Bedford Town will have to do it all again on Tuesday evening after drawing 1-1 away at AFC Rushden & Diamonds in the FA Cup on Saturday afternoon.
It was close, though. The Eagles held the lead since late in the first half, only to concede the equalising goal with just four minutes of normal time remaining, plus nearly six minutes of stoppage time.
Craig Adams made two changes to the side beaten by Barton on Bank Holiday Monday. In came Jordan Jarrold and Tom Rawlings, with Joe Hopewell and Tom Liversedge making way.
The first half, particularly, had an ebb and flow feel about it. Rushden made the early running for a few minutes, including a header on the left hand post from Russ Dunkley that cleared the bar.
The Eagles then took over for another few minutes, looking to get behind the Diamonds defence, but only had a shot from Neil King, that bobbled past the left hand post, to show for it.
Ten minutes before the break, Tom Rawlings connected with a King free kick, but his tame header was easily picked up by Matt Finlay, in the home goal.
The opening goal, scored in the 41st minute, came about as a classic counter-attack.
A Rushden free kick, on the edge of the Bedford area, was not very well thought out, resulting in King sliding into a tackle that pushed the ball to Jordan Jarrold, on the left. Jarrold then played the ball up to Rawlings, and with the Rushden defence stretched, passed to Rob Parker, just inside the D. Parker kept his cool, composed himself, and stroked the ball past Finlay to give the tie a goal that had been threatened many times, but had tended to fall short as both defences stayed as tight as possible.
In retaliation, Rushden should have equalised three minutes later when Dunkley, unmarked and with his back to goal, chested a pass down and hooked the ball over the bar from six yards.
The second half was just as compelling as the first, but the final ball anywhere was not forthcoming.
Midway through the half, King’s forward pass and Rawlings’ head on released Scott Cross through the middle. The Diamonds defence was breached and Cross went on to slot the ball past Finlay. Unfortunately the flag had gone up and offside was awarded; a debatable issue.
Another debatable moment came a few minutes later when Rawlings was put clear, and Finlay had to stray out of his area to deny any goalscoring opportunity by deflecting the ball off for a corner. It was unsure whether he used his hands or not, but nothing out of the ordinary was spotted by the officials.
The long throws from Joe Henderson caused problems for the Bedford defence, especially during the 2nd half. With nine minutes to go a Henderson throw was headed goalwards by Dunkley. Jarrold, at the right hand post, coolly chested down the header and cleared from his own line.
A Henderson throw finally reaped a reward and ultimately a replay for his side, when, in the 86th minute, a long one from the right wing was flicked on by Liam Dolman to the far post. Substitute, Matt Gearing connected, and the ball entered the net via the left hand post.
The last few minutes, including stoppage time, belonged to the attacking of the visitors.
King made a run from his own half, and 30 yards out, let fly with a shot so powerful that Finlay could only parry it, but fortunately for the Diamonds ‘keeper, no other player had kept up with the shot and he was able to collect.
Bedford kept at their United Counties League opponents, and in the dying seconds, Cross and Josh Winters were both denied by mass defending.
The draw means that Bedford and Diamonds have to battle it out again on Tuesday evening (September 2) at the Eyrie, 7.45pm kick off.
Eagles: Lee Crockett, Paul Cooper, Jordan Jarrold, Neil King, Jeff Woodward, Dan Burke [c], Josh Winters, Tommy Glasscoe, Tom Rawlings (Tom Liversedge 85), Scott Cross, Rob Parker.
Subs not used: Joe Hopewell, Josh McGoldrick, Sam Macrae, Ben Grant.
Diamonds: Matt Finlay, Joe Henderson, Jack Ashton, Arron Parkinson (Sam Brown ht), Liam Dolman, Brad Harris, Richard Bunting (Matt Gearing 68), Greg Ling, Elliot Lamb-Johnson (Jason Turner 76), Russ Dunkley, Fazel Koriya.
Subs not used: Tom Lorraine, Rhys Redding.
Referee: Alistair Wilson. Assistants: Christopher Reeson & Gary Crofts.