Northwood FC 2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2

Ten man AFC Rushden & Diamonds came from behind to draw 2-2 with Northwood at Chestnut Avenue on Saturday afternoon.

 The Diamonds had taken the lead after 15 minutes when Brad Harris headed home a Shawn Richards cross, but after dominating the game they went down to ten men when debutant Connor Kennedy was sent off after 35 minutes. The hosts levelled through Niko Muir as half-time approached, and went ahead after 67 minutes. The Diamonds equalised after 78 minutes when Tom Lorraine headed home a Shawn Richards free kick. The hosts also had a man dismissed in the third minute of added time.

Diamonds manager Andy Peaks gave a debut to Connor Kennedy to replace Sam Brown, and Jack Ashton was able to take a place on the bench alongside the Diamonds other incoming left-back, Luke Hipwell.

The Northwood Park playing surface had stood up well to recent poor weather, with the main problem areas being in the central strip of the pitch. It was the Diamonds who gained early control of the game. Their best chance during this early domination fell to Delroy Gordon who headed a Bunting freekick just wide. Tom Lorraine also had an early chance which he could not convert, whilst the Diamonds forwards were also being caught out by the Reds offside trap.

The reward for the early dominance came after 15 minutes when Ollie Wilkinson was able to get forward to support Shawn Richards, feeding a quick pass to the Diamonds winger whose first time cross eluded a group of players at the near post, with Brad Harris stealing in at the far post to head home his first goal of the season.

Connor Kennedy was having an impressive debut, and, apart from an early verbal mixup with Claudiu Hoban, the two were linking up well.

The Diamonds continued to dominate with Claudiu Hoban seeing a low shot saved after good work by Tommy Berwick. This forced the first of a series of six corners that were won in a five-minute period before Berwick and Lorraine linked to squeeze past a static defence, but the resultant awkward chance for Lorraine left him with little chance to get any power in his header.

The Diamonds domination continued until the 35th Minute when a quick ball into space allowed Niko Muir to run down the right channel and get ahead of Connor Kennedy, whose efforts to recover the situation saw his challenge penalised with a free kick, and as he was the nearest Diamonds defender to goal he was deemed to have denied a clear goalscoring opportunity and was shown a red card.

The Diamonds reshuffle saw Ollie Wilkinson move to left back, with Brad Harris taking the right back role with Tom Lorraine helping out in midfield.

Referee O’Brien then had a period where a number of innocuous looking challenges earned yellow cards, and shortly after Tom Lorraine had suffered that fate he couldn’t quite get a clean contact on a Richards cross to give the Diamonds a two goal cushion that their first half display appeared to have earned.

The second Diamonds yellow fell to Claudiu Hoban who had appeared to have been the victim of several more forceful challenges, and from the resultant free-kick in the 45 minutes Niko Muir was able to find space when latching onto a well-directed pass from George Nicholas and fired home past Finlay.

There was still time for the Diamonds to almost restore their lead as a Richard free-kick was met by the head of Delroy Gordon only to see his goalbound effort tipped over by an excellent save by home keeper Laurencin.

Half-Time: Northwood 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1

The Diamonds were forced into a change at half-time, with Richard Bunting having picked up a knock which had left him struggling at the end of the first period. This allowed Luke Hipwell to make his debut, becoming the Diamonds third left-back of the game as they sought to replace Sam Brown.

Despite being a man down, it was the Diamonds who were continuing to dominate possession, and once again they won a series of corners, and saw a good chance created by Ollie Wilkinson which both Berwick and Lorraine appeared to have a chance to convert before Claudiu Hoban was thwarted as he followed up the loose ball.

Just after the hour mark the hosts were forced into their second change of the game as player-manager Mark Burgess replaced his brother James, and five minutes later they made a third change which produced immediate results as a cross from the right by Rob Hastings was headed home by the tall Bayley Brown.

The game quickly stagnated at this point, with the hosts trying to slow things down, and heavy rain disrupting the action, but after 78 minutes the Diamonds drew level. They won a free kick in the right channel taken by Shawn Richards, and Tom Lorraine was able to win the ball in the air, despite being faced by several opponents who were a couple of inches taller. His looping header went over the head of the keeper and in off the underside of the bar.

It was then the Diamonds turn to slow the game down, and although Shawn Richards had a fine chance late on from a narrow angle, it looked like the game was meandering towards a draw, before Northwood substitute Nicholas was shown a straight red card for a poor challenge on Luke Hipwell in the fourth minute of added time.

Full-Time: Northwood 2 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2

It is always satisfying to get something out of a game on the road when playing with ten men for over half the game, but with more clinical finishing this was a game the Diamonds could have taken all three points back to Northamptonshire.

The Diamonds have now faced all of their opponents in the Southern League Division One Central, and will be very pleased with their position at this stage of their first season at this level.

They will host North Greenford United at the Dog & Duck next weekend, weather permitting.

Diamonds Man of the Match: Shawn Richards

Attendance: 221


Northwood FC

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

1. Berkley Laurencin

2. Alex Nolan

3. Andy Lomas

4. Steve Brown (Capt)

5. James Budden

6. Bayley Brown

7. Joakim Ehui

8. James Burgess

9. Louis Stead

10. Niko Muir

11. Rob Hastings 


12. Max Holland (for J Ehui 66

14. George Nicholas (for Budden 29)

15. Jermaine Heron

16. Mark Burgess (for J Burgess 62)

17. Georges Ehui

17. Matt Finlay

2. Ollie Wilkinson

3. Connor Kennedy

4. Delroy Gordon

5. Liam Dolman

6. Brad Harris

7. Shawn Richards

8. Richard Bunting (Capt)

9. Tom Lorraine

10. Tommy Berwick

11. Claudiu Hoban


12. Luke Hipwell (for Bunting HT)

13. Alex Vitue

14. Lewis Leslie (for Hoban 76)

15. Jack Ashton

16. Andy Hall (for Berwick 83)

Goals: Muir (45), Brown (67)

Goals: Harris (15), Lorraine (78)

Yellow Cards: J Ehui, J Burgess

Red Card: Nicholas (90+4)

Yellow Cards: Lorraine, Hoban, Harris

Red Card: Kennedy (35)

Referee: John O’Brien

Assistants: Zach Jacquart, Aaron Goodwin



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