Boston United 2 Rushden & Diamonds 0

 

Two late goals condemned Diamonds to Conference football after five years in the Football League.

Diamonds stated the match in their usual 4-4-2 formation with Phil Gulliver returning from injury to partner Wayne Hatswell in the centre of defence. Gulliver replaced Rob Gier who was suspended.

Diamonds started the brightest of the two sides shading the possession in the first 10 – 15 minutes without creating any clear-cut chances. Boston always looked dangerous on the counter attack with the experienced Joachim and nippy Thomas.

The first real chance of the game came on the 15 minute mark when Scott Tynan had to be quick off his line to collect the ball at the feet of Boston’s David Galbraith after a slick Boston move executed with pace. At the other end Diamonds were unlucky not to get a free-kick on the edge of the area when Darren Caskey seemed to have been climbed all over. Ashley Nichols put in a beautiful cross that seemed to cause United all sorts of problems.

Only a couple of minutes later Diamonds were awarded a free kick on the right hand side from which Caskey produced a great delivery, Gulliver won the header at the back post, however Boston were able to clear their lines much to the frustration of the Diamonds fans behind the goal. Gulliver was booked moments later, after seeming to catch Boston midfielder Galbraith, who was soon replaced by Steve Merton.

Merton almost made an instant impact, and after good interplay with Peter Till on the edge of the Diamonds box found Joachim at the back post, who shot straight at Tynan. The home side finding themselves under an increasing amount of pressure, had to be alert to block a long-range effort from Tony Stokes, and watch John Turner head over from another Caskey delivery. On 36 minutes Diamonds were awarded another free kick in a wide position but after squandering possession found themselves on the backfoot as Boston broke two-on-two. Tynan remained a spectator as the ball bounced wide of his far post.

In the remaining five minutes of the first half the game opened up a little with Jackson unable to connect properly with a header from another Caskey cross, and at the other end Tynan had to be equal to Danny Thomas’s shot after an uncharacteristic mistake by Ashley Nichols. Diamonds could have also considered themselves unlucky not to have a penalty as the ball looked to have struck the hand of a Boston defender.

Half-time: Boston United 0-0 Rushden & Diamonds.

Boston came out five minutes late for the second half as both teams found it hard to get going. The Boston wall did well to block Hatswell’s free kick, with Jackson unable to get any real power when he turned and shot from the edge of the area. Jackson was involved again minutes later when booked for diving by the referee, before Tyrone Berry was brought on to replace Turner.

On 53 minutes Boston should have taken the lead when they tore down the right flank, however, when the low cross was swung in towards Thomas, Nichols was first to the ball, putting it out for a corner. Following this scare, Diamonds again pushed forwards, Jackson’s pace again causing problems, while Hatswell heading tamely towards Logan in the Boston goal.

Diamonds continued to attack with both Jackson and Berry thwarted. Boston made their third and final substitution replacing Jamie Clarke with Brad Maylett. He was instantly involved in the next attack which saw Tynan make his first real contribution of the second half. Diamonds switched Broughton for Mikolanda, and were again unfortunate not to be awarded with a penalty, as the ball struck a Boston defender on the hand.

The game was now wide open and Tynan made a great save to keep the score level after Joachim’s downward header fell to Maylett, whose first time volley looked destined for the bottom corner. Lee Tomlin was introduced at the expense of Ronnie Bull as Barry Hunter looked to go more on the attack. On 84 minutes following good work by Jackson down the right the teenager found Hatswell unmarked on the backpost who blazed the ball over when it looked easier to score.

Diamonds were left to rue what might have been as on 88 minutes when Boston substitute Lawie Dudfield was picked out with a long-ball down the middle. He rounded Tynan and despite the best efforts of Hatswell slotted the ball into the net to make it 1-0. Boston were not content with just the one goal and continued to press forwards, and after Gulliver had saw his shot blocked in the second minute of injury time, Boston broke to make to make it 2-0, with a fine solo run and finish by Danny Thomas. With defeat came the confirmation that Diamonds were indeed relegated, and the clubs five year spell in the Football League was over.

Full-time: Boston United 2-0 Rushden & Diamonds.

Rushden & Diamonds:
Tynan,
Nicholls, Gulliver, Hatswell, Bull (Tomlin 81),
Turner (Berry 53), Caskey, Stokes, Kelly,
Broughton (Mikolanda 74), Jackson.

