VERDICT – Diamonds and Lincoln must play it again after a Trophy cracker

Lewis Leslie celebrates with corner taker Nic Evangelinos after the midfielder headed home AFC Rushden & Diamonds' first equaliser in the 3-3 draw with Lincoln United in the FA Trophy. Pictures by Alison Bagley
Lewis Leslie celebrates with corner taker Nic Evangelinos after the midfielder headed home AFC Rushden & Diamonds' first equaliser in the 3-3 draw with Lincoln United in the FA Trophy. Pictures by Alison Bagley
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AFC Rushden & Diamonds and Lincoln United will do it all again on Tuesday night after a pulsating encounter at the Dog & Duck.

This one turned out to be the sort of cup tie every neutral would always hope for.

Lewis Leslie scores Diamonds' first goal

Lewis Leslie scores Diamonds' first goal

Two teams keen to attack, a decent crowd on hand and a game that swung back and forth before it ultimately ended in a cracking 3-3 stalemate.

It’s also the sort of tie that, no doubt, drives managers crazy.

For Diamonds boss Andy Peaks, the goals his team gifted their opponents would have been a big frustration while, on the other side of the coin, he would have been delighted with the character they showed to come back on three separate occasions.

And, for opposite number Sam Wilkinson, the fact his team were unable to defend a lead three times will have been bitterly disappointing.

Lincoln United's Jordan Hempenstall scores his team's opening goal at the Dog & Duck

Lincoln United's Jordan Hempenstall scores his team's opening goal at the Dog & Duck

But it all added up to an enjoyable and entertaining encounter with the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One South rivals now looking forward to being part of the Buildbase FA Trophy third qualifying round draw on Monday before they lock horns again on Tuesday.

The six-goal thriller marked a 10th game without defeat in all competitions for Diamonds.

And while the character couldn’t be questioned, their defensive frailties were all-too evident with the likes of Liam Dolman and Jack Ashton ruled out through injuries suffered in the 1-1 draw at Rugby Town a few days earlier.

It meant both Jason Lee and Sam Brown returned to the starting line-up and both played through injuries of their own while Lee was partnered by Diamonds’ ‘jack of all trades’ Brad Harris.

The general defensive work wasn’t too bad if truth be told but the errors that were made were punished by a hard-working and lively Lincoln side.

The visitors opened the scoring inside five minutes when Lee and Nic Evangelinos conspired to lose the ball and Robert Norris skipped away from Brown before sending an early, low cross, which was swept home by Jordan Hempenstall.

But the early setback paved the way for the cracking encounter that would follow.

Diamonds responded well and they were level just five minutes later when the returning Lewis Leslie, who impressed alongside the ever-reliable Richard Bunting in the middle of the pitch, rose to head home Evangelinos’ left-wing corner.

Things settled for a time after that but it was Lincoln who regained the lead and it was all a bit too simple for them as Norris’ free-kick was met with a downward header from James Blunden, which beat Matt Finlay and found the bottom corner.

Diamonds could have been level again before the break when Bunting blasted over from close-range after Nabil Shariff’s mis-hit shot found its way into his path.

But the home crowd didn’t have to wait long for the second equaliser of the afternoon as it arrived just two minutes into the second half.

Having cleared a corner, Diamonds broke quickly and Jake Newman squared the ball from the left. It was collected by Taylor Orosz who was able to turn before his deflected shot left Lincoln goalkeeper Jack Turner helpless.

Orosz fizzed another effort just over soon after but, again, Lincoln hit back and took the lead for a third time on 57 minutes.

Norris’ fine strike was palmed onto the crossbar by Finlay and while the Diamonds defence stood still, Gary King was there to pick up the pieces.

That may have been enough to break some teams but Diamonds weren’t about to surrender.

It should have been 3-3 just past the hour when Turner parried Evangelinos’ shot into Newman’s path. The goalkeeper did brilliantly to block the frontman’s effort and then Newman could only hit the outside of the post from a narrow angle as he got another bite of the cherry.

But the sixth and final goal of the afternoon did come on 68 minutes.

Brown launched a throw into the area from the right, it was flicked on and top scorer Shariff made no mistake with a fine header.

Both sides went for it towards the end with Finlay forced into a fine low save while substitute Tom Lorraine fired wide for Diamonds.

But a winner wouldn’t come for either side.

Lincoln will, no doubt, be the happier as they get a chance to finish the job on home soil.

But Diamonds have already been here in the Trophy this season and when a replay was required in the preliminary round, they made no mistake in dispatching Histon at the second attempt.

Peaks’ side certainly have plenty of fight about them and it was in evidence once again.

They will, more than likely, need plenty of it again if they are to finish the job in midweek...

Diamonds: Finlay; McNulty, Harris, Lee, Brown; Orosz, Bunting, Leslie, Evangelinos; Newman (sub Lorraine, 80 mins), Shariff. Subs not used: Curtis, Heath, Ford, Wreh.

Lincoln United: Turner; Hornsey, Jacklin, Blunden, Ward; Norris, Toyne, Brooks (sub Maddison, 62 mins), Smith (sub Cotton, 73 mins); Hempenstall, King (sub Mullarkey, 79 mins). Subs not used: Cann, McGann.

Referee: Mark Howes.

Goals: Hempenstall (5 mins, 0-1), Leslie (10 mins, 1-1), Blunden (25 mins, 1-2), Orosz (47 mins, 2-2), King (57 mins, 2-3), Shariff (68 mins, 3-3).

Bookings: Finlay (kicking ball away), Maddison, Harris (both fouls).

Attendance: 458.