Aldershot Town 2 Rushden & Diamonds 2

Rushden & Diamonds preserved their unbeaten run in dramatic fashion at a soggy Recreation Ground. The match was in doubt until 80 minutes before kick-off, and at half-time R&DFC must have wished the game had not started, but a fighting performance in the second half, most of it with 10 men, saw them fight back to earn a 2-2 draw.

Manager Westley made one change to the starting line up seen at St James’ Park Exeter on Tuesday, with Jamie Cook replacing Michael Rankine.

Aldershot Town manager Terry Brown was absent because of a family illness but the Shots caretaker brought in Anthony Charles, their recent signing from Barnet to play in defence.

Credit must go to the Aldershot ground staff for getting the game on, but the pitch resembled Bournemouth beach in places, and cut up badly as the game progressed. It was Aldershot who showed the ability to play a passing game on such a difficult surface, especially in the first-half.

Aldershot showed their intentions right from the kick off, with an early chance falling to Ryan Williams, who gave Wayne Hatswell a torrid afternoon, with his shot saved by Scott Tynan.

It was down this right channel that Aldershot won a free kick a few minutes later, and Williams earned himself a yellow card for taking the kick before the referee was ready. However when the kick was finally taken it Darren Barnard who took it, and it was worth waiting for, forcing Scott Tynan to tip it over the bar.

Each Aldershot attack looked threatening, and from their first corner Jon Ashton could only head the ball vertically upwards, forcing Tynan to flap the ball away with the inside of his fist.

Worse was to come on 9 minutes, as a long ball through from Darren Barnard seemed to find John Grant in an offside position, but the striker carried on his run, and as no flag came he was able to fire past Tynan.

Aldershot were really on top at this stage, and on 15 minutes they were two-up. Dino Maamria fouled Darren Barnard midway into the Aldershot half, and the full-back quickly got up and stroked the ball upfield to Jonny Dixon who shrugged off his marker and lobbed the ball over the advancing Tynan and into the net.

Barnard was looking especially dangerous down the left when he broke forwards, Williams similarly down the right and Molesey was running the midfield, so it looked like the Diamonds would struggle to keep the scoreline respectable.

They did generate a couple of chances though, with a Chris Hope header from a corner being headed off the line, and Mark Albrighton’s follow up was blocked. Dino Maamria also created two fine chances for himself in the box, the first where his strike did not match the quality of his turn, and the second where he fended off Charles, but hesitated too long making his strike allowing Charles to get in a challenge. He also flicked on a cross to set Jamie Cook up with a decent chance, bit he hooked his shot well wide.

The Shots continued to threaten, with Jason Beckford seeing a decent shot curl just wide, and raids by Grant and Dixon both forcing desperate clearances. Dixon also set up Molesey with a great chance but the midfielder rolled his shot just wide.

As half-time neared Michael Bostwick earned a yellow for a foul on Mark Molesey, as he stopped a dangerous looking break by the midfielder, after the two had exchanged fouls moments earlier.

Half-time: Aldershot Town 2 Rushden & Diamonds 0

As expected, Manager Westley made a chance at Half-time, with Michael Rankine replacing Jamie Cook, although it could have been any of the midfield four that came off. This allowed Dino Maamria to revert to the midfield role he had carried out in recent games.

Initially it did not appear the move had made any difference, as the Shots continued to dominate, with strong runs from Williams continuing to threaten, especially when he linked up with Jonny Dixon, and it was a cross from the latter that forced Jon Ashton into heading the ball over his own bar at some pace.

However, Rankine was again making a difference to the Diamonds attacking play with his ability to hold the ball up, and cause the defenders problems. He had a run down the left flank, cut inside and saw a powerful looking shot blocked, but as the ball broke he kept on running and took the ball to the by-line and crossed it for an unmarked Simeon Jackson to head home.

Four minutes later Chris Hope headed just over as the Diamonds threatened an equaliser, and shortly afterwards Diamonds won a freekick just outside the centre-circle. Gary Mills waited for the big men to move forward, and then hit a freekick high into the area. Debutant Anthony Charles was first to the ball, but didn’t get enough height to head away, and could only flick the ball backwards and into the net.

The 200 or so Diamonds fans had hardly finished celebrating when their hopes of pulling off a famous victory were dashed by a controversial decision by referee Vaughan. Michael Bostwick had challenged Darren Barnard via a sliding challenge, which normally would have stopped well short of clashing with the player, but with the slippery conditions his challenge continued and the defender went down. After consulting his linesman the referee showed the second yellow and Diamonds were down to ten men.

We will thus never know whether the resurgent Diamonds would have gone on to win the game with eleven men, and the tactic from then on was largely one of containment, as Aldershot were allowed to dominate possession again.

Several chances were wasted, others were well saved by Scott Tynan, but on the break Diamonds had one final great chance on 75 minutes, when Glenn Wilson (who had replaced Perpetuini), made a great run after winning the ball inside his own half, found Simeon Jackson who ran to the same place on the by-line where the cross for the first goal had come, and crossed to find Jon Ashton in acres of space in the box, but his first touch let him down badly and his second touch was a mishit shot.

