Oxford United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

A Chris Beardsley second half header gave Diamonds their fourth consecutive win and ended Oxford United’s unbeaten home run. In front of the Sky TV cameras, Diamonds completed the double over a poor U’s side who have now gone nine League games without a win.

Graham Westley made two changes from the side that beat Cambridge United at Nene Park six days ago. Chris Hope was unavailable due to a family bereavement, while Marcus Kelly was rested, their places being taken by Paul Watson and David Perpetuini (who made his full debut). Recent signing Michael Bostwick was named on the bench. Injuries to Billy Turley, Carl Pettifer, Matt Day and Georges Santos added to Oxford boss Jim Smith’s woes with Eddie Hutchinson, Steve Basham and Chris Wilmott all suffering long term injuries. In fact, there were six changes to the side that lost at Woking the previous Tuesday. Chris Tardif was named in goal for the first time this season, while Andy Burgess and Eddie Anaclet had both recovered from injuries. Gregg Coombes (on loan from Cardiff City) made his debut, while Latvian striker Kris Grebis and youngster Andrew Gunn made their first home appearances for the U’s.

It took just 17 seconds for Diamonds to have the chance to open the scoring when Simeon Jackson had a great opportunity from ten yards, but blasted over the bar when he had time to aim a shot on target. In fact, it was Diamonds that looked more comfortable in the opening exchanges with Oxford showing why their form has dipped so remarkably over the last two months. Diamonds remained in control for most of the half, with Oxford being restricted to off target shots from Kris Grebis and Andy Burgess. The Diamonds defence looked confident with the back four snuffing out any danger.

Diamonds on the other hand had several chances to open the scoring. A poor punch by Oxford keeper Chris Tardif from a corner on 10 minutes gave Mark Albrighton the chance to shoot on goal, but Andrew Gunn blocked the goal bound shot. Chris Beardsley almost took advantage of a mix up between Tardif and Phil Gilchrist, but the keeper recovered in the nick of time.

Gary Mills had bad memories of his last visit here in September 2004 when he suffered a broken leg, and his determination during the first quarter earned him a yellow card after a foul on Manchester United loanee Danny Rose. Diamonds had two excellent chances to take the lead. On 25 minutes, a free kick from Jamie Cook led to a superb header from Wayne Hatswell, but the keeper just managed to knock the ball away for a corner. On 38 minutes, another free kick went over the defence to Jackson, but his shot was saved by the keeper’s feet. The ball rebounded off Duffy and fell to Mark Albrighton, but he somehow managed to scoop the ball over the bar from 5 yards.

Diamonds could feel well satisfied at the break, with Mills and Perpetuini controlling the midfield, with little danger from any of the Oxford forwards.

Half-time: Oxford United 0 – 0 Rushden & Diamonds

Oxford started the second half with a bit more urgency, with Eddie Anaclet starting to cause some problems coming forward more and more on the right flank. On 48 minutes Anaclet finally got a shot on target for the home side, but his chip was tipped over the bar by Tynan. At the other end, Beardsley headed narrowly wide. Rufus Brevett received a yellow card on 53 minutes after a foul on Beardsley deep in the Oxford half. Moments later, Jamie Cook stepped up to take free kick and sent a perfect ball in for Chris Beardsley to head home from ten yards.

It was nothing more than Diamonds deserved, and they continued to control the play as Oxford tried desperately to get back into the game. On the hour, Jackson again got beyond the back line and tried to pull the ball back into the middle, but Tardif cut out the danger. Gregg Coombes finally got another shot on target for the home side on 64 minutes with Tynan knocking the ball clear for a corner. Oxford started to get more of the ball but they lacked the cutting edge to cause much danger. Coombes had another shot moments later, but a deflection from Rose was easily held by Tynan.

Diamonds made a double substitution with twenty minutes remaining, with Dave Savage and Marcus Kelly replacing Glenn Wilson and David Perpetuini. They continued to cause problems for Oxford and a fierce shot from Beardsley after a Watson cross was only held by Tardif at the second attempt. Beardsley had another attempt on 72 minutes, but the shot was too close to the Oxford keeper. Some neat play between Mills, Savage and Kelly almost provided another chance, but the cross went behind everyone waiting in the area.

Diamonds safely saw out the remaining minutes of the ninety, but with five minutes added time shown by the fourth official, Oxford had an amazing chance to steal an equaliser. Yemi Odubade ran forward and received a pass back from Marvin Robinson. His shot was well saved by Tynan who pushed the shot away. Instead of clearing the ball, Jon Ashton stepped over it not realising Rob Duffy was right behind him. It must have completely surprised Rob Duffy as he incredibly put the ball into the side netting, with most of the home fans thinking he had scored. It would certainly have been an unjust end to the game, and Diamonds ran down the remaining minutes to deservedly take the three points.

Full-time: Oxford United 0 – 1 Rushden & Diamonds

Diamonds showed a lot more movement off the ball and a will to win has become evident over the past few games. They are now solid at the back – even without Chris Hope and the addition of Gary Mills in midfield has given them some fight. The win moves Diamonds up 5 places in the League table and a few more consistent performances will soon see them in mid table safety.

Teams:

Oxford United – Chris Tardif, Eddie Anaclet, Andrew Gunn, Barry Quinn, Phil Gilchrist, Rufus Brevett (Gavin Johnson 77), Gregg Coombes (Marvin Robinson 77), Danny Rose, Andy Burgess, Kris Grebis (Yemi Odubade 70), Rob Duffy.

Subs not used: Gareth Tucker(GK), Billy Beechers.

