VERDICT '“ Diamonds out of sorts but it's another point on the board
AFC Rushden & Diamonds' unbeaten run in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One South now stands at 11 matches, although there will have been mixed feelings after their latest outing ended in a 1-1 draw at Rugby Town.
On the face of it, it looks like a disappointing result. Rugby came into the game sitting rock-bottom of the table and without a home win in the league all season.
After impressive wins at Spalding United and Stocksbridge Park Steels, this looked like being something of a ‘banker’ for Andy Peaks’ men.
But football is never that simple and, given how events unfolded at Butlin Road, Diamonds may well look back on this particular point as a good one.
They weren’t at their best, far from it. But they weren’t helped by the loss of centre-halves Jack Ashton and Liam Dolman to injuries inside the first 52 minutes.
It meant a complete reshuffle with Tom Lorraine and Brad Harris making up an unlikely central defensive partnership for the remainder of the game.
And when Rugby took the lead, it looked like being one of those nights.
But, as they have done so many times already this season, Diamonds dug deep and grabbed an equaliser through Nic Evangelinos and might have even won it at the death.
That would have been harsh on Rugby though. For a team supposedly devoid of any confidence, they battled hard and were well worth the point they gained for their efforts.
The first half was, in the main, forgettable with Evangelinos firing over early on while Mason Rowley almost put through his own net from a Nabil Shariff cross after a swift counter-attack.
At the other end, Rugby’s Chris Sterling saw an effort deflected just over while Diamonds lost Ashton to a knee problem just before the break.
Diamonds started the second half on the front foot and Tom Lorraine really should have opened the scoring but could only bundle wide of the mark from another Shariff centre.
But Dolman’s departure proved to be a turning point and, after Scott Hadland, had sent a volley wide, the hosts did break the deadlock just before the hour mark.
Daniel Campbell crossed from the left and Sterling met it with what looked like his shoulder and the ball looped up and over Ben Heath before dropping into the net.
But Diamonds’ response was swift. Substitute Lewis Leslie swung a free-kick into the area and, after a scramble, the ball ran loose for Evangelinos and he smacked it into the top corner.
There were chances at both ends after that with Heath diving full-length to turn Kyle Rowley’s long-range strike round the post.
And Diamonds’ best chance to nick the points came in the first minute of stoppage-time when Shariff cut in from the left and saw his show deflected narrowly wide of the target.
It was not to be for Diamonds on this night but the good run of form goes on.
There were disappointed faces all round with a sense that this was two points dropped.
You never know though. This might just be a useful point earned come the end of the season...
Rugby: Connor; Palmer, K Rowley, M Rowley; Delfouneso, Faulkner (sub Mbunga, 75 mins), Halsall, Hadland (sub Holloway, 90 mins), Boitos; Sterling, Campbell. Subs not used: Print, Punter, Charles.
Diamonds: Heath; Harris, Dolman (sub Leslie, 52 mins), Ashton (sub Ford, 42 mins), McNulty; Wilson (sub Orosz, 68 mins), Bunting, Lorraine, Evangelinos; Newman, Shariff. Subs not used: Finlay, Brown.
Referee: Sarah Garratt.
Goals: Sterling (58 mins, 1-0), Evangelinos (64 mins, 1-1),
Bookings: Hadland, Bunting (both unsporting behaviour), Faulkner, Harris, Shariff (all fouls).