AFC Rushden & Diamonds were held to a 1-1 draw by Peterborough Northern Star at Chestnut Avenue on Saturday afternoon. After the hosts had started well and dominated play in the first quarter, the Diamonds got into the game and took the lead after 36 minutes when Fazel Koriya slotted home after an Aaron King effort was deflected into his path. Although the Diamonds were dominant in the remainder of the game they could not get the vital second goal. The hosts levelled with one of their few chances of the second period, when a routine free-kick was not dealt with by the Diamonds defence leaving Nick Davey with a simple chance after 82 minutes.
Diamonds manager Mark Starmer named an unchanged team from the midweek game at Fernie Fields, with Arron Parkinson returning to take a place on the bench alongside Ben Morgan who had played earlier in the day for the U21 side.
After heavy rain in the hour before kick-off the black clouds had been replaced by blue sky, but there was still a strong wind blowing down the pitch. The Diamonds started with the wind and sun at their backs, but, as can sometimes happen, the following wind proved difficult for the Diamonds forwards as flick-ons went too far, and aerial balls went over a player’s head.
The hosts started really well, adjusting to the conditions with their neat passing game. An early raid by Davey and Kennedy saw Tom Cross make a good save from an effort from Avis, and a few minutes later he did even better when forced to make a save from Sam Murphy after a corner had been half-cleared. Avis had another good effort blocked as the Diamonds battled to stay on level terms.
As the game moved into the second quarter the Diamonds started to deal with the conditions, and a ball from Alex Deakin saw Russ Dunkley create a shooting chance for Fazel Koriya but his effort was deflected for a corner. A raid down the right on 31 minutes saw Alfie Taylor have a shot blocked and the follow-up from Matt Gearing went over the bar.
Star keeper Nick Conroy had to make his first save of the game after 33 minutes – to prevent an own-goal as an attempted headed clearance was misjudged. Three minutes later he was picking the ball out of his net as the Diamonds took the lead. An attack down the right won the Diamonds a throw-in which was launched towards Aaron King, and the Diamonds midfielder allowed the ball to run across him so he could hit a left-foot shot. The effort hit a couple of players towards the six yard box, but it flew into the path of Fazel Koriya who netted with a goal-poacher’s instinct.
Séan McBride was having another storming game in the Diamonds midfield, and for the second game running he made an important interception at the back to ensure the Diamonds preserved their lead at the half-time break.
Half-Time: Peterborough Northern Star 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
With the low sun having now disappeared, the wind had also dropped somewhat for the second half, but the Diamonds quickly re-established their dominance. Whereas in the first half a lot of the wide play had come from their full-backs, there was now far better link-up play between Merrill and Gearing, Brown and Koriya, Russ Dunkley was also starting to get more accuracy with his flicks as the wind was not such an issue.
A Matt Gearing cross on the hour mark caused another scare for Star keeper Conroy as one of his defenders deflected the cross towards his own goal. Matt Gearing had also taken over corner-taking duties in the second period, and Russ Dunkley headed narrowly wide from the resultant corner.
Fazel Koriya then saw an effort from a Gearing cross go wide before he and Russ Dunkley exchanged passes but the final effort from Koriya was blocked. As the game entered the final quarter a Koriya cross was deflected towards goal but appeared to hit Dunkley and away to safety.
Another Koriya – Dunkley interchange saw Koriya shoot just wide, and then he did really well to win the ball near the left byline, and left a defender in his wake as he ran towards goal, but he lashed his shot over the bar.
With so many chances to get a decisive second goal, and with so little attacking threat from the hosts it was doubly disappointing for the Diamonds when they allowed Star back on level terms. A cheap free kick was conceded just inside their half, and the ball into the box was largely unchallenged, allowing it to be worked to Nick Davey who had time and space to slot home the equaliser after 82 minutes.
The Diamonds did not let their heads drop, and created a great chance for Aaron King in the third minute of added time but his miskick meant the points were shared.
Full-Time: Peterborough Northern Star 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
Diamonds Man of the Match: Matt Gearing
The Diamonds now prepare for the visit of Huntingdon Town in midweek to the Dog & Duck.
Peterborough Northern Star
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Nick Conroy
2. Wes Lewis
3. Matt Porter
4. Luke Hunnings
5. Jonny Clay
6. Billy King
7. Sam Murphy
8. Luke Kennedy (Capt)
9. Nick Davey
10. Luke Avis
11. Matt Sparrow
12. Dan Wilson
14. Jones De Souza (for Sparrow 90+1)
15. Aaron Warrener
16. Mick Goode
17. Tom Cross
2. Joe Merrill
3. Sam Brown
4. Séan McBride
5. Jamal Clarke
6. Alex Deakin
7. Matt Gearing
8. Aaron King
9. Russ Dunkley (Capt)
10. Alfie Taylor
11. Fazel Koriya
13. Adam Whybrow (GK)
14. Ben Morgan
15. Arron Parkinson
16. Brad Harris
Goals: Davey (82)
Goals: Koriya (36)
Yellow Cards: Sparrow, King
Yellow Cards: None
Referee: Robert Cusick
Assistants; Paul Dobbs, Kieren Taylor