Rushden & Diamonds – Scott Tynan, Glenn Wilson (Dave Savage 70), Paul Watson, Jon Ashton, Wayne Hatswell (c), Simeon Jackson (Lee Tomlin 78), Gary Mills, Mark Albrighton, David Perpetuini (Marcus Kelly 70), Chris Beardsley, Jamie Cook.

Subs not used: Martyn Margarson(GK), Michael Bostwick.

Goals:             Beardsley 54 (0-1).

Booked:         Mills 24 (foul on Rose & dissent), Brevett 53 (foul on Beardsley), Wilson 68 (foul on Coombes), Gunn 82 (foul on Tomlin).

Referee:         Mr Andy Hendley (West Midlands)

Attendance:   5654 (313 away)

Reporters Man of the Match: Gary Mills.

By Dave Mason

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Rushden & Diamonds 3 Cambridge United 1

Diamonds ended up comfortable winners in this bottom of the table battle. Goals from Simeon Jackson, Chris Beardsley and Michael Rankine secured the three points, before conceding a disputed injury time goal.

Diamonds were looking for a third win in ten days after victories over Stafford Rangers and Witton Albion, while the U’s had suffered six consecutive defeats before today’s game, losing to Stevenage Borough at the weekend. Amongst those six defeats was the Boxing Day defeat against the Diamonds at the Abbey Stadium when Marcus Kelly scored the only goal direct from a corner. Their last victory was at Woking some six weeks ago.

Graham Westley announced the same team that beat Stafford Rangers at the weekend. Fit again Dave Savage replaced Paul Watson on the bench.  Cambridge manager Jimmy Quinn named young full back Jordan Collins in the starting eleven replacing Josh Simpson, while Courtney Pitt passed a late fitness test. Paul Crichton replaced Shane Herbert in goal. Tommy Jaszczun, David Bridges and Danny Brown all remained sidelined due to injury.

Cambridge looked to stamp their authority on the game early on with some strong challenges and had much of the possession in the opening minutes. Diamonds had a couple of early opportunities with Chris Hope’s long header out of defence just finding Jackson offside. Another quick ball away went just beyond the reach of Cook and it wasn’t long before they took advantage of a shaky U’s defence. Glenn Wilson broke away down the right and received a return ball beyond the defence. His fierce cross from the by-line was parried by Crichton, but Simeon Jackson was on hand to fire the ball into the roof of the net after just 7 minutes of play.

Despite possession being fairly equal, Diamonds never really looked under much pressure and the goal seemed to give everyone a confidence boost. A few minutes after the goal, Jamie Cook had a shot saved by the Cambridge keeper at the foot of the post, then had another just wide with the keeper beaten.

Diamonds started to pass the ball more and more, with the U’s getting frustrated at their lack of chances. Jordan Collins being booked early on after a couple of rash fouls. On 24 minutes, Diamonds had another good chance when Jamie Cook received a cross from Marcus Kelly. Cook shot across the area, but too close to the keeper as Beardsley challenged. A free kick was awarded and after some protests from the Cambridge defenders, the referee consulted the linesman and amazingly cautioned Simeon Jackson, who must have been some considerable distance from the incident.

Despite having a lot of the possession, Cambridge didn’t have much in the way of attempts on goal, but were unlucky after 29 minutes, when Michael Morrison’s shot was cleared off the line by Jamie Cook. Although the ball fell to Dean Holdsworth, Tynan made an excellent save to keep Diamonds in front. Moments later, the ball was cleared off the line again after Holdsworth’s snapshot from the edge of the area. Jon Brady followed up but his shot was deflected for a corner.

With three Cambridge players being booked for numerous fouls, plus Jackson’s strange booking, the constant stop / start never allowed either side to dominate. As the half ended, both Cook and Mills fired shots well over the bar.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 – 0 Cambridge United

Both sides remained unchanged as the second half commenced. Jamie Cook made a good early run down the flank and cut into the middle. His shot/pass found Chris Beardsley whose shot was well saved by the keeper. He tried to follow up the lose ball but fired into the side netting. Cambridge started to try to up the pace and put Diamonds under more pressure. A Dean Holdsworth quick free kick nearly caught out Tynan, but the defenders were aware to the danger. Wayne Purser was just unable to connect with a through ball from Pitt, but their best chance came on 65 minutes from another free kick. Dean Holdsworth was again at the centre of the set piece, and although he got the ball around the wall, it was brilliantly saved by Tynan.

With twenty minutes remaining, Dave Savage and Michael Rankine were brought on for Glenn Wilson and Simeon Jackson to provide some fresh legs. Their arrival seemed to give control of the game back to Diamonds and within ten minutes, Diamonds had the game won. On 75 minutes, Rankine received a pass from the impressive Mark Albrighton and sent in a quick shot which a surprised Chrichton who pushed the ball away for a corner. Gary Mills sent in a perfect corner kick straight to an unmarked Chris Beardsley who headed into the back of the net.

Five minutes later, another set piece from Gary Mills found the Cambridge defence in sixes and sevens. The ball went through the area, for Michael Rankine to knock in at the far post. Cambridge looked well beaten and a long shot from Rob Wolleaston and a dangerous ball from Pitt just before the end of the 90 minutes failed to trouble Diamonds.

Cambridge did manage to get a goal back in the 3rd minute of injury time. As they continued to press forward, a lob towards goal by Courtney Pitt over the defence bounced ahead of Tynan. As he went up to gather the ball, he was challenged by Michael Morrison, who barged the keeper away and got a touch to take it over the line.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 3 – 1 Cambridge United

Diamonds can feel well satisfied with a good all round performance. Mark Albrighton in defence was exceptional, and Jamie Cook now seems to be settling in well and looked dangerous all evening.  The three points lifts Diamonds up another place and away from the relegation zone and the team must be full of confidence going into Monday evening’s game at the Kassam Stadium.

