Burton Albion 1 Rushden & Diamonds 2

After falling behind to a Jon Shaw strike, goals from Simeon Jackson and Curtis Woodhouse either side of the half time break secured a win for Diamonds on the final day of the season. Burton were still in with a chance of the play-off’s, but in the end, wins for York and Exeter meant the Albion supporters were not left too disappointed as they finished one place out of the play-offs positions.

Manager Garry Hill announced three changes to the side that had beaten Northwich Victoria on Monday evening. Jon Ashton had recovered from a hamstring injury, while Wayne Hatswell and Simeon Jackson were also named in the starting eleven. Glenn Wilson, Paul Watson and Lawrence Lambley all reverted to the substitute’s bench with no place for Mark Wright. Dave Savage took the captains armband from Chris Hope.

Burton boss Nigel Clough made one change from the side which won at Northwich last weekend. Winger Keith Gilroy replaced Marc Goodfellow, while John Brayford returned from suspension and was named as substitute.

Following a minute’s appreciation for Alan Ball who died on Wednesday, Diamonds won the toss and chose to kick towards the two hundred or so Diamonds supporters who had made the journey to the newly built Pirelli Stadium. Albion started strongly and had a fair amount of the early possession, although they were unable to cut their way through the Diamonds defence. Early efforts for Alex Nicholls and Keith Gilroy were easy for keeper Matt Baker.

Diamonds replied with Curtis Woodhouse firing in a free kick from the edge of the area after Tomlin was fouled. Michael Rankine shot wide from the corner. Daryl Clare was proving a handful for Chris Hope as he conceded several free kicks trying to stop the striker, while a foul on Andy Ducros a couple of yards outside the penalty area led to Clare shooting over the bar. Keith Gilroy was also causing problems down the left flank, but Albion were unable to convert any of his efforts. Baker punched clear on 17 minutes to relieve some of the pressure.

Although Diamonds defence was kept busy, the improved passing of the past couple of weeks continued, and they started to make a few chances of their own. Rankine did well to win the ball off a defender and sent in a dangerous low ball across the area, but neither Jackson nor Tomlin could make up enough ground to get a foot on the ball. Ashton also had a half chance on 34 minutes after a Woodhouse corner, his strong header going wide.

Just when Diamonds started to look more comfortable, Albion took the lead on 38 minutes. The defence failed to deal properly with a through ball, and the ball ricocheted off Hope, into the path of Jon Shaw. The striker calmly took the ball in his stride and side footed past Matt Baker to the delight of the home supporters.

Diamonds nearly got on level terms within two minutes, when Jackson took the ball deep into the Albion area, but his shot was pushed round the post by 43 year old keeper Kevin Poole. But just as the fourth official indicated an additional minute to be added on, Simeon Jackson hammered in an equaliser. After receiving a long ball forward some 25 yards out, he let fly with a low shot. The veteran keeper seemed surprised by the speed of the shot and the ball was into the net by the left hand post before he could get down.

Half-time: Burton Albion 1 – 1 Rushden & Diamonds

 

With Exeter losing at home to Southport, Diamonds could have expected increased pressure as the second half commenced. Daryl Clare made a good run through the area, but Hatswell was on hand to block his run and clear for a corner. After the corner was initially cleared, the ball was pumped back in to Clare, who blasted shot wide.

Diamonds took the lead on 58 minutes after Michael Rankine was fouled five yards outside the area on the left hand side. Danny Williams, who had been pretty anonymous for most of the game sent over a perfect cross to Jon Ashton at the far post. With the keeper wrong footed, Ashton nodded the ball across the goal where Curtis Woodhouse had the easy job of bundling the ball over the line to give Diamonds the lead.

After the number of fouls committed by Chris Hope in the first half, it was ironic that after Wayne Hatswell’s first mistimed challenge on Alex Nicholls, he was shown a yellow card. Diamonds were determined not to let Albion back into the game, and tried to close the game down as with their previous two matches. Tomlin also entered the referee’s notebook a few moments later, after kicking the ball away as Albion tried to take a quick free kick. On 67 minutes, Chris Hope had to be alert to a quick break as Jon Shaw ran towards goal, but a well timed tackle guided the ball out for a corner.

Diamonds continued to play well, and could have added a third on 69 minutes when Dave Savage was fouled deep in the Albion half. Woodhouse struck the free kick over Poole and onto the crossbar, the ball being cleared to safety. Albion had two great chances to get back on level terms as the game entered the final fifteen minutes. Captain Darren Stride sent a great ball to put Jon Shaw clear, but with only Baker between him and the goal, the Diamond s keeper made an excellent one handed save. Moments later, they seemed to have a strong penalty appeal after Ashton appeared to push Daryl Clare, but nothing was given. Then with just three minutes remaining, Stride shot over the bar from ten yards.

Diamonds comfortably played out the remaining minutes, but should have increased the lead in the final minute when some great footwork from Lee Tomlin took him past a defender and down the left flank. He unselfishly passed the ball into the middle to an unmarked Michael Rankine, but his wayward shot must go down as one of the misses of the season.

Full-time: Burton Albion 1 – 2 Rushden & Diamonds

 

So Diamonds stay unbeaten in their final three games to finish in the top half of the table. It remains to be seen how many of the current squad will be retained, and how many new faces will start Diamonds 16th season. Manager Garry Hill and assistant Kevin Hales will have a busy closed season trying to prepare Diamonds for a serious attempt at promotion. With Nationwide ending their sponsorship of the Conference, the League will become the Blue Square Premier when the 2007/08 season kicks off in just sixteen weeks time on 18th August.

