Rushden and Diamonds 3 Northampton Town 2

Rushden and Diamonds left it late to secure a deserved and vital victory at a packed Nene Park against their local rivals.

Billy Sharp kept his composure to smash home the winning goal with just 22 seconds of injury time remaining to send the home fans in to raptures at the end of a tense, frantic and hugely entertaining battle.

Rushden and Diamonds made three changes to the starting line-up from the side defeated at Scunthorpe United.Lee Worgan lost his place in goal to returning loan keeper Scott Shearer whilst David Bell’s return from a bout of flu left Alex Hay on the bench.Meanwhile Craig Dove made his first start since early February’s defeat at Chester City due to the absence of Andy Burgess on the left wing with a back injury.

Northampton included hot shot Andy Kirk in their line-up having acquired his services in midweek from Boston United.Tommy Jaszczun and David Rowson both missed out whilst Luke Chambers started the game after moving up from the subs bench.Danny Crow and Lee Barnard both moved the other way after the defeat at Rochdale.

Diamonds made a storming start to the match and took a lead in the sixth minute with their first noteworthy attack.Peter Hawkins surged into the box before neatly playing the ball left to Drewe Broughton who was lurking close to goal, causing Lee Harper to slide out of his goal and make a hashed effort to save allowing Broughton to feed Hawkins to tuck home inside the far post.

Shearer had to save well low to his left to deny Scott McGleish after his shot from the edges of the area having been played in by Charley Hearn, after 11 minutes.At the other end Sean Connelly fancied his chances from 40 yards as he drove his shot narrowly wide of Harper’s left hand post on 22 minutes after Gray’s ball out to the right.Two minutes later Broughton’s header was too weak to test Harper after Bell’s precise right wing cross.

Broughton was lucky to not get booked for a messy challenge on Hearn after 27 minutes.Then Peter Hawkins push on Josh Low set up a promising free-kick for the Cobblers a minute later which Martin Smith drifted in from the left of the box, 5 yards from the edge, towards the far post where McGleish headed against Shearer’s right hand post.

Diamonds bossed all the chances in the first half and could have doubled their lead on 34 minutes when Connelly played in a 30 yard free-kick from the right which was headed towards Rob Gier by Mark Williams with Gier heading narrowly wide of the far left post.

Despite having all the chances, just as it looked like Diamonds would take a deserved lead into the break the Cobblers stole themselves a precious equaliser that their first half performance barely deserved. Martin Smith’s snap shot from 30 yards was dropped by Shearer who tried to hurry the ball away but the goal got given to send the Cobblers fans wild in the Airwair Stand, after 45 minutes.

Diamonds made the worst possible start to the second half as they fell behind on 51 minutes when Josh Low crossed from the left by-line for Kirk to head home his first goal on his debut for the Cobblers.

Diamonds hardly had to wait long for an equaliser though as Chris Willmott stupidly conceded a clear penalty after bringing down Sharp in the box.Broughton stepped up to take the penalty and confidently struck it to the right past Harper who dived to his left, after 55 minutes.The penalty strike was Broughton’s first goal since rejoining the club on a permanent basis last month.

Broughton was harshly booked by the referee for a “physical” challenge after 66 minutes before Alex Hay replaced Dove.A minute later Chris Willmott was also booked after a foul.

As Diamonds looked for a lead Connelly swerved his shot over the bar on 69 minutes before McCafferty’s 30 yard free-kick, just to the right of the centre, went wide of the keeper’s left post after 75 minutes.

Diamonds made a second change bringing off David Bell, who limped off with what looked like an ankle injury to be replaced by Adrian Littlejohn forcing Hay to switch from the left to the right wing, on 78 minutes.Two minutes later Josh Low came off for David Galbraith for the Cobblers.

As the game reached its final stages Peter Hawkins was booked on 85 minutes meaning he will now miss the next two games through suspension.

Going forward Kirk shot across the 6 yard box into the hands of Shearer after a long ball forward after 87 minutes whilst Sharp shot way over the bar at the other end.Both sides then made late changes as Jason Taylor replaced Drewe Broughton for Diamonds and Danny Crow replaced Kirk, after 88 minutes.

In a frantic finale Gier bravely blocked Fred Murray’s strong shot to concede a corner and Willaimson’s crossed shot hit the top of the netting.But just as in the first half their was a late twist, and Diamonds grabbed the winning goal.

With just 22 seconds remaining of the three in injury time Rob Gier intercepted the ball and made a long up-field clearance which fell for Billy Sharp who kept his composure superbly to pump the ball past a helpless Lee Harper to send three sides of Nene Park wild.

With late goals going against Diamonds in recent times to finally get a late winner was a superb way to end a great clash, and the result was just about fair.One result doesn’t make a season however and there are three more vital points to pick up next week at Kidderminster.

Rushden and Diamonds:

Shearer, Connelly, Hawkins, Gier, Gray, Sharp, Bell (Littlejohn 78), Broughton (Taylor 88), Dove (Hay 66), McCafferty, Williams.Subs not used: Worgan, Dempster.

Northampton Town:

Harper, Chambers, Willmott, Murray, Kirk (Crow 88), Low (Galbraith 80), McGleish, Hearn, Smith, Bojic, Williamson.Subs not used: Bunn, Sabin, Barnard.

Referee: Mr P Taylor

Goals: Hawkins 6, Smith 45, Kirk 51, Broughton pen 55, Sharp 90+2.

Bookings: Broughton 66, Willmott 67, Hawkins 85

Attendance: 5520 (2333 away)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Peter Hawkins (strong determined performance, one of many in the Diamonds team.)

Report by Rich Beeby

See here for a match highlights video

Match Gallery Pictures courtesy of Mal Swinden


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