Peterborough United (MSSC) 5-2 AFC R&D U18s / MAA

Injuries and unavailability played their part, in an afternoon to forget for AFC Rushden & Diamonds U18s / Malcolm Arnold Academy.

The scholars had an opportunity to close some ground on league leaders Histon on Monday. However despite pulling the game back from 2-0 down, they lost 5-2 against Peterborough United (MSSC).

Already struggling with the bare minimum players available to manager Darren Purse, the scholars only named goalkeeper Kacper Watroba and a half fit Joe Ackroyd on the bench.  

Purse had said before the game, that if his side could win the next two matches (against Peterborough MSSC and Lowestoft), his side would be in pole position to claim back-to-back league titles.

It was going to be a tough game, even with a small squad, but things quickly got worse just ten minutes in. Matt Pinder went in to challenge with the central defender but ended up getting a nasty gash on the top of his foot. Not wanting to throw Ackroyd into the action for 80 minutes, after playing last week, Purse resisted the urge to also change goalkeeper Watroba into a playing kit, and battled through with ten men.

Matt Pinder is in good hands as his injury is assessed

Posh soon used the extra man to their advantage, it was in the 20th minute when the hosts broke the deadlock. Once again the scholars conceded a goal from a set-piece to go 1-0 behind.

And then things got worse as Peterborough added a second, just ten minutes before the break. The MAA boys were overran in midfield and a simple ball through carved open the defence and made it 2-0.

Half Time. Peterborough United (MSSC) 2-0 AFC R&D U18s / MAA.

It was clear the scholars were struggling so Purse had no choice to bring Watroba on in central defence at half time.

The scholars came out after the break fired up with Purse’s belief they could get something out of the game.

Just three minutes into the second half, the scholars pulled one back. Thomas Craddock took an inswinging corner, and top-scorer Luke Garner rose highest to head in and bring it back to 2-1.

Being back to 11 men helped the Diamonds as after 58 minutes they pulled it back to 2-2. Craddock put in a free-kick and defender Ben Peaks got infront of his marker to prod home.

Then the next ten minutes was where the game was lost for the MAA boys. Three one-on-ones came and went for the scholars. First Christy Nginamau squandered a chance, before Garner missed two great chances to put Diamonds in the lead.

And they were quickly made to pay, as straight after Garner missed his second chance, Posh went up the other end and scored. The hosts counter-attacked down the right hand side and Watroba was caught out of position and the striker made it 3-2.

If Purse had any hopes of winning the game now, they were soon dashed with ten minutes to go. As Harrison Desborough was the next one to be added to the long injury list, and he had to come off. Also goalscorer Ben Peaks was limping around, so the scholars effectively played the last ten minutes with nine men.

And the misery was compounded as Peterborough scored two break away goals to end a nightmare day for the scholars. The Diamonds were unable to reorganise going down to ten men again, and with a goalkeeper playing at centre back and a limping right back, Posh scored two late goals to make it 4-2 and then 5-2.

Full Time. Peterborough United (MSSC) 5-2 AFC R&D U18s / MAA.

After the game, I spoke to a frustrated Darren Purse, and firstly asked about Matt Pinder’s injury.

“First of all, I thought he just had a kick. Then Colin took his boot off, his sock was covered in blood. It wasn’t a nice injury at all, you could see the tendons and everything, so he had to go to hospital. So yeah, it’s not good because he’s been a big player for us. He’s telling me he’ll be fit for the David Joyce Cup Quarter Final game on Monday, but we’ll have to see. I’m not going to risk him while he’s got stitches in his foot.”

“At half time, I was confident we could still get something from the game, I brought Kacper on at half-time and to be fair to him, he did well. I couldn’t have asked for any more from him. For half an hour, he was brilliant, headed everything, kicked everything but in the end there was always going to be a time where he made a mistake or was caught out of position.”

With another game tomorrow (Wednesday), Purse revealed he’ll be struggling again.

“It’s not good at the minute injury-wise, it’s not anything we’re doing wrong, it’s just unfortunate injuries. Ieuan Ivett is injured, Joe Ackroyd is 50/50, but I don’t really want to risk him, Jacob Kearney, Sam de Boer, Thomas Craddock are all unavailable due to college work, Christy Nginamau is injured and now Harrison Desborough and obviously Matty Pinder. I’ve got 11. We’ll have to make do.

I can’t play anyone else or bring anyone else in because you have to be 16 to play in the league. I’ve got a squad of 19, but that’s clearly not enough.”

Report by Hayden Pott.