NORTHWOOD FC   Saturday 31st August 2013   AFC RUSHDEN & D.

FA Cup with Budweiser Preliminary Round

  Northwood 1  AFC Rushden & D. 2   

Muir 61

Taylor 29, Gearing 35

Team line-up  

  Team line-up
1 Jake Knight     17 Tom Cross
2 Orlando Rodrigues     2 Joe Merrill
3 Ryan Phillips     3 Sam Brown
4 Brad Hewitt     4 Brad Harris
5 James Burgess     5 Alex Deakin (75m)
6 George Nicholas     6 Jamal Clarke
7 Jon-Jo Bates     7 Jack Wisniewski
8 Craig White (53m)     8 Elliot Dent
9 Oliver Sprague (46m)     9 Russ Dunkley
10 Garry Senior (58m)     10 Alfie Taylor (81m)
11 Joakim Ehui     11 Matt Gearing (91m)
Substitutes     Substitutes
12 Mark Burgess     12 Sam McBride (91m)
14 Danny McDonnell     14 Quincy Shorunmu
15 James Duncan     15 Jake Gillingwater
16 Niko Muir (46m)     16 Aaron King (75m)
17 Dave Lawrence (53m)     17 Nat Liburd (81m)
18 Aaron McLeish (58m)     18 Lance Allen
19 Sonny Bailey-Aird     19 -
      Referee: Chris Kidd; Assistants: Costa Christodoulou & David Stanley      
  REPORT by Alan Evans     PHOTOS by James Brown  

The Woods crashed out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle with a bit of a whimper as they succumbed to United Counties League side AFC Rushden & Diamonds. Their re-born visitors came with excellent support who cheered their side to victory after opening up a two-goal margin in six first half minutes. Northwood welcomed back skipper Brad Hewitt after injury problems, but were missing the unavailable defender Steve Brown, so it was just that one change from the side that had won at North Greenford on Bank Holiday Monday.

After the Diamonds had had an early strike with Matt Gearing seeing his effort from the edge of the box comfortably saved by goalkeeper Jake Knight, the Woods began to enjoy the better of the early exchanges. After just four minutes Oliver Sprague helped on a loose ball to put Garry Senior through on goal but the Woods top scorer, who may have taken one too many touches, saw his effort palmed across the face of goal by goalkeeper Tom Cross.

Just five minutes later, Jon-Jo Bates showed some clever footwork as he worked space for a shot and he hit it well, only for Cross to push the ball against the post and it was scrambled away.

On 11 minutes, Rushden had a chance of their own as Jamal Clarke headed a free-kick into the path of Alex Deakin who delayed too and the ball was cleared. The Diamonds were beginning to adapt to the pace of the game and blocked another chance as Sprague set up Joakim Ehui but then a mistake from George Nicholas saw Alfie Taylor knock a dangerous ball into the box with skipper Ross Dunkley mis-kicking in front of goal.

It was more even at this stage and after Joe Merrill had fired over after a free-kick was half-cleared, the Woods pushed forward again and Orlando Rodrigues got forward to knock in a good cross which Senior couldn’t quite reach.

But the visitors got their noses in front after 29 minutes when Merrill played a neat ball that caught Ryan Phillips the wrong side of Taylor who drove an accurate shot across the box and in off the far post. It was a short dominant period for the Diamonds, and after Jack Wisniewski had cut in and fired wide following some poor defending, a second goal followed as Gearing latched onto a Dunkley knock-on and rifled the ball into the top corner to put his side further in front.

The Woods needed a response and they tried to make inroads before half-time, with Phillips teeing up Bates for a shot which was deflected well over and then when a corner was cleared, Bates again tried his luck but again was unable to keep the ball down.

Mark Burgess made one change at half-time, with Sprague replaced by Niko Muir and, the performance picked up a little with less passes going astray. A pacy run from Muir resulted in the only booking of the game as Clarke mistimed a tackle but there was still little happening in the final third and two further substitutions were soon introduced. Dave Lawrence and Aaron McLeish both came on for their competitive debuts, and after 61 minutes the Woods pulled a goal back. It was Ehui once again who picked up an assist with a nicely weighted ball into the path of Muir who simply steered a shot past Cross for his first goal of the season.

It should have been the spark that would ignite the cup-tie but the Woods were still too slow to get forward and really take the game to their opponents. Lawrence had an effort which flew well over and then a curling Phillips corner clipped the crossbar at the far post with Cross nowhere. Time was beginning to run out, and there was plenty of frustration rather than passion being shown by the Woods who were being kept at bay by some dogged defending. Nicholas did get forward and cut in well, only to hit a poor shot when a cool finish was required.

In the closing stages, Rushden looked more likely to add to their lead with Taylor and Dunkley both missing the target from close-range headers but they were a couple of opportunities for Northwood.

McLeish did well to rob a defender but then made a hash of his attempt on goal. Then Ehui drove a shot well wide of the target. The final effort came four minutes into stoppage-time with Nicholas heading on a deep free-kick but Phillips was unable to keep his shot down and the Woods were down and out.

The visitors now move on to a winnable first qualifying round tie at Spartan South Midlands side Cockfosters while Northwood will look back on a missed opportunity in this season’s FA Cup competition.