Teams:

Burton Albion – Kevin Poole, Aaron Webster, Andy Corbett, Darren Tinson, Darren Stride (c), Daryl Clare, Andy Ducros, Keith Gilroy (Marc Goodfellow 60), Jon Shaw, Paul Carden, Alex Nicholls (Shaun Harrad 86).

Subs not used: Terry Henshaw, John Brayford, Lee Bell.

Rushden & Diamonds – Matt Baker, Jon Ashton, Chris Hope, Wayne Hatswell, Dave Savage (c), Michael Rankine, Simeon Jackson (Glenn Wilson 86), Lee Tomlin (Paul Watson 90+), Mark Albrighton, Curtis Woodhouse, Danny Williams (Lawrence Lambley 62).

Subs not used: Scott Tynan(GK), Jake Beecroft.

Goals:              Jon Shaw 38 (1-0), Simeon Jackson 45+ (1-1),

Curtis Woodhouse 58 (1-2).

 

Booked:           Wayne Hatswell 60 (foul), Lee Tomlin 63 (time-wasting),

Matt Baker (time-wasting).

Sent off:            –

Referee:           K.Evans (Lancs)

Attendance:     2910 (approx 200 away)

By Dave Mason

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Rushden & Diamonds 1 Northwich Victoria 0

Diamonds took the three points in this mid-table clash thanks a Curtis Woodhouse 62nd minute strike, but they made hard work of what should have been a relatively easy victory.

In the final home game of the season, Garry Hill made three changes to the side which beat Woking on Saturday. Tom Shaw suffered two fractured bones in his right foot during that game, while Simeon Jackson and Wayne Hatswell were dropped to the bench. In came Lawrence Lambley for his first League start, while Lee Tomlin and Mark Albrighton also started. Youth team midfielder Jake Beecroft was on the bench, replacing Chris Beardsley.

Northwich manager Steve Burr only had fifteen fit players to chose from, but made one change from the side that lost at home to Burton Albion at the weekend. Terry Barwick was preferred to Matt Shaw, who dropped to the bench. Danny Mayman, Stuart Elliot and Michael Carr were all still out with knee injuries, while Gareth Griffiths remained sidelined with a shoulder problem.

Diamonds started strongly with a Woodhouse effort being deflected off target, and shots from Tomlin and Williams were saved by keeper Phil Senior in the Northwich goal. This was their eighth game in sixteen days due to their FA Trophy run and they looked tired. They had to wait until the 14th minute before their first shot when Carlos Roca attempt was easily held by Matt Baker.

Curtis Woodhouse got into trouble with the referee early on when a late challenge earned him a yellow card, while keeper Matt Baker had to be alert on 17 minutes, but was down quickly to smother a low shot from Kevin Townson. Diamonds continued to enjoy much of the possession as the half progressed and the much improved passing movements which has been evident over the past few games continued to allow them to dominate the game. Lee Tomlin caused problems for the Northwich defence and had a number of shots deflected or off target.

Danny Williams headed over from a Lawrence Lambley cross, while Tomlin’s 30 yard shot after some good movement by Woodhouse saw the ball just zip past the upright. Byrne and Roca went into the referee’s notebook on 36 minutes after Williams was fouled. With the number of chances, it seemed only a matter of time before Diamonds scored, and it was nearly Dave Savage who got on the score-sheet after a great one-two with Tomlin. After a 25 yard run, his shot just went wide of the post. Rankine also had an effort from the edge of the area just turned round the post by the impressive Phil Senior in injury time.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds  0 – 0 Northwich Victoria

 

Mark Wright replaced Dave Savage after the break, taking up the left back position with Glenn Wilson moving into midfield. Diamonds continued to press for a goal and resumed where they had left off. Two free-kicks from Curtis Woodhouse in the opening ten minutes led to chances for Wilson and Chris Hope, while Kevin Townson had a rare chance for Northwich following a Roca cross, but headed just wide.

Northwich had a lucky escape on 57 minutes, when Tomlin’s deflected shot looped over the keeper, but landed on the roof of the net. There defence seemed to be under more pressure, and it finally cracked on 62 minutes after some fine play by Lawrence Lambley on the right. He sent the ball across the area to Curtis Woodhouse who struck the ball first time, his 30 yard volley leaving Phil Senior with no chance and give Diamonds the lead.

Another chance on 64 minutes saw a long ball from Chris Hope bounce high on the edge of the penalty area. Rankine challenged and beat Senior to the ball, but his header was inches wide. Jake Beecroft came on for his League debut on 68 minutes replacing Glenn Wilson in midfield as Diamonds continued to dominate. Hope’s free kick from just outside the area was tipped over the bar. Simeon Jackson came on with 15 minutes remaining as Lambley started to tire and perhaps should have done better after a mistake from Richard Battersby.

Northwich’s best chance of the game came in the 83rd minute when Kevin Townson played the ball out to the unmarked Chris Williams on the left. Baker came out to narrow the angle, and managed to save with his legs, deflecting the ball out for a corner. Byrne’s corner also caused problems, but was cleared at the second attempt.

As time ticked by, Northwich tried to push forward and Andy Smart had a shot well saved by Baker, pushing the ball away. Although Matt Shaw followed up, he was given offside and Diamonds had little trouble holding out during the remaining moments for their victory.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 – 0 Northwich Victoria

 

So Diamonds finish their home campaign with a win in front of their lowest League gate of the season and move above Northwich in the Conference table. The final game at Burton Albion this coming Saturday will be the last chance for some of the squad members to show why they should be part of Garry Hill’s plans for next year.

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds – Matt Baker, Glenn Wilson (Jake Beecroft 68), Paul Watson, Chris Hope (c), Dave Savage (Mark Wright HT), Michael Rankine, Lee Tomlin, Mark Albrighton, Curtis Woodhouse, Lawrence Lambley (Simeon Jackson 76), Danny Williams.