Subs Not Used: Hunter, Crane.

Bookings: Gulliver, Jackson.

Boston United:
Logan,
McCann, White, Canoville, Ellender (Melton 21),
Till (Dudfield 32), Galbraith, Clarke (Maylett 66), Holland,
Joachim, Thomas.

Subs not Used: Silk, Chinn.

Bookings: Canoville.

Attendance: 2,489

Goals: Dudfield 88, Thomas 90+2.

Referee: C Webster (Tyne & Wear).
.

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Wycombe Wanderers 3

Diamonds must win their last two games to have any chance of avoiding relegation to the Conference after conceding three second half goals at Nene Park.

Marcus Kelly gave Diamonds a first-half lead before Roger Johnson and a brace from Tommy Mooney saw the visitors home.

Diamonds made two changes from the side that lost so disappointingly on Tuesday

at Shrewsbury. Rob Gier replaced Magnus Okuonghae in central defence while John Turner came in for the injured Dave Savage.

The visitors had lost their last six matches and needed points to maintain their play -off challenge. Steve Brown had taken temporary charge of the side with John Gorman on compassionate leave.

Wycombe made the early showing and both Ronnie Bull and Drewe Broughton had to concede corners before Gier went into referee Boyeson’s book as early as the second minute for scything down Kevin Betsy.

Good work from Darren Caskey gave Broughton the chance to turn and shoot from the edge of the area but Frank Talia saved well diving to his left. The Austra;ian goalkeeper then required treatment from his physio on 6 minutes after going down under a heavy aerial challenge from Wayne Hatswell.

The visitors looked lively and Ian Stonebridge missed a good chance 5 minutes later when he headed over Clint Easton’s cross.

There was already a good tempo to the game with play going end to end. On 15 minutes Diamonds thought that they may have gone in front when Caskey’s free – kick struck the top of the Wycombe wall and Talia saved underneath his own bar.

It was difficult to take your eyes off the game although Diamonds marking was causing concern. Danny Senda had plenty of time to send a wicked curler goalwards only for Scott Tynan to superbly turn the ball away.

Ashley Nicholls then set up Turner in the area but he failed to get enough power on the shot and Talia saved at the second attempt. Tony Stokes tried his luck from 20 yards but Talia did well.

Diamonds fans didn’t have long before celebrating a vital opening goal because on 22 minutes they took the lead. Simeon Jackson made good progress on the right but was stopped by an excellent tackle by Easton. However, the ball came back to Turner and his cross picked out Marcus Kelly who headed home his third goal of the season.

Back came Wycombe and Russell Martin found himself clear on the left. He cleverly tried to chip Tynan but the goalkeeper pulled off a super save bending backwards to tip the ball over the bar.

Stonebridge couldn’t believe his luck five minutes later when he was all alone but Tynan saved comfortably before both Betsy and Matt Bloomfield failed to find the target.

In a way it was a shame that the opening 45 minutes had to end when both teams had played such good football.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Wycombe Wanderers 0

Diamonds had the first chance of the second half when Caskey tried an audacious chip from the edge of the area but the ball went inches over the bar.

Back came the visitors and not for the first time Betsy caused problems when he sent a delightful pass through to Martin but the midfielder struck his shot woefully wide from six yards out.

Diamonds were beginning to find it hard to get going again in the second half as the visitors class began to show and it wasn’t really a surprise when Wycombe scored an equaliser on 61 minutes. The dangerous Betsy got to the byline and then picked out Tommy Mooney who tapped home at the second attempt.

Three minutes later Diamonds relegation woes worsened when Wycombe took the lead. Stonebridge found Roger Johnson on the edge of the area and the Wycombe skipper drilled an accurate shot past Tynan diving to his right.

It could have been 3 -1 moments later but Tynan did well to race out and save at the feet of the advancing Bloomfield. At the other end, a Caskey’s free – kick was superbly tipped over by Talia.

John Turner had to leave the field with a bump on his head so Diamonds introduced Greg Pearson. Lee Tomlin and Tyrone Berry were also sent into the fray but by that time it was too late and it was Wycombe who had the last say on 87 minutes when Gier was adjudged to have brought down Bloomfield in the area. The Diamonds skipper was shown the red card for a second bookable offence and Mooney converted the spot kick.

