Darlington 2 Rushden & Diamonds 0

 

Diamonds secured their Division Two status despite going down to two second half penalties from Clyde Wijnhard.

Wijnhard struck in the 49th and 53rd minute to improve their own play-off chances but the main talking point was the controversial award of the first spot kickby referee Friend.

Rushden and Diamonds Manager Barry Hunter made two changes from the side that beat Boston united last weekend. Drewe Broughton replaced Adrian Littlejohn up front while Phil Gulliver came into the centre of defence for the suspended Rob Gier. Diamonds started the game in the knowledge that 3 points would all but guarantee Division Two football next season but they would also be looking over their shoulder at events involving relegation rivals Kidderminster and Cambridge United.

Play -off candidates Darlington started the game in 7th place and desperately needed a win after some recent indifferent form. Manager Alan Hodgson made just one change from the side that drew at Mansfield seven days ago. Brian Close came off the bench to replace the injured Joe Kendrick. The Quakers also included former Leeds striker Wijnhard who’d scored on each of his last four appearances.

Rushden kicked off in the impressive on a glorious day in the North East

An early misjudgement by Gulliver almost let Wijnhard in but Scott Shearer got down well to smother the ball. On 4 minutes, Matthew Bates headed back Wijnhard’s corner but Neil Wainwright blasted over the bar.

Twice Broughton found himself in space but both times Curtis Fleming denied him extra yardage, Then on 15 minutes Gulliver was adjudged to have fouled Wijnhard 25 yards out but the free-kick went harmlessly wide. Alun Armstrong was off target with a header before Sam Russell saved David Bell’s long range effort after the midfielder produced a superb 21st minute run up the centre of the field.

The home side started to put Diamonds under pressure but some of their passing left a little to be desired. Armstrong ran onto to another Wijnhard lay- off but narrowly shot wide before Darlo lost the services of injured midfielder Stephen Thomas on 36 minutes. He was replaced by Adrian Webster.

Diamonds confidence began to grow and twice almost went ahead just before the interval. First, Broughton produced a superb lay-off to Billy Sharp in the area but as the youngster shaped to shoot he was denied by Fleming’s tackle. Then in injury time, Gulliver should have done better with a free header from Bell’s right wing corner but he missed the target.

The second half started in controversial fashion when Darlington were awarded a penalty on 49 minutes. Only referee Friend will be able to confirm what it was given for but it was possibly for an alleged push by Scott Shearer on Wainwright.  A soft penalty award which Wijnhard accepted gratefully by scoring into the left hand corner of the net.

Four minutes later, Diamonds conceded another penalty although this time the decision was clear cut. There appeared to be no danger as Close turned away from goal near to the edge of the area but he was needlessly fouled by Stuart Gray and Wijnhard again found the net giving Shearer no chance to his left.

Darlington’s first shot on target in open play came on 63 minutes when Close forced a save from Shearer while at the other end, Diamonds had claims for a penalty turned down when a hand seemed to divert McCafferty’s free kick.

On 66 minutes, Diamonds came within a whisker of reducing the arrears when Gray’s thunderous half-volley hit the underside of the crossbar before being cleared.

Close tested Shearer again before the totally unmarked Mark Williams saw a 79th minute header go wide following Bell’s corner. Gray had another long range effort well saved by Russell while in the last minute Wainwright cleared Peter Hawkins’ fine strike off the line.

While Diamonds deserved something out of this game, results elsewhere went in their favour and manager Barry Hunter can now look to next season in the knowledge that Diamonds League status has been secured.

TEAMS:

Darlington:

Russell, Close, Bates, Fleming, Valentine, Wainwright, Appleby, Thomas (Wbster 36), Petta (St Juste 55), Armstrong (Sodje 86), Wijnhard. Subs not used: Price, Convery,

Rushden and Diamonds:

Shearer, Connelly, Williams, Gulliver, Hawkins, Bell (Hay 81), Gray, McCafferty, Burgess, Broughton (Taylor 75), Sharp.Subs not used: Dempster, Dove, Afendiyev

Referee: Mr K Friend

Goals: Wijnhard 49 & 53 (both pens)

Bookings: Gray 53, Sharp 90

Diamonds Man of the Match: Sean Connelly

Attendance: 4,579

By Chris Barritt.

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