An excellent showing from the young Cooks saw them cruelly beaten on penalties against a team from two steps higher up the pyramid.
Saturday 16th July 2022
NORTHANTS F.A HILLIER SENIOR CUP-1ST ROUND
COGENHOE UNITED (1) 1 AFC RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS (0) 1
(DIAMONDS WON 6-5 ON PENALTIES)
The first competitive game of the season in the shape of the NFA Hillier Senior Cup saw Scott Carlin up against his former club AFC Rushden & Diamonds on a glorious summer’s day at Compton Park, with a decent crowd coming to watch the game and enjoy the sunshine. Biff handed starting debuts to eight players, with just Will Bates, Luca Iaciofano and Jess Obeng having previously featured for the Cooks. Making their first appearance were Regan Saunt, Kobi Briggs, Alex Parkes, Brad Marshall, Ben Gough the captain, Louie Barrett, Mitch White and Pharell Anderson. On the bench were new signings Harley Mallard, Callum Farmer and Luke McDonald who joined Cooks favourites Archie Elmore and Josh Adams.
Diamonds were first to attack and both Briggs and Gough were called into early action with some good defending, whilst down the village end Iaciofano and Anderson combined neatly and almost played Obeng clear inside the box. Iaciofano did well to rob a defender only for Jesse Akubuine to recover well, then the first shot saw Dean Snedker tip over Barrett’s strike from the right side of the box after good play from Obeng and Parkes. A mistake at the back for Cogenhoe gifted Jenson Cooper what really should have been the opening goal of the game, but the forward seemed surprised to find himself with just the keeper to beat and pulled his shot wide of the near post.
A strong run into the box from Fraser Corden was ended by a great challenge from Bates, whilst Cooks were soon back on the attack with White firing over following a Parkes corner. The Cooks were looking pretty confident at the back with Marshall dominant in the air and Gough commanding his troops superbly. Saunt had to come off his line to gather the ball just inside the box to his right, then Briggs made a superb tackle just inside the box after the Diamonds forged a good move with Cooper and Corden executing a one-two.
Paddy Casey steered a header back to his keeper well as Obeng chased Marshall’s long ball, then Diamonds went close when Saunt had to dive to his right to push away Kev Towey’s shot from the edge of the box. Tyrese Sutherland worked hard to create space for a shot, but he only found the offside Towey who had deflected it straight to Saunt anyway. Marshall defended well as Cooper pressed, then Nathan Hicks fired a low shot wide from 20-yards out.
Briggs became the first Cooks player of the season to go into the book after catching Sutherland late on the right after Towey had picked him out with a good pass. The deadlock was broken on 35 minutes after a great move from the Cooks. Gough started it when he won the ball inside his own half before Obeng and Anderson played their part in finding Barrett wide on the right. He cut inside and pulled it back across the box to find Alex Parkes 16-yards out and he hit it first time across Snedker and into the far corner. The Cooks were now having the better of the game and playing some very good football and they went close again when Barrett got the better of Courtney Lashley before cutting inside the box from the right, but he struck his shot into the side-netting with Snedker seemingly having things covered.
Half-time; Cooks 1 Diamonds 0.
The Diamonds made one change at the break with Christophe Aziamale replacing Towey. The opening 10-15 minutes were pretty even with both defences comfortably dealing with the other side’s attacks, resulting in most of the play being done in the midfield and with 58 minutes gone McDonald was handed his Cooks debut when he came on for Anderson. A very good move from the visitors saw Cooper given the ball with space inside the left of the Cooks box and he squeezed it across Saunt, but the ball was inches wide of the far post and just ahead of the incoming Corden’s run.
Ben Morley came on for Diamonds second change, but it the Cooks who went close to adding a second goal when a break down the right saw McDonald lob the ball over Snedker, but the full-stretch keeper managed to get his hand to the ball for a very good save. Briggs’ deep corner was met by a powerful header by Marshall, but it was wide of the target, then seconds later the big centre half is back in his own box making a very timely challenge. Elmore replaced the hard-working Iaciofano with 66 minutes played and a minute later the game was level again, although the two were no way connected I hasten to add.