Diamonds must now win their last two games and hope that  other results go their way. The alternative is for a return to Conference football.

Teams

Rushden & Diamonds: – Scott Tynan, Rob Gier (Captain), Drewe Broughton Darren Caskey, Wayne Hatswell, Ashley Nicholls, Ronnie Bull (Tyrone Berry 77), Marcus Kelly, Simeon Jackson (Lee Tomlin 77), Tony Stokes, John Turner (Greg Pearson 69)

Subs Not Used: Danny Crane, Barry Hunter.

Wycombe Wanderers: – Frank Talia, Danny Senda, Clint Easton (Stefan Oakes 70), Roger Johnson (Captain), Kevin Betsy, Matt Bloomfield, Ian Stonebridge, Russell Martin (Jermaine Easter 88), Will Antwi, Tommy Mooney, Robert Lee (Joe Burnell 78)

Subs Not Used: Steve Williams, Mike Williamson

Booked:  Gier 2 (Foul), Hatswell 36 (Handball), Lee 38 (Foul), Caskey 44 (Foul), Bull 63 (Foul), Stokes 90 (Foul)

Sent off:  Gier 87 (Second bookable)

Referee: C Boyeson.

Attendance:  3,396 (Away 620)

Diamonds Man of the Match – John Turner

Report by Chris Barritt

Shrewsbury Town 4 Rushden & Diamonds 1

 

 

Diamonds relegation fears increased after being comfortably beaten at Gay Meadow.

 

The visitors committed defensive suicide at times and were only briefly in contention when they pulled a goal back shortly after half – time. 

Mark Stallard opened the scoring for Shrewsbury  before Jamie Tolley extended the lead close to the interval. Caskey gave Diamonds hope before Stallard scored a second goal. Sagi Burton headed the home side’s fourth near the end.

 

Manager Barry Hunter made two changes from the team that drew with Rochdale on Saturday. Reverting back to the 4 – 5 – 1 formation which drew fruit at Bristol Rovers, Dave Savage came into midfiled in place of Tyrone Berry while Magnus Okuonghae replaced the injured Phil Gulliver.

 

After the intervention from the fourth official, referee Leake had to calm down both benches as tempers frayed  early on. However, Gary Peters’ blood pressure must have increased somewhat when his side took the lead on six minutes. Wayne Hatswell could only glance Neil Ashton’s free – kick into the path of Stallard and he slotted home from six yards with the help of the left hand post.

 

At the other end, Drewe Broughton capitalised on a mistake in the Shrewsbury defence to set Caskey free but the midfielder’s pace let him down and Joe Hart cleared. Shrewsbury were already looking like the better team as Diamonds defence struggled to come to terms with their opponents three man attack. Another mistake by Hatswell allowed Stallard the chance to double Shrewsbury’s lead but Scott Tynan narrowed the angle superbly and pulled off a smart save.

 

Shrewsbury had Ashton booked for a bad tackle and from the resultant free-kick Caskey took it quickly and short but Simeon Jackson blazed over from close range.On 19 minutes, Diamonds almost got back on level terms. There seemed little danger when Tony Stokes picked the ball up in midfield but he then produced a terrific shot which struck the left hand upright.

 

As the vistors defence became more and more ragged, Rushden had a real let off on 20 minutes. With Stallard bearing down on goal, Ashley Nicholls appeared to handle the ball just outside the area but amazingly the referee and his assistant failed to spot same. As play moved on, Stallard shaped to shoot and Nicholls then seemed to pull the striker back but nothing was given. If seen, Nicholls would surely have taken an early bath.

 

Nine minutes from the interval, Shrewsbury doubled their lead. Ben Herd fed Tolley 40 yards out and with Okuonghae backing off the midfielder tried his luck from 20 yards further forward giving Tynan no chance.

 

There were loud appeals for handball against Hart as Broughton chased a long ball forward but referee Leake missed that incident as well! So much for Barry Hunter to think about at the interval.

 

Half – time: Shrewsbury Town 2 – 0 Rushden & Diamonds

 

Diamonds threw themselves a lifeline within 90 seconds of the restart. The visitors won a free – kick on the edge of the penalty area and promptly inserted Okuonghae, Broughton and Savage in front of Joe Hart. As the Three Musketeers ran towards the wall, Caskey looped a tremendous shot into the right hand corner of the net.