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds – Scott Tynan, Glenn Wilson (Dave Savage 69), Jon Ashton, Chris Hope (c), Wayne Hatswell, Marcus Kelly (David Perpetuini 59), Simeon Jackson (Micheal Rankine 69), Gary Mills, Mark Albrighton, Chris Beardsley, Jamie Cook.

Subs not used: Martyn Margarson(GK), Lee Tomlin.

Cambridge United – Paul Crichton, Andy Duncan, Mark Peters, Dean Hooper (Matt Bloomer 54), Jon Brady, Courney Pitt, Wayne Purser, Rob Wolleaston, Michael Morrison, Jordan Collins (Stephen Smith 57), Dean Holdsworth (Robbie Simpson 68) .

Subs not used: Shane Herbert(GK), Josh Simpson.

Goals: Jackson 7 (1-0); Beardsley 75 (2-0); Rankine 80 (3-0); Morrison 90+3 (3-1).

Booked: Collins 15 (foul), Jackson 24 (foul), Duncan 37 (foul), Holdsworth 40 (foul), Wilson 48 (foul), Albrighton 67 (foul), Pitt 79 (foul).

Referee:            Mr Darren Cann (Norfolk)

Attendance:            2,239 (511 away)

Towergate Solutions Man of the Match: Mark Albrighton

By Dave Mason

Rushden & Diamonds 2 Stafford Rangers 1

Rushden & Diamonds survived a late scare to record a 2-1 win over Stafford Rangers, after a two goal burst in two minutes early in the second half. A late Rangers goal gave a nervous last couple of minutes, but in the end the Diamonds win was deserved due to their performance at the start of the second half.

Manager Westley made several changes to the starting line up seen at Witton last Saturday, with recent signing Chris Beardsley joining Mark Albrighton and Jamie Cook in making their first start at Nene Park – and of course Gary Mills was returning to Nene Park to make it a record equalling eight seasons he has appeared in the first team for Rushden & Diamonds. and in all eight of those in the squad were making their first appearance at Nene Park. David Perpetuini earned a place on the bench, alongside the deposed Rankine and Tomlin.

Marcus Kelly also made a return from injury, with no place in the squad for Daniel Webb, Rodney Hicks, Narada Bernard or Tom Bonner – or indeed Dave Savage.

Stafford Rangers manager Phil Robinson kept the same starting eleven that won at Cambridge the previous weekend, with Dolapo Olaoye retaining his starting place ahead of Guy Madjo.

A pleasant sunny afternoon greeted the two teams, albeit with a blustery wind, but after the conditions during the week it was a welcome improvement, with the Nene Park pitch looking in excellent condition.

Stafford Rangers kicked off attacking the De Banke end, and it was quickly clear that Diamonds were playing 4-4-2, with Wilson, Kelly, Mills and Cook in midfield, with Jackson and Beardsley up front.

The first half was an improvement on recent games at Nene Park, but although Diamonds had the majority of possession, it was Rangers that came closest to taking the lead.

As early as the first minute Rangers won a free kick which resulted in a corner, and from the corner the ball fell to Neil Grayson whose shot was well tipped over by Scott Tynan.

Diamonds then had a dangerous couple of breaks of their own, with a great cross from Simeon Jackson finding debutant Beardsley’s head, but his glancing header was just wide. Marcus Kelly was looking much more threatening on his return, and his run and shot on the fourth minutes from 25 yards was just over, and a similar run on nine minutes saw his shot blocked.

Simeon Jackson was looking more at home up front, and he got onto the end of a move between Cook and Beardsley to force the first of several Diamonds corners in the first half.

Kelly once again proved the rest has done him good on 17 minutes when another good run saw a dangerous looking shot blocked.

Although Diamonds were dominating possession, whenever Rangers pressed forwards they seemed to create clear cut chances – as on 20 minutes, when a Robin Gibson throughball found Olaoye, but his shot was blocked and the loose ball fell to Ged Murphy who shot just wide.

On 33 minutes Diamonds survived a major scare when a Rangers free kick by Ged Murphy wide on the left was completely missed by everyone, including Tynan, but luckily Mark Albrighton was on the line to scramble the ball clear.

A further Rangers chance fell to Olaoye, but his shot was blocked, as each Rangers attack was producing a decent scoring opportunity.

The half ended with a couple of Diamonds corners, both dangerous inswinging corners from the right, one taken by Cook and one by Kelly, but the half ended goalless.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 – 0 Stafford Rangers

Diamonds came out for the second half looking more purposeful, straight away winning a free kick on the left-hand corner of the penalty area when Jamie Cook was tripped. Chris Hope hit a great freekick, producing a great save from Danny Alcock.

Glenn Wilson was looking more at home in a midfield role, and he made a good run through the middle, but failed to spot Jamie Cook was in the clear, and his own shot went just wide.

Stafford again were making the best of any rare chances they had, and after an Albrighton foul wide on the left, a Murphy freekick almost surprised Scott Tynan, but he got over well to save high at his near post.

On 52 minutes Diamonds made the breakthrough, with a long ball in from the left finding Jamie Cook towards the right hand edge of the box. Cook brought the ball down well, jinked the ball inside to the left, leaving two defenders in a heap, and then drove the ball goalwards, and although Alcock got a hand on the ball he was unable to keep it out.

Within another minute the second goal came, after the ball was won in the centre of the pitch, switched right to Jon Ashton who ran wide past the Rangers defence, linked up with Beardsley, and the resultant cross found Simeon Jackson in acres of space to head into the left hand side of the net. He unfortunately picked up what was to be the first of a string of yellow cards as a result of his goal celebration.

