Rushden & Diamonds 2 Morecambe 2

Rushden & Diamonds extended their unbeaten run in the league to nine games but were second best to an attractive footballing side for most of the game. After taking a two goal lead the Diamonds will have been disappointed to let things slip, but there were very few at Nene Park who were surprised that Morecambe fought their way back for a draw.

Both Rushden and Morecambe fielded unchanged starting line-ups, with the only change in the 32 players on show being the return of Michael Bostwick to the bench after his one-match ban, replacing Glenn Wilson. Sammy McIlroy was able to use striker Matthew Blinkhorn for his second appearance of his loan spell from Blackpool, standing in for top scorer Michael Twiss who has a long term injury.

After all the recent rain it was a relief to find the pitch in good condition, and no sign of the nearby River Nene threatening the car parks. A rather disappointing attendance reflected the close proximity of the Exeter game, as well as the counter attractions of the Champions league, but those that did make the effort were well rewarded.

Morecambe kicked off attacking the De Banke end, with Diamonds playing the expected 4-4-2, as on Saturday.

The first half saw Morecambe with the majority of possession, as they swept it around the pitch at pace, with Wayne Curtis working the left flank and Garry Thompson the right. These raids resulted in several clear chances, notably for Curtis himself as he stole into left hand side of the area, but each time he failed to take advantage. He turned provider in the 10th minute when he hit a low ball into the area straight to Danny Carlton’s feet, but the striker could only hit a very weak shot which was easily dealt with. Blinkhorn also caused problems to the Diamonds defence, and saw one of his crosses flash across the goal with none of his teammates able to get what would have been an easy tap-in.

Other Morecambe attempts included a couple of dangerous looking shots from just outside the area from Carlton and then perhaps their best chance when Mark Albrighton attempted a clearance which hit the back of Thompson’s head and fell to Curtis on the left, and although he wrong footed Jon Ashton, Gary Mills managed to get in a challenge which deflected the shot onto the post and away to safety.

Finally as the game neared the 20 minute mark the Diamonds started to look more dangerous on their infrequent attacks, with Woodhouse starting to spray the ball around the pitch, notably across to Williams, whose layoff to Ashton saw the defender hit a cross which some thought hit a Morecambe player’s arm.

Michael Rankine also started getting the measure of the Morecambe defence, and won a number of headers, and he also put in a couple of deft flicks past his marker, one of which saw him fouled near the half-way line, but unfortunately had play proceeded Danny Williams pass had found Simeon Jackson in the clear. Rankine also executed a great dummy to set Simeon Jackson free, but his shot was scuffed.

The first real save that Morecambe goalkeeper Drench had to make was in the 27th minute, as a Danny Williams shot from just outside the box appeared to have a bit of swerve on it, but it was well cradled by Drench.

On 33 minutes Diamonds took the lead against the run of play, with good work by Gary Mills on the right winning a throw, and Mills then broke down the right, slipped in inside to Williams on the right hand edge of the box, and his cross found Michael Rankine, whose well directed header found the left hand side of the net.

This rattled Morecambe somewhat, and for a while their free flowing game became disjointed, with Danny Adams being booked for a foul. However, they continued their raids into the Diamonds area, and a weak Scott Tynan punch looked to give Morecambe a chance to equalise, but it was wasted.

Again Diamonds were soaking up pressure, but could easily have taken a two goal lead into half time, as a great move down the left involving Jackson and Kelly saw a Kelly cross finding Rankine who had found space away from his marker, but his attempt to head the ball down to bounce over the goalie also saw the ball go over the bar.

One final raid by Morecambe just before half-time down the right hand side saw a bad mistake by Paul Watson almost punished as Blinkhorn was able to cut into the area and lob the ball over Tynan, but Gary Mills, not for the first time, was there to clear the ball for a corner.

So Diamonds would have been more than happy with their half-time lead, but must have realised that they needed to stop the free-flowing Morecambe attacks or they would be punished.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 – 0 Morecambe

The second half started with the Diamonds looking a bit brighter, and Marcus Kelly in particular looked to start taking on the Morecambe defenders, including a great run, nutmegging a defender, switching to his left foot, and hitting a decent shot which Drench couldn’t hold, but he was able to reach the loose ball before the oncoming attacker.

Morecambe then found their free-flowing style again, with Curtis and Thompson causing real problems to the Diamonds defence. A Michael Howard shot from just outside of the box was their best attempt on goal, and they also had a couple of shouts for a penalty as their hard low crosses hit defenders en-route.

On 61 minutes both Ashton and Mills were down injured, and Michael Bostwick replaced Mills shortly afterwards. Before he had time to get into position Diamonds had taken a two goal lead, following their best move of the game, with the ball being worked down the right to Danny Williams who cut inside and hit a great cross that appeared to be heading to Michael Rankine, under challenge from a defender. This challenge seemed to force Rankine away from the ball, and Marcus Kelly forced past the big striker to get in a great header and the second goal.

Any thought that the two goals might be enough were quickly dispelled as Morecambe started to look even more threatening, and a great run from Thompson forced a Morecambe corner to their right. From the corner the ball went right across the area towards Chris Hope, whose attempt to clear saw the ball loop across the six-yard box and into the right-hand side of the net for an own-goal.

Within three minutes the scores were level, when a raid down the centre saw the ball sprayed to Wayne Curtis in acres of space towards the left hand edge of the box. As Tynan advanced he was able to lift the ball over him and into the net.

At this point it looked like either team might win the game, but Morecambe seemed to start thinking defensively, and Rankine and Jackson started to get some joy up front, with both having attempts on goal – a header and shot respectively, but the best chance fell to Mark Albrighton from a corner that looked identical to the one against Exeter on Saturday, but this time his header was fractionally high and wide.

Scott Tynan still had to pull out a great save from Gary Thompson as the winger enjoyed continuing freedom down the right hand side.

The match thus ended as a draw, and perhaps both sides would have been disappointed with that – Diamonds because they had lost a two goal lead, and Morecambe as they had had the best of the play. The Nene Park pitch really seemed to suit Morecambes’s approach, but if they can reproduce that style of play on their remaining away trips this season they look a good bet for the playoffs. Only Gravesend have looked as good a footballing side at Nene Park this season.

The Diamonds now have a Saturday off before the Tuesday outing to Yorkshire to face Halifax.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 2 – 2 Morecambe

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (Red) : Scott Tynan, Jon Ashton, Paul Watson, Chris Hope, Mark Albrighton, Danny Williams (Lee Tomlin 82), Gary Mills (Michael Bostwick 65), Curtis Woodhouse, Marcus Kelly, Simeon Jackson, Michael Rankine

Subs not used: Matt Baker, Chris Beardsley, Jason Goodliffe

Morecambe (Blue): Steven Drench, Adam Yates, Jim Bentley, Danny Adams, Michael Howard, Gary Thompson, Craig Stanley, Neil Sorvel, Wayne Curtis, Danny Carlton, Matthew Blinkhorn.

Subs not used: Davies, Hunter, Blackburn, Burns, Brannan

Goals: Rankine 34, Kelly 66, Hope (OG) 74, Curtis 66

Booked: Adams 37 (foul)

Referee: Mr Graham Scott (Oxfordshire)

Assistants: M McLaughlin, S Phipps. Fourth Official : C Reeve

Attendance: 1701 (Away 52).

Diamonds Man of the Match sponsored by Stratos Control Systems : Michael Rankine

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