Diamonds ended the season with an encouraging and positive performance against a good Tamworth side earning a 1-1 draw with Nathan Hicks 68th minute drive into the bottom corner.
Diamonds started brightly on the 3G pitch in Staffordshire with Zack Reynolds and Jack Ashton driving forward in the first 5 minutes. Tamworth played some good possession football and tested Ben Heath twice in quick succession in the 11th minute with the Diamonds stopper pushing one effort wide and another just over. As Tamworth shaded possession Chris Lait produced a great full length save from Heath 5 minutes from half-time. Diamonds had been consistently bright on the break though came close right on half-time with Ben Farrell firing narrowly wide.
Diamonds were encouragingly bright early in the second half but were repelled by the strong looking home side before the game burst into life with two goals in 3 minutes. Tamworth took the lead on 65 minutes through Jordan Gough nodding in a near post corner a tad against the run of play but Diamonds responded with the impressive Nathan Hicks driving home from the edge of the box, having just seen a pile driver of an effort saved. Diamonds finished the game and the season strongly and looked the more likely to score in the closing stages. They so nearly did in the 90th minute with a Liam Dolman free-kick deflected to Ben Acquaye who drove straight at the keeper, with same player firing over from a Sam Johnson through ball.
Diamonds started brightly on the 3G home pitch with a couple of thrusting forward moves to press the home defence in the first 5 minutes. Zack Reynolds driving up to the edge of the area before being seen out on 3 minutes, and Jack Ashton doing the same a minute later but seeing his cross cut-out.
Tamworth grew into the game though and created a couple of great efforts around the 10 minute mark with Ben Heath who would be Diamonds player of the first half pushing a well struck effort from Concannon wide and then tipping an blistering effort from the same player over the bar.
After a period of Tamworth pressure Supporters player of the season Tom Lorraine got into the action on 21 minutes combining with Jack Bowen on a quick break but a timely defensive challenge denied him.
As possession evened out Zack Reynolds impressed for Diamonds and drove a fierce effort just wide as did Jack Bowen whose effort just evaded Tom Lorraine. Ex-Stourbridge FC favourite Chris Lait was impressive for the home side at the heart of most of their decent moves and had a number of good efforts himself including a 39th minute effort that produced another great full length save from Ben Heath.
Tamworth had shaded possession in the first half but Diamonds had looked more lively on the break than in recent games and a superb sweeping move right on half time nearly brought the break through. Ben Farrell at the end of the move pinging a shot narrowly wide.
Half-time: Tamworth 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0
Diamonds started their final half of the season in good style and with Sam Brown driving forward and crossing dangerously towards Jack Bowen who couldn’t quite connect.
Tamworth were playing good possession football as they had done in the first half but without creating clear chances and it was Diamonds who had the next opportunity. Zack Reynolds hit a superb long ball to Jack Bowen allowing the striker to cut inside and fire a low effort that was well saved by Jas Singh in the home goal.
Tamworth responded with more pressing football and this time they did threaten with another fierce effort from Kristian Green on 59 minutes that produced a great one handed save from Ben Heath.
After steady period of even possession where defences were on top the game burst into life with two goals in 3 minutes. Tamworth got the breakthrough on 65 minutes a little out of nowhere when a corner was earned after a decent move and Jordan Gough at the near post headed firmly home.
Just 3 minutes later Nathan Hicks who had seen a pile driver of an effort saved by the home keeper seconds earlier fired a repeat effort low into the bottom corner to bring Diamonds level.
Both sides were buoyed by the minor goal frenzy and their respective supports and were energised in attack but defences remained strong denying serious chances despite some promising positions.
Substitutions were made by both sides to try and liven up attacking options with Ben Acquaye replacing the hard working Tom Lorraine for Diamonds. Diamonds started to shade possession and look the more likely to score with Zack Reynolds and Nathan Hicks prominent. Tamworth took the role of hitting on the break with Alex Collard taking a booking for halting one dangerous move.
Right on 90 minutes Diamonds twice came close to the goal that would have finished the season in style. First a penalty appeal was rewarded with a free-kick right on the edge of the box. Liam Dolman’s effort was deflected to Acquaye who fired straight into the arms of the home keeper. Just a minute later Acquaye again fired narrowly over after Johnson had run clear and played him in.
Final score: Tamworth 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
This performance together with that in the Bank Holiday derby game saw Diamonds bounce back to the kind of form and potential they undoubtedly have at this level. Against a good side themselves recovering form they were positive in possession, defended aggressively which is always a cornerstone of this team, and bounced back from conceding a disappointing goal to look the most likely to take the spoils.
It’s been a long hard season of discovery at this level with Diamonds really sparkling and exciting their fans at times and being a match for anyone they have played. They have most definitely shown they belong at this level with sound organisation, real talent found an nurtured and an amazing group of members and volunteers supporting some impressive management on and off the field to keep the Diamonds dream alive.
Man of the Match: Nathan Hicks
Match Report: Paul Judd