AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 Barwell 1 - Jon Dunham’s review

AFC Rushden & Diamonds fought back from a goal down to earn a point at Hayden Road - but the game was overshadowed by an unsavoury incident in the second half.

Sunday, 27th September 2020, 8:00 am
Matty Slinn's shot finds the net as his effort earned AFC Rushden & Diamonds a share of the points in a 1-1 draw with Barwell. Pictures courtesy of HawkinsImages

Jon Dunham gives his observations on the events that took place...

The year is 2020 and yet we’re still having to revisit this cancer in football and society, for that matter

I find it hard to believe that we are having to address the issue of racism in football in the year 2020.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Luke Fairlamb walked away with his head held high after being involved in an unsavoury incident at Hayden Road

Indeed, racism is still at the forefront of global headlines for one reason or another. It’s a problem in general society and so, it’s inevitable that it might land on your doorstep. It shouldn't, but it does.

When Luke Fairlamb stepped away from taking a free-kick near to the touchline and the referee and his assistant quickly intervened, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to work out what had happened.

I was on the other side of the ground, so I don’t know exactly what was said but Fairlamb said afterwards that a racist comment had been thrown in his direction and the fact the ‘fan’ was quickly ejected seemed to confirm as much.

It’s sickening that this is still happening and yet it’s a problem that football and society can’t seem to shake off. There’s people who can’t and won’t be educated.

Tom Lorraine runs at the Barwell defence

I tip my hat to Fairlamb himself. He stepped away and informed the officials who also deserve credit for the way they handled the situation. Fairlamb went on to finish the game strongly and he set up the equaliser for Matty Slinn in the process.

He walks away with his head held high, although I am devastated for him that he had to go through something as sickening as that.

There was devastation amongst the Diamonds officials after the game as the investigation into what happened started in earnest.

Diamonds are a good club, with good people behind the scenes and the fact that one individual’s ignorance can stop them in their tracks is as frustrating as it is disgusting.

It’s important to reiterate that this was an individual. This sort of thing isn’t something that is commonplace at Hayden Road and there’s no way Diamonds’ fanbase should be tarred with the same brush. Indeed, the reaction of fans around the individual spoke volumes.

But one in a crowd of just over 300 is still too many and, all being well, the one responsible will be identified and will feel the full force of whatever punishment the club and, possibly, the authorities throw back at him.

We should have been talking about football after the final whistle but instead the afternoon’s entertainment was overshadowed in the worst possible circumstances.

Football is played and watched by people all over the world. I always thought it had its role to play in bringing us all together.

In general, it does but there is always the exception to the rule lurking around the corner.

I am sure Diamonds will act swiftly following this incident and I was delighted to see fans calling it out at the time and on social media afterwards.

Let’s all do what we can to eradicate this cancer that eats away at the game.

Diamonds need to believe in themselves a bit more

When you take a beating like the one Diamonds did in the 5-0 defeat to Newark in the FA Cup last Tuesday night, it’s understandable that confidence levels will drop.

And when Barwell took the lead in this one at Hayden Road, you could sense a bit of fear creeping into the Diamonds camp.

Eventually, with a couple of tweaks both with tactics and personnel, the hosts got a grip on proceedings and they were well worth the share of the points thanks to Matty Slinn’s well-taken goal.

They had been knocking on the door before then but after the goal, you could see the belief was back and they were unfortunate not to steal all three points when Jack Ashton struck the post with a header.

There were a couple of occasions when the simple instructions from the home dugout were based around ‘belief’.

Andy Peaks referred to it in his post-match interview. Football is a confidence game. When you’re in good form, you feel unstoppable. When you’re not, it feels like nothing is going for you.

There’s no doubt that there is enough talent in this Diamonds squad to be more than competitive in the Southern League Premier Central this season.

But belief and confidence aren’t things that can be coached. They have to be found from within.

Hopefully, the way they finished the game will give the players that lift they need.

The games are coming thick and fast, win on Tuesday and it will look like a solid start

There’s no rest for the wicked and Diamonds will be back at Hayden Road for a third home game in the space of seven days when they face Hitchin Town on Tuesday night.

They do have that FA Cup defeat as a blot on their copybook but, as far as the league is concerned, they have two points on the board from two matches.

If they can find a win against Hitchin then it will look like a very solid start to the new Premier Central campaign.

It won’t be easy, no game in the division is.

Diamonds have more than enough in their armoury to get a positive result, however.

Five points from three games would be a more than respectable start to the league season and if Diamonds can start the match as they finished this one, then they will stand a good chance.