The game then became exceedingly scrappy – which probably suited Diamonds, with substitutions and bookings aplenty, and Rangers started to waste the few chances they were creating. In fact, the best chance fell to Michael Rankine as a cross from Ashton on the left, found him in acres of space, but he failed to find the target with a free header. A second good chance fell to Jamie Cook as a result of a quickly taken corner, but he couldn’t squeeze the ball in from a narrow angle.

Just as the game appeared to be concluded, Rangers won a penalty, as a speculative ball into the area bounced up and hit Paul Watson on the arm, and the referee duly pointed to the spot. After a delay due to some jostling for position by the players on the edge of the box, Neil Grayson hit the penalty, and Scott Tynan made a great save, stretching his arm above his body, but unfortunately the ball fell straight to Olaoye, who had been first into the box, (although it did look like he had encroached into the area before the ball was kicked) and he netted to set up a tense finish.

Rangers had another appeal for a penalty, but whereas the benefit of the doubt had been with the attacking team in the first one, this time it was given to the defending team, and the game then wound down, but not before the referee issued the fifth yellow of the afternoon, and Chris Beardsley almost rounded off his debut in controversy as he squared up with a Rangers defender.

So, a much more promising showing by the Diamonds had established a four game unbeaten home run, with the new players fitting in particularly well, with Cook having his best game so far, highlighting that his decision to focus on football rather than golf may be about to pay off. Albrighton looked commanding in the centre of a powerful defence, and Beardsley was a threat up front with some clever flicks and passes. Gary Mills got a great reception on his return, and will benefit from playing the full 90 minutes.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 2 – 1 Stafford Rangers

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (Red) : Scott Tynan, Glenn Wilson, Jon Ashton, Chris Hope, Wayne Hatswell, Mark Albrighton, Gary Mills, Marcus Kelly (David Perpetuini 85), Simeon Jackson (Paul Watson 81), Chris Beardsley, Jamie Cook (Michael Rankine 76).

Subs not used: Martyn Margarson, Lee Tomlin

Stafford Rangers (White / Black): Danny Alcock, Richard Sutton, Wayne Daniel (capt), Craig McAughtrie, Liam Murray, Robin Gibson (Craig Lovatt 66), Ged Murphy (Danny Edwards 71), Nathan Talbott, David Oldfield (Guy Madjo 66), Delapo Olaoye, Neil Grayson. Subs Not Used: Alex Gibson, Dean Williams

Goals: Cook (52), Jackson (53), Olaoye (90+1)

Booked: Jackson (Goal Celebration), Mills (Foul), Ashton (Impeding Goalkeeper), McAughtrie (Dissent), Daniel (Foul)

Referee: Ian Smedley (Derbyshire)

Attendance: 1837 (Away 128).

Diamonds Man of the Match sponsored by Corby Motors: Wayne Hatswell

Witton Albion 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Diamonds struggled through to the 3rd Round of the FA Carlsberg Trophy with a Lee Tomlin second half goal at Wincham Park. Witton Albion could consider  themselves unlucky not to have forced a replay in injury time, and it took a fine save by Scott Tynan and the assistance of the post to put Diamonds into Monday’s draw.

Graham Westley announced two changes to the side which lost at Altrincham the previous Saturday, with Lee Tomlin and recent loan signing Tom Bonner replacing Dave Savage and Tom Shaw. The midfield had a strange look to it with transfer listed Glenn Wilson and Lee Tomlin playing in an unfamiliar role with Jamie Cook, while Daniel Webb pushed forward to help Michael Rankine and Simeon Jackson up front. Gary Mills and Narada Bernard, Diamonds other recent signing were both cup-tied for this game.

 

Witton Albion manager Jim Vince named three changes from the side which had won at Bamber Bridge in their Unibond Challenge Cup tie, with Chris Gahgan, Tom Spearritt and Griff Jones all returning to the starting line-up. Striker Mike Moseley was named on the bench having recovered from a toe injury, while Mike Peers remained sidelined with a damaged knee ligament. Veteran defender Brian Pritchard was making his 541st appearance, having made his first appearance for the club when Diamonds were still in the Southern League.

With a positive outcome on the morning pitch inspection, the strong wind had dried out the pitch and it looked in quite good condition considering the recent wet weather. The first chance in the game fell to the home side, when a mistake by Jon Ashton after just 4 minutes, allowed Shaun Miller to run clear. Unfortunately, he hurried his shot as Tynan came out to narrow the angle and saved well. Diamonds failed to trouble Albion until the 10th minute when a Tomlin free kick found the head of Chris Hope. His looping headed drifted just wide of the goal.

Neither side created any openings as the half progressed, with Rushden allowing Albion to pass the ball around, but without giving them any real chances to move forward. Diamonds still seemed to be lacking confidence, although they were more forceful in trying to gain possession than they had been in recent games. Rankine’s first touch seemed to let him down on several occasions allowing Albion to regain possession. He did manage a high lob on goal after 28 minutes which appeared to have the keeper in trouble, but the wind carried the ball out. Moments later, Albion had a great chance to open the scoring when Liam Brownhill put in a dangerous cross from the left, but Tynan managed to grab the ball off the feet on Griff Jones.

Daniel Webb also had a good opportunity after Barras lost possession deep in the Albion half, but he ran straight at keeper John Kennedy who saved bravely at his feet. Jackson also had a couple of chances, his first shot going wide, while a second chance was saved by the keepers outstretched leg. Diamonds survived a penalty appeal when the dangerous Shaun Miller clashed with Ashton in the box as Albion pushed forward, but the referee waved the appeals away.

