Wellingborough Whitworth U18 v AFC Rushden & Diamonds MAA U18 – Thursday 12th March

AFC Rushden & Diamonds / MAA U18 face Wellingborough Whitworth U18 at Victoria Mill on Thursday evening (KO 7:45) in the semi-final of the NFA David Joyce U18 Cup.

The game is open for spectators to attend and manager Darren Purse has encouraged supporters to go along and give your support to the youngsters.

The semi-final comes a day after the scholars faced Thomas Beckett College in a top-of-the-table clash in the East Midlands College Division.  

Hayden Pott spoke to manager Darren Purse ahead of the cup semi-final.

Playing two games in two days is tough, but they’ve done it before and I’m hoping to get similar results as what we got then as well.” The scholars beat Tresham College 4-1, then the next day beat Rushden & Higham in the previous round of the David Joyce Cup, 4-0.

Whitworths sit 4th in their NSYL West Division whereas Diamonds are top of the college league. Purse’s boys have had experience playing against non college teams, and Purse admitted he likes playing against those types of sides.

“I prefer playing against them because they get to have a pick of the players they want and it’s usually a better test for us. I’ve enjoyed playing against them in this competition and I enjoy playing under the lights as well. It’s great for the lads, playing at a stadium and infront of fans, it gets them up for the game.”

Peterborough United and Northampton Town compete in the other semi-final for the right to meet Whitworths or Diamonds, and Purse says his players will be up for it.

It’s the same for anyone, when you’re a non-league side, you always want to test yourself against ‘so called’ better professional outfits. The winner of this game will be playing against a decent professional team – I think my lads want that to be them. They know what it means to play against those sorts of teams, and that’s why they put a bit more effort in to the cup games.”

He continued: “We’ve had a nice light week, because we don’t want to run the legs out of them too early on and we’ve kept everyone fit so I’ve got 16/17 to choose from.”

“I’ll tell them to go out and enjoy it, same as every match. From my point of view, it’s trying to keep it as similar game as normal. I’ll tell them to enjoy it, make the right decisions on the ball and do the right things. Set pieces are vital, we’ve improved defensively a lot recently, that’s more down to the lads grasping the concept of set pieces but also they’re growing physically as young men.”

Purse had a final message asking for the support of fans.

“The first team cup game on Tuesday night had two of the youngsters involved, with Joe Ackroyd coming on to make his debut. My team is the future of the football club. I’m not saying every single player will come through and play for the first team but I’m hopeful with the group of players I’ve got, that there will be five or six that over the next couple of years will be playing for the first team. Come down and watch a good game of football and cheer the future of the football club on, it would be great to see everyone.”

You will be able to find more details on the U18 team, including a blog on the U18s, on Diamonds Media Team Member Hayden Pott’s Blog – Blue and White Diamonds