 

Rushden’s tails were up now and they should have been level a few minutes later. Stokes produced pace and purpose down the right before whipping in a cross to Broughton at the far post. The striker headed downward but Hart deflected the ball away for a corner. From the resultant flag kick, Caskey picked out Savage but despite having a free header, the skipper could only direct the ball over the bar.

 

How costly those two misses proved as the home side reopened their two goal lead on 56 minutes. Hatswell made another uncharacteristic error when his attempted back header lacked pace allowing Stallard to beat Tynan to the ball and then tap home for his second goal of the game.

 

At that point, the game was over as a contest. Diamonds threw onTyrone Berry for Jackson before John Turner replaced the hard working Broughton. Unfortunately, the changes failed to ignite any spark into the vistors attack and it was the home side that looked the more likely to increase their lead still further.

 

Diamonds never gave up but were looking somewhat ragged in their play. Tynan cleared one attack by thumping the ball over the main stand while he then showed his true colours by producing a fantastic one handed save to deny Glynn Hurst.

 

But Shrewsbury weren’t finished yet and on 81 minutes they scored a fourth goal. Neil Sorvel and Steve Hogg conducted a corner routine and Burton rose above Okuonghae to to thunder home the header.

 

In the dying minutes, Turner made no contact with a pass when clean through and that rather summed Rushden’s night up.

 

So with three games left, Diamonds must somehow summon up all their experience and energy to gain at least 7 points from a possible nine if they are to have any real chance of retaining their Football League status.

 

Teams

 

Shrewsbury Town: – Joe Hart, Jamie Tolley, Neil Sorvel, Kelvin Langmead, Mark Stallard (Marco Adaggio 87), Neil Ashton (Steve Leslie 83), Ben Herd, Steve Hogg, Glynn Hurst, Richard Hope (Captain), Sagi Burton

 

Subs Not Used: Glynn Thompson, Gavin Cowan, Gavin Cadwallader

 

Rushden & Diamonds: – Scott Tynan, Dave Savage (Captain), Drewe Broughton (John Turner 69), Darren Caskey, Wayne Hatswell, Ashley Nicholls, Ronnie Bull, Marcus Kelly, Magnus Okuonghae (Rob Gier 90)Simeon Jackson (Tyrone Berry 63), Tony Stokes.

 

Subs Not Used: Hunter, Crane

 

Booked:  Ashton (Foul) 18, Broughton 61 (Persistent Fouling), Tynan 78 (Dissent)

 

Sent off: 

 

Referee: Mr A R Leake – made two huge errors but they didn’t affect the outcome of the game

 

Attendance:  4,239

 

Diamonds Man of the Match: Tony Stokes – kept on plugging away in midfield and almost scored with a terrific shot that hit the post

 

Report by Chris Barritt 

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Rochdale 1

 

 

Diamonds missed the chance to move out of the bottom two when they conceded yet another last gasp goal against fellow relegation strugglers Rochdale.

 

Drewe Broughton put Diamonds ahead early in the second half before Chris Dagnall’s sickener 30 seconds from the end of three minutes added time.

 

Diamonds welcomed back Phil Gulliver and Wayne Hatswell to their central defence. Gulliver returned after recovering from a hamstring injury while Hatswell had completed a two match suspension. Magnus Okuonghae and Rob Gier were the unlucky players and there was more disappointment for the latter as he failed to make the bench. Tyrone Berry was preferred to club captain Dave Savage.

 

Rochdale were looking to improve a record of just two wins in 20 league games although they earned a good point at Northampton last weekend.

 

Both teams wore black armbands in rememberance of the Hillsborough disaster which happened 17 years ago this weekend.

 

Diamonds missed a great opportunity to take an early lead on two minutes. The ball was played out to Tony Stokes on the right and when the cross came in Simeon Jackson lost his marker but missed the target with a free header.

 

After a shaky first ten minutes, the visitors started to probe from midfield seemingly looking for leading scorer Ricky Lambert at every turn. However the striker was being well marshalled and indeed it was Diamonds who almost created another chance when Jackson turned well in the box but ‘keeper Matt Gilks saw the danger early.  

 

On 16 minutes Drewe Broughton received what seemed to be a final warning from referee Fletcher for persistent fouling. However, Broughton appeared to have been very hard done by an over fussy official who was starting to spoil an important match. 

