AFC Rushden & Diamonds were unable to make the most of the lion’s share of possession at Weston Park, and after conceding a sloppy breakaway goal in the first half they will have been relieved to see Alfie Taylor net an equaliser five minutes from time.
Mark Starmer made two changes to the starting line-up for the Diamonds first away trip. Jamie O’Grady came into the side at right back, allowing Joe Merrill to push forwards into midfield in place of the absent Séan McBride, whilst James Allcock made his Diamonds debut replacing Sam Brown at left back.
With Ashley Foulger getting match experience elsewhere, the Diamonds were without a substitute keeper, but included Peter Okechukwu, Troy Johnston and Louis Smith alongside Sam Brown and Ben Morgan on the subs bench.
For the first fifteen minutes of the game it was all one-way traffic as the Diamonds started to test home keeper Woodward, and he initially looked rather shaky as he failed to gather a couple of efforts cleanly. Poor finishing from Taylor, Allcock, Dent and Cox meant the Diamonds failed to establish an early lead, but perhaps it was this domination that led to complacency, and as Woodward gained confidence the Diamonds attack became increasingly sloppy, firing wildly at half-chances rather than attempting any cohesive link-up play.
The Diamonds did come close when an Alfie Taylor effort from the edge of the area clipped the bar, and the Diamonds striker saw another effort bounce off Woodward after good work from Merrill.
It took 20 minutes before the home side produced an attacking threat, but a Boughton shot was easily caught by Quincy Shorunmu. This seemed to further increase Wootton’s confidence to get forwards, and after 27 minutes they took the lead when a great run by Adam Jackson on the left beat the Diamonds offside trap, and he slid the ball across for Scott Sinclair to slot home. Although there might have looked like an element of offside in the move, Aynsley McDonald confirmed after the game that he had no complaints with the decision.
The Diamonds seemed rather stunned to be behind, and resorted to long range efforts until Jamie O’Grady found Deven Ellwood with a good cross from the right shortly before half-time, and although the Diamonds striker did well to turn, his effort on goal was straight at Woodward.
Half-Time: Wootton Blue Cross 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0
In recent games the Diamonds have produced much more in the second period, and the 300 or so travelling fans must have hoped it would be the case for this game. However, apart from a penalty claim for a push on Deven Elwood that referee Humphries saw as an offence by the Diamonds striker, they produced little in the way of clear-cut chances in the third quarter of the game.
The lack of urgency in the attacks saw a good 3 on 2 break with Dent, Taylor and Wisniewski break down when a defender was allowed to get in an easy block as Taylor attempted to pass to Wisniewski. Other sloppy efforts from Allcock and Dent went alongside a near-miss from Chris Hope, but the introduction of Troy Johnston and Peter Okechukwu for their Diamonds debut began to increase the effectiveness of the Diamonds attack, with Johnston going close after getting on the end of a good move involving Dent, Ellwood and Taylor.
The final Diamonds change saw Ben Morgan join the attack, and within a minute the Diamonds had their best effort of the game as Johnston saw an excellent overhead attempt hit keeper Woodward from point blank range after Alfie Taylor had broke down the right. Finally after 85 minutes the equaliser came. A quick long throw from Joe Merrill took advantage of a strengthening wind to elude a covering defender allowing Alfie Taylor to break into the area and fire past Woodward.
It was then a question of whether a rejuvenated Diamonds would get a winning goal in the remaining five minutes or so. Ben Morgan looked like he might have scored the winner when he found space in the area to curl a shot towards the left corner of the net, but keeper Woodward confirmed he had made amends for his early errors by pulling off an excellent save. With the game now in injury time the Diamonds went close three times in under a minute, as the resultant Merrill corner was cleared off the line by Jackson with Woodward beaten, and then Jack Wisniewski found space in a similar place to where Morgan had done moments earlier, but his effort was well blocked. There was still time for a final effort from Elliott Dent to be blocked before referee Humphries blew the final whistle after five minutes of added time.
Full-Time: Wootton Blue Cross 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
There is now a week before the Diamonds travel to Grantham to play Harrowby United.
Wootton Blue Cross
AFC Rushden & Diamonds
1. Chris Woodward
2. Dan Williamson
3. Adam Jackson
4. Adam Boughton
5. Jonny Richens
6. Sean McFarland
7. Ashley Mead
8. Courtney Boughton
9. Grant Williams
10. Scott Sinclair
11. Liam Parker
12. Chris Winton (for McFarland 84)
14. Charlie Standish (for Parker 59)
15. Ross Course
16. Bradley Cotton (for Williamson 89)
17. Chris Cook
17. Quincy Shorunmu
2. Joe Merrill
3. James Allcock
4. Elliot Dent
6. Aynsley McDonald
7. Jamie O’Grady
8. George Cox
9. Alfie Taylor
10. Deven Ellwood
11. Jack Wisniewski
12. Troy Johnston (for Allcock 70)
13. Peter Okechukwu (for O’Grady 64)
14. Sam Brown
15. Louis Smith
16. Ben Morgan (for Ellwood 78)
Goal: Scott Sinclair (27)
Goal: Alfie Taylor (85)
Cards : Mead (24), Parker (58)
Cards : None
Referee: A. Humphries
Assistants: S. Trusler, A. Bullimore
For match highlights click here.
Images courtesy of Mal Swinden ©2012 Malcolm Swinden Photography