Yaxley U18 4 v AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18 2

AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2-4 Yaxley

Northants Senior Youth League Championship Playoff

AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18s’ final game of an excellent season ended in disappointment, as they succumbed to Yaxley in the NSYL Championship Playoff.
Having secured the Western Division title with Tuesday’s impressive victory over Oxford City, they couldn’t repeat the feat two days later against the winners of the Eastern Division, in a game played at Cogenhoe United’s Compton Park ground.

The game actually got off to a great start for the Diamonds, as they carried on where they had left off 48 hours earlier. They thought they had taken the lead on 6 minutes when a high, looping ball into the Yaxley penalty area caused problems for the goalkeeper, who fumbled the ball into the net under pressure from Zach Farden, but the referee harshly adjudged Farden to have fouled the ‘keeper.

With 11 minutes gone though, the Diamonds did open the scoring. Ben Roche surged forward from left back before laying the ball off to Farden, and his dangerous low cross was controlled by Conor Bell who then turned and fired home from 12 yards.

It was so nearly 2-0 just two minutes later, as more good work between Roche and Bell saw the ball worked to Farden just inside the Yaxley penalty area, but his well hit shot went inches wide of the far post.

It was therefore completely against the run of play, that Yaxley equalised on 19 minutes. The Cuckoos broke down the right wing, with the ball falling fortuitously at the feet of Jake Sansby in space just inside the Rushden penalty area, and he calmly took the ball past Alex Vitue before tapping into the unguarded net.

Bell then had a great chance to net his second of the game and restore the Diamonds’ lead after latching onto a defensive slip and racing into the box, but skewed his shot well wide. And Rushden were made to pay for the missed chance just 4 minutes later. A misplaced pass from Alex McDonald gifted possession back to Yaxley, and the ball was worked forwards to the league’s top scorer, Josh Rosser, who slotted the ball past Vitue.

The second Yaxley goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Diamonds, although they had a gilt edged chance to equalise shortly before the break when a deep free kick from Fred Devereaux found the head of Adam Ziolkowski at the far post, but his effort was just the wrong side of the post. In stretching to head the ball, Ziolkowski fell of balance, and clattered into the pitch perimeter barrier, injuring his back and having to be substituted. Luke Fathers took to the pitch to replace the Diamonds’ Young Player of the Year.

The final chance of the half fell to the Cuckoos, as a good cross from the left was headed just wide by Rosser.

Half Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1-2 Yaxley

Rushden still looked shocked at being a goal down at half time, given their dominance at the start of the game, and things went from bad to worse within 12 minutes of the restart.

A good attack down the Yaxley right wing saw a low cross played in towards the far post, where Liam Bond controlled the ball just ahead of a Yaxley striker, but with the ball rolling back towards goal, Vitue was quickly off his line to gather it up. However, referee Chris Rath decided that Bond’s touch was a deliberate pass back to his goalkeeper and awarded an indirect free kick to Yaxley, just outside the 6 yard box. The ball was laid off to Sansby whose powerful shot took two big deflections on its way into the back of the net.

Three minutes later the game looked all over, as the Diamonds netted Yaxley’s fourth of the game for them. Good work down the left flank saw a low cross played into the Rushden penalty area, and substitute Zak Moon attempted to cut the ball out but succeeded only in deflecting it straight into the net for an own goal.

Yaxley offered less of an attacking threat after the fourth goal, but a dejected Rushden side couldn’t find any way back into the game. Substitute Matt Smith did inject some life into the attack, setting up a chance for McDonald on 66 minutes, but the ball sat up awkwardly for the AFC captain, and he fired over the bar.

As the game entered the final 20 minutes, the Diamonds did begin to offer more of a threat. Smith went close with a 20 yard shot before a Helsdown corner was headed just over the bar by an unusually quiet Jake Reynolds.

Rushden finally pulled a goal back on 84 minutes to set up a slightly uncomfortable final few minutes for the Cuckoos. Great play down the right by Smith and Helsdown saw a dangerous cross into the middle only cleared as far as Noah Bryant who fired into the bottom corner from the edge of the penalty area.

There were chances for the Diamonds to further reduce the arrears, as a goalmouth scramble saw the ball forced just wide of the post, before a Bell header from a Helsdown free kick went narrowly over the bar. But it wasn’t to be, and Yaxley held on the take the NSYL Championship title.

Full Time: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 2-4 Yaxley

Despite the defeat, it has been a fine season for the AFC R&D U18 side, who as well as winning the Western Division title also saw 5 players progress into the first team squad at some point in the season.

Attendance: Approx. 90

Man of the Match: Noah Bryant


AFC Rushden & Diamonds


24. Alex Vitue
2. Liam Bond
3. Ben Roche
4. Noah Bryant
5. Adam Ziolkowski
6. Alex McDonald (c)
7. Zach Farden
8. Fred Devereaux
9. Conor Bell
10. Jake Reynolds
11. Blake Helsdown


12. Zak Moon
14. Luke Fathers
15. Matt Smith
86. Michael Brimah


Bell (11 mins)
Bryant (84 mins)

Jake Sansby (19 mins)
Josh Rosser (30 mins)
Jake Sansby (54 mins)
Moon o.g. (57 mins)

Helsdown (foul, 63 mins)
Moon (unsporting conduct, 63 mins)


Sent Off:

Sent Off: