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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