 

Diamonds had a goal correctly ruled out 4 minutes later. Stokes tried his luck from 25 yards and the ball cannoned off the right hand upright into the path of Broughton who was offside when he stooped to head home.

 

Darren Caskey became the first man into referee Fletcher’s notebook minutes for a clumsy foul while Hatswell marked his return from suspension with a booking moments later.

 

Diamonds suffered another setback on 25 minutes when captain Gulliver had to leave the field with what looked like a reoccurrence of his hamstring injury. He was replaced by Okuonghae who slotted in alongside Hatswell.

 

Rochdale had their first attempt on target when Gary Jones fired over before Broughton became the third Diamonds player to see yellow when he was cautioned for persistent fouling.

 

The game was becoming increasingly scrappy no thanks to some petty refereeing. However, six minutes from the interval Rochdale should have taken the lead. A mistake from Ronnie Bull allowed Lambert to charge down his attempted clearance but with just Scott Tynan to beat, the Rushden ‘keeper pulled off a superb diving save to keep the scores level at half – time.

 

Half – time                Rushden & Diamonds 0 – 0 Rochdale

 

If the first – half was lacking in goalmouth action there was no shortage of action in the opening stages of second period. Within two minutes of the restart Chris Dagnall made excellent progress along the byline before setting up Lambert with a simple chance 12 yards out. However, as the striker shaped to shoot home Ashley Nicholls produced a miraculous block while on the floor to save a certain goal.

 

Back came Diamonds and Jackson ran onto to Broughton’s flick but couldn’t keep his shot down while two minutes later the youngster missed an even better chance when Marcus Kelly combined well with Broughton to give Jackson another gilt edged opportunity which went begging.

 

However, on 54 minutes Diamonds took the lead. Bull’s free – kick was headed on by Broughton and Gilks could only parry Jackson’s acrobatic shot into the path of Broughton who volleyed home his tenth goal of the season.

 

Four minutes later, Broughton missed another good chance when he chose to shoot rather than pass to the unmarked Jackson.

 

Midway through the half, Bull was yellow carded for a foul on Lambert who picked himself up and bent the free – kick round the wall only for Tynan to save at the second attempt. Then at the other end Jackson was put through, this time by substitute John Turner, but again he blazed over.

 

Hatswell headed over from Caskey’s corner before referee Fletcher waved away loud appeals for a penalty when Dagnall tangled with Bull in the box.

 

But with 30 seconds remaining of three minutes added time, confusion between Nicholls and Okuonghae let in Dagnall who had all the time and space to coolly beat Tynan and send the away fans wild.

 

The despair on the Diamonds fans faces was there for all to see but whether the loss of two points would be a factor at the end of the season, we will just have to wait to see!

 

Teams

Rushden & Diamonds: – Scott Tynan, Phil Gulliver (Captain) (Magnus Okuonghae 25), Drewe Broughton (John Turner 61), Darren Caskey, Wayne Hatswell, Ashley Nicholls, Ronnie Bull, Marcus Kelly, Simeon Jackson, Tony Stokes, Tyrone Berry (Dave Savage 71).

 

Subs Not Used: Danny Crane, Lee Tomlin,

 

Rochdale: – Matt Gilks, Simon Ramsden, Alan Goodall, Gareth Griffiths, Mark Jackson, Chris Dagnall, Gary Jones (Captain), Scott Warner(John Doolan 62), Ernie Cooksey (Lee Cartwright 84)  Ben Kitchen (Lyseden Christie 58), Ricky Lambert

 

Subs Not Used: John Boardman, Tony Gallimore

 

Booked:  Darren Caskey 22 (Foul), Wayne Hatswell 24 (Foul), Drewe Broughton 31 (Persistent Fouling), Ronnie Bull 67 (Foul)

 

Sent off: 

 

Referee: M Fletcher – very disappointing performance from an experienced official.

 

Attendance:  3,135 (Away 276)

 

Diamonds Man of the Match: Ashley Nicholls – one stunning goal saving tackle and a fantastic display at right – back

 

Report by Chris Barritt 

Bristol Rovers 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

 

A performance of epic proportions gave the Diamonds sole ownership of the day’s points for the first away game since Chester way back in mid-December. Drewe Broughton’s solitary goal being the winner for the second match in succession.