Half-time: Witton Albion 0 – 0 Rushden & Diamonds

The second half continued much like the first with neither team taking any control over the game. Jamie Cook had a shot in the opening minutes, but it was well held be the keeper. Albion’s Brownhill had a long range shot fired over the bar. Westley brought on Paul Watson and Dave Savage on 57 minutes, replacing Cook and Webb to inject some urgency, and within five minutes, Diamonds got the goal they were looking for.

Some good movement between Tomlin and Jackson down the right saw Tomlin with a clear run on goal. As Kennedy tried to narrow the angle, Tomlin hit a fierce drive towards goal. Although the keeper managed to get a hand to the shot, the power carried it through into the back of the net to give Diamonds the lead.

Following the goal, some of the challenges got a bit stronger as Diamonds tried to maintain their lead. Albion had already had two players booked prior to the goal for fouls, and another for dissent. Dave Savage was cautioned for a foul, while moments later, Tomlin kicked the ball away earning him another card. The referee seemed to be very fussy, and also booked Barras for a fairly innocuous challenge. Much of the play was very disjointed as the game entered the final ten minutes.

As Diamonds looked to soak up any pressure, a quick break found Tomlin on the edge of the area after a good run by Wilson. His shot was again saved by the Albion keeper. The home side continued to try to get an equaliser, with captain Tom Spearritt having a 20 yard effort well saved by Tynan, with Hatswell clearing the ball out of danger. Watson and Bonner were both booked for fouls in the final five minutes of normal time as Diamonds looked to hold out. Loan signing Mark Albrighton came on for his debut on 85 minutes, replacing the ineffective Rankine.

It was in the 4 minutes of extra time when Albion had their best chances of the game. Tony Barras fired the ball past a crowded penalty area, only for the ball to strike the foot of the post and bounce to safety. They had another chance with the four minutes almost up as Albion got a free kick just outside the area. Alex Brown fired in a shot at goal. Tynan brilliantly saved the attempt and as they tried to pump the ball back, he had to tip another effort away for a corner. Diamonds managed to hold out for the remaining moments.

Full-time: Witton Albion 0 – 1 Rushden & Diamonds

Perhaps Diamonds should have won by a greater score considering the gap in League positions, but a win is a win, even if it was by the narrowest of margins. Several of the players seemed unused to playing out of their normal positions, and it appeared to be something of an experiment. At least it gave the chance for Graham Westley to get to know which players are prepared to adjust to the way he wants the team to play.

Teams:

Witton Albion – John Kennedy, Chris Gahgan (Mike Moseley 66), Liam Brownhill, Brian Pritchard, Tony Barras, Tom Spearritt (c), Alex Brown, Steve Connors, Adam Warlow, Griff Jones (Carl Frost 81), Shaun Miller (Rob Lloyd 59).

Subs not used: Darren Hockenhull, Alistair Brown.

Rushden & Diamonds – Scott Tynan, Glenn Wilson, Jon Ashton, Chris Hope (c), Wayne Hatswell, Michael Rankine (Mark Albrighton 85), Simeon Jackson, Lee Tomlin, Tom Bonner, Daniel  Webb (Paul Watson 57), Jamie Cook (Dave Savage 57).

Subs not used: Martyn Margarson(GK), Greg Pearson.

Goals:             Tomlin 62 (0-1)

Booked:         Connors 44 (foul), Brown 44 (dissent), Miller 59 (foul), Savage 65 (foul), Tomlin 68 (unsporting behaviour), Spearritt 70 (foul), Watson 85 (foul), Bonner 90 (foul).

Referee:         Mr P.Varley (West Yorks)

Attendance:   602

Altrincham 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

After the disappointing performance on New Year’s Day, Diamonds were looking to pull away from the foot of the Conference table with a win against Altrincham. Having already beaten the part-time outfit twice this season, they should have been full of confidence, but a poor, lack lustre display handed the points to the home side.

After the arrival of five new signings over the past few days, Graham Westley announced several changes to the side which drew against Tamworth.  Marcus Kelly remained sidelined with a shoulder injury while Lee Tomlin, Tyrone Berry and Curtis Woodhouse were all dropped. In came Glenn Wilson, Simeon Jackson and new boys Daniel Webb (on loan from Yeovil Town) and Jamie Cook (from Witney United). Paul Watson was due to start the game but was withdrawn just before the start after suffering a hamstring injury during the warm up. Tom Shaw was hastily readied as a replacement. Jimmy Ghaichem (on loan from Peterborough Utd) and Shane Hill (unattached) were named on the bench.

Graham Heathcote made two changes from the side which drew at Halifax. Midfielder Steve Bushell had been ruled out with a calf injury, while striker Colin Little was suspended. Rod Thornley and Joe O’Neill replaced. Former Diamond Peter Thomson partnered O’Neill in attack.

The game kicked off with the rain having stopped about 30 minutes before the start and the pitch was heavy as a result. Diamonds were playing with Rankine up front being supported by Jamie Cook, with Jackson, Savage, Shaw and Webb in midfield. The opening fifteen minutes were fairly even, with both sides giving a clear indication of why they are struggling at the bottom of the Conference table. Diamonds had a few efforts, but all were either weak, or well wide of the goal. Altrincham’s Karl Munroe got a powerful 30 yard shot on target after 13 minutes, but Tynan got a hand to the ball to push it past the post for a corner.

Altrincham’s passing and movement off the ball allowed them to control most of the early play. They had another good chance on 20 minutes when Lawton crossed for Joe O’Neill to chest the ball down and shoot, but he was off target. Rod Thornley shot just wide of the post before Diamonds broke away with a good move between Jamie Cook and Daniel Webb, but keeper Stuart Coburn was aware and eliminated any danger.

