Magic of the cup is alive as Diamonds earn a second chance

Liam Dolman is buried under a pile of players and fans after scoring AFC Rushden & Diamonds' dramatic equaliser in the 2-2 draw at Barwell. Pictures by Mal Swinden
Liam Dolman is buried under a pile of players and fans after scoring AFC Rushden & Diamonds' dramatic equaliser in the 2-2 draw at Barwell. Pictures by Mal Swinden

The magic of the FA Cup. Is it a myth? Does it really exist?

A couple of questions that could be answered in numerous ways but, if you are a fan or follower of AFC Rushden & Diamonds, then the answer would be an overwhelming yes.

It’s a strange one this. And allow me to explain.

I was asked by one of my colleagues in the press box – ‘Is this a club that believes it’s still its former self or is it a completely new thing?’

My answer to that was that it is a new thing. It’s a club for the fans, a club happy to live within its means, happy to accept whatever comes from being just that.

Make no mistake. Of the 500-plus from Northamptonshire who made up the majority of the attendance of 819 on this occasion, I am sure that many of them were there when Carl Heggs scored at Elland Road or when Jon Brady struck at Bramall Lane.

Liam Dolman heads home AFC Rushden & Diamonds' first goal in the 2-2 draw at Barwell in the FA Cup

Liam Dolman heads home AFC Rushden & Diamonds' first goal in the 2-2 draw at Barwell in the FA Cup

Those were moments to remember from a previous life.

But when Liam Dolman found the net with just 40 seconds left of stoppage-time at Kirkby Road, the feeling would have been as good, if not better.

You see, that’s what the FA Cup does. It weaves its magic, just when you don’t expect it.

The words had already been written: ‘A brave effort from Andy Peaks’ side, yet not quite enough’. That’s how it was going to be.

Liam Dolman celebrates after scoring his first goal at Barwell

Liam Dolman celebrates after scoring his first goal at Barwell

Yet there’s something within this crop. A never-say-die attitude. And just when they needed it, it came to the fore to keep their dreams alive.

Don’t let the late drama fool you. This 2-2 draw was no FA Cup classic. Indeed, both Barwell and Diamonds struggled to make the opposing goalkeeper work overtime.

But when it counted, both teams made their mark. And, with a place in the first round of the competition on the line, they will do battle again on Tuesday night.

Diamonds could have gone in front inside the first two minutes when Tommy Berwick had a free header from six yards after Tom Lorraine’s cross had been deflected into his path. But, instead of finding the net, Berwick headed wide.

From there, Barwell had the better of the opening period and, after Brady Hickey had twice shot off target, they took the lead when Ant Carney produced a neat turn and beat Matt Finlay with a good finish into the far corner.

Nigel Julian went close to doubling that lead before the break. Diamonds needed to be better in the second half and, thankfully, they were.

They levelled on 57 minutes. The diminutive Claudiu Hoban swung in a corner and Liam Dolman - the hero of the hour - rose at the far post to head home.

It seemed like Diamonds were in the ascendency. But it was the hosts who grabbed what looked like being the winner with 14 minutes to go.

Finlay did well to push away Callum Woodward’s free-kick. But, from the resulting corner, no-one picked up the evergreen Richard Lavery at the far post and he headed in to put Barwell on the brink of the first round.

There seemed to be no way back. Scott Joseph was thrown on to try to spice things up.

But, as the board went up signalling five added minutes of stoppage-time, Barwell were comfortable.

Dolman was thrown into attack as Diamonds desperately hoped for an opening. And, with 40 seconds remaining, that opening arrived.

The ball was worked into the area, home bodies threw themselves in front of it but, within the mayhem, the ball broke kindly for that man Dolman and he made no mistake as he blasted home from close-range.

The travelling army - and it was an army - went ballistic and Dolman himself looked physically and mentally drained from the celebrations that followed.

The final whistle followed soon after. It felt like a win but the truth is, it wasn’t one.

Diamonds rescued it, right when it mattered. The magic of the FA Cup was alive and well.

Many will be watching the draw tomorrow night. And why shouldn’t they?

But come Tuesday night, there is a job to finish. Second chances are few and far between.

Diamonds have to make the most of it…

Barwell: Castle; Woodward, Kay, Towers, Nisevic; Hickey (sub Gaunt, 87 mins), Lavery, Julian, Tomkinson; Brennan (sub Christie, 76 mins), Carney. Subs not used: Lower, Opoku, Hartopp, Wakeling, Punter.

Diamonds: Finlay; Wilkinson, Gordon, Dolman, Brown; Herbert (sub Joseph, 83 mins), Bunting, Quigley, Hoban; Berwick, Lorraine. Subs not used: Harris, Butt, Ackroyd, Vitue, Pinder.

Referee: Amy Fearn.

Goals: Carney (11 mins 1-0), Dolman (57 mins, 1-1), Lavery (76 mins, 2-1), Dolman (90 mins, 2-2).

Bookings: Kay, Towers, Herbert, Julian (all fouls).

Attendance: 819.