Valley draw 1-1 with Rushden & Diamonds
Evostik NPL – South Division
Rugby Town 1
AFC Rushden & Diamonds 1
Valley registered their first home league point of the season with a battling performance against an in-form Rushden side on Tuesday evening.
Chris Sterling had given Town a 58th minute lead, but the advantage was short-lived when ex-Rugby youth teamer Nic Evangelinos struck at the other end, ahead of a frenetic end to the game in which both sides could easily have forced home a winner.
Town’s starting line-up showed four changes from the heavy weekend defeat at Shaw Lane, including a return to action for defender Elliott Palmer a month to the day on from his horrific injury at Bedworth.
The visitors had the better of the early chances, with Evangelinos powering one over the bar and then Kyle Rowley almost stabbed one past his own keeper Louis Connor after a Diamonds’ cross from the left.
However, Valley looked relatively bright and purposeful themselves too, and Sterling’s goalbound effort midway through the half was just deflected for a corner by Liam Dolman.
Ahead of the interval a speculative long distance strike from Charlie Faulkner skidded wide, with another effort from Adrian Boitos also taking a deflection before heading the wrong side of the upright.
Rushden’s best spell of the match came immediately after the restart though, with their stand-out opportunity seeing Nabil Shariff flash a ball across the Town box, which Tom Lorraine somehow failed to help home.
However Rugby soon settled into their game again, and Faulkner tested keeper Ben Heath from an angled position, with Scott Hadland then volleying one wide.
The opening goal came courtesy of an excellent searching cross by Danny Campbell which was met the head of Sterling, who looped the ball over Heath.
Boitos’ neat turn and precise pass then found Faulkner in a potentially dangerous position, but with options limited around him, his thirty yard shot was comfortably gathered by the ex-Valley stopper.
It was all-square on 64 minutes when Evangelinos punished Town for their failure to properly clear their lines with a strike from the edge of the area – setting up an entertaining final half an hour of the game.
Campbell’s back-flicked header to Boitos’ free-kick missed the target, as did a subsequent long-range effort by Boitos himself, with Kyle Rowley another to unsuccessfully try his luck from his distance after a surging run up the middle of the pitch.
Connor was off his line smartly to deny Jake Newman, before a series of goalmouth scrambles in both penalty boxes saw neither side able to apply the final touch.
Shariff also saw an effort drift agonisingly wide ahead of the final whistle and with it the opportunity for the beleaguered players and supporters a chance to finally celebrate some Butlin Road joy.