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

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