Rushden and Diamonds successfully defended their title of 2003 Isle of Man Football Festival champions with an 8-7 penalty shoot-out victory over Bristol Rovers in this year’s tournament.
The match went to penalties after a poor 90 minutes of football had ended 1-1, Richard Walker’s injury-time equaliser for Rovers cancelling out man of the match Marcus Kelly’s first-half opener for the Diamonds.
The game started as it meant to go on, with a scrappy first ten minutes and both teams struggling to break each other down on a hard bobbly pitch at a windswept Bowl ground in
Diamonds had the better of play towards the midway point of the first-half, although a John Dempster drive and weak Craig Dove side-foot from just inside the box were their only efforts at goal.
The game got the goal it needed in the 25th minute as Kelly put Diamonds ahead. Man of the festival David Bell fed Gary Mills on the right whose cross to the back-post was met by the head of the diminutive Kelly who nodded home past veteran keeper Kevin Miller in the Rovers goal.
Rushden continued to dominate with half-chances coming and going for
Agogo had another chance four minutes later but could only slice John Anderson’s flick-on at a corner high and wide. Rovers continued their brighter spell right on the half-time whistle with a couple of efforts from ex-Scunthorpe striker Jamie Forrester.
Forrester first half-volleying an Agogo flick-on over Worgan’s bar, and then unleashing a 12-yard drive as Agogo again put him through which Worgan did well to parry away for a corner.
The second half started very poorly with both teams unable to create any flow in a crowded midfield., the only early chance of note coming in the 51st minute as Rushden’s Alex Hay lobbed over Miller’s goal from 15 yards out following a Dove lay-off.
On 54 minutes Dave Savage’s far-post header from a Stuart Campbell cross was saved low down to his right by Worgan in the Diamonds goal.
Rovers had another chance in the 63rd minute but Savage could only fire straight at Worgan from 18 yards after being set-up by Forrester on the left-hand edge of the box.
It was all Rovers in the last five minutes, Agogo going close with an angled left-footer and a Paul Trollope free-kick being scrambled away by a back-pedalling Diamonds defence before
Ryan Williams crossed in from the right, and after Agogo’s shot had been blocked the ball fell kindly to Walker who hammered home from an acute angle into the far bottom corner to take the match into a prolonged penalty shoot-out.
The next ten efforts all found the back of the net before the decisive penalty miss. Williams, Agogo, Lewis Haldane, Craig Hinton and Christian Edwards all scoring for Rovers with skipper Graham Allen,
With the score at 7-7 Jon Beswetherick stepped up for Rovers but his low spot-kick was saved by Worgan diving away to his right and it was left for Rob Gier to coolly slot home for the Diamonds to secure back-to-back Festival wins for the Northamptonshire outfit.
Kevin Miller, Dave Savage (Lewis Haldane 65), Robbie Ryan (Jon Beswetherick 80), Craig Hinton, Christian Edwards, John Anderson, Stuart Campbell (Richard Walker 80), James Hunt, Junior Agogo, Paul Trollope, Jamie Forrester (Ryan Williams 74).
Unused subs : Ryan Clarke, Liam Burns + Ali Gibb.
Lee Worgan, John Dempster (Sean Connelly 46), Peter Hawkins, Gary Mills (Stuart Gray 46), Phil Gulliver (Rob Gier 70), David
Unused subs : Barry Hunter + Jason Taylor.
Referee : Peter Walton.
Tim Graham (thetashkentterror).