An impotent Diamonds display saw the travellers return home empty handed for the second consecutive away fixture. Not taking a haul of points from trips to Bury, Wrexham and Carlisle was the expectation, but the forlorn gesture of football delivered today in a 5-0 hiding tested even the most devout followers from Nene Park.
Leaving Brunton Park with the home supporters rally cries of promotion ringing in the ears was a bitter pill to swallow, but the display of attacking football displayed by the opposition team was again the difference between top and bottom of League Two.
For Wrexham’s Matt Derbyshire read Carlisle’s Karl Hawley. Today’s sorcerer of attack put on a master-class of both assisting and finishing. Ending the game with two goals and a sixty second spell of two text book assists, he will consider himself unlucky to be handing the Man of the Match Champagne to Peter Murphy. Diamonds must only be glad they met him on an off-day!
All pre-match tactical decisions were thrown to the northerly wind as Carlisle required just one forward push and a corner for Derek Holmes to head past Danny Crane within the first minute. In fact the tale of woe could have been even worse but for Carlisle players tripping over each other, and an alert Crane, as two further chances of sorts went wasted.
Attempting to restore parity, both Marcus Kelly and Ronnie Bull saw running crosses end up at the feet of nobody ‘red’ as the Diamonds attack failed to keep pace with the wing-play on a pudding stodgy pitch and Tyrone Berry’s by-line run-and-cross was once again the most prevalent option of attack with a 13th minute effort well cleared by Carlisle’s Chris Billy.
The day’s first substitution came on 14 minutes when Livesey replaced Gray for Carlisle, but the attacks rained down unremittingly. Fit again captain Savage was well placed in defence heading clear, and another Carlisle shot whistled over the cross-bar.
A minute later Hatswell ensured his notoriety with the Brunton Park faithful as he elected to full-force boot the ball into the ducking crowd from 20 yards (instead of the more common-place polite kick-out!) when Bull lay prostrate. The boo’s echoing around the stadium for his remaining tenure at every intervention.
Periods of respite for the Rushden defence saw Berry deliver a poor cross with Broughton in space, while the elastic betwixt he and his strike-partner Mikolanda will have to be loosened as pocket-sitting in the same square yard of turf saw a general lack of option for outlet throughout. The harder working of the two, it was Broughton who always looked the most likely to threaten, while Mikolanda, subdued since his wonder-goal against Notts Co. looked more placed for amusement as he failed to even perfect the air-kick, falling prone whilst doing so.
The centre of the field a boggy mulch, it was more down to the conditions than application that long punts upfield found wingers, one fizzing ball from right wing Berry just failing to coincide at a suitable juncture with the racing arrival of his left wing counterpart Kelly.
Without the benefit of foresight, the afternoon was saved from worsening by the assistant referee’s flag when the ball entered Crane’s goal for a second time. Mikolanda the culprit this time having been dispossessed dallying on the ball.
That relief was as short-lived as the expectation time between kick-off and the first goal though. Picking the ball up in the 35th minute Karl Hawley gave portent of doom to come by picking out Crane’s inside far-post from the left hand side of the box.
There was time in the half yet though for Broughton to re-acquaint himself with the inside of the referee’s notebook. Murphy going down clutching his face after a solid, but innocuous, shove in the back.
The half ended with Diamonds on the attack, Berry again using his blistering pace to find space along the penalty box by-line, the resulting block brought a corner from a headed clearance and the shrill tones of the whistle meant no time for more after Gier made a foray forward.
Save for a two goal deficit, there was little between the two teams possession-wise; half chances tallied, only clinical finishing and ‘bodies in the box’ were the difference.
The second half commenced after another Carlisle change with Hackney replacing Billy.
Defensively, it was Hatswell bearing the brunt, tackling clear an early attacking move down the right, and moments later spinning clear a menacing in-ball from Aranalde placed in from the deep right, the bouncer just clearing his own post by a mere 2 feet after Crane elected to leave be.
With just over 5 minutes of the half ran down, the match, the semi-contest it had became, effectively ended. Hawley ran into the right of the box, had time to evade the attentions of both Gulliver and Hatswell, before neatly despatching the ball past the forlorn Crane into the bottom left hand corner.
