March 31, 2007 Leave a comment
After initial concerns that the game might be a repeat of the recent visit to Grays, Rushden & Diamonds put in a much improved performance in the second half in Gloucestershire and the well deserved win will help to ease relegation worries.
Manager Hill made three changes to the starting line up seen at Grays last Tuesday, with Mark Albrighton moving to the middle replacing Jason Goodliffe, Gary Mills replacing Dave Savage, Simeon Jackson replacing Lee Tomlin and Danny Williams returning to play wide right in a 4-4-2 formation.
Forest Green Rovers manager Jim Harvey made one change from the side that beat Exeter City on Tuesday, with striker Mark Beesley having picked up a hamstring strain, so Alex Lawless replaced him, and Les Afful returned from injury to take a place on the bench.
The first twenty minutes of the game were very uninspiring, with the weather proving the main distraction, with hail, thunder and driving rain accompanying a strong wind behind Forest Green. The hardy 128 Diamonds fans on the open terrace must have been surprised at not being offered any cover at such a new ground.
On the twenty-minute mark the game showed at least a semblance of life, with Simon Clist, clearly FGR’s best player, putting through Lee Dodgson, but as Tynan advanced his attempted lob sailed well over the bar as the wind caught it.
Clist then easily beat Jon Ashton on the left wing, and hit an excellent pass across the area, but Danny Carey-Bertram couldn’t quite find the pace to latch on to it.
Simeon Jackson had been darting at the FGR defence for most of the afternoon, and his efforts in making a thrusting run down the left flank on 25 minutes saw his shot deflected out for the Diamonds only corner of the half.
FGR continued to have slightly the better of the play, but in truth the play was exceedingly scrappy, with neither side seeming to come to terms with the windy conditions.
On the half-hour mark FGR keeper was forced to make his first save from a Jackson attempt, and five minutes later the referee awarded a bizarre Yellow Card against Paul Watson, as, without warning, he took exception to the amount of time he was taking over a free kick.
Most of the FGR threat came either via Clist, or from Kevin Nicholson’s long throws, but Tynan was rarely troubled, and the half ended with everyone reflecting whether it had been as bad as the first half on Tuesday night – perhaps not quite, and perhaps the elements had an effect, but it was to be hoped that the second half delivered better entertainment.
Half-time: Forest Green Rovers 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0
After being swept away by Grays early in the second half, it was clear Rushden had learnt from that experience, and straight away Diamonds threatened. The ball fell to Curtis Woodhouse just outside the area, and his looping shot / lob was well tipped over by Robinson. Woodhouse took the corner, and made good allowance for the wind to reach Mark Albrighton, whose powerful header past the flailing Robinson was well cleared off the line to Rankine, whose attempt bounced up to Simeon Jackson, and although his shot was also blocked by a defender near the goal line, the linesman in front of the Diamonds fans immediately flagged that the ball had crossed the line.
Jackson then started to spray the ball to his teammates around the FGR box, setting up chances for Woodhouse and Kelly, notably for the latter who was struggling to make an impression on the game.
Jim Harvey brought on two subs in an attempt to change the flow of the game, and it was Les Afful who looked a much more significant threat than Dodgson he replaced (or Carey Bertram who remained). An excellent diagonal cross-field pass from Nicholson found Afful who burst past Watson into the area, jinxed inside and hit a shot that was well saved by Tynan.
Gary Mills was harrying the FGR midfield and it was this effort that won Diamonds a throw on 67 minutes, near the FGR corner flag. The flow was cleared by the defence as far a Jon Ashton, and his looping shot was well tipped over by Robinson.
Although Tynan was having another solid game, he had to learn to adjust his kicking to allow for the wind in the second half, with two kicks going straight to his opposite number to bring back memories of Billy Turley at the old Lawn – now already replaced by new houses.
Diamonds were now threatening on the break, with both Jackson and Rankine beating the offside trap, with Rankine getting completely clear at one point, as the FGR defenders focussed on Jacko who was returning from an offside position, but he decided to check back inside as he neared goal, and although he still managed a decent shot, it was well saved by Robinson. The Diamonds defence was also looking increasingly solid, although Jon Ashton got into trouble near the half-way line, and as Mark Albrighton cleared the ball to touch it deflected onto his arm, and he was very harshly booked.
Danny Williams was having slightly more success on the right than Kelly was having on the left, and coped well with the abuse he was getting from the FGR fans who appeared to have found a voice since their move to the new ground.
On one of the breaks, on 85 minutes, Jackson was hauled down by Darren Jones, about 30 yards out, in what looked the most bookable offence of the afternoon, but no card was forthcoming. However, the justice was done seconds later as Curtis Woodhouse curled the ball across the goalmouth, and Jon Ashton ghosted in, unmarked, at the far post, and looped a header over Robinson, and over the goal-line, although Michael Rankine followed in to be sure.
This second goal put the result beyond doubt, and apart from the late appearance of Lee Tomlin, the final few minutes passed without incident.
The final whistle signalled celebrations from the 128 travelling fans on the Terrace, who had made the trip west, as well as others in the main stand. It was a special reward for those that had stayed loyal to the team despite what was served up on Tuesday night.
Garry Hill must also take credit for abandoning the experiments in personnel, formation and tactics from Tuesday night and motivating what could have been a dispirited team after the Grays defeat.
This win takes Diamonds onto the much vaunted 50 point mark, and although that target is somewhat different in a league where four teams go down, Diamonds have a chance to cement their place in the division when taking on Garry Hills old charges from Weymouth on Tuesday night.
Full-time: Forest Green Rovers 0 Rushden & Diamonds 2
Forest Green Rovers (Black / White): Ryan Robinson, John Hardiker, Chris Giles, Darren Jones, Kevin Nicholson, Lee Dodgson (Les Afful 55), Jamie Pitman (Paul Stonehouse 55), Michael Brough, Simon Clist, Alex Lawless, Danny Carey-Bertram (Mark Preece 81)
Subs not used: Shaun Lamb, Ryan Harrison
Rushden & Diamonds (Red): Scott Tynan, Jon Ashton, Paul Watson, Chris Hope, Mark Albrighton, Danny Williams, Gary Mills, Curtis Woodhouse, Marcus Kelly, Michael Rankine, Simeon Jackson (Lee Tomlin 89)
Subs Not Used Matt Baker, Dave Savage, Michael Bostwick, Jason Goodliffe
Goals : Simeon Jackson (47), Jon Ashton (85)
Yellow Cards : Woodhouse (Foul 36), Watson (Time Wasting 42), Albrighton (Handball 74)
Referee: Andrew Rodda
Assistants : Gavin Muge, Adrian Gillett
Attendance: 1110 (Away 130+).
Reporters Man of the Match : Simeon Jackson