left saw Brown feed a pass into the path of Rogers who controlled before finding Hopkins on the wing, and his first-time pass inside found Hicks who cushioned a header down to Rogers. The goalscorer held off a challenge before curling a right-footed effort towards the near post, but Street got across to tip the ball over the bar.
The time ticked past 70 minutes with the Linnets applying most of the pressure, but they were largely being held in check by strong and stoic Diamonds defending and goalkeeping. After Bowen drifted a header over from a Hopkins cross, the away side made their first change as Joe Curtis replaced Ben Farrell in a like-for-like alteration. Only moments later the hosts played a pass from midfield out to the right side for the galloping substitute Kalern Thomas to try and reach, but Brown did superbly well to initially slide and intercept. He tried to clear but was unable to, and Thomas latched onto the loose ball before running into the area and firing a low cross across the face of goal that no home man was able to get onto as it ran past everyone and out for a throw-in.
Tom Lorraine then replaced Hopkins with ten minutes of normal time remaining, and the hosts continued to press without creating too many clear-cut opportunities. In the 82nd minute Diamond did well to keep the ball in down the right and play it back to Reynolds, and the full-back’s resulting cross found Bowen only for his header to drift over the goal. A minute afterwards Hawkins was found by a ball through in the right channel, but his attempted effort across goal was well held by Heath at the near post.
Rushden then created two opportunities to seal the game. Firstly a clever run by Hicks was found by Reynolds’ throw, and he shrugged off a challenge to advance into the area before driving a low effort across goal. Bowen looked for all the world as if he would tap in at the far post, and any touch at all would have resulted in a goal, but the striker missed the ball by the whisker and it ran away for a goal-kick. Then, after Brown had made a crucial interception to stop a home attacker being released through on goal, Lorraine did excellently to win the ball on the halfway line before powering forward and feeding John Dean on the left. Dean had just come on for Bowen in the away side’s final substitution, and he sprinted forward before crossing towards the far post for the continued run of Lorraine. The striker reached the low ball in but was stretching, and so his close-range effort flew wide of the post.
The 90 minutes of regulation time was then reached, and still the scoreline remained 1-0 to Diamonds. Home substitute Jordan Richards had a chance after a quickly taken free-kick resulted in a loose ball dropping for him, but his bobbling shot was deflected and ran through for Heath to collect. Then, with stoppage time well underway, a loose pass by the hosts saw Rogers collect and feed Dean in acres of space, and the striker ran forward into a dangerous position before being well tackled by a covering challenge. King’s Lynn still pushed and probed but were often guilty of a misplaced final pass, and Diamonds were working incredibly hard to shut off any space for the hosts, epitomised by Diamond chasing back to win the ball in midfield from one home attack.
However, one final chance remained. The hosts won a free-kick just ahead of the halfway line, and they sent everybody forward apart from their goalkeeper in what would be the final opportunity of the game. The set-piece was drilled into the middle of the area, and defender Rory McAuley got the run on a Diamonds man to get up and glance a header past Heath and into the far corner of the net to equalise in the fifth minute of additional time.
There was still enough time for Diamonds to launch one final attack, but Dean’s cross was cleared away. Seconds later the referee blew the full-time whistle on a match that was fully entertaining and largely action-packed, with the dramatic twist at the end leaving the spoils shared.
Full Time: King’s Lynn Town 1-1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds
Many fans would have taken a point against the pre-season title favourites before the game began, but the lateness of the home equaliser made it feel like a defeat. However, there were many positives to take. Diamonds matched the hosts for long periods of the match and regularly threatened in attack, even though they did require Heath to make a number of important saves. There was a number of impressive individual performances, especially defensively, but also a coherent, competitive, collective and almost complete team performance. Furthermore, they are now unbeaten in four league games, and if there was any doubt before if they had settled and were beginning to feel at home at Step 3 football, then the performance today went even further to dispelling this notion. Seven years ago the club were playing Duston Dynamos Youth, and that in itself shows the remarkable rise and how far the club have truly come in such a short space of time. There is a quick turnaround, and a chance to bounce back from the late heartbreak here, as they are back in league action on Tuesday night (October 23rd, 7:45pm kick-off) when they entertain sixth-placed Coalville Town at Hayden Road.
Diamonds Man of the Match: Ben Heath
Match Report by Ollie Mortimer
King’s Lynn Town
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Alex Street
2. Aaron Jones
3. Frazer Blake-Tracy
4. Ryan Jarvis
5. Ryan Fryatt
6. Rory McAuley
7. Michael Clunan (C)
8. Chris Henderson
9. Michael Gash
10. Harry Limb
11. Ryan Hawkins
12. Jordan Richards (for Jarvis 80)
14. Kalern Thomas (for Jones 74)
15. Craig Parker (for Gash 70)
17. Charlie Congreve
13. Ben Heath
2. Zack Reynolds
3. Sam Brown
4. Jack Westbrook
5. Liam Dolman (C)
6. Declan Rogers
7. Albie Hopkins
8. Ben Farrell
9. Jack Bowen
10. Ben Diamond
11. Nathan Hicks
12. John Dean (for Bowen 88)
14. Joe Curtis (for Farrell 74)
15. Tom Lorraine (for Hopkins 80)
16. Jack Ashton
17. Blaize Punter
Goals: McAuley (90+5)
Goals: Rogers (56)
Yellow Cards: None
Yellow Cards: None
Referee: J. Burridge
Assistants: R. Stanley, T. Beeton
Updated player profiles with appearance and goalscoring details are now available.
Video post-match interviews are available here.
Match Gallery courtesy of Matt Hawkins. Copyright HawkinsImages ©2018