Stockport 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Match report by Chris Barritt

A hotly contested penalty decision gave Stockport a controversial win at Edgeley Park.

John Dempster was sent off midway through the first half before Rickie Lambert gave the home side the lead on 68 minutes with a long range shot that deceived Billy Turley. Manger Barry Hunter struck an instant reply before Lambert hit home a last minute penalty awarded for hand ball against Stuart Gray.

Diamonds reverted to a 3 – 5 -2 formation as they looked to end a run of 7 away games without a win and they made just one change from the side that lost at home to Bournemouth last weekend. John Dempster came into the Diamonds side in place of the injured Leo Roget  with David Bell Junior stepping up to the substitutes bench.

Stockport came into the game on the back of a five game unbeaten run and they made two changes from the side that drew at Blackpool last week.

The home side share their ground with Sale Sharks and the game was played on a heavily sanded pitch.

Rodney Jack had the first chance of the game on 4 minutes when he saw the Stockport keeper off his line but his attempted lob failed to gain the necessary height. A minute later, Jack tried his luck again from just outside the penalty area but the shot dipped just over the bar.

The rain started to drive across Edgeley Park and the home side stepped up the pressure. Rickie Lambert blasted a 30-yarder inches wide of Billy Turley’s left hand post before Andy Burgess almost capitalised on a defensive blunder only to see his shot diverted for a corner.

Danny Adams and Richie Hanlon swapped long range efforts which failed to hit the target before Diamonds lost the services of Dempster in controversial circumstances. Lee Cartwright played the ball into the path of Aaron Wilbraham who was clipped by the young defender as the Stockport striker ran across him. Despite continued protests, Referee Salisbury brandished the red card.

Down to ten men, Diamonds switched to a 4 – 4 – 1 formation with Burgess playing at left back and Andy Sambrook dropping back on the right.

The home side stepped up the pace and Wilbraham almost flicked home from close range while Turley dropped the resulting corner before redeeming the situation. On 39 minutes, the home side squandered the best chance of the half when Cartwright again sent Wilbraham through but while Turley was beaten by the shot, the Stockport striker could only watch as the ball crawled past the left hand upright.

Diamonds had to resort to some desperate defending towards the end of the first half with Barry Hunter and Andy Edwards controlling the rearguard action superbly. In the dying seconds of the half, Wilbraham again missed a clear opportunity when he headed over from Welch’s corner.

Five minutes in to the second period, Jon Daly forced a fine double save from Turley before the impressive Welch was just wide with a snapshot after good work from Lambert.

But after a period of inactivity, the game sprang to life again with two goals in two minutes.

In the 68th minute, a 20 yard shot from Lambert bounced awkwardly in front of Turley and rose into the roof of the net. A couple of minutes later, Paul Kitson flicked on Turley’s free kick and Hunter prodded the ball home for the equaliser.

Jon Daly and substitute Chris Williams both went close for the home side before referee Salisbury incensed the visitors with a controversial penalty award against Gray.

The Rushden captain was unsighted as Robert Clare played the ball into the penalty area but when the ball reared up and onto his arm, the referee adjudged that Gray had handled and despite furious protests a penalty was awarded. Lambert struck home the penalty to break Diamonds hearts.

Diamonds: Turley, Edwards, Hunter, Hanlon, Jack, Burgess, Gray, Dempster, Sambrook, Bell (Kelly 90), Kitson (Duffy 75),

Subs unused: Story, Bell Jnr, Okounghae,

Bookings: Burgess,15, Hunter 90

Stockport County, Anthony Williams, Clare, Hardiker, Welch (Chris Williams, Lambert, Ashley Williams, Adams, Wilbraham (Barlow 68), Daly, Cartwright, Goodwin

Subs unused: Jackman, Chris Williams, Spencer, McLachlan

Diamonds MOM: Barry Hunter

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