After 28 minutes, Altrincham took the lead. Some good play down the right allowed Robbie Lawton to send in an excellent cross to Joe O’Neill who nodded the ball past Tynan’s outstretched arm and the ball went slowly into the back of the net.

Altrincham continued to challenge every ball and Diamonds were unable to put any pressure on the home side. Michael Rankine was totally ineffective in attack, while Jamie Cook appeared to be playing more of a midfield role but they did combine well just before the break with Rankine firing a shot high over the bar. Although Diamonds probably recorded more shots in the first half, hardly any of them were worthy of that description, being either weak or well off target.

Half-time: Altrincham 1 – 0 Rushden & Diamonds

Both sides were unchanged for the start of the second half, and it was the home side who looked more dangerous. Thornley’s long shot on 49 minutes dipped just wide of the post. He had another good chance a couple of minutes later when a corner found him unmarked at the far post, but he was off balance and blasted his shot wide. Altrincham had a strong appeal for a penalty on 56 minutes, when Hatswell appearing to bring down O’Neill just inside the area, but play was waved on by the referee. Moments later, Webb committed a foul on the half-way line, and was cautioned.

Altrincham continued to close players down at every opportunity; not allowing Diamonds any room to string passes together – the main reason for their defeat in the previous two games. Rankine was eventually replaced on the hour after one of his worst showings this season. Berry’s arrival did seem to improve Diamonds performance although the Altrincham defence rarely appeared to be troubled. Thomson headed over the bar, while on 70 minutes, another cross from Lawton found Thornley with more time than he realised as he hurriedly flicked the ball over the bar.

Berry did get the ball in the net on 74 minutes after a pass from Cook, but as Jackson and Cook went for the through ball, both were actually in an offside position and the goal ruled out. With Diamonds trying to push forward, a quick punt up field saw Tynan having to race some 30 yards out of goal to clear the danger. As it started to rain again, the home side were awarded a free kick in the Diamonds half. The ball was played out to Steve Aspinall whose fierce shot was well saved by Tynan. Lawton also had a shot deflected off Ashton for a corner.

Lee Tomlin was introduced with just a few minutes remaining, and there was probably more action in the final minutes than there had been in the entire game. Diamonds seemed to lose their shape as they pressed forward to try to salvage a point and they paid the price. On 89 minutes, they should have dealt easily with a ball beyond the far post, but Pat McFadden on the by line managed to turn the ball back despite being surrounded by Diamonds defenders. With Tynan trying to guard the near post, O’Neill made no mistake shooting low into the far corner to double the lead.

As the game entered 3 minutes extra time, Diamonds went all out for a goal, although why they couldn’t have done that from the start is mystifying. As they pressed forward, Cook’s header was cleared off the line by Munroe, but only to Tomlin. The 17 year old shot at goal but Coburn made a point blank save. Moments later, the ball was pumped back hopefully into the Altrincham penalty area. Peter Band retrieved the ball but tried to play the ball out of the area before getting himself in trouble. His hasty clearance went straight to Tomlin on the edge of the area, and he finally got one back for Diamonds with a neat little lob over the keeper.

With the three minutes up, Simeon Jackson nearly stole a point with a header from Berry’s cross, but it was all too little, too late and they deserved to go home empty handed.

Looking at the performance from the touchline, Graham Westley must be wondering what he has to do to motivate this team. They seem to be totally lacking in ideas and seemed quite happy to let the opposition win every 50-50 ball. The lack of confidence certainly needs to be addressed before a larger gap opens at the bottom of the table. Of the new signings, Jamie Cook looked useful, although he never really had an opening, while Daniel Webb didn’t seem able to get any power behind the ball. Some fancy footwork from Jimmy Ghaichem looked good, but failed to make any impact, so it remains to be seen how they will develop over the next few games. They obviously hadn’t trained together with the rest of the team so it remains to be seen how effective they will be over the coming weeks.

Full-time: Altrincham 2 – 1 Rushden & Diamonds

Teams:

Altrincham – Stuart Coburn, Steve Aspinall, Warren Peyton, Karl Munroe, Peter Band, Robbie Lawton (c), Val Owen, Lewis Chalmers, Rod Thornley (Pat McFadden 84), Peter Thomson (Stephen Rose 69), Joe O’Neill.

Subs not used: Gary Scott, Gary Talbot, Justin Bowler.

Rushden & Diamonds – Scott Tynan, Glenn Wilson, Jon Ashton, Chris Hope (c), Wayne Hatswell, Dave Savage (Lee Tomlin 86), Michael Rankine (Tyrone Berry 60), Simeon Jackson, Tom Shaw (Jimmy Ghaichem 66), Daniel  Webb, Jamie Cook.

Subs not used: Martyn Margarson(GK), Shane Hill.

Goals:             O’Neill 28 (1-0), O’Neill 89 (2-0), Tomlin 90+1 (2-1).

Booked:         Webb 57 (foul)

Referee:         Mr C L Pawson

Attendance:   1111

Stevenage Borough 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

 

Rushden & Diamonds were denied the victory their second half performance deserved by two late goals and a refereeing controversy at Broadhall Way. After a fairly tame first half, an excellent second half performance by the Diamonds should have been rewarded when a clear penalty was not seen by the Officials, but justice appeared to have been done when Michael Rankine gave the Diamonds the lead, but two late goals gave a surreal feel to the final scoreline.

Manager Hill reflected the busy Holiday period by again making several changes to the starting eleven, with Jon Challinor and Simeon Jackson only on the bench, and Martin Foster not featuring in the squad. This meant recalls for Lee Hales and Marcus Kelly after they sat out the Northwich game, with Lee Tomlin returning to partner Craig McAllister up front. This meant the line-up was similar to the team put out for the game versus Stevenage on Boxing Day, with McAllister for Jackson the only difference.