 

Singling any player out for praise on a day like today is both difficult and seemingly unfair, but while Broughton toiled tirelessly in attack, it was centre-back Okuonghae and right-back Ashley Nicholls who performed calm heroics at crucial times to snuff out the potent attacking force of Rovers’ Junior Agogo and Richard Walker. The young Okuonghae in particular deserving of praise, given his limited experience and the testing swirling wind which made life difficult for both teams throughout.

 

On a bright and sunny, but bitterly cold day in the South-West, manager Barry Hunter kept faith with the same line-up which played out the majority of the maximum pointer against fellow strugglers Torquay seven days ago – Tynan keeping his place in goal due to Danny Crane’s hand injury. This meant another outing for Rob Gier inside-right, the position which saw him sweep the Rushden players awards last season, with Nicholls in a wider role at the back – a decision most of the supporters would have chosen given the absences of Gulliver (injured) and Hatswell (suspended).

 

Rushden started the game the liveliest, playing with the wind, with Marcus Kelly and Darren Caskey switching one-two passes before Kelly saw his weather beaten shot screwed into the stand behind Rovers’ and ex-Diamonds ‘keeper Scott Shearer. More was to follow with Hinton clearing for a throw-in on the Diamonds left-hand side, Ronnie Bull was to complete a hat-trick of throws within the minute as the Rovers defence thwarted any chance of a ball in. Bull was eventually to float a great cross over the six yard box, but the elements, coupled with lack of attacking presence, saw the ball sail menacingly past the far post for a goal kick.

 

Next up was captain Savage, with a half-chance in the penalty area he was just off the pace when the ball was over-head hooked clear of him running on.

 

It was to be almost 7 minutes before the balance of the game started to be restored, with a Bristol corner after good defensive work by Okuonghae; Tynan was on hand to comprehensively punch the ball to the relative safety of the centre pitch.

 

Back in the ascendancy again, livewire Simeon Jackson was showing why he has became a regular starter. Patrolling the left flank he launched a decent cross which foiled all defensive manoeuvres, Broughton was on hand to hold the ball up momentarily in the six yard box, but his clever lay-back fell into space in the area and was cleared to much relief by the blue and white quarter of the Memorial Stadium.

 

It was at times a complete reversal of the usual football match status-quo, visitors Rushden were roaming and probing forwards seemingly at will, while the home team looked happy to soak up the pressure and attack on the break. One such break led to great defensive actions by Rob Gier, solidly sticking his leg in where lesser mortals may not, denying the home team any continuance. Eventually gaining a free-kick on the right, Rovers again could only watch as Marcus Kelly assisted the case for the defence in lumping clear up-field.

 

Hearts were in mouths all round in the 22nd minute though after great work down the right by Caskey, shielding before teasing in a ball of potent malice to the near post it was mightily unfortunate that the mid-air kung-fu appraisal by Broughton failed by the merest of margins on the wrong side of the goalkeepers upright.

 

Whilst the wind made every pass a Wimbledon-esque punt by Rushden, it was working favours for Tynan at the back, enabling him to gaze skywards as one particular Elliott free-kick from what might have been termed a dangerous area was scooped up and away high into the stand behind him to much relief.

 

With 15 minutes remaining of the half, text-book triangular passing movements between Broughton and Kelly bamboozled the flat-footed Bristol rear unit, but the final penalty box lay-off left Drewe with just too much ground to cover for what would surely have been one of the easier finishes of the day. The in-form attacker has recently added guile to his previously forthright playing style though and no more was this shown when running round a shielded ball rolling out for a goal-kick, with pace and acumen he was able to cannon the ball back into the legs of the panicking defender to win a corner to further keep the pressure firmly on the home side.

 

The second half was to be a slightly more even-keeled affair, but the Bristol team probably had not banked on in-form Junior Agogo finding himself in a particularly profligate mood. On another day the Rovers’ hit-man might well have seen himself emulate the brace he notched in a 3-1 demolition away at Wycombe last week. Fortunately for Rushden, today was not that day.

 

Diamonds had to thank the referee 4 minutes after the re-start though when James Hunt had the ball past Tynan, fortunately only the home fans, and a few of the stewards, had failed to hear the resounding blast of whistle immediately prior to the despatch of the shot.

 

Some 5 minutes later there was danger again as Richard Walker just managed to send the ball wide of the far post from the left with two fellow runners in support. Diamonds team ethics made it that kind of day for Bristol Rovers.

