AFC Rushden & Diamonds took a deserved point from Needham Market after battling from behind twice to salvage a draw.
Ravi Shamsi made his debut for Diamonds but saw the home side take a 14th minute lead. Luke Ingram was played in on goal rounded Dean Snedker and bundled home. Diamonds responded well and were level on 27 minutes with a great Jesse Akubuine finish from a Ravi Shamsi through ball. Diamonds best spell into half-time saw Ravi Shamsi, Nathan Tshikuna and Will Jones all spurn excellent chances.
The home side started the second half as brightly as they had the first and re took the lead on 54 minutes through a Luke Ingram penalty. Diamonds struggled to impose themselves on the game in the second half although Will Jones and substitute Connor Furlong had close efforts. Late pressure earned an 89th minute corner that saw Alex Collard head home to earn a deserved point for Diamonds.
It was a combative yet creative display which Andy Peaks and his coaching staff will be encouraged by.
In terms of personnel, Andy Peaks made two changes to the side which was victorious in Nuneaton at the weekend. Ravi Shamsi was handed a full Diamonds debut in place of the injured Jay Williams whilst Ben Diamond was brought in to replace Joel Gyasi.
The Diamonds manager continued with the 4-2-3-1 formation which has been the preferred system so far this campaign.
Dean Snedker featured in goal. The back four remained unchanged and consisted of Ben Garwood, Alex Collard, Patrick Casey and Sam Warburton. Jesse Akubuine formed a double pivot alongside Claudio Dias in midfield with Ravi Shamsi playing just ahead as a ‘number ten’. Nathan Tshikuna and Ben Diamond flanked either side of lone striker Will Jones.
The hosts admittedly started the brighter of the two sides as they created a handful of early chances. Callum Page’s deflected shot was well saved by Dean Snedker before Luke Ingram saw his header parried aside by the Diamonds goalkeeper.
The Suffolk side continued to push on and ultimately made the breakthrough. Gareth Heath picked up the ball on the counter-attack and delivered a piercing through ball for Luke Ingram who raced in on goal, rounded Dean Snedker and calmly slotted into an empty net.
Andy Peaks’ side were not fazed by the opener and soon gained a foothold in the match for themselves. A passage of vertical build-up play found Will Jones who shifted the ball onto his right foot and struck it over the top.
Diamonds began to crank up the pressure and started to turn their possession into chances. Nathan Tshikuna cannoned a long-range effort narrowly over the bar before Ravi Shamsi fired wide of the left post after a run down the right.
As the visitors maintained the pressure, the equaliser inevitably arrived courtesy of an exquisite team move. Sam Warburton, Nathan Tshikuna and Jesse Akubuine exchanged passes down the left wing with the latter finding Ravi Shamsi who returned the ball with a through pass for Akubuine to finish.
Diamonds had generated some real momentum and were in the ascendency leading up to halftime. Ravi Shamsi, a continuous threat in the first half, was threaded through on goal but his effort was matched by Marcus Garnham in the Needham net.
HT: NEEDHAM MARKET 1-1 AFC RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS
AFC R&D would have been disappointed to hear the halftime whistle as they had recently gained control of the match. There can be no denying that Needham Market had a spell of their own at the start of the game but Andy Peaks’ team grew as the half went on and looked the more likely side to add a second to their scoresheet.
Needham Market started the second half as they started the first by taking initiative in possession but it was Diamonds who fashioned the first opportunity. Nathan Tshikuna slid the ball through for Will Jones who skipped past the defender and drew an important save from Garnham at his near post.
The hosts were awarded an opportunity to retake the lead through the form of a penalty. The ball was cut back across goal following a move down the right and Jesse Akubuine was penalised for lunging into a tackle. Luke Ingram converted the penalty to put the Marketmen back in front.
The introduction of Connor Furlong injected some more energy into the Diamonds attack. After a mazy run down the right, the debutant hit a fierce strike which Garnham could only punch over the bar.
Needham began to create more chances as they sensed an opportunity to kill the game off. Byron Lawrence had a rasping strike tipped over by Snedker with the following corner being headed straight at the Diamonds keeper. Arguably the defining moment for the home side came just minutes later as Noah Collard broke in behind the Diamonds defence and saw his scuffed effort trickle agonisingly wide of the post.
Diamonds took control of possession as they pursued an equaliser. The pressure took its toll on Needham and their resistance was finally broken on the verge of stoppage time. Alex Collard rose highest for a corner delivery and planted his downward header into the net – a trademark Diamonds set-piece which paid dividends right at the death!
FT: NEEDHAM MARKET 2-2 AFC RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS
AFC R&D proved to be good value for their point in Suffolk as the travelling supporters were rewarded for their long journey across the A14. The result could have been even better if Diamonds had converted their first half chances but this Tuesday night point is a welcome addition to the tally.
Following last night’s results, Diamonds sit 15th in the league table with seven points from six matches.
Next up, our attention turns to more local matters as Andy Peaks’ side head to Northampton ON Chenecks in the First Round of the NFA Hillier Cup.
NEEDHAM MARKET: Garnham, Hammond, Sturgess, N. Collard, K. Morphew, D. Morphew (Pollard, 7’), Ingram, Heath, Fowkes (Santa, 78’), Lawrence, Page
SUBS: Pollard, Santa, Dye, Maycock, Elsdon
AFC RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS: Snedker, Garwood, Warburton, Akubuine, Casey, A. Collard, Diamond, Dias (Bell-Toxtle, 81’), Jones (Gyasi, 81’), Shamsi, Tshikuna (Furlong, 69’)
SUBS: Slinn, Bell-Toxtle, Furlong, Hughes, Gyasi
Ingram (14’, 54’ PEN)
Akubuine (27’), A. Collard (89’)
MOTM: Alex Collard
Match Report: Joseph McCormack
Images courtesy of Hawkins Images ©2021