Aziamale broke into the box on the right and was forced wide, but he still managed to fire the ball low across the box where Saunt dived to get his hands to it, but unfortunately for the keeper it fell in front of the completely unmarked Cooper a yard out and he simply had to smash the ball into the net from close range. Cooper headed over from a good Morley cross, then Saunt came off his line to catch a dropping ball that had cannoned in the air from a Rushden shot.
There was a big shout for a penalty when White cut inside from the left and went past Casey just inside the box. The Diamonds right-back had committed himself with a bit of a lunge so when White knocked it past him, he caught the Cogenhoe player. The ball continued into the box where Obeng played it back to McDonald 20-yards out, but he didn’t middle his shot and it went well wide of the far post. Cooper was off target with his head down the other end before Josh Adams came on for Obeng on the left. The sub was very quickly in the game winning a corner within ten seconds. Parkes swung it in and Gough won it in the air, but he couldn’t keep his header on target.
Diamonds final change saw Luis Pinto-Leite replace Sutherland with nine minutes left to the ninety. A good break from Cogenhoe saw Adams win the ball in the air to find Elmore on the left and he went past his man before playing it low across the box to find Adams’ run. The Cooks sub managed to get a toe onto the ball in front of Snedker, but the keeper had a little luck on his side as the ball stuck between his feet and he was able to dive on it. Elmore held the ball up nicely allowing McDonald to find Adams on the left. He played it back into the path of McDonald’s run and he seemed to be setting himself for a shot inside the box when he lost his footing. Elmore won a corner that Parkes sent into the middle and with the Diamonds defence unable to deal with it, it just wouldn’t fall for any of three Cooks players inside the box to fire it home. Aziamale managed to get past a couple of challenges but was off balance when he shot and sent the ball well wide, then Saunt challenged for a high ball with Aziamale with the ball coming off the forward’s head and going over the bar. Great defending from Gough denied Cooper just inside the box, then with the final action of the game Gough launched a long throw that Marshall won in the air, but it hit a defender and the game would now be decided on spot-kicks.
As penalty shoot-outs go, this was a very good one with it being 5-5 after ten kicks. Hicks, Akubuine, Aziamale, Cooper and Empochontis all successful from the spot for the Diamonds and White, Barrett, Elmore, Briggs and keeper Saunt all matching them. Sudden death saw Lashley lash home his spot kick, but Snedker saved Adams effort and it was the step-three side who go into the hat for the second round.
The Cooks may have lost on penalties, but each and everyone of the 14 who played today can hold their heads high after this performance. The defence was superb with Brad Marshall and skipper Ben Gough forming a formidable backbone that Diamonds struggled to get a grip on today. We probably played the better of the football overall and played with energy throughout and you can see a real team spirit forming out their already.
It’s on to Tamworth on Tuesday night and with the temperature looking to be in the high 30’s in the Staffordshire town, it will be a tough night for our lads, especially away from home against another step-three team.
Cooks. 1. Regan Saunt 2. Will Bates 3. Kodi Briggs 4. Alex Parkes 5. Brad Marshall 6. Ben Gough 7. Louie Barrett 8. Mitch White 9. Luca Iaciofano (sub 12. Archie Elmore 66) 10. Pharell Anderson (sub 17. Luke McDonald 58) 11. Jessi Obeng (sub 16. Josh Adams 79). Sub not used; 14. Cal Farmer 15. Harley Mallard.
Diamonds; 1. Dean Snedker 2. Patrick Casey 3. Courtney Lashley 4. Evan Empochontsif 5. Ryan Hughes 6. Tyrese Sutherland (sub 16. Luis Pinto-Leite 81) 7. Kevin Towey (sub 18. Christophe Aziamale HT) 8. Jesse Akubuiene 9. Jenson Cooper 10. Fraser Corden (sub 15. Ben Morley 69) 11. Nathan Hicks. Subs not used; 12. Ade Bademosi 14. Nigel Chikamba.
Referee; Sam Lee.
Assts; Abdul Kadir and Sam Atkins.
Good luck and well done to Sam Lee on his promotion, but this does mean we won’t be seeing him officiating at Compton Park in the UCL this season.
The Reserves travelled over to Moulton College this afternoon to play Wootton St George in their third pre-season friendly and they triumphed 2-1 with Seb-Patrick Meden and Sam Giddens on target.