AFC Rushden & Diamonds conceded another late equaliser to deny them their first win in Southern League Central on Saturday afternoon. Nana Asamoah of Ware pounced on a Delroy Gordon mistake in the 90th minute to fire home what was a fortunate equaliser. Diamonds had lead from the 23rd minute through a stunning strike from Claudio Hoban on his first start and had shaded possession and chances. They were unable to force the vital second despite Tom Lorraine and Hoban again coming very close in the second half and after a late melee which resulted in 4 yellow cards, three for Diamonds, Ware struck on a rare foray forward to clinch a point.
Manager Andy Peaks made two changes to his starting line-up after Tuesday night’s 2-2 draw at St. Ives with captain Richard Bunting straight back into centre midfield following his two game suspension in place of Charlie Butt allowing Brad Harris to move right-back. Claudio Hoban also made his first start in place of Courtney Herbert.
In a fairly low key start it was Ware who had the first half-chance with a great shooting opportunity created just inside the box from a flowing left-wing move but Kieron Bishop’s low effort was well blocked by Delroy Gordon just inside the box.
Diamonds settled comfortably into possession with Richard Bunting and Dan Quigley combining well in the centre of the park and getting Claudio Hoban on the ball at every opportunity. The young winger was a danger to Ware every time he was in possession and he created the first Diamonds chance on 9 minutes by running at Ware defence and pulling the ball back to Steve Spriggs who fired well over on the volley under pressure from just inside the box.
Spriggs was gifted a golden opportunity to open the scoring on 15 minutes when a home defender stumbled allowing him to run in on goal from 40 yards out. Coming in on the angle he chose to shoot low under home keeper Jack Smith who did really well to spread his legs to block the ball down at the near post.
Diamonds were starting to build some momentum at this point and the opening goal they so desperately wanted to get came in spectacular fashion on 23. Richard Bunting cleverly moved the ball onto Claudio Hoban on the left hand side of the box and he jinked right then left before hammering a stunning effort into the far corner that was still rising as it burst the net in front of the delighted Diamonds faithful.
Minutes later they came close to adding a second as quick throw after a long injury stoppage found Tommy Berwick in space in the box. He turned and fired the ball across goal which Tom Lorraine came agonisingly close to prodding home before a last ditch goal line clearance.
Ware were finding it difficult to gain any passing momentum against a committed Diamonds defence and were most dangerous from deep crosses. One such cross found Asamoah unmarked 8 yards out on the far post but he headed wide to Matt Finlay’s relief.
Diamonds were comfortable in their lead without really threatening a second in the latter stages of the half although they had the ball in the net on 44 after Steve Spriggs turned home a Tom Lorraine flick-on but Lorraine had made his run slightly early drawing an off-side flag.
Right on half-time Ware centre-forward Kieron Bishop picked up a yellow card for a poor challenge on the ever dangerous Claudio Hoban which had the youngster worryingly receiving treatment off the pitch where he fell.
Half-time: Ware FC 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
The second half should have started with a bang for Diamonds with a golden chance for the second goal that would surely have clinched the game for the away side after 46 minutes. Tom Lorraine found himself through the Ware defence and 1 on 1 with the keeper Jack Smith but like Spriggs in the first half he went for a low shot under the keeper only to be thwarted by a trailing leg.
They came very close to that vital second goal again on 49 minutes. Claudio Hoban was terrorising the home defence and after jinking across the 18 yard line his low effort went just inches wide of the far post catching what was probably a vital deflection on the way for the resultant corner.
And then just a minute later Delroy Gordon got superbly onto a deep Sam Brown cross with a firm header that Jack Smith in the Ware goal was at full stretch to save.
After that burst of chances the game settled into comfortable but fairly unthreatening possession for Diamonds and frustration for Ware who struggled against the Diamonds midfield to gain and hold possession.
It resulted in substitutions by Ware which injected some urgency in their play and they pushed more players forward to try and get back into the game. After Dan Quigley had a near post header from a Sam Brown long throw fly just over the bar on 66, Ware fashioned their closest chance. A right to left move which put Anthony Thomas in space and he took a quick fierce effort which Matt Finlay held low at the near post.
Diamonds were still fairly comfortable in the game but unable to fashion the killer chances that would clinch the game. Tom Lorraine did blast in a firm effort that echoed round the ground as it smacked off a blocking defender, with Bunting striking the rebound in similar fashion only to see that blocked too.
Ware started to create danger in the Diamonds defence with a pair of tricky right wing crosses that looked to be simple tap in headers only for last ditch clearances by first Delroy Gordon and then Charlie Butt who had come for Steve Spriggs.
We then had probably what became the decisive moment in the game on 87. After Tommy Berwick had been punished for a challenge on the half-way line the reaction on the some Ware players prompted a similar reaction from a few Diamonds players and a lot of pushing and shoving ensued. After a long period of consideration the referee showed 4 yellow cards, three to Diamonds in Tommy Berwick, Scott Joseph and Richard Bunting. The Ware midfielder Murat Karagul also received a yellow.
It seemed to galvanise Ware for a final effort and they got their reward 3 minutes into added on time but from an unfortunate mistake in the Diamonds back four. A ball over the top saw Delroy Gordon in control but instead of clearing first time he took a touch, stumbled, was dispossessed and the ball was squared to Nana Asamoah to gleefully sweep the ball home.
Diamonds players, management and fans were crestfallen at a second late equalizer in a game they were comfortably in control of, and it was a sad looking group that left the pitch minutes later on the final whistle.
It was difficult to see the positives from what was really another good controlled performance after that late late sucker punch. Manager Andy Peaks will have been pleased with the impact of Claudio Hoban and the returning Richard Bunting, and the solid look of the midfield and back four that denied their opponents much in the way of chances. He will however be disappointed with the indiscipline that could have seen red cards but resulted in 4 yellow cards on the day, and the inability of his side to create and take chances in the second half. The second late mistake which cost his side a deserved first win will be particularly hard to take.
The side are still unbeaten though and have been arguably the better side in every game so far, and have a run of three home games around the FA Cup tie to get those first wins on the board. Starting on Tuesday against Aylesbury.
Man of the Match: Claudio Hoban
Match Report: Paul Judd
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Jack Smith
2. Paul Cooper
3. Alfa Oujdi
4. Murat Karagul
5. Ben Crilley
6. Ajet Shehu
7. Rod Young
8. Joshua Oyibo
9. Kieron Bishop
12. Mickey Clark
13. Danny Charles
14. Jack Fowler (for Shehu 47)
15. Anthony Thomas
16. Marco Tuzzeo (for Ledula 52)
17. Matt Finlay
2. Brad Harris
3. Sam Brown
4. Jack Ashton
5. Delroy Gordon
6. Dan Quigley
7. Steve Spriggs
8. Richard Bunting
9. Tom Lorraine
10. Tommy Berwick
11. Claudio Hoban
12. Jason Kilbride
13. Jake Gillingwater
14. Scott Joseph (for Hoban 77)
15. Charlie Butt (for Spriggs 71)
16. Liam Dolman
Goals: Asamoah (90)
Goals: Hoban (23)
Yellow Cards: Bishop (45), Karagul (87)
Yellow Cards: Harris (70), Berwick (87), Joseph (87), Bunting (87)
Referee: Andreas Anastasiou
Assistants: Abiodun Abraham, Ashley Hickson-Lovence
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