Subs not used: Scott Tynan(GK), Wayne Hatswell.

Northwich Victoria – Phil Senior, Richard Battersby, Kieran Charnock (c), Carlos Roca (Chris Williams 68), Michael Byrne, Ryan Brown, Kevin Townson, Terry Barwick, James Dean (Matt Shaw 78), Mark Roberts, Andy Smart.

Subs not used: Ben Connett(GK), Tom Rutter.

Goals:             Woodhouse 62 (1-0).

Booked:          Woodhouse 15 (foul), Byrne 36 (foul), Roca 36 (dissent),

Battersby 90 (foul).

Sent off:            –

Referee:            Mr B.J.Malone (Wilts)

Attendance:      1533 (25 away)

Stik Chik Man of the Match: Curtis Woodhouse.

By Dave Mason

Rushden & Diamonds 2 Woking 0

 

Rushden & Diamonds celebrated the arrival of their 2007-08 team strip with a victory over Woking that sealed a position in the fifth level of English football next season, and ended a recent poor run of results.

Garry Hill was forced to make two changes from the regular line-up due to injuries, with Gary Mills and Jon Ashton joining Jason Goodliffe and Marcus Kelly on the sidelines. Simeon Jackson returned to the side in place of Lee Tomlin, and Curtis Woodhouse returned to the side in place of Mills, after missing three games with his Boxing commitments. Glenn Wilson returned from his loan spell at Kidderminster to replace Jon Ashton, and Mark Albrighton again had to be content with a place on the bench.

After their win 3-3 draw against Forest Green at Kingfield last weekend, Woking caretaker manager Graham Baker made a host of changes to the side that started the game, notably giving starting roles to those that came on to salvage the draw.

Woking kicked off attacking the Peter De Banke terrace on a lovely spring day at Nene Park, with the pitch in excellent condition at the end of a long season. Both sides were wearing shirts without names, and Woking had also reverted to the old 1-11 system.

The first half struggled to spark into life, with both defences dominant. Woking had a good chance early on, when a long ball from Gier was flicked on by McAllister to his strike partner Liam Marum. His shot was well saved by Matt Baker, but the ball fell back to the striker and his second attempt was wide of the target,

Curtis Osano was looking the biggest threat to the Diamonds defence, making direct runs at defenders who were unable to get their tackles in. A captain’s performance from Neil Smith also saw him make a couple of thrusting runs down the left channel, but both his attempts on goal were dealt with by Baker.

The other Woking attempt of the half was from Ian Selley and his 30-yard shot was straight into the chest of Baker – but the Diamonds defence dealt comfortably with the remaining Woking threat.

On the attacking front, the Diamonds struggled to generate much in the first quarter, with a couple of chances coming from Danny Williams and Simeon Jackson combining on the left to good effect. On one of these Jacko tried to find Dave Savage who was making a late run down the inside right channel, but Savage couldn’t quite reach the pass. Tom Shaw also found his way into the area on a couple of occasions but his best chance saw him struggle to get any power on his header.

On 25 minutes, Tom Shaw picked up a knock just in front of the dugouts, and although he struggled on for a few minutes, Lee Tomlin replaced him on the half-hour. Shortly before the substitution the best chance of the half so far fell to Simeon Jackson, as his pressure on defender Karl Murray near the half-way line saw the defender miss his header, and Jackson was able to run through on goal, getting the ball on his right foot, and curling the ball narrowly wide of the right hand post.

With Tommo playing wide right, the revised formation seemed to improve the Diamonds shape, and give Michael Rankine an additional option, and he was able to spray a couple of first-time passes out to the youngster. From one of these Tommo beat his man, and crossed from the by-line, the ball going over the head of Rankine, to Danny Williams, and as his shot was blocked it fell to Curtis Woodhouse on the edge of the area, but his lobbed shot was easily dealt with.

As half-time approached the increased threat out-wide also caused problems down the left, with Rob Gier coming under pressure from Danny Williams. Rather than clearing the ball down the line, the ex-Diamonds defender decided to try to find a fellow defender by hitting the ball across his area, but this basic error meant the ball fell straight to Michael Rankine, who quickly settled himself, turned his man and hit a powerful shot from 15 yards low into the bottom left hand corner of the net.

One final incident in the first half saw Woking striker Craig McAllister only receive a yellow card for following through on a challenge on goalkeeper Matt Baker, when many thought it easily merited a straight red.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Woking 0

The second half saw the Diamonds dominate, as Michael Rankine gained confidence from his goal, and began to find Tomlin on the right and Williams on the left on a regular basis. This nearly paid early dividends, with a great ball from Rankine finding Tomlin on the right of the box, and his snapshot was well saved by Gindre down to his right.

The Diamonds forwards were looking really sharp – indeed the whole team was, as they were able to thwart a rehearsed off-side trick from the Woking defence to find two or three men on their own in the box, but Chris Hope wasn’t able to capitalise.

The only Woking threat at this stage came when Glenn Wilson skewed a clearance back high across his penalty area, and a general panic ensued, with several players failing to clear the ball properly.

Simeon Jackson continued to buzz around, showing great ball control, with a couple of good runs down the left, and on one occasion combining well with Lee Tomlin, whose square ball to Michael Rankine was well blocked by Rob Gier.

Curtis Woodhouse was running the midfield, and was able to rob the excellent Neil Smith and although his shot was wayward, Michael Rankine chased the ball down in the corner, and produced a dangerous cross which found Woodhouse, but his shot was also wide of the mark.

