VERDICT '“ Diamonds unable to deliver at home again
The unbeaten run goes on for AFC Rushden & Diamonds in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One South, yet so does the frustration at the Dog & Duck.
Given the way things panned out, a 1-1 draw with Lincoln United – a team who have become a bit of thorn in Diamonds’ side after they knocked them out of the FA Trophy last month – was probably an acceptable outcome.
Andy Peaks’ team finished the game with nine men after battling their way back into the contest following the first red card of the game that went to visiting striker Jordan Hempenstall.
But once again, there was a sense of what might have been as Diamonds were held to their sixth draw on home soil in the league this season.
An unbeaten run of 15 matches is something not to be sniffed at. But while Peaks’ players have been in supreme form on the road, the frustration at not being able to finish teams off on their own patch is beginning to grow.
Overall, there could be no arguments after this one. A draw was undoubtedly the fair result.
Once again, Lincoln cause Diamonds plenty of problems and it wasn’t until Hempenstall saw red that the hosts really sparked into life.
A frantic start saw both sides have opportunities with Kallum Smith sending a shot across goal and just wide for the visitors while, at the other end, Fazel Koriya forced Jack Turner into a low save with a far-post volley.
But it was Lincoln who opened the scoring on 18 minutes. Hempenstall chased a seemingly lost cause and laid the ball back into the path of left-back Callum Ward.
He, in turn, found Andrew Toyne and with Diamonds standing off and almost daring the midfielder to shoot, Toyne took aim from 25 yards and his precise strike found the net with the aid of a post.
Diamonds’ response was pretty good as Liam Dolman flicked a header onto the roof of the net and Koriya was out of luck when a nice bit of trickery saw him beat two defenders, only for his shot to be hacked clear by James Blunden.
Smith might have done better than to head straight at Matt Finlay before the break but the game changed five minutes into the second half.
Already on a booking, Hempenstall barged into Brad Harris as they went up for a high ball and referee Mark Tinsley promptly sent the Lincoln man for the first use of the showers.
Diamonds seized on the numerical advantage as they camped inside the Lincoln half but clear-cut chances were at a premium until they levelled on 65 minutes.
Sam Brown sent a deep cross in from the left and the ever-reliable Tom Lorraine rose to power home a fine header.
Lewis Leslie went close with a volley in what proved to be Diamonds’ best chance to find a winner but they ended up having to see things out.
Harris, having earlier been booked for a cynical trip on Smith, saw red for another foul on the same player and then Koriya suffered the same fate when he went in on Ward.
Blunden shot over for Lincoln with things swinging back into their favour but, as the rain came down, honours ended even.
And so, another frustrating day at the Dog & Duck.
Diamonds remain nicely placed in their bid to challenge for a play-off place with more big games ahead of them before the end of the year.
But the reliance on their away form is something of a danger. These home draws need to be turned into wins, and quickly.
Diamonds: Finlay; Harris, Winters, Dolman, Brown; Wilson (sub Orosz, 68 mins), Bunting, Leslie (sub McNulty, 86 mins), Koriya; Shariff (sub Newman, 80 mins), Lorraine. Subs not used: Farrell, Heath.
Lincoln United: Turner; Hornsey (sub Brooks, 38 mins), Jacklin, Blunden, Ward; Norris (sub Smithson, 73 mins), Toyne, Wright, Smith; Hempenstall, Cotton (sub King, 53 mins). Subs not used: Wilkinson, Hutchinson-Wilkes.
Referee: Mark Tinsley.
Goals: Toyne (18 mins, 0-1), Lorraine (65 mins, 1-1).
Bookings: Hempenstall, Toyne, Koriya, Harris (all fouls).
Sendings-off: Hempenstall, Harris, Koriya (all second bookable offences).