It has to be said that Cogenhoe, the club and the village, is not really geared up for football crowds. The car park at the stadium is, I am sure, more than adequate for their average home attendance (somewhere in the 50-60 region I believe) but when a couple of hundred away fans turn up, it is soon full. As Brafield Road is, in effect, a small country lane leading through the village, the grass verges and any other potential parking spots soon get taken. The locals, certainly the ones that don't follow football, must find it a little annoying to have their village blocked by all of this traffic. I am sure that if the club progresses up the leagues then a parking solution would need to be found.
Having said all of that, I found a spot a little way down the road and walked back to the stadium in plenty of time to see the teams emerge.
Compton Park is what can only be described as a typical stadium at this level of the game. As you enter through the single turnstile the club house and changing block is immediately to your left. To your right, behind the car park end goal, is a small covered standing area. Down the left hand side of the pitch is the main covered seating area with the dugouts opposite this main stand. The rest of the stadium is surrounded by uncovered hard standing. The pitch itself, although not the most even that I have ever seen, looked to be in pretty good condition. One unusual feature of Compton Park is the camber on the far side of the ground. The grassed area slopes slightly from the touchline down to the hard-standing giving the impression that you are slightly below pitch level. This is not a bad thing and actually makes you feel closer to the action.
On to the game itself. It became apparent quite early on that no quarter was going to be given by either team in this contest. Heavy, but not necessarily unfair, challenges were the order of the day from the first minute. Clear cut chances were at a premium throughout the first half with both sides marshalling their defences well. Cogenhoe, it has to be said, looked slightly the more dangerous as, judging by the comments from Diamonds fans, the away side struggled to find their best form. Nevertheless, the first half ended goalless and it was plain to see why these two were both at the top end of the table. Neither looked like they were easy teams to beat.
What the game was calling out for, in my eyes, was someone in midfield to slow it down, look for the runs and play that killer pass. Easier said than done with the closing down that both sides were employing in the idle of the park.
Just 4 minutes into the second half I was proved entirely wrong. Instead of a piece of midfield genius leading to a goal it was in fact a hurried clearance. A Diamonds attack was broken up in the Cogenhoe half and the ball smashed upfield. For once the ball cleared the away defensive line and fell perfectly for Luke Emery to run onto. The Cooks forward calmly stroked the ball past the advancing keeper to give the home side the lead.
This setback sparked some life into Diamonds and they visibly picked up the tempo in search of an equaliser. Cogenhoe continued to defend staunchly, throwing themselves into challenges and blocking shots.
When it did come the equaliser was worth waiting for. Elliott Lamb-Johnson, whose direct running had caused problems for Cogenhoe throughout the game, picked the ball up near the halfway line and ran at the heart of the Cooks defence. As they, for once, backed off he took aim from 25 yards and unleashed a shot that flew past Urqhart in the home goal.
At 1-1 both teams seemed to take a little breather, maybe happy with a point apiece. However, after a couple of substitutions each, both sides started to look for a winner. With around 10 minutes remaining, the home side were reduced to ten when Daniel Chilton received a second yellow for a cynical challenge. This, effectively, ended Cogenhoe's hopes of winning the game. Rushden pushed them back for the final 10 minutes of the match but a combination of strong defence, good goalkeeping and wayward finishing kept the scoreline level.
On the balance of play I felt that a draw was a fair result. If analysed by pundits on the TV I am sure they would have labelled this as 'not one for the purists'. However, I found it to be an intriguing contest between two fully committed sides who will both feature prominently at the top of this division come the end of the season.
Overall, this season, I have found the UCL to be a revelation. Good games of football, welcoming stadia and outstanding value for money. It's fast becoming my favourite league.
Cogenhoe United - @cogenhoeunited
AFC Rushden & Diamonds - @afcrd