Shots continued to threaten, and had a great shout for a penalty on 86 minutes as Chris Hope appeared to pull at Jon Grant’s shirt in the box. However, as the striker appeared to go down easily the referee chose to wave away the penalty claims and book the striker.

The referee signalled 5 minutes of injury time, and in this period we saw more drama as Ryan Williams was upset by the Diamonds bench over a freekick, then Mark Molesey fouled Chris Hope towards the edge of the box, in order to get past him, but as he tried to also get past Albrighton, just as the whistle went, the two tangled and both were booked.

The final whistle signalled great celebrations from the travelling fans, and the unbeaten run has been extended to seven.

Full-time: Aldershot Town 2 Rushden & Diamonds 2

Teams:

Aldershot Town (Red/ Blue):

Nikki Bull, Dean Smith, Darren Barnard, Anthony Charles, Ricky Newman, Rhys Day, Karl Beckford (Kirk Hudson 79), Mark Molesley, Jonny Dixon, John Grant, Ryan Williams

Subs Not Used : Ryan Scott, Mark Pritchard, Phil Anderson, Louis Wells

 

Rushden & Diamonds (Blue)

Scott Tynan, Jon Ashton, Wayne Hatswell, Chris Hope, Mark Albrighton, Michael Bostwick, Gary Mills, David Perpetuini (Glenn Wilson 72), Jamie Cook (Michael Rankine (46), Dino Maamria, Simeon Jackson (Chris Beardsley 84)

Subs Not Used : Martin Margarson (GK), Jason Goodliffe

Goals : Grant (8), Dixon (16), Jackson (52), Charles (OG) (57)

Yellow Cards : Williams (5), Bostwick (44), Hatswell (82), Molesley (93), Albrighton (93)

Red Card : Bostwick (59)

Referee: R G Vaughan

Attendance: 2189 (Away Approx 200).

Reporters Man of the Match : Michael Rankine – once again his appearance at half-time changed the game.

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Exeter City 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Rushden & Diamonds failed to extend their winning run, but will have been happy to earn a point at St James’ Park against high-flying Exeter City. The R&DFC fans that made the trip to Devon were rewarded with a battling performance throughout the team, and although there was a late scare when Exeter had a goal disallowed in injury time, the draw was a fair result.

Manager Westley made several changes to the starting line up seen at Nene Park on Saturday, with David Perpetuini making a start in left midfield, along with the three substitutes from Saturday, Michael Rankine, Michael Bostwick and Dino Maamria. Glenn Wilson, Chris Beardsley and Jamie Cook dropped to the bench and although Marcus Kelly travelled he didn’t make the cut for the final 16.

Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale kept the same team that won on Saturday at Kidderminster.

On a mild winter’s evening, Rushden made a bright start, having a couple of chances inside the first couple of minutes, notably a Simeon Jackson header across goal from a Michael Rankine flick-on, and then when Jackson slipped his marker a was able to angle the ball across the area, but nether Rankine or the Exeter defenders were able to get a touch.

Exeter then entered their best spell of the game, with a number of chances being created, notably one that fell to ex-Diamond Jon Challinor who hit a powerful shot which was well parried by Scott Tynan, who then athletically stretched whilst on the floor to kick the dropping ball away from danger.

Rankine was holding the ball up well, and was often able to feed Jackson, but this usually resulted in one of them being out-numbered by defenders without an outlet as there was little support from the midfield. Very little was going wide, as neither Bostwick or Perpetuini were attempting to break down the flanks. On the odd occasion they did get forwards their crossing was poor.

Exeter continued to pose the odd threat, with a powerful cross from the right by Tully being met by Mackie in a lot of space, but his header was straight at Tynan.

Diamonds best threat appeared to be on the break, and on 20 minutes a threatening Exeter move involving a Lee Elam cross which had to be scrambled clear resulted in a break for Simeon Jackson, and as he neared the penalty area he was fouled. The resulting Hatswell free kick only found the defensive wall. Exeter too had a number of freekicks in dangerous positions, but they too wasted them all.

The other possible threats to solid defences on both sides looked to be the pitch, with a number of odd bounces. Jon Challinor and Jamie Mackie rarely threatened, and when they did get past a defender their shooting was wayward.

Diamonds were continuing to show the determination that had been so significant in their recent run, most notably demonstrated by Michael Rankine as he chased an apparent "lost cause" down the touchline and into the corner, and managed to get in a decent cross that almost found Jackson.

As half-time neared, Exeter continued to have more of the possession but with little end-product, and indeed in first half stoppage time a decent chance fell from a free kick taken by Wayne Carlisle to Centre Back Rob Edwards, but his header sailed over the bar.

Half-time: Exeter City 0 – 0 Rushden & Diamonds

Neither side made any changes at the interval, and although the Exeter fans would have expected their team to come out fired up, it was the Diamonds who showed an improvement early on in the half, with Dino Maamria being subjected to a number of fouls as he tried to push forwards.

The only scare for the team in blue during this period came when Mark Albrighton made an uncharacteristic error, stepping over a low cross into the box, but luckily Jamie Mackie wasn’t sufficiently alert, and Chris Hope cleared the danger for a corner.

