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


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


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