 

Just prior to the hour, the Diamonds comedy free-kick roadshow hit the Memorial Stadium. The usual suspects of the ‘Big 3’ forming a secondary wall in Shearer’s face, while Kelly attempted to capitalise on the confusion of the late out-run. Sadly the shot curled nicely and deftly, but 2 yards too high to trouble the bemused Rovers ‘keeper.

 

Simeon Jackson was next up to harass the home defence, blasting a ball from distance which thumped soundly into the chest of Shearer. Seconds later Nicholls, supporters Man of the Match on the returning coach, was immense in blocking Agogo when the forward would have been clear through, the resulting throw-in led to Lewis Haldane blazing wildly over the crossbar.

 

It was time for Diamonds to absorb some latter stage pressure, but the men tasked rose admirably to the challenge. On this occasion Sammy Igoe let fly, but a combination of Rob Gier’s chest, and Okuonghae burgeoning situational wisdom saw the ball shielded away to the realms of safety yet again.

 

Diamonds in particular can feel that the cliché of refereeing decisions evening themselves out over a season started to find substance today, but some at times fussy officiating didn’t at least mar the flow of play to any great extent. That said, Tony Stokes still managed to gain a peek inside referee Ray Lee’s notebook for a failure to retreat the final few centimetres of an innocuously positioned free-kick.

 

The 70th minute saw the first of Hunter’s tactical changes, with Jackson being replaced by Tyrone Berry, a fresh pair of legs rather than a formation tweak.

 

Meanwhile Okuonghae continued his great work charging down Haldane, while Nicholls Herculean efforts ran unabated with a fantastic jockey of Agogo when the forward looked to be clean through.

 

Bristol Rovers’ day was summed up when Agogo, with a clean sight of goal at the right post, could only manage to snatch wildly at the ball sending it further wide than the distance it had to initially travel to the goal-line. His shirt-over-the-head Ravanelli routine could not even begin to hide his shame at the wasted effort.

 

The cold day turned to heart-warming joy for the travellers in the 76th minute. Berry’s energy allowed him to majestically turn his man, follow a jinky path, and neatly lay the ball off to Drewe Broughton near the right hand corner of the penalty area, all the hard work was not yet done though as Broughton avoided a rabbit-in-the-headlights moment to curl a fabulous ball knee high past Shearer and into the left hand corner of the goal. Massed celebration ensued amongst the Diamonds fans as the majority of the 6,432 attendees sank into desperate despair.

 

 

The match ended with chewed nails and frayed nerves all round for the Northants faithful as the seconds ticked agonisingly past. There were 10 minutes in which frantic ball-keeping kept company with desperate hoofs from both sides. While the end crept ever closer manager Hunter replaced Marcus Kelly, and Turner was brought on for Broughton in the final minute of injury time

 

A play-off place is still not mathematically out of reach for the Gasheads, but more importantly the full 3 points represent a possible lifeline in the fight to retain league status for Rushden & Diamonds.

 

44 points from the campaign leaves the mythical 50 point mark looking a decidedly even more mythically reserved safety barrier to achieve, but Diamonds can but only win their games. The magnitude of today’s effort will not be wasted, not on the team, nor the fans, nor the surrounding clubs fighting similarly for survival.

 

Bristol Rovers: Shearer, Lescott, Hinton, Elliott, Carruthers, Igoe, Hunt, Disley (Campbell 52), Haldane (Gibb 81), Agogo, Walker.
Subs Not Used: Horsell, Edwards, Lines.

Rushden & Diamonds: Tynan, Nicholls, Okuonghae, Gier, Bull, Stokes, Caskey, Savage, Kelly (Hunter 90), Broughton (Turner 90), Jackson (Berry 71).
Subs Not Used: Woodman, Tomlin.

Attendance: 6,432

 

Travel Club Man of the Match: Ashley Nicholls

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Torquay United 0

 

 

Drewe Broughton’s first half header gave Diamonds a crucial victory against fellow strugglers Torquay United.

 

In a game that Diamonds simply could not lose, Barry Hunter made two changes from the side that lost 3 – 1 at Cheltenham Town last weekend. Wayne Hatswell was serving the first of a two game ban so Rob Gier switched from right back to partner Magnus Okuonghae. Ashley Nicholls reverted from midfield to take Gier’s place while Dan Crane was preferred to Scott Tynan in goal. Tony Stokes came in to midfield to partner Darren Caskey.