The game continued to be very stop-start, with both sides willing to concede throw-ins at will, as well as a number of free kicks. However, on the hour Diamonds had the best attempt on goal of the game, as the ball fell to Michael Rankine about 12 yards out, and his powerful shot was tipped onto the bar and over by goalkeeper Paul Jones.

On 65 minutes Exeter made their first changes, with the ineffective Jamie Mackie being replaced by Richard Logan, who immediately appeared to offer a greater threat. Shortly afterwards the Diamonds defence was nearly breached as Jon Ashton allowed a ball to go over his head and present a chance to Lee Elam, but luckily the chance was wasted, giving Scott Tynan a chance to advise Ashton on how to clear such danger – perhaps a little forcibly.

The temperature was stepped up a notch, as both Hatswell and Albrighton received yellow cards at the same time – Wayne for a foul challenge, with his defensive partner clearing the ball over the stand as it ran free, but just a shade too late for Mr Linnington, who regarded that as dissent.

Dino Maamria had been continuing to suffer foul challenges throughout the half, including several from Jon Challinor, but he perhaps unwisely committed two fouls in quick succession himself, and became the third Diamonds player in the book.

On 75 minutes, Diamonds had their best chance of the half, with a break down the right involving Bostwick resulting in a ball across the edge of the area which found David Perpetuini in acres of space, but he hurried his shot and missed the goal by some margin.

The last 10 minutes were notable for the Diamonds players committing a number of unnecessary fouls, but Exeter continued to waste these opportunities. Just as the 90 minutes was up, Jamie Cook was able to make a run down the middle, and looked to be getting clear of his marker, until he came down just outside the box. Cook claimed his shorts were being pulled, but received little joy from either referee or linesman.

As the match entered injury time there was a further stoppage involving an injury to Chris Hope, and the play remained very disjointed, but there was still time for a dangerous Exeter break down the right, as Wayne Hatswell made perhaps his only mistake of the night, but although the cross towards Richard Logan was forced into the net, it was clear he had been climbing all over Jon Ashton, so the referee silenced the celebrating Exeter fans by awarding a free kick.

The match then ended goalless, a result met with a lot more celebration by the 45 travelling fans than the 3000 locals, as Diamonds once again were able to celebrate a battling draw at St James’ Park.

This was definitely a case of a point gained rather than two points lost against a decent Exeter team, and the same sort of performance will be required a Nene Park in the return fixture in a couple of weeks time.

Full-time: Exeter City 0 – 0 Rushden & Diamonds

Teams:

Exeter City (Red/ White):

Paul Jones, Steve Tully, Billy Jones, Chris Todd, Rob Edwards, Wayne Carlisle (Adam Stansfield 75), Paul Buckle, Matthew Gill (Betrand Cozic 83), Lee Elam, Jamie Mackie (Richard Logan 65), Jon Challinor

Subs not Used Martin Rice, Jon Richardson,

Rushden & Diamonds (Blue)

Scott Tynan, Jon Ashton, Wayne Hatswell, Chris Hope, Mark Albrighton, Michael Bostwick, Gary Mills, David Perpetuini, Dino Maamria, Michael Rankine (Chris Beardsley 71), Simeon Jackson (Jamie Cook 71)

Subs Not Used Martin Margarson (GK), Glenn Wilson, Jason Goodliffe,

Yellow Cards : Hatswell, Albrighton, Maamria

Referee: James Linnington

Attendance: 3135 (Away 45).

Reporters Man of the Match : Wayne Hatswell

Rushden & Diamonds 1 St Albans City 0

Rushden and Diamonds made it five league wins in a row when recording a 1-0 win over St Albans City at Nene Park, with a Dino Maamria goal giving them the win that their second half performance deserved. It was the bold half-time substitutions of bringing on Maamria and Michael Rankine that changed the game after a very poor first half, but an injury time clearance inside the six-yard box by Mark Albrighton sealed the win.

Manager Westley made two changes to the starting line up as seen at Dagenham, with Jon Ashton and Marcus Kelly replacing Michael Bostwick and Dino Maamria, with the two displaced players being joined on the bench by Rankine and Goodliffe. Jamie Cook reverted to the right midfield, with Marcus Kelly back on the left.

St Albans City manager Colin Lippiatt made two changes to the line up that drew 2-2 with Crawley at Clarence Park, with Ahmed Deen making his debut after signing on Friday from Fisher Athletic and Simon Martin being restored to the starting line up. Chris Seeby dropped to the bench and Leon Archer was suspended.

A rather dull afternoon greeted the two teams, but an improved attendance reflected the recent improvement in fortunes, with over 200 making the trip up from Hertfordshire.

St Albans City kicked off attacking the De Banke end, with Diamonds playing the expected 4-4-2, with Cook, Wilson, Mills and Kelly in midfield, Jon Ashton at right back, and Wayne Hatswell at left back.

The first half was an awful spectacle, with neither side deserving to get anything out of it. St Albans main threat came from a series of free-kicks won in dangerous positions, but each one ended up in the defensive wall.

