Lincoln College 2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds / MAA U18 3

AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18s / MAA ended their league campaign on a high by defeating Lincoln College, 3-2.

The scholars were made to work for their ten game unbeaten run (which stretches back to the end of December) as they came from 2-0 behind to win.

As the MAA boys had already won the league, the game was a dead rubber and it allowed manager Darren Purse to experiment with his team.

But on a windy day in Lincolnshire, Diamonds battled against the wind first half, and fell behind on 32 minutes. A corner was put in towards the near post and the tall Lincoln midfielder, beat Jacob Kearney to the ball and headed in, to give Lincoln an unlikely lead.

Rushden tried and failed to break down a Lincoln defence in what had been a poor first half, in terms of the standards the scholars had set themselves.

Half Time: Lincoln College 1-0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18s / MAA.

The second half was all Diamonds. The wind had helped the U18s regain control of the match and start playing like the Champions they are.

However they would go 2-0 down, just a minute into the second half. The scholars had initially won a corner of their own early on after the break, however Lincoln broke quickly and hit Purse’s team on the counter. Several attempts to stop the fast attack failed and the striker was soon bearing down on Rhys Barnes’ goal. Barnes saved the shot at the first attempt, but couldn’t help the follow-up.

Manager Purse then made some changes and this revitalised the side who had dominated the second half, but just couldn’t score.

But Diamonds soon got on the scoresheet. 55 minutes, Luke Garner did what he does best by chasing down balls over the top and he went through and scored to make it 2-1.

Then five minutes later, Diamonds got back on level terms. Substitute Harrison Desborough had beat his man out wide, and got the by line and pulled the ball back to captain Ryan Kirk who got the equaliser.

Finally Diamonds got what turned out to be the winner after 65 minutes. Desborough was a real danger as soon as he came on and he won a penalty, which was easily converted by Kirk for his second of the game. The scholars had turned the game on its head by scoring three goals in the space of ten minutes to make it 3-2.

The scholars had plenty of chance to win the game more comfortably with Matt Pinder and Desborough squandering the opportunities and the Lincoln goalkeeper pulling off some good saves.

Full Time: Lincoln College 2-3 AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18s / MAA.

Team: Barners, Peaks, Knapp, Kearney, Grundy, Kirk (c), Ackroyd, Hewitt, Leeson, Garner, Pinder.

Subs: Ivett, Desborough.

After the game, I spoke to manager Darren Purse. “I was disappointed with the last two league games. We have had two lacklustre performances that hasn’t inspired any confidence. But I’m hoping that changes for Wednesday’s cup final. It’s about pitting our wits and seeing how far we have come against a professional outfit. Just test ourselves out and seeing how far we have come as a team in the past seven or eight months.”

Report by Hayden Pott.