Robert Smyth Academy 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds / MAA U18 5

AFC Rushden and Diamonds U18s / MAA comfortably advanced into the final 64 of the English Schools KO Trophy after beating The Robert Smyth Academy 5-1 on Monday.

In pretty much the worst footballing conditions possible, Diamonds kicked off the first half with the wind in their favour, and it didn’t take like for Diamonds to use this in their advantage. Just 30 seconds in, and Diamonds were 1-0 up. Matt Pinder found himself just outside the area and his right footed shot curled into the bottom corner.

With the away side starting so brightly, they continued to dominate the game. It wasn’t long before Diamonds doubled their lead. With 15 minutes on the clock, right-winger Hewett cut inside onto his left foot, and his cross-cum-shot evaded everyone, even the goalkeeper, and ended up in the back of the net.  

17 minutes later, Diamonds made their superiority count even further. In the 32nd minute, Pinder latched onto a long through ball, which the defender failed to deal with, and he made no mistake when one-on-one with the goalkeeper, as he slid the ball underneath him.

After the clear domination of the first half, the young Diamonds perhaps should have gone into the break four or five goals to the good, especially as the wind would be against them in the second half.

Half Time. Robert Smyth Academy 0-3 AFC Rushden & Diamonds / MAA

The wind did affect the boys in the second period of the game. Purse’s boys weren’t able to be as prominent in the opposition’s half, like they were in the first period. A combination of pressing from the home side and the wind, meant that Diamonds couldn’t get out of their own half. As a result of this, manager Darren Purse changed his formation to a back three, with two full backs operating the flanks.

This change of shape was successful as Diamonds began to soak up the home side’s attacks and were able to start launching counter attacks.

So, it was no surprise that Diamonds’ fourth was to come via a counter attack. With 68 minutes played, a superb solo goal from Desborough surely took the game out of RS Academy’s sight. Desborough cut in from the left hand side, and after beating two players, he easily rolled the ball underneath the ‘keeper with his right foot.

Just four minutes later, Leeson managed to get his first goal for the U18s and Diamonds’ fifth of the afternoon

Towards the end of the game, goalkeeper Barnes suffered concussion. With no substitute goalkeeper, Garner put the gloves on for the remainder of the game. The last kick of the game was a late consolation goal for the home side. In yet another freak circumstance, following a long through ball, Garner came out to clear and hit it straight at the attacker who was closing it down and the striker tapped it home.

Full Time. Robert Smyth Academy 1-5 AFC Rushden & Diamonds / MAA

Team: Barnes, Peaks (c), Knapp, Kearney, Roache, Hewett, Ackroyd, Desborough, Ivett, Garner, Pinder.

Subs: Leeson (Hewett 45’), Kirk (Ivett 45’), Weeks (Garner 45’), Uddin (Ackroyd 45’)

After the game, manager Darren Purse said: “We started off really well and we set out our stall for the rest of the game. We dominated the game and deserved to go in three ahead, perhaps we should’ve scored a few more. What with the wind in the second half, and it being such a big pitch, I decided to change the formation and it helped us. We needed to be more solid because of the conditions. We perhaps should’ve had more goals towards the end of the second half, what with the pace of the lads up top, it really worked for us.”

Commentating on Desborough’s superb solo goal, his first for the U18’s, Purse said: “It was a superb individual goal from Harrison Desborough. He was superb and to be fair to the lad, he has been since the start of the season. He’s forced his way into my starting XI and he’s been fantastic for us.” Purse admitted that freak goals are beginning to come annoying for his side and hopes his luck will change. “Freak goals have been our problem this year, we’ve conceded plenty of them! Free kicks going in off of our wall, kicking the ball at the striker and all of that sort of stuff, so hopefully our luck will change in terms of conceding freak goals. But the performances have been good, it’s all about developing the players rather than the results.” He finished: “I’ve got no complaints, they passed the ball well. Obviously it’s a cup game and it was all about getting through and they did that. A very good performance in which the boys deserved to go through to the next round.

AFC Rushden & Diamonds

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