AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1 Holbeach United 1
This top-of-the-table clash promised so much - and duly delivered.
Ultimately there is no doubt that Holbeach United were happier with the result.
The Tigers’ 100 per cent away record came to an end but they became the first team to take a point off AFC Rushden & Diamonds at the Dog & Duck so far this season.
The free-scoring home team had replaced Holbeach in pole position after a seventh successive league win in midweek.
And it only took them seven minutes to take the lead on Saturday.
After Ollie Pinner was penalised for a foul on the edge of the penalty box, Richard Bunting tapped the free-kick to Liam Dolman whose drive flew into the net.
In reply Jamie Clarke’s volley was deflected wide and strike partner Aaron Preston was denied by goalkeeper Matt Finlay.
But Diamonds should have increased their advantage as they forced Holbeach into defensive duty.
Russ Dunkley nodded over the bar, Joel Gyasi struck the foot of the far post and Nick Conroy superbly kept out Tom Lorraine.
So it was a surprise when the Tigers got back on level terms in first-half stoppage-time.
Preston’s shot was cleared off the line by Jack Ashton but Lee Beeson was tripped for a penalty which he took. Finlay dived to his left to save but the ball fell kindly for Beeson to slot home.
At the start of the second half Holbeach came close to taking the lead as Clarke’s header bounced off the bar and Beeson’s follow-up was blocked.
Dunkley missed the target with more headers - one effort bouncing fractionally wide - and Fazel Koriya clipped the top of the crossbar.
Koriya was also denied by Conroy before firing another attempt just wide but it wasn’t one-way traffic.
Holbeach might have even nicked victory as Edward Adjei wasted a golden chance and Finlay brilliantly kept out Clarke.
At times it was end-to-end stuff - although the Tigers were generally second best as Diamonds pushed forward much more often.
Unfortunately the game ended in controversy following a bust-up in front of the home bench which spilled onto the pitch.
After a lengthy delay there was just a yellow card for stand-in skipper Danny Spencer plus a few warnings.
Soon afterwards Holbeach could reflect on a point gained while Diamonds will wonder how they didn’t beat one of their title rivals.
AFC RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS
4-4-2: Finlay; Harris, Parkinson, Dolman, Ashton; Gyasi, Bunting, Confue, Koriya; Lorraine (sub Turner 73 mins), Dunkley. Subs not used: Thompson, Joseph, Clarke, Brown.
4-4-2: Conroy 7; Deeney 6, Allen 7, Spencer 7, C Parker 6; Beeson 7 (sub Gibson 69 mins, 6), Pinner 5 (sub Steadman 43 mins, 6), Duffy 6, Adjei 7; Preston 6 (sub Dube 59 mins, 6), Clarke 6. Subs not used: Cartwright, King.
Dolman (7 mins, 1-0); Beeson (45 mins, 1-1).
Dolman (foul); Spencer (unsporting behaviour).
Edward Adjei – always looked a threat on his debut down left wing.
Gorleston (H) – FA Vase, Saturday.