TOWN TAKE THEIR CHANCE
Enfield Town 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0
Town progressed into the draw for the Emirates FA Cup 2nd qualifying round on Monday with £4,500 FA prize money banked from the narrowest of victories writes Ram Ismail. For the second match running, a single goal and a clean sheet were the cornerstones of an exceptionally hard-working performance.
They were on the back foot for much of the opening half as Diamonds asked the majority of the questions. In the 8th minute, Ben Acquaye, who caught the eye during the first period, played a good ball to Nathan Hicks for an angled shot which failed to test Nathan McDonald. The same player then scuffed an opportunity wide from the edge of the box.
A neat move by the visitors ended with Nat Gosnal-Tyler in a one-on-one situation with McDonald but Town’s keeper saved well with his feet and, moments later, Ben Farrell shot wide after being set up by Tom Lorraine. On 20 minutes, Town had their first opportunity after a slow start; Sam Youngs fed Ken Charles, who moved the ball slickly to Billy Bricknell and then on to Youngs again, the latter curling it over the top. The hosts then had a narrow escape when a long throw by Sam Brown was headed goalwards by Ryan Dove, but Joe Payne somehow got back in the nick of time to make an exceptional clearance off the line.
After Bricknell had had a shot turned behind for a corner and, at the opposite end, Lorraine had fired way over the bar, the lively Charles ran at the Diamonds back line and managed to get in a powerful shot which keeper Ben Heath saved at the second attempt.
Half-time: Enfield Town 0 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0
Diamonds were back in the groove straight after the restart and Lorraine called McDonald into action after being played in by Dove. The long throws of Brown continued to cause problems, but Town were still holding firm. Ryan Blackman had a shot blocked on the edge of the box and Bricknell shot straight at Heath, but the feel of the game effectively changed on the hour mark when fans’ favourite Muhammadu Faal came on to replace Charles, who had had a fine game.
Within minutes, a cross from Faal found Blackman in the ‘D’ but he fired wide as he was closed down. Acquaye then broke dangerously and Scott Thomas “took one for the team” by bringing him down and being shown an inevitable yellow card. Bricknell passed to Youngs, but the midfielder’s effort lacked power.
The tie’s pivotal moment arrived in the 73rd minute; Lewis Taaffe played the ball off to Faal, who went on one of his trademark mazy, but pacey, runs and once he was in range fired a low drive past the diving Heath’s outstretched fingers. It could have been even better for Enfield but, following a build-up involving Payne and Taaffe, Blackman cleared the bar from a good position inside the box.
Diamonds almost forced a replay when McDonald made a double point-blank save, and there followed a brief respite as Bricknell tested Heath, before McDonald saved his best till last, palming the ball over the crossbar from Dove’s header. Heath rushed off his line to deny Taaffe, and Farrell’s wayward effort signalled the visitors’ last opportunity before the final whistle blew.
Enfield Town: Nathan McDonald, Sam Hatton, Joe Payne, Scott Thomas, Marc Weatherstone, Jon Muleba, Sam Youngs, Ryan Blackman, Billy Bricknell (Sam Bantick 84), Ken Charles (Muhammadu Faal 61), Lewis Taaffe. Unused subs: Junior Mubiayi, Nathan Livings, Charles Brown, Callum Ellesley. Booked: Thomas.
AFC Rushden & Diamonds: Ben Heath, Zack Reynolds, Sam Brown, Ben Acquaye (Sam Johnson 79), Liam Dolman, Alex Collard, Nat Gosnal-Tyler, Ben Farrell, Tom Lorraine (Jack Bowen 79), Ryan Dove, Nathan Hicks (Jesse Akubuine 86). Unused subs: Patrick Casey, Joe Curtis, Niall Cooper, Matthew Slinn.
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