Boro manager Peter Taylor brought in Tyrone Berry for Daryl McMahon, and gave a start to recent signing Scott Laird, although there was no place in the squad for Ashley Westwood. John Martin had recovered from a hamstring injury that caused him to miss the game at Altrincham.

On a dull afternoon at Broadhall Way, Diamonds kicked off towards the sparsely populated home end, with Andy Burgess playing in central midfield, with Lee Hales and Lee Tomlin sharing duties wide right. Diamonds had a couple of early attacks with Dean Howell getting forwards down the left. The only threat on goal in the first fifteen minutes came from a Phil Gulliver header from a free-kick which was narrowly wide.

For Stevenage their first really threatening attack came on 16 minutes when a loose ball across the field from Curtis Osano was quickly switched to the Stevenage right and their main threat Craig Dobson, whose dipping cross was headed backwards and away for a corner. The Diamonds defence had their hands full with Dobson and Morison at times, but Dean Howell was able to combine some excellent covering tackles with a couple of dangerous runs forwards.

On 34 minutes Lee Tomlin won the ball off Daryl McMahon on the half-way line and ran at the Boro defence, finding room to hit a powerful shot from 20 yards that was grasped at the second attempt by Julian.

This was perhaps Diamonds best chance of a half that was rather reminiscent of the Boxing Day stalemate, although the Diamonds did seem to present a greater attacking threat.

Half-time: Stevenage Borough 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Although the first half had been reasonably even, and fairly tame, the same couldn’t be said for the second. The Diamonds team inspired by Lee Tomlin’s attacking flair, backed by a solid defence and midfield took the game to their promotion seeking opponents. Those in yellow were constantly harrying their opponents into mistakes, and always willing to stretch for interceptions or run down any loose ball.

Right at the start of the half Lee Tomlin set the scene for his second half performance by winning a free kick on the edge of the area after being fouled by Mark Arber, but Lee Hales could only blast the free kick into the wall.

A succession of Diamonds attacks were the highlight of the first 30 minutes of the half, with Peter Taylor fielding his remaining two substitutes in an attempt to reverse the tide, and the Boro crowd venting their feelings towards the underperforming players.

Lee Tomlin was showing great confidence and touch, with a couple of sublime turns in the penalty box resulting in powerful shots that were unfortunately straight at Julian. Andy Burgess was tracking more out to the right, and he too was able to leave the Boro defence flailing with his touch and ball control. Marcus Kelly remained a threat with his pace on the right, and Curtis Woodhouse combined a battling performance in midfield with a number of runs through the middle, although his shooting was rather waywards, or like Tomlin’s, was well blocked by last ditch defending. The Diamonds were able to penetrate the Stevenage defence almost at will, with one great flick over his head by Tomlin finding Marcus Kelly in space in the area, and although he was closed down he passed to Osano, who completed the circle back to Tomlin whose shot was deflected for a corner.

Boro did have one dangerous attack during this period, and after a mistake by Osano and shot by Stuart Lewis, Daryl McMahon should have done better with a free shot that he could only drag across goal.

On 73 minutes came the major talking point of the game. Another great run by Tomlin after excellent control saw his shot deflected away for a corner. As Kelly’s corner came in it was deflected out towards the penalty spot where Wayne Hatswell was in space. His volley looked bound for the bottom left corner of the goal until a falling Barry Fuller cradled the ball with his arm against his body and then away from the goal. All the players looked at the referee, expecting him to award what appeared to be an inevitable penalty and red card, but he could only look across to his assistant on the right, who ought to have had a perfect view of the offence. For some reason the assistant failed to confirm what everyone had seen, so Mr Hopkins had to wave play on. The Diamonds bench of course were vocal in their protests as the Stevenage contingent could only keep a low profile.

Curtis Osano was also able to get forwards, and on one such run he beat three opponents as he cut inside and hit a left foot shot that

On the 83rd minute it looked like some justice was done, as Diamonds took the lead. Good work by Andy Burgess in central midfield found Marcus Kelly on the left, and he beat his man and hit a powerful shot that took a slight deflection on it’s way to Michael Rankine who slotted home from ten yards.

Manager Hill then took off the impressive Tomlin and replaced him with Jon Challinor in an attempt to seal the victory, as the travelling fans celebrated rather prematurely, and as was seen so many times in previous seasons, there was still time for things to go wrong for the Diamonds.

In the 89th minute Steve Morison picked up the ball on the right, held off his marker and hit a powerful shot that Bastock did well to parry, but the ball fell to substitute Zak Burke who had a simple chance to equalise.

As the fourth official signalled three minutes of added time, the Diamonds were suddenly under pressure for almost the first time in the half, and good work on the left involving Burke and McMahon saw Phil Gulliver bring down McMahon for a penalty as clear as the one the Diamonds had been denied. Mark Arber stepped up and netted easily. There was still time for a couple of Diamonds attacks that threatened a dramatic equaliser, but referee Hopkins brought the game to an end shortly afterwards.

Boro manager Peter Taylor confirmed shortly after the game that he thought that R&DFC deserved to win – although he didn’t see the "penalty" when Fuller handled, he felt R&DFC deserved to be 2 or 3 up before the late drama.

Once again the Diamonds have produced an excellent performance away from Nene Park – albeit with no reward. The result brought back memories of late turnarounds as far back as the Cheltenham game in 1999, and many others in the Tippett and Hunter reigns, yet the quality of performance in this game was a major consolation. They must now try to bring that level of performance back to Nene Park, starting with the visit of Salisbury City on Saturday.

