VERDICT: Handshakes all-round as Diamonds make another point
Honours ended even at Hayden Road as AFC Rushden & Diamonds and Barwell battled out a 1-1 draw and, in the end, there could be no arguments.
The final outcome was as fair as it sounded as both teams had their moments while both struggled with the blustery conditions that made it a tricky old afternoon.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a great deal of entertainment and quality on show for a season-high crowd of nearly 700 on Non-League Day but it was another point on the board for Andy Peaks’ team who are now on a three-match unbeaten run.
True, they didn’t hit the heights that delivered a 5-1 victory at Needham Market seven days earlier.
But Diamonds showed a steely determination when they needed to and had more good moments than bad, even if they were lacking an end product at times.
Barwell are now an established Step 3 team and they held off an early onslaught from Diamonds before breaking the deadlock on 18 minutes.
And it was a moment of magic from Jahvan Davidson-Miller, recently signed from Kettering Town, that did the damage as a brilliant ‘Maradona’ turn midway through the Diamonds half created an opening and he took aim from fully 30 yards with his well-struck effort being too good for Ben Heath as it found the bottom corner.
Diamonds responded well with Declan Rogers fizzing a free-kick just over the bar but the game turned in the space of 30 seconds just before half-time.
Davidson-Miller showed good feet again in the Diamonds area but sliced his final effort off target.
It was a big chance and the hosts made Barwell pay almost immediately.
The ever-reliable Sam Brown, who was impressive all afternoon at left-back, played in young Oxford United loanee Albie Hopkins, and while the visiting defence waited for a flag, he advanced and rolled his shot against a post before running on to convert the rebound.
That was Hopkins’ second goal in as many games and it could have been even better for him after the break.
While the general standard deteriorated and chances became a rarity, Hopkins was presented with Diamonds’ best opening as he was released by Ben Farrell but this time Liam Castle was equal to the final effort.
While the hosts created little, the same could be said for Barwell and, aside from a glancing header from ex-Kettering Town man Liam Canavan which missed the target when he should have done better, Diamonds dealt with what was aimed at them.
Neither side did enough to win it, both seemed fairly content with a point so it was very much a case of handshakes all-round.
But it’s clear Diamonds are well and truly getting to grips with life at this level, limiting their mistakes while taking those that are presented to them. Long may it continue…
Diamonds: Heath; Reynolds, Westbrook, Dolman, Brown; Rogers (sub Dean, 70 mins), Farrell, Hicks; Diamond, Bowen (sub Lorraine, 70 mins), Hopkins. Subs not used: Curtis, Punter, Pickworth.
Barwell: Castle; Percival (sub Williams, 35 mins), Desrosiers, Gascoigne, Putman; Rowe, Canavan, Hildreth, Tomkinson, Story (sub Albertus, 82 mins); Davidson-Miller. Subs not used: Nisevic, Taylor, Hickey.
Referee: Simon Barrow.
Goals: Davidson-Miller (18 mins, 0-1), Hopkins (41 mins, 1-1).
Bookings: Tomkinson, Castle (both dissent), Hildreth, Hicks (both fouls).
Northants Telegraph man-of-the-match: Sam Brown - the much-loved left-back has been on the journey with Diamonds pretty much from the start and seems to be well settled at Step 3. He was solid in his defensive work once again on this occasion and did what he could down the left-hand side to get some attacks going. And, when the wind is blowing like it was on this day, those bullet long throws are an even bigger threat than normal. A player who is as reliable as they come and this was just an example of how important he is to the team.