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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