There was only really one highlight of the half from the Diamonds point of view. This was on 26 minutes, with a move involving Wayne Hatswell, who won the ball in a solid tackle, got the ball to Simeon Jackson on the left, who cut inside about 30 yards from goal and hit a powerful shot which appeared to have Bastock beaten, but it went just wide of the right-hand post.

The only other topic of conversation at half-time was the dispute over one of the free kicks won rather theatrically by Tom Davis on the edge of the box on 42 minutes, and after a certain amount of tussling between the players Mark Albrighton saw yellow for his part in proceedings.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 – 0 St Albans City

Manager Westley took the bold decision to bring on two substitutes at half-time, with Rankine and Maamria replacing the ineffective Kelly and Beardsley. It was this move that made all the difference to the game, with Rankine in particular presenting a totally different threat to the St Albans defence, as Maamria added more steel to the midfield.

Almost immediately Diamonds started carving out chances, with Rankine shrugging off his marker and setting off towards goal on a couple of occasions. The first of these resulted in the Diamonds first corner of the game, and the second resulted in a decent shot well saved by Paul Bastock. Rankine was also involved in other raids which resulted in the ball breaking to the overlapping Jon Ashton, whose dangerous cross from the right was well cut out.

A further threat came from a Paul Wilson throw, which Chris Hope won in the air, the ball breaking to Gary Mills, who fed the ball wide to Jamie Cook, whose cross reached Rankine, who had an acrobatic effort blocked, and Dino Maamria narrowly failed to knock the ball past Bastock.

The chances were coming thick and fast, and shortly afterwards another ball into the area from Cook was only deflected across the area, and fell to Glenn Wilson with only Bastock to beat – but just as it looked like the deadlock must be broken Wilson’s shot hit Simeon Jackson and was cleared to safety.

On 67 minutes Manager Westley played his last card, bringing on Michael Bostwick to bring a threat down the right hand side, replacing Glenn Wilson. Shortly afterwards Paul Bastock was forced into a great save to tip over a Chris Hope header as the Diamonds fans sensed that a goal was coming and got right behind their team.

Maamria was linking the midfield to the strikeforce, notably to Rankine, with the Saints defence having to resort to desperate measures to stop him – Gary Elphick earning a deserved yellow when preventing one particular break. Another break resulted in Rankine finding the net, but play had already been brought back for offside.

With 15 minutes left, it was the combination of Cook, Jackson and Rankine that finally brought the Diamonds goal, with Rankine’s run and shot resulting in his effort being blocked, but it broke to Dino Maamria who put the ball wide of Bastock’s left hand for a goal on his Nene Park debut.

Although the Saints were then spurred on to try for an equaliser, Diamonds had another great chance when Simeon Jackson broke after appearing to have come back from an offside position, and his shot was blocked, but fell to Michael Bostwick whose shot was straight at Paul Bastock, who seemed to be enjoying the banter with the DeBanke Fans,

As time ticked away the Saints had one of their few chances of the second half, and it took a great clearance from Mark Albrighton to preserve the Diamonds lead.

Referee Barratt added on four minutes of injury time, and it was almost 5pm before he blew the final whistle to confirm the Diamonds fifth successive win.

The Diamonds second half performance earned the win, but a better showing over 90 minutes will be needed at Exeter on Tuesday if the winning run is to be extended.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 – 0 St Albans City

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (Red) : Scott Tynan, Jon Ashton, Wayne Hatswell, Chris Hope, Mark Albrighton, Jamie Cook, Gary Mills, Glenn Wilson (Michael Bostwick 67), Marcus Kelly (Dino Maamria 45), Simeon Jackson, Chris Beardsley (Michael Rankine 45)

Subs not used: Martyn Margarson, Jason Goodliffe

St Albans City (Yellow): Paul Bastock, Patrick Ada, Ahmed Deen (Dean Cracknell 90), Gary Elphick, Djoumin Sangare, Tom Davis, Matt Hann (Faly Basse 90+1), Ranbir Marwa, Chris Watters (Chris Seeby 79), Lee Clarke, Simon Martin,

Subs Not Used: Ricky Perks, Lee Flynn

Goals: Dino Maamria (74)

Booked: Albrighton (42), Elphick (67), Bostwick (84)

Sent Off:

Referee: Wayne Barratt (Halesowen)

Attendance: 2488 (Away 214).

Diamonds Man of the Match sponsored by Ross Cotton: Chris Hope

Dagenham & Redbridge 1 Rushden & Diamonds 2

Victoria Road, Dagenham

Nationwide Conference

Rushden & Diamonds scored a magnificent victory over at Dagenham & Redbridge at Victoria Road, in one of their best team performances away from home for several seasons.

A great goal from Simeon Jackson and a second half strike from Chris Hope were enough for victory after an even first half and a dominant second.

Following the FA Trophy defeat, a number of cup tied players returned, and so both Michael Bostwick and Dino Maamria made their debuts in the starting line up, as well as Jason Goodliffe who appeared as a late substitute.