After the restart the Carlisle ‘keeper had work in hand with a spectacular tip-over from a Broughton/Mikolanda inspired effort. The Czech with the shot. From the corner Mikolanda just failed to meet a Kelly head-on.
Up the other end of the field Rob Gier was on hand to force Hackney into a wide stray effort.
As the hour approached, the first Rushden tactical substitution came, as in previous games, the ‘Little & Large’ show aired, as Tomlin replaced Mikolanda. The attackers could rest easy for a while though as Hackney tested the Diamonds ‘keeper’s reflexes forcing a great tip round the right post after an excellent dribble.
The pressure was mounting further still though, and was not assisted by captain Savage erring a little too long with the ball at his feet, fortunately Hatswell was on hand to mop-up, accompanied with the by now de-rigueur cacophony of boo’s!
The first real chance for Lee Tomlin was to come just after 60 minutes with an impressive run from wide with ball at feet. Unfortunately his pace was ahead of his feet and he was to stumble over the ball when in the centre of the penalty box arc.
The next two minutes shattered the spirit of the Diamonds players as the Hawley show took to the road once more. Twice he entered the penalty box inside-right, twice he was confronted by Gulliver and Hatswell sitting too square on, twice he neatly switched the ball to the opposite side of the box, twice the ball was crashed past a mesmerised Crane, twice by Hackney. Game over, and the lady of certain proportions began her vocal dissertation.
With under half an hour remaining Kelly made way for Nicholls, who immediately tightened up the back, and the Diamonds again attempted to display fortitude, if not resilience, with Broughton heading into the ‘keepers stretched arms from a Gier centre.
The 70th minute was time for Gulliver to be called into action again, twice clearing from crosses from either side.
Referee Mr. Leake waved yellow to Caskey for scything down Rivers late from behind, and the free kick thereof was closely monitored by three Carlisle attackers, neither of whom had just enough pace to beat Crane to the ball as he scooped up from the cut up turf.
A positive cricket score was almost on the cards but for the attentions of the diminutive Tomlin. Marking the near post he twice cleared from his own goal-line before Crane was called to perform an acrobatic tip-over from under the bar.
The game lost, strategies for the next match were already being planned out. A tactical substitution, bringing off Hatswell for Okuonghae ensured he would not pick up the one booking he sits from suspension, and Magnus was soon feeling the pressure the lads were under, covering when Hawley broke through. Offside was called but the danger had already been nullified.
As the sun fell behind the stand to the visiting fans right, squinting was by now no longer required, however most were blessed of the relief that gave. Watching the final throes of the match in perfect clarity was not for the faint of heart.
A further Carlisle adjustment was made with McGill replacing Rivers in the 78th minute.
Lee Tomlin, still to score his first league goal, was trying to get a consolation effort, but having been brought down wide right the Caskey free-kick was yet another wasted opportunity.
There was just time in the game for Tomlin to pick up his now seemingly obligatory booking, fouling Aranalde, and with a last throw of the dice Arnison came incredibly close to making it six of the best, but for yet another athletic tip over the bar by the beleaguered Crane.
Somehow between announcing the attendance the first time, and a correction being issued, the stadium had lost 198 fans. The possibly correct figure of 6,922 included just under 100 of Northants finest. This stadium, and this crowd will very shortly be watching football from a higher perch, whether the Diamonds sit one, or two, rungs beneath them remains a very, very debatable point. Carlisle are onto a better class of football, but it was today the Diamonds will have been wishing they’d dropped their ‘H’s!
Carlisle: K Westwood, P Arnison, K Gray (12 D Livesey) , P Murphy, Z Aranalde, A Murray, C Lumsdon, M Rivers (78 B McGill) , C Billy (45 S Hackney) , K Hawley, D Holmes
Subs: A Williams, D Livesey, B McGill, G Murray, S Hackney
R&DFC: D Crane, R Gier, W Hatswell (75 Okuonghae), P Gulliver, R Bull, T Berry, D Caskey, D Savage, M Kelly (67 Nicholls), D Broughton, P Mikolanda (56 Tomlin)
Subs: S Tynan, A Nicholls, M Okuonghae, L Tomlin, T Stokes
Travel Club RDFC MoM: Tyrone Berry
Ref: Mr A Leake
Report by Charlie Brown