AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18s / Malcolm Arnold Academy inflicted revenge on Peterborough United U18s by taking the David Joyce Trophy off of their opponents.
The scholars were unfortunate in the final of the same competition just one year ago, when The Posh won 2-1 at the Dog and Duck but this time, Ashley Hewett’s first half goal, was enough to secure the trophy.
The MAA boys had suffered a miserable league campaign, finishing 8th out of 11 and the David Joyce Cup Final was the last time that many of Darren Purse’s boys would play together.
The Diamonds started well not giving Posh a chance to settle. Just 15 minutes in, Posh broke dangerously and Rushden captain Ben Peaks committed a professional foul to stop the attack, and received a yellow card for his troubles. From the resulting free-kick, Sam de Boer adjusted quickly to stop the ball after a deflection.
Shortly after, the scholars had a golden chance to go ahead. Striker Luke Garner was put through on goal however he couldn’t find the target.
Chances were mounting up for the MAA boys as Garner missed another opportunity, and Matt Pinder went wide with a header after a good Harrison Desborough cross.
30 minutes in and Diamonds had a strong case for a penalty. Ashley Hewett was put through on the left and was brought down inside the penalty area. However the referee waved away the protests.
Then 43 minutes on the clock, Diamonds made the breakthrough. The scholars had a throw in on the left hand side, Joe Ackroyd flicked on Ryan Baird’s throw into the path of Garner. The striker did well to hold off the challenge of the defender and he then flicked the ball over his shoulder into the path of Hewett, who slotted the ball into the far bottom corner to give the Diamonds a well-deserved 1-0 lead.
Half Time. Peterborough United 0-1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds / MAA.
Peterborough needed to come out in the second half and really force the issue, and that they did. They, like the majority of the game, had a lot of possession without really giving de Boer much to do.
On the hour mark, Posh changed their shape with three at the back and with two wing backs. However the MAA boys coped with the pressure and sniffed out any chances.
The only real concern that the scholars had was when dangerous low crosses were whipped into the box but the defence defended well to keep their clean sheet intact.
Full Time. Peterborough United 0-1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds / MAA.
Team Line Up: De Boer, Leeson, Peaks (c), McTeggart, Baird, Desborough, Mastropiero, Ackroyd, Hewett, Pinder, Garner. Subs: Freeman, Ali Farah, Goldsborough, Nginamu, Craddock.
After the game, I spoke to manager Darren Purse, who explained that the players wanted to put in a good performance.
“I said to the second year lads before the game, it’s your last ever game for the U18s. You’ve been together every day for the past two years, and I told them to not let themselves down, end on a high rather than a disappointment. Everything went right for us tonight. They showed all of the things that they had learnt, not just in the last few weeks but also in the last two years I’ve been with them.”
Captain Ben Peaks was awarded the man of the match, after he was left out of the same final last season. And Purse says he has regretted the decision ever since.
“The thing about Peaksy [Ben Peaks] is, he had played all the games of last season and I put him on the bench for the final. I had a chat with him at the end of last year and explained my reasons why and I said it’s one of the things I regret since I’ve been a manager – not giving him the game time at all in the final. The thing about him, he’s come back, stronger, mentally and physically and he’s proved me wrong this year. He’s my captain because he’s captain material, the lads have got a lot of respect for him and I couldn’t be happier for him. He was superb along with all of the lads, anyone of them could have been man of the match. But I was delighted for Ben after what had happened last year.”
With the U18s season now finished, and most of the squad too old to play for the scholars next season, decisions need to be made in regards to their futures. Purse admitted that a lot of the players have already made up their minds.
“A lot of them know what they’re doing, some are off to America with soccer scholarships, some are off to University and I hope that some lads will have the opportunity to play for the U21s and into the first team because they’re definitely good enough. I haven’t spoken to Andy [Peaks], but he knows all the lads, he was here tonight. As for the lads that have already been involved in the first team, I’m sure that Andy will want to keep one or two of them on. But that’s Peaksy’s decision and not mine.”
Finally, on a personal note, Purse admitted he is enjoying his experience being manager.
“This job has its tough bits, but it also has a lot of enjoyable times. We’ll see what happens in the summer, but I do really want to stay on. I’ve got a contract with the school to stay on if I want to and that’s the plan.”
Match report by Hayden Pott.