SATURDAY SPORT: Robbins is Diamonds' late hero but Steelmen are well beaten
Ryan Robbins was the late hero for AFC Rushden & Diamonds as his stoppage-time goal earned them a 1-1 draw at fellow high-fliers Beaconsfield Town.
Diamonds looked to be heading for defeat as they trailed to a first-half goal but Robbins scored from the rebound after his penalty had been saved to secure a point.
It means Andy Peaks’ side are now a point clear of Hayes & Yeading United at the top of the Evo-Stik South League East but remain three ahead of Beaconsfield in the race for the two automatic promotion places.
Peaks made changes following the 1-1 draw with Uxbridge in midweek.
Ben Ford came into the side at left-back as Diamonds reverted to four at the back while Joe Curtis and Joel Gyasi also returned to the starting line-up while Ben Farrell was missing from the squad.
After an even start, it was the hosts who broke the deadlock after 19 minutes when they broke quickly from midfield and Bajram Pashaj’s deep cross found Nathan Webb and he couldn’t miss from close-range.
But Diamonds played their way into the game and chances came towards the end of the half.
Liam Dolman’s goalbound strike was blocked by Curtis who couldn’t get out of the way and then Gyasi shot narrowly wide soon after.
But the golden opportunity came on the stroke of half-time when Luke Fairlamb’s cross was headed back by Dolman to Spencer Weir-Daley but shot straight at the goalkeeper instead of finding the net.
Diamonds forced the issue after the break and Weir-Daley forced the home stopper into a smart, low save before firing over from distance.
And just when it seemed a goal wasn’t coming, Webb was penalised for handball in the third minute of stoppage-time.
Robbins, on as a substitute, stepped up and saw his spot-kick saved but it came back to him and he made no mistake at the second attempt.
Diamonds will now hope to build on that point when, weather permitting, they entertain Bedford Town at Hayden Road on Monday afternoon.
Corby Town’s busy week finally caught up with them as they shipped four first-half goals before going on to lose 6-1 at Leek Town in the Evo-Stik League South.
Caretaker-manager Steve Kinniburgh, unsurprisingly, named an unchanged team after the fine 4-1 victory at Cleethorpes Town on Thursday night, although striker Matt Gardener was included on the bench having remained on Corby’s books despite leaving the club after a short spell at Steel Park earlier this year.
But it proved to be a nightmare first half for the Steelmen as it seemed their fourth game in the space of seven days was a step too far.
They fell behind when Tim Grice beat Jamie Anton to the ball and produced a lovely finish as he dinked it over Steelmen goalkeeper Sam Wilson.
It was 2-0 three minutes later when Grice’s low cross was converted by Jordan Johnson and the game looked up inside the half-hour when Dan Trickett-Smith’s free-kick found the net with the aid of a deflection off the wall.
Grice headed home Robert Stevenson’s cross to make it 4-0 on 34 minutes and it could have been worse as Trickett-Smith saw another free-kick cannon off the post before half-time.
Steven Leslie gave Corby a glimmer of hope six minutes into the second half when he fired home a superb 35-yard strike.
But Leek hit back 11 minutes later when Johnson bundled home his second from a Stevenson cross/
And Grice had the final say as he completed his hat-trick late on when he latched onto a mis-placed back-pass to make it 6-1.
Despite the heavy defeat, Corby remain five points off the play-off places with six games to go - the next of which is against local rivals Stamford at Steel Park on Easter Monday.