In a similar move to one that nearly produced a goal a few minutes earlier, the Diamonds midfield combined to find Lee Tomlin on the right, and although his attempt was well blocked by Karl Murray, the ball fell to Simeon Jackson in the area, free from immediate attention of the Woking defence, and he was able to slot the ball low into the left-hand side of the goal. This was fitting reward for Jacko’s performance, made even more notable by the fact he only arrived back in the UK from Canada in the early hours of the morning.

Goalkeeper Gindre was extremely fortunate that neither official was well placed to see him gather the ball outside his area, as the Diamonds continued to threaten a third. Woking made several changes in an attempt to get back into the game, with Adam Green presenting a new threat down the left, but the Diamonds defence remained in control, although Matt Baker was called upon to make a great save from a Craig McAllister header.

The last few minutes suggested that both sides realised that the final score, plus results elsewhere in Woking’s case, would secure both teams’ place in the Conference next season.

So, the improvement seen on Tuesday night was carried into the second part of this game at Nene Park, and with league status now assured manager Hill has options for the remaining two games of the season – although the Burton game will be important to them as they strive to reach the playoffs.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 2 Woking 0

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (White): Matt Baker, Glenn Wilson, Paul Watson, Chris Hope, Wayne Hatswell, Dave Savage, Danny Williams, Tom Shaw (Lee Tomlin 31), Curtis Woodhouse, Simeon Jackson (Lawrence Lambley 88), Michael Rankine (Chris Beardsley 85)

Subs not used: Scott Tynan, Mark Albrighton

Woking (Green): Nick Gindre, Rob Gier (Adam Green 68), Neil Smith, Jason Pearce, , Gary MacDonald, Curtis Osano (Shola Oyedele,83), Karl Murray, Ian Selley, Liam Marum, Craig McAllister, Goma Lambu, (Saheed Sankoh 59)

Subs not used: James Bittner, Danny Bunce

Goals: Rankine (45+1), Jackson (64)

Booked: Woodhouse, McAllister, Pearce

Referee: Mr D Coote

Assistants: Mr M Chester, Mr S Ross

Attendance: 1922 (Away 206).

Diamonds Man of the Match sponsored by Pro-Digital: Wayne Hatswell

Stevenage Borough 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Diamonds fell to their fourth successive defeat thanks to a 61st minute John Nutter penalty. Unlike the previous three games however, the performance was much improved and they were unlucky not to have come away with a draw.

Garry Hill made three changes to the side which started against Kidderminster at the weekend, with Simeon Jackson unavailable and former Borough captain Jason Goodliffe sidelined due to a hamstring injury. Lee Tomlin and Wayne Hatswell replaced them, while Dave Savage started in preference to Mark Wright. Borough manager Mark Stimson kept the same side that had beaten Tamworth 3-0 on Saturday.

Stevenage kicked off towards the visiting support and the opening exchanges were fairly even. Wayne Hatswell, making his 50th League appearance for Diamonds, looked solid at the back and cleared a John Nutter free kick after 8 minutes. Diamonds looked more confident on the ball than in previous games, and their passing had also improved considerably. Some good movements between Savage and Tomlin on the right led to Diamonds first chance on 13 minutes, when Tomlin slipped the ball to Tom Shaw, but the midfielder was just unable to get a shot away before Ronnie Henry cleared the danger.

Diamonds looked comfortable but lacked a cutting edge to really trouble the Borough defenders. Rankine tried a long shot on the half hour mark, but a deflection took the ball out for a corner, while Danny Williams shot wide after another deflection off Ronnie Henry following Jon Ashton’s cross. Williams thought he should have had a penalty on 33 minutes, when he was pushed off the ball, but the referee remained unconvinced and waived for play to continue.

A foul by Lee Tomlin on Adam Miller after 37 minutes led to some pushing and shoving between Tomlin and Mark Beard and resulted in both players being cautioned. Borough had relatively few first half chances, but their best came just before the break, when Steve Morison sent in a dangerous cross. Mitchell Cole’s attempt was blocked, with the ball falling to John Nutter whose powerful shot was safely gathered by Matt Baker in the Diamonds goal. Moments later Jon Ashton nearly put Diamonds in front but headed wide at the near post following a Paul Watson corner.

Half-time: Stevenage Borough 0 – 0 Rushden & Diamonds

 

There was much amusement amongst the home supporters when the winning 50-50 half time draw ticket holder turned out to be none other than Jason Goodliffe, the injured defender collecting his winnings on the pitch! Both sides made changes at the break with Mark Albrighton coming on for Jon Ashton, and Borough’s Stuart Lewis replacing Mark Beard.

The introduction of Lewis certainly made a difference and on 48 minutes, his fierce right foot volley from 12 yards was brilliantly saved by Baker – the ball rebounding out for a corner. There was more urgency in Borough’s play as they tried to up the pace, but Diamonds seemed to be coping well at the back. Diamonds had another penalty appeal on 52 minutes when a long ball into the area found Gary Mills challenging for the ball. The defender clearly handled, but the referee and the linesman were both unsighted and again waived play on. Mills was injured in the challenge and limped off to be replaced by Lawrence Lambley.

Borough rode their luck and with one hour on the clock, defender Barry Fuller’s cross from the right was deflected dangerously across goal and out for corner. Adam Miller sent the ball in but it caused Diamonds all sorts of problems as they failed to clear the ball. Ronnie Henry’s shot was blocked on the line and the ball skewed out to Mitchell Cole on the edge of the area. As Cole took the ball forward, he was brought down by Mark Albrighton, and the referee pointed to the spot. John Nutter took the penalty kick straight down the centre and although Baker got his hands to the ball, was unable to keep it out.