Full-time: Stevenage Borough 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Teams:

Stevenage Borough (White / Red) : Alan Julian, Mark Arber, Ronnie Henry, Luke Oliver, Scott Laird, Junior Lewis (Barry Fuller 62), John Martin (Daryl McMahon 27), Stuart Lewis, Craig Dobson, Tyrone Berry (Jak Burke 58), Steve Morison

Subs Not Used : James Russell, Tony Stokes

Rushden & Diamonds (Yellow) : Paul Bastock, Curtis Osano, Dean Howell, Wayne Hatswell, Phil Gulliver, Lee Hales, Andy Burgess, Curtis Woodhouse, Marcus Kelly, Lee Tomlin (Jon Challinor 86), Craig McAllister (Michael Rankine 74)

Subs Not Used : Chris Hope, Tom Shaw, Simeon Jackson

Goals : Michael Rankine (83), Zak Burke (89), Mark Arber (pen) (90+1)

Yellow Cards : Ronnie Henry, Phil Gulliver, Andy Burgess

Referee: J Hopkins

Attendance: 2702 (Away Fans 333).

Diamonds Man of the Match : Lee Tomlin

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Tamworth 1

 

Rushden and Diamonds failed to extend their winning streak at Nene Park following a dour 1-1 draw with Tamworth. Apart from a short spell either side of half-time, Diamonds failed to shine for Graham Westley’s first home game in charge, and a draw was a fair reflection on a game of little quality.

Manager Westley made two changes to the starting line up on Saturday, with Tyrone Berry returning in place of Glenn Wilson, and the injured Chillingworth being replaced by Lee Tomlin.

Tamworth lined up with Matty Williams replacing Taiwo Atieno up front, and Kyle Storer replacing Joe Kendrick in midfield.

A dull afternoon greeted the two teams, but after the conditions on Saturday it was a welcome improvement, with the Nene Park pitch looking in excellent condition.

Tamworth kicked off attacking the De Banke end, and it was quickly clear that Marcus Kelly had reverted to the wide left role, with Curtis Woodhouse playing in the central midfield role.

The first half was a pretty dour affair, with Tamworth starting the more brightly, with a couple of attacks that easily breached the Diamonds defence, one of which resulting in a goal ruled out for offside. Diamonds seemed to resort to a number of long balls to Michael Rankine, whose workrate again impressed, but they resulted in little threat to Viega’s goal.

One of the bright spots was a move involving Tomlin, Rankine, Savage and Berry, with Tomlin narrowly failing to knock home the low Berry cross.

Diamonds’ main threat was the shaky Tamworth defence’s willingness to concede corners on their left, and Marcus Kelly corners threatened to repeat the outcome against Cambridge, with two of them almost curling in. A further one was met by Michael Rankine’s head on the near post, but his powerful header was straight at goalkeeper Viega.

On 41 minutes Diamonds took the lead with a goal that reflected the state of the game. A dangerous Tyrone Berry cross was completely missed by Michael Rankine, but it broke to Paul Watson, but he screwed his shot across the area, but luckily straight to Dave Savage who slotted the ball home.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 – 0 Tamworth

Diamonds came out for the second half looking more purposeful, with Lee Tomlin forcing his way into the area and setting up Michael Rankine who put the ball over.

At the other end Steve Burton remained a threat, and forced a great save from Tynan after a neat dummy by a team-mate tricked the Diamonds defence.

A good run by Dave Savage from the centre circle was halted with a foul tackle on the edge of the Tamworth "D" but Paul Watson’s dipping free kick was well saved by Viega.

Marcus Kelly had to leave the field on 53 minutes after sustaining a suspected dislocated shoulder in a challenge. Curtis Woodhouse went into the referee’s notebook shortly afterwards for a lunging challenge as he tried to tackle back after losing the ball in midfield.

Another Berry cross threatened a second goal, with a Lee Tomlin header being blocked, and at the other end Jon Ashton made a great block on a shot from Adie Smith.

On 72 minutes, Tamworth made their first substitution, with Taiwo Atieno replacing Matty Williams, and with his first touch as he ran into the area he turned past Chris Hope and slotted the ball into the goal at a narrow angle.

The match then turned even more scrappy, with both sides struggling to find a rhythm, but on 89 minutes Diamonds had a major appeal for a penalty, as a raid into the area resulted in the ball striking a Tamworth defender on the arm – but the referee waved away claims for a penalty.

One more incident might have brought an undeserved deciding goal, as Simeon Jackson broke through clean on goal, but Viega managed to somehow knock the ball away without handling outside of his area.

The final score was a fair one for a game that won’t be remembered very far into 2007 and certainly didn’t help to clear any New Year hangovers.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 – 1 Tamworth

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds: Scott Tynan, Paul Watson, Jon Ashton, Chris Hope, Wayne Hatswell, Dave Savage, Michael Rankine, Marcus Kelly (Simeon Jackson – 53), Lee Tomlin (Tom Shaw – 70), Tyrone Berry, Curtis Woodhouse.

Subs not used: Martyn Margarson, Glenn Wilson, Ben Sedgemore

Tamworth: Jose Viega, Adie Smith, Kyle Storer, Steve Burton, Matty Williams (Taiwo Atieno 72), Daryl Taylor (Jon Stevenson – 86), Tom Kemp, Simon Weaver, John McGrath, Ryan Laight, Simon Heslop

Subs Not Used: Dale Belford, Graeme Law, Mark Cooper

Goals : Savage (43), Atieno (72)

Booked: Williams (34 – Foul), Woodhouse (61- Foul), Atieno (73 – Ungentlemanly Conduct), Savage (89 – Dissent), Storer (90+2 Foul)

Sent Off:

Referee: Mr C Evans

Attendance: 1872 (Away 145).

Diamonds Man of the Match sponsored by Robin Bailey: Michael Rankine

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