 

Torquay had won their previous two games including a surprise away win at high flying Wycombe so not surprisingly, they named an unchanged team.

 

The visitors had the better of the opening exchanges although Steve Woods produced an excellent clearance to deny Simeon Jackson after a good flick on by Drewe Broughton.

 

The game started at a frantic pace although there was no real pattern to the play. On 17 minutes, confusion between Okuonghae and Crane almost let in Tony Bedeau but the Diamonds ‘keeper saved after some ball juggling.

 

There was a worry for Diamonds on 25 minutes when Nicholls went down clutching his head after a challenge from Kevin Hill but the defender resumed after treatment. However, five minutes later Diamonds did have to make a change when Crane had to leave the field with what looked like a hamstring injury and was replaced by Tynan.

 

In a rare attacking moment, Broughton turned well before forcing Andy Marriott into a diving save. A few minutes later Broughton tried his luck again from 30 yards and the ball dipped just over the bar.

 

There really wasn’t anything to choose between the two sides but two minutes from the interval Diamonds broke the deadlock when they scored a crucial opening goal with a well worked set piece. Darren Caskey took the corner on the right and Broughton stooped to head in a fine goal from 12 yards. 

 

Half – time Rushden & Diamonds     1 – 0    Torquay United

 

Diamonds enjoyed the first chance of the second period when Jackson picked up a pass and ran at the Torquay defence but his shot ended up in the crowd. Then Broughton was fouled 25 yards out but Caskey couldn’t keep his shot down.

 

Jackson’s fine dribble along the byline almost proved dividends while moments later, the same player did well to make space for himself but his shot went wide.

 

Despite the wind being against them, Diamonds were looking more like their old attacking force. Stokes won a free-kick 20 yards out but after waiting for an age while Diamonds inserted a three man wall in front of Andy Marriott, Caskey’s effort came to nothing.

 

On 56 minutes, Torquay missed a glorious opportunity to get back on level terms when Bedeau beat Gier for pace but with just Tynan to beat his attempted lob was too weak.

 

The introduction of substitute Jo Kuffour instilled some urgency into the visitors defence and he fired over after a fine jinxy run. However, on 71 minutes, Torquay came very close to getting an equaliser as the wind started playing havoc with the game. Steven Reed’s free-kick was headed back across goal by James Sharp but the wind dragged the ball onto the crossbar with Tynan beaten.

 

Eight minutes later, Stokes’ intelligent ball found Jackson in space but the youngster failed to find the target while Broughton could have made the game safe seconds later but he blazed over when in the clear.

 

Barry Hunter entered the fray on 82 minutes and he took his place in a revised back five with Berry and Jackson playing up front. The Diamonds manager led by example and won some crucial headers as the visitors threw the kitchen sink at Rushden in the closing stages.

 

Substitute Craig Taylor came closest to securing an equalizer with his first touch when he was inches away from hitting the target following Martin Phillips’ corner but Diamonds held out for a vital victory.

 

Special mention should go to referee Howard Webb who showed how a match should be refereed!

 

Teams

Rushden & Diamonds: – Dan Crane (Scott Tynan 30), Rob Gier (Captain), Drewe Broughton (Barry Hunter 82), Darren Caskey ,Ashley Nicholls, Ronnie Bull, Marcus Kelly, Simeon Jackson, Magnus Okuonghae, Tony Stokes, John Turner (Tyrone Berry 70)

 

Subs Not Used: Dave Savage, Lee Tomlin,

 

Torquay United: – Andy Marriott, Lee Andrews, Steven Reed, James Sharp (Captain), (Craig taylorSteve Woods, Darren Garner (Matthew Hewlett 75), Danny Hollands, Martin Phillips, Tony Bedeau, Paul Robinson (Jo Kuffour 57), Kevin Hill

 

Subs Not Used: Craig Taylor, Matthew Hockley, Matthew Villis

 

Booked:  Simeon Jackson (Not retreating ten yards) 90

 

Sent off: 

 

Referee: H Webb

 

Attendance:  3,795 (Away 582)

 

Diamonds Man of the Match: Ronnie Bull

 

Report by Chris Barritt 

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