After taking the lead, Borough tried to press home their advantage by not giving Diamonds any time on the ball. Baker was quick to react as Jon Nurse tried to nip the ball past the keeper and Lewis shot wide. John Nutter also went close from a free kick, while Hatswell and Baker had a slight misunderstanding on 74 minutes, the keeper just managing to recover and gather the ball.

During the final 10 minutes, Diamonds were unlucky not to have got an equaliser. After Lee Tomlin had forced a corner, both Mark Albrighton and Chris Hope had headers cleared off the line by Barry Fuller. Moments later, Tom Shaw raced clear after a flick on by Rankine, but he was adjudged to have fouled Ronnie Henry, and a free kick awarded against Diamonds. Borough’s Paul Hakim came close two minutes from time, when his 20 yard shot skimmed the outside of Baker’s post.

With injury time running down, a long free kick pumped into the area found Albrighton with some space to shoot, but Alan Julian parried his shot away for a corner and with it went Diamonds hopes of getting something out of the game.

Full-time: Stevenage Borough 1 – 0 Rushden & Diamonds

 

So, another one goal defeat, but the travelling support could take heart in a much better team effort and commitment than was evident in the previous few games. It all really hinged on three penalty decisions, which all went the way of the home side – a braver referee might not have been so generous. Diamonds still aren’t mathematically safe from relegation, but a win or draw in one of the remaining two home games on Saturday and Monday should put any fears to bed.

Teams:

Stevenage Borough – Alan Julian, Barry Fuller, John Nutter, Luke Oliver (Paul Hakim 79), Santos Gaia, Adam Miller, Mitchell Cole, Steve Morison, Craig Dobson (Jon Nurse 59), Ronnie Henry, Mark Beard (Stuart Lewis HT).

Subs not used: Danny Potter(GK), Steve Guppy.

Rushden & Diamonds – Matt Baker, Paul Watson, Jon Ashton (Mark Albrighton HT), Chris Hope (c), Wayne Hatswell (Chris Beardsley 90), Dave Savage, Michael Rankine, Lee Tomlin, Gary Mills (Lawrence Lambley 55), Tom Shaw, Danny Williams.

Subs not used: Scott Tynan(GK), Mark Wright.

Goals:              Nutter 61pen (1-0).

Booked:            Tomlin(37), Beard(37).

Sent off:            –

Referee:            A.Halliday

Man of the Match: Matt Baker:

Attendance:      1715 (approx 150 away)

By Dave Mason

Rushden & Diamonds 0 Kidderminster Harriers 1

A first half strike from Russell Penn was enough to decide this 19th meeting between the two teams in Harriers favour. Despite a late surge from Diamonds, they were unable to get the goal that would have made certain their status next season.

Garry Hill kept faith with Matt Baker in goal following his League debut at York on Tuesday night. Reverting to a 4-4-2 formation, Mark Albrighton and Dave Savage made way for Paul Watson and Danny Williams.

Harriers manager Mark Yates did not have the services of Glenn Wilson as part of his loan agreement with the Diamonds and made two other changes from the side that lost against Woking on Easter Monday. Jonny Harkness, Russell Penn and Brian Smikle replaced Wilson, Jeff Kenna and Michael Blackwood.

With Harriers winning the toss, Diamonds kicked off towards the De Banke Terrace, with neither team taking charge in the opening minutes. It was Harriers that had the first chance on 9 minutes, when Brian Smikle beat the offside trap receiving a ball from Russell Penn. With Matt Baker coming out to narrow the angle, he saved Smikle’s shot with his feet.  Baker also had to be alert moments later when he dived to his left to save a Jonny Harkness free-kick. Diamonds were conceding several free kicks in their own half, and Harkness hit the post/crossbar from another on 14 minutes.

Diamonds continued to struggle to put Harriers under any pressure and the frustration boiled over between Gary Mills and Russell Penn, resulting in a caution for Mills for an off ball incident. The arguments continued and a hard tackle from Mills on the same player minutes later resulted in a severe lecture from the referee.

It wasn’t until the 29th minute that Diamonds had an effort on goal. Chris Hope headed out of defence to Simeon Jackson, who took the ball some 30 yards before putting his shot just wide of the goal. Tom Shaw also had a good run down the left side, but his cross was too high for Michael Rankine, and the ball was forced out for a corner. Rankine headed wide from Mark Wright’s corner.

With the tussle between Mills and Penn continuing, Mills was taken off on 37 minutes before he could receive another card, and Dave Savage replacing him in midfield. Harriers took the lead on 41 minutes, after Jason Goodliffe pulled down Iyseden Christie on the left side of the penalty area. Jon Brady cut the free kick back to Russell Penn who fired a shot past Baker from the edge of the area.

Dave Savage had a chance just before the half time break when his header was saved by Scott Bevan at the near post following Jackson’s cross. Danny Williams also had a shot saved just before the whistle.

Half-time Rushden & Diamonds  0 – 1 Kidderminster Harriers

 

Jason Goodliffe had limped off with a hamstring injury at the end of the first half, and Wayne Hatswell was brought on at the start of the second half for his first game in six weeks. The early part of the second half was riddled with offside decisions, as Harriers took advantage of Rankine and Jackson’s inability to keep in line with the defenders. Harriers were dangerous from set pieces and another free kick from Harkness on 54 minutes found Brian Smikle, who in turn knocked the ball back for Mark Creighton to fire a fierce shot just wide.

On 57 minutes, it was Diamonds turn with a set piece when Jackson took a quick free kick to Rankine. The strikers shot went just wide of the goal. The crowd became increasing restless as the game progressed, and Lawrence Lambley was brought on for Mark Wright just after the hour in order increase their attacking options. Diamonds frustration spilled over to the bench as the game entered the final quarter, with manager Garry Hill receiving a strong warning from the referee.

