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

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