VERDICT '“ Diamonds on the spot to secure quarter-final place
Jake Newman fired home the decisive penalty as AFC Rushden & Diamonds held their nerve from the spot to move into the last eight of the Integro League Cup.
A much-changed Diamonds line-up shared a 0-0 draw with fellow Evo-Stik Northern Premier League high-flyers Spalding United at the Dog & Duck.
With no extra-time, the game went straight to a penalty shoot-out and, after 10 perfect spot-kicks, Ben Heath saved Jordan Lemon’s effort to give Newman the chance to land the knockout blow on one of his former clubs.
Andy Peaks made good on his promise to make changes as just Liam Dolman, Brad Harris and Ben Farrell kept their places from the team that started Saturday’s 4-0 victory over Loughborough Dynamo.
Spalding, on the other hand, named an unchanged side from their 2-1 win against Chasetown to maintain second place in the table.
But the much-changed Diamonds team proved more than a match for the Tulips
The early exchanges were fairly even with Leon Mettam finding the side-netting for the visitors following one of Matt Varley’s long throws into the area.
Robbie Parsons’ 20-yard effort was easily held by Richard Walton before Ben Ford also shot straight at the Tulips’ goalkeeper after exchanging passes with Lewis Leslie.
But it was Spalding who finished the half the better and they will still be wondering how they didn’t break the deadlock.
Bradley Wells headed wide when he should have done better after Nathan Stainfield had nodded on a free-kick and then Heath palmed away Lemon’s long-range effort with Nathan Whitehead heading the resulting corner just wide.
In fact, Whitehead was right out of luck as his piledriver from 20 yards struck the inside of the post and landed in the grateful arms of Heath and the midfielder was denied again before the break when the Diamonds stopper got down well to turn his low strike round the post.
Diamonds started the second half by creating their best opening as Taylor Orosz was sent clear on goal but sent his shot narrowly wide.
Leslie forced Walton into a decent low save from 20 yards and then headed wide from the resulting corner when he was unmarked.
Orosz went close again when he cut in from the right but saw his shot loop just wide after it took a big deflection off Stainfield.
Heath made a smart save from Bradley Barraclough at the other end but it was Diamonds who carved out the better chances with Orosz somehow seeing a shot deflected over after he had sprung the offside trap again before Liam Dolman had a close-range effort blocked.
But there was no breakthrough and that meant straight to penalties.
There were no mistakes from the first 10 takers but then Heath threw himself full-length to push away Spalding’s sixth penalty, taken by Lemon.
That left Newman to win it and he duly did as Walton could only help his spot-kick into the top corner.
Diamonds: Heath; McNulty, Harris, Dolman, Ford; Farrell, Leslie, Parsons; Orosz, Wilson (sub Brown-Hill, 65 mins), Newman. Subs not used: Finlay, Wreh, Desborough, Brown.
Spalding: Walton; Walker, Miller, Stainfield, Jackson; Beeson (sub Higginson, 52 mins), Varley, Whitehead, Lemon; Wells (sub Lockie, 62 mins), Mettam (sub Barraclough, h-t). Subs not used: Fleming, Duggan.
Referee: Daniel Hanna.
Penalty shoot-out: Whitehead (scored, 0-1), Dolman (scored, 1-1), Miller (scored, 1-2), Parsons (scored, 2-2), Stainfield (scored, 2-3), Farrell (scored, 3-3), Varley (scored, 3-4), Leslie (scored 4-4), Higginson (scored, 4-5), Brown-Hill (scored, 5-5), Lemon (missed, 5-5), Newman (scored, 6-5).
Bookings: Orosz, Ford, Varley (all fouls), Newman (dissent).