In the final 20 minutes, Diamonds probably deserved to get something out of the game as they put Harriers under more pressure. Harkness was yellow carded on 73 minutes for a foul on Jackson, with Danny Williams free kick being punched clear by Bevan. Two minutes later, another Williams shot  was blocked by the keeper, but no-one was able to follow up the loose ball. Tom Shaw had two attempts saved by Bevan, the second being touched onto the post and out to safety.

Harriers had little in reply, although Creighton headed against the bar after a long ball from Harkness. Diamonds continued to apply pressure, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Just before the end Jackson and Rankine combined well to give Williams some space, but despite lining up his shot, the ball deflected onto the post and out for another corner. In injury time, Lambley’s shot cum cross was touched over the bar, while Williams free kick was inches wide.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 – 1 Kidderminster Harriers

 

With all the pressure late in the second half, Diamonds probably felt they should have got a point out of the game, but a moments lack of concentration from a free kick handed the points to Kidderminster. With St.Albans already relegated and Tamworth unable to overtake Diamonds, 53 points may yet be enough to secure “Conference” football next year, although one would hope they might be able to get a result against another old rival on Tuesday night. The remaining four games will give Garry Hill a good idea of who he wants to keep and which positions need to be strengthened during the summer break.

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds – Matt Baker, Paul Watson, Jon Ashton, Chris Hope (c), Michael Rankine, Simeon Jackson, Jason Goodliffe (Wayne Hatswell HT), Gary Mills (Dave Savage 37), Tom Shaw, Mark Wright (Lawrence Lambley 63), Danny Williams.

Subs not used: Scott Tynan(GK), Lee Tomlin.

Kidderminster Harriers – Scott Bevan, Jonny Harkness, Gavin Hurran, Mark Creighton (c), Stuart Whitehead, Jake Sedgemore, Russell Penn, Brian Smikle, Iyseden Christie (Luke Reynolds 86), Jon Brady (Michael Blackwood 79), James Constable (Gary Hay 78).

Subs not used: Steve Taylor(GK), Simon Russell.

Goals:              Penn 41 (0-1).

Booked:            Mills(26), Goodliffe(40), Hope(64), Harkness(73).

Sent off:            –

Referee:            R.Wigglesworth (Yorks)

Attendance:      1925 (195 away)

Willmott Dixon Man of the Match: Simeon Jackson.

By Dave Mason

York City 3 Rushden & Diamonds 1

 

After a bright start, Rushden & Diamonds were comprehensively outplayed by a well-organised York City side. The travelling R&DFC fans suffered a dose of déjà vu with respect to the Grays game, as a Diamonds side playing an unconventional formation once again capitulated and conceded three goals in quick order. Fortunately, York were content with easing off after the third goal, rather than taking the chance to significantly improve their goal difference.

Manager Garry Hill played a similar formation to that used in the game at Grays, effectively 3-5-2. He made five changes from Saturday, following three games unchanged, although it wasn’t just in response to the poor performance against Southport, but because of injuries to Marcus Kelly and Danny Williams, and the unavailability of Curtis Woodhouse, as well as Paul Watson being dropped to the bench. Tom Shaw started after his good performance as substitute on Saturday, and Mark Wright was given his Diamonds debut with a role on the left, with Dave Savage also restored to the starting line up – so the five man midfield was Ashton, Savage, Mills, Shaw and Wright, with Jason Goodliffe getting a start as the back three idea from late in the game on Saturday was given a further airing. A further change, which appeared tactical, was to give Matt Baker his debut in the R&DFC goal. Youngster Lawrence Lambley was one of the attacking players on the bench, with Chris Beardsley joining Lee Tomlin and Paul Watson.

York City manager Billy McEwan kept the same line-up that had beaten Burton Albion at the weekend, and the York fans gave a warm reception to Jason Goodliffe, who had appeared on loan for them earlier in the season.

After a change of ends, York City kicked off towards their own fans, and after a shaky start by Matt Baker as he dropped an early free kick, it was the York City defence that was caught napping. A hopeful ball forwards by Jason Goodliffe appeared to have caught Michael Rankine offside, but as he kept well away from challenging for the ball, the York defence let the ball bounce, and on a firm pitch it looped over their heads for Simeon Jackson to run onto. As has been proved this season, Jackson does not often waste such chances, and his right foot shot went in-off the left hand post for the opening goal.

This seemed to unsettle the York defence for a while, and although the City attack was starting to look threatening, the best chance in the next quarter fell to Michael Rankine as he was played through by a header on by Jackson, and although a clear chance that most thought he would hit across goalkeeper Evans, he went for the near post, but could only find the side netting.

York then dominated the remainder of the half, with the Diamonds 3-5-2 formation constantly exposed by the York wide-men, notably down the York right when Ben Purkiss was able to push forwards along with Neal Bishop. Manny Panther and Steve Bowey made light of the numerical superiority that Diamonds had in midfield, using their power to dominate play, with outlets always available left and right – with Martyn Woolford also impressing on the left.

Matt Baker was called into action many times, using the full repertoire of catches, punches and tipping the ball out for a large number of corners, His defenders did not seem to know which way to turn, and previously solid performers such as Goodliffe, Hope and Albrighton were being turned inside out by the wide men. One save in particular high to his left from the danger man Clayton Donaldson helped to preserve the lead, as did ones from Steve Bowey and Craig Farrell.

Diamonds did create a further chance in the half, with Dave Savage setting up Mark Wright, but his snapshot was well over the bar. Apart from that, the Diamonds goal was largely under siege as it had been for the first half at Grays, with the ball rarely finding its way upfield for the visitors. The York fans had a loud appeal for a penalty after a Dave Savage challenge on Purkiss, but the claim was waved away.

