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 Paul Watson was due to start the game but was withdrawn just before the start after suffering a hamstring injury during the warm up.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


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


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