UCL Premier Division - Holbeach United 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
For the second time this season, it ended all-square with the away team going home happier with a point.
The frustration was understandable for Holbeach United who looked comfortably in control of Saturday’s game for around an hour.
With 90 minutes on the clock – and with appeals for offside being ignored – Russ Dunkley lobbed the leveller which maintains an eight-point lead for AFC Rushden & Diamonds in the title race.
The Tigers, with four games in hand, probably have a slight advantage and it could have been a bigger one.
They had battled away and gratefully accepted a 1-1 draw at the Dog & Duck at the end of October.
However, Diamonds were second best at Carter’s Park and Holbeach missed out on a golden opportunity to add extra pressure.
Maybe the equaliser should not have counted but the Tigers couldn’t quite hold onto the lead provided by Jamie Clarke’s close-range finish.
This top-of-the-table showdown was never going to decide the championship with plenty of games still to play.
And it certainly wasn’t a classic either.
It became a battle with very few clear-cut chances and it ended with Diamonds going down to 10 men in stoppage-time.
At the start Lee Beeson’s set-piece delivery led to Tigers defenders Jonny Allen and Danny Spencer heading over the bar.
Dunkley did the same at the other end but Holbeach went ahead a minute later.
Again Beeson was the provider from the right wing with his cross being met by Clarke. The header was pushed out by Matt Finlay and Clarke knocked in the rebound.
Finaly kept out another attempt by Craig Parker but there was a blow for the Tigers when they lost influential skipper Spencer to injury.
After the break it seemed Holbeach were happy to hold on and they invited pressure instead of pushing forward in search of a second goal.
Stacy Cartwright made a terrific far-post challenge to deny Tommy Berwick who had previously gone close to a debut goal from a 25-yard free-kick.
Diamonds could count themselves fortunate when Jack Ashton was only booked for what appeared to be a headbutt towards Jake Duffy.
Lee Dube thought he had doubled the lead, only for the tap-in to be disallowed for offside.
The flag wasn’t raised two minutes later when Dunkley got behind the home defence to beat Nick Conroy.
Adam Confue was sent off for a second bookable offence but Diamonds took a point.
4-4-2: Conroy 6; Allen 8, Miller 7, Spencer 6 (sub Brown 36 mins, 7), Cartwright 7; Beeson 7 (sub King 83 mins), Duffy 7, Steadman 7, Parker 7; Nolan 6 (sub Dube 63 mins, 6), Clarke 7. Subs not used: Warfield, Pinner.
AFC RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS
4-4-2: Finlay; Harris, Dolman, Ashton, Brown (sub Turner 85 mins); Lamb-Johnson, Confue, King (sub Gearing 76 mins), Rogers; Berwick, Dunkley. Subs not used: Redding, Joseph, Butt.
Clarke (21 mins, 1-0); Dunkley (90 mins, 1-1).
Confue (second bookable offence – foul).
Lamb-Johnson, Duffy (fouls); Confue (dissent); Ashton, Clarke (unsporting behaviour).
Jonny Allen – another excellent defensive display and deserved a clean sheet. Still gets our award despite politely refusing requests for post-match interview!