Just as it was beginning to look like the lead might be preserved until half-time, the inevitable happened on 41 minutes, although it was in the left channel where Craig James and Manny Panther combined, and James’ cross was met with a firm header from Clayton Donaldson from 15 yards out.

After awarding the goal, referee Matadar made a hasty exit from the game, with Assistant Referee Madley living up to his billing, as an appeal went out from a replacement fourth official. Within a minute Mr Madley made his mark, booking Mark Albrighton for a foul on Woolford.

After some confusion about how many extra minutes were to be played in the half, during which York had several further dangerous attacks, Mr Madley brought the half to a close.

Half Time: York City 1 – 1 Rushden & Diamonds

The second half started after a short delay, after Jon Ashton came out with the wrong shirt, and there were almost two Dave Savage’s on the field.

Any hope that the York City tide might be turned as the teams changed ends were quickly dashed within five minutes of the restart, as a break down the right saw a low cross eluded Baker on his right hand post, and Clayton Donaldson was able to squeeze between two defenders to force the ball home.

The travelling Diamonds fans were looking for the team to try to slow the game down for a while to avoid a repeat of the three goals in short order they had seen at Grays when playing this formation, but those hopes were quickly dashed as a City attack saw a cross from Purkiss being punched out by Baker under pressure from Farrell, but the ball fell straight to Steve Bowey on the edge on the box, and his looping strike dropped in under the bar on the right hand side of the goal. This made the scoreline 3-1 in under 55 minutes, and it was the third York goal in less than 15 minutes.

Further danger came for the Diamonds as Mark Wright went forward to take a free kick on the right, and as his kick went straight into Evans arms, the resulting York break saw their forwards with acres of space where Wright would have been, but again a desperate challenge to concede a corner saved the day.

Manager Hill then responded to cries from the fans to change things, although his first move on the hour mark was to restore Paul Watson in place of Mark Wright, starting the transition towards the conventional 4-4-2 formation.

City really should have had their fourth goal, when a break through the middle by Woolford saw Donaldson and Farrell free in space on either side of him, with a simple looking run-in on goal facing either of them, but he selfishly chose to shoot straight at Baker.

Lee Tomlin was then introduced, but rather than attempting to try three up front to salvage something from the game, he replaced Michael Rankine on 73 minutes.

Craig Farrell was looking more threatening in this half, and with a couple of stepovers that bamboozled the defence, he might have increased the lead.

Diamonds did have one threatening attack in the half, with a ball from the left finding Jon Ashton running in on the right to challenge Evans for the loose ball, and it broke to the Diamonds man but he could not find the empty net from a shallow angle.

York relaxed considerably as the game entered its final 10 minutes, and were content to make a triple substitution on 87 minutes, along with Diamonds giving a first team league debut to Lawrence Lambley, and suddenly Diamonds had an attacking threat down both flanks, albeit with the York defence looking able to ensure that nothing reached a Rushden player in the area.

There was still time for a couple more York chances, including one to substitute Brodie, which was well saved by the overworked Baker.

So, after initial promise, the Diamonds fell to a comprehensive defeat. Some explanation might be the enforced absence of certain players, but the tactics were no more effective in Yorkshire than they had been in Essex.

Diamonds now have to pick themselves up for Kidderminster’s visit to Nene Park on Saturday, especially given Conference safety is still not 100% certain, but also to convince the fans that the current blip in form, performance and results is only temporary.

Full-time: York City 3 – 1 Rushden & Diamonds

Teams:

York City (Red / White): Tom Evans, Ben Purkiss, Danny Parslow, David McGurk, Craig James, Martyn Woolford, Emmanuel Panther, Neal Bishop (Ross Greenwood 87), Steve Bowey (Mark Convery 87), Craig Farrell (Richard Brodie 87), Clayton Donaldson

Subs not used: Anthony Lloyd, Paddy Gamble

Rushden & Diamonds (Blue):, Matt Baker, Chris Hope, Mark Albrighton, Jason Goodliffe, Jon Ashton (Lawrence Lambley 87), Danny Williams, Curtis Woodhouse, Mark Wright (Paul Watson 60), Michael Rankine (Lee Tomlin 73), Simeon Jackson

Subs Not Used Scott Tynan,  Chris Beardsley

Goals: Simeon Jackson (3), Clayton Donaldson (41, 50), Steve Bowey (54)

Yellow Cards: Albrighton (Foul 44)

Referee: Mo Matadar (replaced on 43 minutes by Mr A J Madley)

Assistants: A J Madley, M Bristow (M Trigg)

Attendance: 2955 (Away 116).

Reporters Man of the Match: Matt Baker (some excellent saves – although might have done better on a couple of the goals – but no other contenders)

Rushden & Diamonds 2 Southport 3

 

Rushden & Diamonds lost at home in the league for the first time since November 2006, to a Southport side that seemed unaffected by the pressure of being in the Conference relegation zone, and who won their first away game in a similar period. In an entertaining game, perhaps the turning point was when Diamonds had a great chance to equalise for the second time shortly after Southport had taken a 2-1 lead, but Marcus Kelly somehow contrived to miss an open goal. Southport then took advantage of Diamonds bringing on their substitutes during the second half to score a third to seal the game, despite a Michael Rankine consolation with effectively the last kick of the game.

Rushden fielded an unchanged starting line-up from the games versus Forest Green and Weymouth – the only change being Tom Shaw returning after his loan spell to take a place on the bench ahead of Michael Bostwick.

After their win 5-1 victory over Stafford last Saturday, manager Peter Davenport kept an unchanged team, which meant a quick return to Nene Park for Dino Maamria.