Manager Westley kept the same strike formation that sealed the win at Oxford, with Maamria lining up in midfield alongside Gary Mills, with Jamie Cook playing left midfield and Glenn Wilson on the right. Michael Bostwick started at right back, Wayne Hatswell at left, with Chris Hope and Mark Albrighton in central defence.

Daggers fielded their two new signings Jon Boardman and Chris Moore as they started their first game without the recently departed Mackail-Smith and Blackett.

After a great deal of early morning rain, the pitch was in decent condition, and the weather during the game remained dry until the last few minutes.

Diamonds kicked off attacking the end occupied by the Daggers fans, and had the best of the first few exchanges winning a corner and a number of throws in dangerous positions. In fact at one point the game threatened to be a battle between the long throws of Glenn Wilson and Scott Griffiths. The Diamonds throw-ins looked a serious threat, with Chris Hope heading one across the box to the feet of Gary Mills, but he could only manage a perfect "air-shot".

Chris Beardsley started brightly, and looked to be getting the better of his marker with a couple of excellent layoffs to Simeon Jackson.

Wayne Hatswell made the first of many great clearances he would make during the afternoon after Scott Tynan had palmed out a Craig Moore shot on six minutes, and the Daggers also had a couple of freekicks in dangerous positions, but each time the effort sailed over.

On 11 minutes the match stepped up a gear, firstly with a looping header from Dino Maamria which had Tony Roberts stretching, then a powerful Simeon Jackson shot which was narrowly over the bar. Daggers were playing a combination of a long ball game, and quick breaks through midfield, and it was the latter of these that saw the ball loop over the Diamonds defence. Although Chris Hope initially looked favourite to reach it first, he was rather flat footed and Paul Benson caught and challenged him, with Hope resorting to knocking the ball away with his hand. Although the referee had a stern word, no card was shown.

Hope was also rather fortunate a few minutes later, when a foul in the centre circle also went unpunished, shortly after the same player had headed narrowly over from a Jamie Cook corner. Dino Maamria was also getting stuck in playing a midfield role as the Diamonds were holding their own. He was fouled by his old adversary Jake Leberl and Wayne Hatswell headed narrowly wide from the resultant free kick.

The other Daggers threat remained from throw-ins on the left, and it was from one of these the Dave Rainford got in a shot on goal which was half blocked, and it took Chris Hope to make a great saving header for a corner. Scott Tynan also saved well from a Southam shot, shortly after getting rather agitated by the treatment he was getting during the long throw routines.

On 31 minutes Diamonds took the lead. Great work between Hatswell and Cook saw a long ball down the line from Jamie Cook to Simeon Jackson, wide on the left, and Jacko cut inside and hit an unstoppable shot into the far corner of Roberts’ net.

Before the celebrations by the 200 travelling fans had died down, the Daggers were level, and, as anticipated, it started from a throw in on the left, with Griffiths finding Sloma, whose high ball was headed on by Chris Moore across the six-yard box, just far enough away from Tynan, to reach Paul Benson who coolly slotted home.

On 35 minutes some poor defending by the Diamonds saw a Scott Griffiths cross-shot sail just over Tynan’s bar, and Chris Hope and Tynan caused a worrying moment after yet another Daggers long ball, as Hope had to take no chances and head out for a throw when it should have been Tynan’s ball.

However it was the Diamonds who came closest to adding a second, just before half-time, when another Simeon Jackson run saw his shot blocked, it fell to Chris Beardsley well inside the box, and his initial shot was also blocked, but he managed to poke a second attempt towards goal, but it narrowly eluded Glenn Wilson and the far post.

Half-time: Dagenham & Redbridge 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Diamonds started the second half the way they had started the first, with a number of dangerous looking attacks, although they were struggling to get the ball into a serious goal scoring position.

Albrighton and Hope continued to dominate the aerial battles, and the midfield and full backs were limiting the chances for the Daggers to run at the defence.

Glen Southam had a great run from just inside the Diamonds half on 50 minutes, beating several players, including Gary Mills, before hitting a looping shot just over the bar.

Wayne Hatswell was continuing to get forwards, and he fed Chris Beardsley on a couple of occasions, but the striker was unable to find a telling cross.

On the hour Daggers made two substitutions, bringing on Ben Strevens and Sam Saunders for Moore and Sloma, and Diamonds then brought off Chris Beardsley who had been putting in a lot of running for little reward, and brought on Michael Rankine.

Simeon Jackson was a constant threat to the Daggers defence, and on 69 minutes he had a great turn and run past the defence but his shot was cleared for a throw, from which Dino Maamria showed his ability to shield the ball and turn past a defender although his shot didn’t really threaten.

On 70 minutes, Daggers had one of their few chances of the second-half, and it really should have resulted in them taking the lead, as the two substitutes combined, and simple looking chance for Ben Strevens was scooped over the bar by the ex-Crawley striker.

Daggers were punished for this miss shortly afterwards, as Jamie Cook was fouled in the centre circle. The free kick was taken by Gary Mills, and won in the air by Chris Hope, and although his looping header was headed away by a group of Daggers defenders, it fell straight to the Diamonds Captain to volley home.

