Badgers triumph in Trophy thriller

Lee Stevenson celebrates his hat trick.
Lee Stevenson celebrates his hat trick.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

FA Trophy First Round Replay

Eastwood town v Rushden and diamonds

Eastwood town v Rushden and diamonds

EASTWOOD TOWN 4

Lee Stevenson 45, 51, 56

Matt Rhead 93

RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS 3

Craig Farrell 32

Ryan Charles 60, 76

(after extra-time)

IT took a last-kick penalty miss and a topsy-turvy game to do it but Eastwood Town progressed in the FA Trophy on a night of high drama at Coronation Park on Tuesday.

Alan Power’s wayward penalty in the dying seconds of extra-time confirmed the Badgers’ passage after a game which had been unpredictable right from the off.

But with the deadly Lee Stevenson again the main man in claiming a hat-trick, the home side perhaps ultimately deserved their reward of a trip to Telford on Saturday.

A lively start saw Anton Foster go close for Eastwood in the fourth minute, his volley looping into the arms of Diamonds keeper Joe Day, before Lindon Meikle, who had looked bright early on, retired hurt in only the tenth minute.

His replacement, Adam Muller, nearly scored with his first touch when a free-kick from the left found its way through but the striker couldn’t get enough on the ball to beat Day.

Rushden’s best moments came from Matt Johnson and Craig Farrell who both tested John Danby, before Farrell opened the scoring on 32 minutes.

A ball into the box fell to Aaron O’Connor, and his low shot was diverted home by Farrell to give the visitors the advantage.

Adie Hawes saw an equaliser disallowed for a push a minute later and Farrell saw another effort crash off the crossbar, before the hosts levelled on the stroke of half-time.

Muller was released down the right and his pinpoint ball into the box was met by Stevenson who slammed home the equaliser from six yards out.

And within ten minutes of the second-half starting Stevenson had completed his hat-trick and seemingly killed the tie off.

First a free-kick into the penalty area wasn’t cleared and his looping header beat a defender on the line. Then, when Muller pulled the ball back for Foster, his shot was heading wide before the just-onside Stevenson turned it home for 3-1.

But Diamonds weren’t going to lie down and pulled it back to 3-2 on the hour.

Max Porter’s cross found Farrell who hooked the ball across goal to Ryan Charles and he volleyed home to reduce the arrears.

Matt Rhead then thundered a low drive against the post after brilliant work by Andy Todd on 74 minutes, which seemed to have proved costly as Diamonds levelled a minute later.

Sub Sam Smith’s powerful free-kick was beaten away by Danby, but Charles was on hand to drill home a fine equaliser from a tight angle.

Diamonds then looked most likely to win the tie, as O’Connor, Power and Smith all went close, but the game eventually headed for extra-time.

The winning goal came just three minutes into the extra half-hour.

Sam Duncum, who had come into the fray just before the end of normal time, did well down the left and put in a fine cross which Rhead smashed superbly on the volley and into the far corner leaving keeper Day with no chance.

The rest of extra-time saw few clear chances, Rhead and Stevenson going nearest for Eastwood while at the other end O’Connor tested Danby, but there was still high drama to take place right on full-time.

A desperate long ball led to equally desperate defending in the Badgers penalty area, and a combination of a foul and handball by Chris Shaw led to the referee pointing to the spot and showing a red card to the Eastwood left-back.

With no time left, the resultant penalty kick would decide whether a few more would be needed to settle the tie moments later, but Power took his name too literally as he blasted his effort way over the bar, immediately followed by the final whistle as Eastwood’s win was secured.

Eastwood: 1 John Danby 2 Adie Hawes (Jon D’Laryea 83) 3 Chris Shaw 4 Michael Simpson (c) 5 Mat Bailey 6 David Haggerty 7 Anton Foster (Sam Duncum 87) 8 Lee Stevenson 9 Matt Rhead 10 Lindon Meikle (Adam Muller 10) 11 Andy Todd Subs not used: Paul Riley, Joe Ward.

Att: 314

Ref: P Hodskinson.