Northampton Town 2 Rushden & Diamonds 0

 

A scrappy derby match saw the Diamonds’ recent resurgence in confidence brought back down to earth with a solid bump. Goals from Northampton’s David Hunt and Scott McGleish sent the visitors the short trip back home looking towards a statistically much more important game at Bury on the coming Tuesday evening.

A crowd of 7,036 (and a dozen on the newly re-named "Hunter’s Hill"!) was muted for the large part as neither team managed to grasp the initiative and play anything resembling a fluid footballing spectacle. Rushden started with the same team from the exceptional Oxford result bar Caskey making a start in place of the injured Savage.

A confident first 10 minutes saw the team attempt to replicate the stunning first period of the preceding game, and in the feisty spirit of local derbies both Mikolanda and Caskey got stuck-in on their counterparts, earning the Cobblers free-kicks. A Stokes second minute corner was cleared by Dyches while an attacking cross by Rob Gier was comfortably gathered by ‘keeper Harper. In rearguard action, Phil Gulliver was stoically on hand to cover for the advancing right-back Gier and made timely blocks to foil the Cobbler’s attacks.

On 12 minutes, in what could feasibly be termed as against the run of play, David Hunt put the home side one-ahead. Throwing himself in front of two close-range attempts, Gier could feel his efforts were in vain as the ball ended up at the feet of Hunt who put the ball into the left hand corner from 20 yards.

Two minutes later it was Northampton on the charge again as a Hunt corner was cleared by the combined efforts of Wayne Hatswell and Tyrone Berry. Berry was again in action when the lack of a shout led to him ducking a ball leaving Bojic to head just wide from the centre of the penalty area.

Prolonged periods of head-tennis ensued as no side appeared capable of getting the ball down, and a generally bit-and-bob match resulted for long spells. Fortunately for Diamonds, when the home side attacked, the indomitable Gulliver was on hand to mop up and marshall the ball away and his defensive partner Hatswell also put on a decent showing heading all and sundry clear, including a decent McGleish chance which he contrived to scuff from the centre of the penalty area.

On 30 minutes Rushden hopes were raised when Broughton appeared through on 20 yards, but tumbling under an innocuous looking shoulder charge saw the ball spill comfortably wide on the left. Further chances of sorts followed closely with a headed clearance by Gier setting up a break, the final delivery to Berry was not firm enough though and the pacey wingman looked to be having ‘one of those games’. With a general paucity of balls to his feet he was always going to find it difficult imposing his immense speed on such a game that was begging for some of the dynamic play he is capable of.

The fluidity of the game was hindered by some picky refereeing which saw throw-in after throw-in waved back only to be taken from the self-same position, one of which led to a tame header falling into Tynan’s hands when Eoin Jess really should have done better.

The half-time whistle brought some respite as the traveling 850 queued up for tea, Hunter’s Hill was down to 4 occupants, and the tannoy blasted out "You ‘Aint Seen Nothing Yet"& The amassed coffee drinkers agreed!

The second half commenced with an unchanged Diamonds line-up, while for the Cobblers, Dyche was replaced by Gavin Johnson.

Martin Smith looked to be a threat for the majority of the game and 7 minutes after the restart had a shot which went wide on the left from the edge of the box. Tony Stokes repaid the miss with a similar of his own after a jinky run and shot which sailed over from outside the area.

In only his second start for Rushden, and against one of his old loan clubs, striker Petr Mikolanda still looked to be settling in. With seemingly everything resembling a threat being channeled through Drewe Broughton, it was a shame to see Petr the Czech almost sitting in his pocket for the most time, when it would be hoped for a more symbiotic relationship to flourish. That said it was hearts-in-the-mouth stuff with the second half just over 12 minutes old as Marcus Kelly thundered a shot 1966 style of the underside of the crossbar from the edge of the area, the followed-up header by Mikolanda rendered him ‘offside-live’ and amidst wild celebrations it slowly dawned that the linesman’s flag away on the left was at full-mast.

Two minutes later Martin Smith found his way into the referee’s book for a foul on Gier. The resultant free-kick led to heading about and scrappiness abound yet again. Barry Hunter, sensing a change of sorts was required, and with Mikolanda short on matches, Simeon Jackson was introduced to the fray to inject some pace.

Continuing with the wayward finishing, McGleish blazed over after benefiting from a sliced Diamonds clearance, and a free-kick from Caskey, after a Stokes run-over, sailed harmlessly into the arms of a welcoming Harper. Two minutes later Eoin Jess began a death-march slow wander from the field of play after being replaced by Ryan Gilligan. The final 15 minutes also saw no further action on the part of Martin Smith as David Rowson came on.

Young Simi Jackson almost entered himself into folklore as a sailed over ball into the 6 yard box left his head and missed the ‘keepers right-hand post by the merest of margins.

Tactical adjustments saw Bull taken off in place of John Turner, who had not played since being bulldozed versus Peterborough.

The final ten minutes sparked an awakening of sorts from the muted Northampton crowd who will clearly have seen their side play better, but it was Diamonds who were beginning to play with a little more virility, as a Gier long throw-in was met by Tyrone Berry on the volley, but the target was missed by a foot on the left.

Agitating as it was, Northampton saved their piece de resistance for a period of play when Rushden finally appeared to be making more of a fist of it. Berry skinned two defenders down the right flank, but the cross ball was placed just behind an on-rushing Stokes. That done, a very well made goal for the Cobblers wrapped up proceedings as Bojic set off on a mazy run and crossed for McGleish who took great pleasure in slamming the ball into Tynan’s lower left corner from the right hand side of the penalty area.

There was time for about 9 more throw-ins and another waved-away Broughton tumble before referee Crossley blew for full time. Hunter’s Hill had been reduced to three, but by the general standard of the match they were quite possibly just waiting for the bus at the adjacent stop.

Diamonds came up against a physically large Northampton team today (without Josh Low and Andy Kirk), but failed to impose a passing style, which better seems to suit the players. For large periods of the game it was extremely scrappy, and not pleasing on the eyes. Few supporters realistically banked on points from this game, but the manner in which no points were gained was the hardest thing to swallow against local foes.

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