AFC Rushden & Diamonds won a first Maunsell Cup in dramatic fashion on Tuesday evening with a perfect record in the penalty shoot-out to win it 4-2 after an entertaining game had finished 2-2 in normal time.
Peterborough opened the scoring on 26 after a dominant start Aaron Williams rising to head home Lewis Freestone’s excellent left-wing cross. Diamonds were under pressure for much of the half but a quick break right on half-time saw Sam Brown ghost into the left hand side of the box and coolly slot home to pull the home side level.
Diamonds started the second half well and took the lead on 59 minutes after a 20 yard effort from Nabil Shariff was pushed into the path of Taylor Orosz to sweep home. Peterborough equalised on 66 as 16 year old full back Lewis Freestone coolly finished from the same spot Sam Brown had scored from.
Neither side could force a cup winning goal in an end to end finish to the game so the tie went to penalties. Diamonds were perfect from the spot. Liam Dolman, Richard Bunting, Jack Ashton and Robbie Parsons all netting confidently. Peterborough scored their first two but Matt Finlay got down well to save penalties 3 and 4 to clinch the cup for Diamonds.
Manager Andy Peaks included 3 trialists in his starting line-up with Aidan Bradshaw coming in at right-back, Nic Evangelinos wide right and Taylor Orosz wide left and later moving up front. Robbie Parsons also made a welcome return in a no 10 role behind Nabil Shariff up front.
The Dog & Duck Stadium looked fantastic for this prestigious county cup final and both sides relished the conditions passing the ball and competing hard to gain and deny possession.
Diamonds had chances in the early period with Robbie Parsons prominent. He and Jack Ashton had half volley efforts denied from a free-kick on 6. Parsons twisted and turned to feed Shariff for a close effort on 9 and he earned one of a number free-kicks on 12 that was fed to Liam Dolman for trademark driven effort from 40 yards that went just wide.
A good footballing Peterborough side began to dominate possession though from the 15 minute mark creating openings for Williams who swept over from 15 yard at the end of a great move, and Stephens who thought he has scored from a close range header on 21 only to see Matt Finlay claw the ball away from behind him.
Peterborough deservedly took the lead on 26 as Gormley swept the ball out to 16 year old full back Lewis Freestone whose superb cross was firmly headed home by Aaron Williams from just 8 yards.
They continued to dominate possession with Diamonds working hard defensively to keep them at bay. Matt Finlay making another superb low save to keep out a rasping Williams effort.
Diamonds did look to hit on the break where they always look dangerous and this was just how they equalised right on half-time. A sweeping move through midfield found Sam Brown ghosting into the left-hand side of the area to coolly slot home.
Half time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 Peterborough United 1
Diamonds started the second half really well and created a number of chances in the early period. Evangelinos was surprised like everyone else that Jack Ashton had kept a deep free kick in and was just unable to force the ball home from close range, Robbie Parsons fired over from 18 yards after a good run by Taylor Orosz, and then had a 25 yard free kick sting the fingers of the Peterborough goalkeeper all in the first 5 minutes of the half.
Nabil Shariff then had a good chance on 55 as he hooked an acrobatic effort just over from a corner won by more good Robbie Parsons play before the goal that Diamonds had been threatening came on 59. Brad Harris swept the ball forward to Nabil Shariff who moved it on to Evangelinos and then took the return ball to fire a 20 yard effort that keeper Henry could only parry for Taylor Orosz to sweep home.
Peterborough were straight back at Diamonds with Matt Finlay brilliantly tipping the ball over the bar from a fierce 25 yard effort. The game became an entertaining end to end spectacle at this stage and it was Peterborough who notched a deserved equalised on 66. 16 year old full back Lewis Freestones was the scorer this time with cool finish form the same spot Sam Brown had scored from form a similar quick break.
Substitutions including the exciting Chris Wreh, Lewis Leslie, Tom Manship and Richard Bunting for Diamonds if anything opened the game up further but neither side could force a cup winning goal.
Peterborough fired in two great efforts in quick succession around 73. First firing a fierce effort just wide again from the edge of the box and then substitute Noble forcing Finlay into another tip over the bar.
Chris Wreh delighted the home faithful with some amazing trickery on the left edge of the box, one surge leading to a Robbie Parsons effort that was well blocked, and a second involving a complete 360 spin eventually falling to Richard Bunting whose effort from 20 yards was also blocked.
And Sam Brown came close to last minute winner when he surged forward, continued his run after feeding the ball out wide and got his head to Robbie Parsons knock back from 6 yards that was held low on the line by keeper Henry.
Final Score: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2 Peterborough United 2
After seemingly much debate the penalties were surprisingly taken at the virtual empty river end of the ground as both sets of fans had congregated at the Peter de Banke.
It didn’t affect Diamonds though who were perfect from the spot. Liam Dolman, Richard Bunting, Jack Ashton and Robbie Parsons all netting confidently. Peterborough scored their first two but Matt Finlay got down well to save penalties 3 and 4 to clinch the cup for Diamonds.
Penalty Shoot-out: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 4 Peterborough United 2
This win was a third cup victory against local rivals in the last three games for Diamonds after that special NFA Hiller Cup Final win against Kettering Town in May which qualified them for tonight’s game and a third successive Chris Ruff Memorial Cup win against Rushden & Hingham on Saturday.
It was a good performance from the whole squad against a very good Peterborough United side who will have been disappointed not to make first half-dominance count. It was an entertaining second half spectacle with some good goals, great saves and high quality penalty shoot-out from the home side.
Next up is a visit to old UCL foes Deeping Rangers on Saturday.
Reporters Man of the Match: Matt Finlay
Attendance: Est. 300
Match Report by Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
17. Matt Finlay
2. Aidan Bradshaw
3. Sam Brown
4. Jack Ashton
5. Liam Dolman
6. Brad Harris
7. Joe Curtis
8. Robbie Parsons
9. Taylor Orosz
10. Nabil Shariff
11. Nic Evangelinos
12. Richard Bunting
13. Alex Vitue
14. Tom Manship
16. Remy Forester
18. Lewis Leslie
19. Lewis Jackson
20. Chris Wreh
1. Dion Henry
2. Harry Anderson
3. Lewis Freestone
4. Jack Payne
5. Alfie Connor
6. Sam Cartwright
7. Harry Baldry
8. Aaron Hart
9. Joe Gormley
10. Matty Stephens
11. Aaron Williams
12. Glenn Ferrier
13. Lewis Elsom
14. Luke Noble
15. Matt Nolan
16. Cameron Stump
Goals: Brown (45), Orosz (59)
Penalties: 1 Dolman, 2 Bunting, 3 Parsons, 4 Ashton
Goals: Williams (26), Freestone (66)
Penalties: 1 Gormley, 2 Stephens 3 Williams (saved) 4 Ferrier (saved)
Match Gallery courtesy of Stephanie Webb Photography Copyright Stephanie Webb Photography ©2016