AFC Rushden & Diamonds fought back from a goal down to secure a draw against Barwell at Hayden Road.
But what did we learn?
A strong wind makes playing football extremely difficult.
This will have been something that everyone across the country will have learned at the weekend. Football is full of challenges and, sometimes, the weather presents a tougher examination than a team’s opponents. It felt like both Diamonds and Barwell were battling the gusty wind more than each other at times at Hayden Road and, unfortunately, it meant the game wasn’t one that will stick in the memory for long. The first half was better than the second but both teams found it hard to control their passes when they had the wind at their backs. I am sure every footballer would much rather play in the searing heat or the pouring down rain rather than in the blustery conditions we saw at the weekend.
Albie Hopkins looks a good prospect, which is good news for Diamonds and Oxford United.
Joel Gyasi’s departure to Bedford Town opened up the opportunity for Albie Hopkins to start in one of the attacking roles for Diamonds and he took full advantage, scoring his second goal in as many games with a composed finish after a nice one-two with a post! When there isn’t a great deal of money available, it’s up to managers to go and make other things happen and Andy Peaks has done that with the addition of the Oxford youngster on a loan deal. It’s one of those moves that works for everyone. Hopkins is getting good experience of adult football, Oxford are able to see how he handles it and Diamonds are getting themselves a decent prospect who improves their attacking options. So far, the common consensus is that his loan stay has been a success and Peaks is adamant the player has a ‘big future’ in the game. So far, it’s one of those good moves for all involved.
Everyone would love a Sam Brown in their team.
I thought the Diamonds left-back was the best player on the pitch on Saturday. It’s not that he was particularly head and shoulders above the rest but it was yet another solid performance from the ever-reliable defender. Brown has been there pretty much from the start with Diamonds, playing a key role in their rise up the divisions. And he seems to be nicely settled at Step 3. He keeps things simple. He defends and attacks with power and he also has a bullet long throw that is a weapon any team would find useful. Most importantly, you can tell he really cares about the club and that’s something you can’t put a price on. Yes, every club would like a ‘Sam Brown’ in their ranks.
Take the positives, Diamonds are now unbeaten in three league matches.
Diamonds came into this game on the back of a fine 5-1 success at Needham Market so there will have been some who would have been disappointed that it was only followed up by a home draw. In the end, there could be no arguments. It was a fair result. And it now means Andy Peaks’ team have got themselves on a nice little three-match unbeaten run in the league, conceding just two goals in the process. That’s much more like it. It all starts with a solid defence and, in the last few matches, Diamonds are doing all they can to minimise the individual errors that have cost them this season. It’s not so much turning a corner, more just straightening a few things out. They are up into mid-table and, let’s not forget, they haven’t been beaten on their own ground this season. Positive signs.
Non-League Day is an idea that works.
The 2010 brainchild of James Doe, ‘Non-League Day’ is one of those idea that seems to gather more momentum each year. Always coinciding with the international break, it gives non-League clubs an opportunity to promote themselves that little bit more to those who may not normally get the chance to go along and follow their local clubs. I’m not one of these people who will demand fans go and watch their local team and no-one else, everyone is free to support and follow who they want when it comes to football. But it’s good to have a day like this and it’s even better to see it well supported. Without being disrespectful to Barwell, but this fixture wouldn’t have been one that immediately jumped out at Diamonds fans when the lists came out, let alone the wider public. Yet this game brought with it the highest attendance of the season so far at Hayden Road. That will, of course, be shattered before the end of the campaign but the fact the game drew the biggest crowd so far suggests Non-League Day works. Diamonds publicised it well, they made it ‘Pay What You Want’ and there were even free chips available when you came through the turnstile. Non-League Day is a fantastic idea but it’s up to the clubs to make it happen. The attendance at Hayden Road and the high crowds elsewhere show they are making it happen and, more importantly, those who don’t normally attend are willing to give it a shot.