AFC Rushden & Diamonds’ debut in the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central ended in deadlock – but it could and probably should have been so much more.
Quite how much Andy Peaks would have learned about the new level from this one game remains to be seen. Given it was between two newly-promoted teams, it probably wasn’t a great deal.
But, if you assess it over the 90 minutes, Diamonds will probably be feeling they should have kicked off life at a new level with a win rather than the 1-1 draw they ended up with.
On chances, the hosts had the better of things.
But one thing they did learn from this is that they will be up against far more resolute teams than they may be used to because that’s exactly what Petersfield were.
Things might have been different had Dan Quigley scored instead of firing over from Courtney Herbert’s low cross after six minutes or if Tom Berwick’s deflected shot not been brilliantly saved by Matt Short.
But, after that initial bright opening, Diamonds found themselves in more of a battle than they might have expected.
They weren’t helped by key defender Liam Dolman having to limp off with a calf injury early on.
However, they struggled to make any further impact on the game until they had gone behind on the hour when Stuart Green headed home a left-wing cross out of pretty much nothing.
From there, it was a test of character and, ultimately, the hosts delivered.
Latest signing Claudiu Hoban almost made an immediate impact from the bench when he jinked past a defender and forced Short into a good save before he also denied Jack Ashton from the resulting corner.
When Steve Spriggs’ shot from a clear opening was blocked, the home fans may have been fearing the worst.
But there was relief all-round with 12 minutes to go when Sam Brown launched a long throw into the area and Delroy Gordon headed home a deserved equaliser.
A point apiece, in the end, was a fair reflection. But Diamonds really should have won it at the death when another substitute, Scott Joseph, played in Tom Lorraine and he shot wide with just Short to beat.
An opportunity missed perhaps. But Diamonds are up and running at the higher level.
They will have a clearer idea of what they up against this season once they have played a more established side at the level in St Ives Town on Tuesday night.
Diamonds: Finlay; Gordon, Dolman (sub Wilkinson, 16 mins), Ashton, Brown; Harris, Quigley; Herbert (sub Joseph, 73 mins), Spriggs, Berwick (sub Hoban, 65 mins); Lorraine. Subs not used: Kilbride, Gillingwater.
Petersfield: Short; Hyde, Sackman, Ford, Wain; Briggs, Richardson, Green, Woodford (sub Walker, 73 mins), Silver; Dixon. Subs not used: McEnery, Neal, Gale, Searle.
Referee: Mark Howes.
Goals: Green (60 mins, 0-1), Gordon (78 mins, 1-1).