Diamonds now started to slow the game down, and as the Daggers players conceded a throw to their opponents, Michael Rankine tried to shepherd the ball down the running track. Danny Foster then caused a tussle on the touchline by pushing Rankine aside to try to retrieve the ball to speed up the Diamonds throw – and as at Northfleet, a tussle involving half-a-dozen players from each side, plus a few of the substitutes ensued. After a lot of pushing, shoving and general facing down, the referee took the two players involved in the original incident aside and gave each a yellow card – Rankine’s the second in successive games taking him one card away from a suspension.

Jamie Cook followed his team mate into the book shortly afterwards for a mistimed challenge, but referee Rendell was always in control.

Daggers rarely threatened an equaliser with Scott Tynan saving their best attempt – a header from Captain Anwar Uddin.

On 89 minutes the Daggers crowd became agitated with a decision where the referee overruled the linesman, as a Scott Tynan goalkick bounced over Rankine’s head and fell to Jackson who looked well offside, but as nobody had touched the ball the referee overruled the linesman’s flag.

Four minutes of injury time were signalled, and this was increased to over five by an injury time substitution that gave a debut to Jason Goodliffe, but some excellent Rugby-style kicking to touch, and a couple of further excellent clearances by Hatswell meant the Diamonds held out for a well-deserved victory.

So after beating second placed Oxford in the previous league game, Diamonds had beaten the league leaders with an excellent team performance to maintain their 100% record at Victoria Road.

Full-time: Dagenham & Redbridge 1 Rushden & Diamonds 2

Teams:

Dagenham & Redbridge: Tony Roberts, Danny Foster, Anwar Uddin, Jon Boardman, Scott Griffiths, Sam Sloma (Ben Strevens (60)), Jake Leberl, Glen Southam, Dave Rainford, Paul Benson, Chris Moore (Sam Saunders (60))

Subs not used: David Hogan (GK), Tim Cole, Dominic Green

Rushden & Diamonds: Scott Tynan, Michael Bostwick, Wayne Hatswell, Mark Albrighton, Chris Hope, Jamie Cook, Gary Mills, Glenn Wilson, Dino Maamria, Simeon Jackson (Jason Goodliffe (90+2)), Chris Beardsley ( Michael Rankine, (67))

Subs not used: Martyn Margarson, Lee Tomlin, Marcus Kelly

Goals: Jackson (32), Benson (33), Hope (77)

Booked: Foster, Rankine, Cook

Referee: Mr G Horwood

Attendance: 1817 (Away approx 200).

Diamonds Man of the Match: The starting eleven – plus Michael Rankine – one of the best performances away from home in the league for several seasons

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Rothwell Town 0

Northants Hillier Senior Cup Semi Final

Diamonds progressed safely through to the Northants Hillier Senior Cup Final with a 1-0 win over Rothwell Town. With temperatures plummeting below freezing, poor finishing should have seen them win comfortably, but they had to rely on a Michael Rankine first half strike.

Winners two years ago, Rothwell Town had beaten Long Buckby and the current holders Northampton Spencer to reach this stage of the competition. Diamonds had wins over Cogenhoe United and Ford Sports Daventry in the previous rounds.

Whilst it was expected that Graham Westley would name a number of youth team players, he announced quite a strong line up. Recent signings Dino Maamria (attack), Michael Bostwick (right back) and Rodney Hicks (left midfield) all made their debuts, while there was a welcome return for Chris Hope as captain. Alan Biley named the two changes from the side that won against Bishop’s Cleeve at the weekend. Tom Smith replaced Ian Baker in goal, while Adam Sturgess replaced the injured Paul Rice. Recently suspended Micky Tolton was named on the bench as was Simon Underwood, recently recovered from a long term injury.

Diamonds started the better of the two sides and quickly showed their strength in both moving forward and tackling. Rothwell found it difficult to get into the game and create any meaningful attacks, but their defence managed to keep Diamonds at bay for the first half hour. Kelly and Tomlin were working well together in midfield and their combination led to Ashton’s early attempt being deflected over the bar. On 17 minutes, Diamonds created a couple of chances. Rodney Hicks shot too high and then Michael Rankine had a shot from 25 yards pushed past the upright by Tom Smith in the Rothwell goal.

The Bones first attempt came after 21 minutes, when Robert Ritchie-Smith shot from long distance although it caused no real problem for Margarson. That was really the only danger Diamonds had to cope with during the first half. During the next ten minutes, the home side had numerous chances with Tomlin, Rankine and Kelly all firing shots over the bar.

The goal finally came on 32 minutes, when Dino Maamria broke away from midfield and released Michael Rankine to his left. As he closed down on the keeper, his fierce shot was only partly saved and as the keeper tried to recover, he took the ball past him. He looked to have gone too far, but managed to squeeze the ball in to score from a tight angle.

Diamonds continued their dominance, with more shots drifting high over the Rothwell goal. Wilson and Maamria were both unable to find the target, while Michael Bostwick had a shot saved. Maamria had a great chance to open his account with Diamonds just before the break. Tomlin’s quick thinking sent the former Southport striker away down the left, but his shot as he closed in on goal went just past the angle.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 – 0 Rothwell Town

Diamonds should have doubled their lead immediately after the restart when Rankine ran towards the goal line and pulled the ball back for Kelly to side foot inches past the post. The Bones replied with Justin Jenkins shooting wide from Chris Di Fante’s cross.

