AFC Rushden & Diamonds suffered a frustrating afternoon in the Fens as they drew 1-1 against Wisbech Town. The home side had taken the lead with a drilled shot from well outside of the area, and the Diamonds had a chance to level when Fazel Koriya won a penalty, but he saw his spot-kick saved, and Séan McBride skied the follow-up effort. The Diamonds levelled through a solo goal from Alfie Taylor, but could not convert their possession into goals. Aaron King received two controversial yellow cards and so had his marching orders in the dying seconds.
Diamonds manager Mark Starmer made a single changes to the side that had beaten Wisbech Town in midweek, with Alfie Taylor replacing Nat Liburd, but he continued with the two holding midfielders in front of the back four, with Aaron King pushed up alongside Taylor and Koriya. Due to injury and unavailability issues he named Kyle Davison-Gordon on the bench alongside Liburd and Matt Gearing plus keeper Adam Whybrow.
The pattern of the game was established quickly, with the Diamonds having the lion’s share of possession as they dominated midfield and created an early chance as Russ Dunkley headed a Merrill throw into the path of Aaron King who fired wide. Alfie Taylor was finding space on the right, and after good work from King and Merrill his cross into the area saw a stooping header from Brad Harris that went wide.
It was thus against the run of play that the hosts took the lead after 15 minutes. A ball forwards saw a tussle between Battersby and Deakin, and the ball was only half-cleared to Callum Stocks who held off Séan McBride and played a one-two with Tom James, before hitting an arrow-like shot from 25 yards that looked destined for the net the moment it left his foot.
The next Diamonds attack might have seen them quickly back on level terms. As they threatened to break down the right, Aaron King hit a sublime cross-field pass into the path of Fazel Koriya who quickly moved the ball into the penalty area. As he checked inside he wrong-footed his marker Paul Cousins, and as he stretched for the loose ball he was brought down for a clear penalty, with Cousins receiving a yellow card. The spotkick was reasonably well-struck, but it was at an ideal height for keeper Jordan to save. He palmed the ball towards the on-rushing and alert Séan McBride who fired the ball over the bar and out of the stadium.
Aaron King was having an impressive first half, and was on the receiving end of a number of foul tackles, and he chose to get on with the game to see a free-kick headed into the path of Alfie Taylor by Russ Dunkley, but Taylor didn’t make full contact with his shot.
After 34 minutes the Diamonds did get the equaliser they richly deserved, and it was a solo effort from Alfie Taylor who ran onto a neat ball forwards from King as he comfortably beat the home offside trap and after a good first touch he fired in-off the right-hand post.
The Diamonds continued to threaten, and a dangerous looking move was halted by a foul by Doherty on Koriya, with referee Gospel blowing his whistle before realising Aaron King was free in the right channel as the ball ran to him. Although Doherty received a yellow card for the challenge it was poor consolation.
As half-time approached there was even more controversy over the advantage rule, as James Tricks committed a clear foul towards the Diamonds’ left touchline, but referee Gospel chose to play advantage this time, with the Diamonds fenced in near the touchline. This became even more frustrating as the home side regained possession and Aaron King tried to spread himself to block a clearance, near the Wisbech bench, and was adjudged to have committed a cautionable offence, although it did not appear he had made contact.
Half-Time: Wisbech Town 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
There were times during the second period when someone who was not aware of the score would have thought the home side were defending a lead, as once again it was the Diamonds who took the initiative, although they didn’t get the ball into such dangerous areas.
Fazel Koriya had the best early chance when he ran into the area on the left, and appeared to have engineered space for a shot from a narrow angle, but he chose instead to lay the ball across the area, and it was quickly smothered.
Jamal Clarke did well to block a Battersby shot on the end of a home corner, but as the half went on the game was becoming a bit of a stalemate. In order to change things the Diamonds reverted to 4-4-2 with Liburd and Gearing on the flanks, and they forced a series of corners and free-kicks as it became clear which side had the most desire to win the game. A Gearing free-kick from the left about 30 yards out almost saw the first Diamonds goal for Jamal Clarke as he arrived at the far post after the ball eluded Dunkley and his three markers, but he couldn’t connect.
There were still a number of mystery decisions from the officials, most notably when the linesman on the far side signalled for an offence when a throw was taken on the near side and thrown down the line. Initially it was thought he was signalling for off-side, which clearly couldn’t be the case from a throw-in, but in fact he wanted to bring the referee’s attention to an offence he spotted from 40 yards.
A Taylor run down the left saw a shot deflected for a corner, and then Joe Merrill almost broke the deadlock as a corner was half-cleared into his path. Russ Dunkley then set Nat Liburd off for a run and cross that was cleared just before it reached Matt Gearing.
As the game entered added time, Aaron King was still showing the effort and commitment that is a trademark of his game, and as he stretched to challenge Jon Fairweather his studs were exposed, but the studs did not appear to connect with the Fenmen’s captain, despite his reaction, but referee Gospel was convinced he needed to show King a second yellow card – and hence give him his marching orders.
There was still time for one of the most dangerous Diamonds breaks of the game, with Russ Dunkley running clear towards goal. Referee Gospel appeared to miss the off-the-ball challenge on Alfie Taylor that stopped him getting up to support Dunkley as he wanted, and Dunkley could not make the most of the chance. As the ball broke towards the corner and out for a throw Taylor and Doherty tangled, but the referee chose to take no action.
He then sounded the final whistle signalling celebrations from the home fans for a draw that seemed to feel like a win to them – but perhaps felt like a defeat to the Diamonds.
Full-Time: Wisbech Town 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
Diamonds Man of The Match: Sam Brown
The Diamonds travel to face Northampton Sileby Rangers on Tuesday evening.
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Lea Jordan
2. Keiran Doherty
3. Steve Reid
4. Paul Cousins
5. Jon Fairweather (capt)
6. Callum Stocks
7. Lewis Clayton
8. James Tricks
9. Tony Battersby
10. Danny White
11. Tom James
12. Jack Smith (for James HT)
14. Shane Green (for Tricks 81)
17. Tom Cross
2. Joe Merrill
3. Sam Brown
4. Séan McBride
5. Jamal Clarke
6. Alex Deakin
7. Fazel Koriya
8. Aaron King
9. Russ Dunkley (Capt)
10. Alfie Taylor
11. Brad Harris
12. Matt Gearing (for Koriya 69)
13. Adam Whybrow (GK)
14. Nat Liburd (for Harris 69)
15. Kyle Davison-Gordon
Goals: Stocks (15)
Goals: Taylor (34)
Yellow Cards: Cousins, Doherty
Yellow Cards: King (x2 = red card @90+1 mins)
Referee: Martyn Gospel
Assistants: Don Maclarty MBE BEM, Gabriel Rabatin