Alex Bolt got the chance of another appearance on 55 minutes when the youngster replaced Glenn Wilson in midfield. Michael Rankine continued to frustrate however, with a couple more shots over the crossbar. He did get another one on target just after the hour after a great cross from Tom Bonner, but the keeper tipped the ball over for a corner.

Rankine continued to be a real handful for the Bones defence and they continued to have difficulty with his strength and pace. He had another wonderful chance on 68 minutes after a defender slipped, but he somehow managed to put the ball wide. Diamonds then had several more chances. Tomlin and Maamria combined well to set up Kelly, but the keeper saved with his feet, then Tomlin’s shot just missed the target.

Robert Ritchie-Smith tried to inspire the visitors in the final period by running at the Diamonds defence, but they never really looked like conceding and safely held on for a place in the Final.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 – 0 Rothwell Town

Those that braved the cold weather would have been reasonably happy with the recent signings on show. The match acted as a good opportunity to play ninety minutes with their new team-mates and all seemed to settle in well. The wayward shooting was perhaps disappointing, but the number of chances created was very encouraging. In the other semi final, Woodford United beat Brackley Town 2-1 at St.James Park and will host Diamonds in the final at Byfield Road (date to be announced). The incentive for the winners of this year’s Hillier Senior Cup is a pre-season fixture against Northampton Town for the Maunsell Cup.

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds – Martyn Margarson, Michael Bostwick, Tom Bonner, Jon Ashton, Chris Hope (C), Glenn Wilson (Alex Bolt 55), Marcus Kelly, Dino Maamria, Michael Rankine, Lee Tomlin, Rodney Hicks.

Subs not used: Scott Tynan (GK), Dominic Langdon, Lawrence Lambley, Jamie Cook.

Rothwell Town – Ian Baker, Adam Sturgess (Micky Tolton 55), Tom Ingram, Martin Flannigan (C), Nicky Hurst, Jon Darby, Robert Ritchie-Smith (Joe Cossey 83), Michael Boyle-Chong, Chris Di Fante, Justin Jenkins, Ricky Miller (Simon Underwood 67).

Subs not used: Ian Baker (GK), Luke Bewers.

Goals:  Rankine 32 (1-0).

Referee:            Mr Paul Martin (Northants)

Attendance:      260.

By Dave Mason

Gravesend & Northfleet 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

FA Carlsberg Trophy Third Round

Stonebridge Road, Northfleet

Rushden & Diamonds were shaded out of the FA Carlsberg Trophy with a narrow 2-1 defeat in a controversial clash at Stonebridge Road, following a spirited second half performance.

It meant Gravesend & Northfleet took advantage of their reprieve in this competition to reach the last eight, but there were a total of 12 cards issued by referee Gibbs (11 yellows and a straight red), and these, along with his penalty decisions, mean his contribution will be remembered longer than the football on show.

After conceding an early penalty, and struggling throughout of the first half, the Diamonds players rallied in the second half, and had a number of chances to get the equaliser that would have brought the tie back to Nene Park.

Manager Westley made several enforced changes to the team that beat Oxford, with the cup tied Gary Mills and David Perpetuini, and injured Mark Albrighton being replaced by Marcus Kelly, Tom Bonner and Dave Savage. Wayne Hatswell captained the team on his 50th appearance in place of the absent Chris Hope.

A very youthful bench included Alex Bolt and Lawrence Lambley for the first time.

Fleet were able to field the team that drew with Stevenage, with Luke Moore suspended and being replaced by Onome Sodje, and Sam Mott playing in goal in place of loanee Luke McShane. This meant top scorer Charlie McDonald faced the Diamonds after missing the game in December, along with Onome Sodje, who scored the winner in December.

Diamonds lined up with Glenn Wilson in the centre of defence, with John Ashton staying at right back. Marcus Kelly was playing in central midfield, with Tom Bonner on the left.

Diamonds started brightly, and forced an early corner and a chance for Jon Ashton from a Paul Cook freekick. In the fifth minute G&NFC broke downfield for the first time, with Charlie McDonald running through the centre of the Diamonds defence, before falling to the ground. Glenn Wilson was adjudged by referee Gibbs to have fouled him, and he also decided from a position some way behind play that the foul was inside the box, and awarded a penalty. McDonald duly scored from the spot,

Although Fleet had the best of the play for the next half-hour, Diamonds felt aggrieved that a challenge that flattened Chris Beardsley was theatrically waved away by Mr Gibbs, when it looked considerably worse than the penalty challenge. The mood in the camp wasn’t helped when a similar challenge on Simeon Jackson, this time outside the box, also went unpunished. General concerns about the officials increased when the linesman on the right appeared to flag for offside from a Diamonds throw in. Mr Gibbs rightly asked for the throw to be retaken.

This general mood was reflected on the pitch, with a 20 man confrontation in the Gravesend box seeing Jon Ashton and Ross Smith receiving yellow cards.

G&NFC were having the best of the chances, and as at the game at Nene Park, the nippy DeBolla and McDonald were proving a real handful, with one excellent move between the pair, including a McDonald backflick in the area, resulted in a shot flashing across the area.

On 28 minutes, manager Westley made what appeared to be a tactical change, with Michael Rankine replacing Tom Bonner, but shortly afterwards Fleet took a two-goal lead. Immediately following the Beardsley penalty shout, Fleet put together a fine move through midfield, with Charlie McDonald beating inside the box Paul Watson, and finding Mark DeBolla, who fired a shot low to Tynan’s right.

The half ended with a further booking for Paul McCarthy, one that was clearly merited as he halted a dangerous Diamonds break. This was one of the few times the Diamonds looked dangerous, as they were caught offside far too often in the first 45 minutes.

Half-time: Gravesend & Northfleet 2 – 0 Rushden & Diamonds

Diamonds came out for the second half, looking far more purposeful, but it was a sign of things to come when Michael Rankine was booked, and then Rob Quinn committed one of the worst fouls of the game, but was spared a second yellow.

Beardsley, Jackson and Rankine were linking up well, with Jacko raiding down the left, and on 57 minutes it was as a result of a strong midfield challenge that the ball broke to Michael Rankine on the edge of the box. He burst past two defenders, pushed the ball wide of the goalkeeper, and the rifled a powerful shot into the net.

Fleet were rarely threatening in the second half, but one dangerous ball through the area by Stacy Long following a corner could easily have sewn the game up.

On 61 minutes, a bad foul by Danny Slatter in front of the Fleet fans provoked the second mass confrontation of the game, with Paul Watson pulling the player away by his shirt, and Glenn Wilson and Charlie Mcdonald also getting heavily involved. After much confusion, referee Gibbs settled on a straight red for Slatter, and yellows for Watson, Wilson and McDonald, but the second yellow for Watson meant he saw a red card.

Shortly after the incident, Chris Beardsley made a strong challenge to win the ball from a GNFC defender, and with the Fleet fans baying for a red, referee Gibbs settled on a yellow.

With both sides down to 10 men the match opened up even more, but Fleet were restricted to the odd break, whilst the Diamonds constantly threatened, although without creating many clear chances, Lee Tomlin came on for Kelly, and he created one of the better chances for himself, but as at Oxford, chose to shoot from long range rather than trying to feed the unmarked Rankine.

Further chances fell to Beardsley, Jackson and Rankine, but their shots were either wayward or blocked, so that young goalie Sam Mott was not really troubled. Dave Savage was able to find Cook and Jackson in the wide positions regularly, but the quality of crosses was not sufficient to really threaten, although the front men had finally begun to beat the offside trap.

As full time approached, Dave Savage received the seventh Diamonds yellow card of the half for a poor challenge on McDonald after he had needlessly given him the ball in a dangerous position, and he was substituted shortly afterwards by debutant Alex Bolt.

Referee Gibbs only added on four minutes of injury time, despite the mass of bookings and substitutions, as well as the trainer giving Mcdonald lengthy attention, but it was during this time that a final great chance fell to the Diamonds from a Hatswell flick-on from a free-kick, with a Beardsley shot blocked, and Rankine failing to hit the target when the ball broke to him.

The final whistle ended the Diamonds last chance of major silverware this season shortly afterwards.

So, after seven second half yellow cards, at least two of which will mean suspensions, the busiest person at Nene Park over the next couple of days will be the club secretary, but everybody would have preferred him to have the challenge of arranging a replay. He will be able to confirm the fact that it appears that Jackson and Ashton have collected their fifth booking of the season, as did Paul Watson prior to his dismissal.

Full-time: Gravesend & Northfleet 2 – 1 Rushden & Diamonds

Teams:

Gravesend and Northfleet: Sam Mott, Paul McCarthy, George Purcell (Joel Ledgister 68), Rob Quinn (James Smith 68), Peter Hawkins, Ross Smith, Danny Slatter, Onome Sodje, Stacy Long, Charlie McDonald, Mark DeBolla (Liam Coleman 87)

Subs Not Used: Robert French, Alex Varney

Rushden & Diamonds: Scott Tynan, Glenn Wilson, Paul Watson, Jon Ashton, Wayne Hatswell, Dave Savage (Alex Bolt 89), Marcus Kelly (Lee Tomlin 75), Jamie Cook, Simeon Jackson, Chris Beardsley, Tom Bonner (Michael Rankine 28)

Subs Not Used : Martin Margarson (GK), Lawrence Lambley

Goals : McDonald (pen – 5), DeBolla (29), Rankine (57)

Booked: G&NFC: Quinn, Smith, McCarthy, McDonald

Booked: R&DFC: Ashton, Rankine, Watson, Jackson, Wilson, Beardsley, Savage

Sent Off: Slatter, Watson (2nd yellow)

Referee: Mr P Gibbs

Attendance: 1127 (Away approx 200).

Reporters Man of the Match : Dave Savage

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