Southport kicked off attacking the Peter De Banke terrace on a lovely spring day at Nene Park, and unlike recent games, the game immediately provided end-to-end entertainment. As early as the third minute Southport won an indirect freekick near the left hand corner of the penalty box as Mark Albrighton was adjudged to have obstructed Carl Baker. In a well-rehearsed Freekick move between Boyd and Baker, the ball was quickly switched right across the edge of the area until it reached Mark Birch who had time to pick his spot with a well-struck drive from 25 yards into the top right hand of the net.

Diamonds quickly threatened an equaliser, with Jackson looking especially threatening, as he fed Williams with an opportunity on the right, then combined with Marcus Kelly on the left after a freekick was cleared, and his cross was met by Chris Hope on the far post, but his header down was well saved.

On 7 minutes, the Diamonds midfield forced the ball down the centre, and a great flick on with his back to goal by Michael Rankine found Simeon Jackson in the clear and his shot found the left hand corner of the net.

Both defences were looking vulnerable at this stage, with Jackson getting the better of Matt Hocking on 10 minutes but firing over, and at the other end a Mark Boyd cross had to be cleared for a corner, and a further corner for Southport saw appeals for handball in the area.

Marcus Kelly was having a much better first half than in recent games, but on 11 minutes he was lucky to escape a booking as he slid across Matt Hocking in front of the North Stand.

Simeon Jackson continued to threaten, and in one run he beat two defenders, but saw his shot deflected away from goal. He was linking well with both Williams and Rankine, and Michael Powell just managed to cut out another threatening attack – but Southport remained a threat.

On 27 minutes Gary Mills gave away a needless free kick in central midfield. The kick was quickly taken to Mark Duffy in plenty of space wide on the right. His cross was partially blocked, but it fell to Carl Baker in the centre of the area, faced by Gary Mills. Baker switched the ball left and right, without Mills attempting a challenge, and thus he was able to make space to curl a shot past Tynan.

Once again, Diamonds managed to create a golden chance for a quick equaliser, within a couple of minutes, as a Williams ball to Rankine was headed down past the defence to find Marcus Kelly with only Goalkeeper Smith to beat, and no challenge threatening. Kelly hesitated on the ball, and then tamely hooked his left foot shot to the right of the goal as his teammates held their heads in their hands.

The remainder of the half was played out at the same tempo, with the best chance falling to Curtis Woodhouse when Danny Williams headed the ball to him just outside of the box, but his shot was well over.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Southport 2

The second half started in a similar manner to the first, with both sides having chances, and neither defence looking reassuring.

Although Michael Rankine was winning a number of balls in the air, his composure on the ground meant a number of good chances were wasted. One chance on 54 minutes saw Rankine get the ball to Gary Mills on the left edge of the box, and he had time to move the ball onto his right foot, but his shot was just over the bar.

On 58 minutes, Diamonds began a series of substitutions, with Tomlin replacing Williams to play down the right. Marcus Kelly attempted to atone for his miss by a storming run past two defenders to feed Michael Rankine, but his shot was partially blocked and easily cleared. Gary Mills went down injured just as Tom Shaw was about to replace him, and Shaw almost made an immediate impression, with a couple of good chances falling to him on the edge of the area. A further chance fell to Jon Ashton, but his header was just wide. Perhaps the nearest the Diamonds came to an equaliser was when a corner was cleared to Marcus Kelly, and he hit the ball back into the box to Simeon Jackson who was able to flick the ball over the oncoming goalkeeper, but a defender was back covering and the danger was cleared.

In the final substitution, Jason Goodliffe came on to replace Paul Watson, and this change seemed to unsettle the defence even more, and Southport captain Chris Holland started to get forwards more, winning a corner off Jon Ashton. The Diamonds marking from the corner on the Southport left was non-existent, as Marcus Kelly tried to prevent the cross from Baker, but it reached Tony Gray in the area, and as with the second goal he was allowed time to jink the ball around and hit his shot past Tynan on 74 minutes.

The 3-1 scoreline looked to have sealed the game for Southport, although Lee Tomlin looked a threat, and in one quick Diamonds move he was able to turn and shoot, but his shot hit the crossbar. A Marcus Kelly freekick caused confusion in the area, with Goalkeeper Smith unable to claim the ball, but the ball fell to Tom Shaw, whose shot only found the top of the net on the wrong side.

The match moved into 5 minutes of injury time, and it was in the last of these that a Diamonds move between Jackson and Tomlin saw a Tomlin shot saved by Smith, but he could only push the ball out to Michael Rankine, who scored one of his speciality goals from inside the six yard box.

Referee Tomlinson blew the final whistle as soon as Southport kicked off to give Southport their deserved win, and provide due reward to their travelling fans.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 2 Southport 3

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (Red): Scott Tynan, Jon Ashton, Paul Watson (Jason Goodliffe 68), Chris Hope, Mark Albrighton, Danny Williams (Lee Tomlin 58), Gary Mills (Tom Shaw 65), Curtis Woodhouse, Marcus Kelly, Simeon Jackson, Michael Rankine

Subs not used: Matt Baker, Dave Savage

Southport (White): Terry Smith, Mark Birch, Matt Hocking, Kevin Lee, Michael Powell, Mark Duffy (Paul Tait 85), Mark Boyd, Chris Holland, Carl Baker (Liam Blakeman 89), Dino Maamria, Tony Gray.

Subs not used: Sean Paterson, Jon Newby, Sean Clancy

Goals: Birch (3), Jackson (7), Baker (27), Gray (74), Rankine (90+5)

Booked: Hope, Albrighton, Boyd, Smith

Referee: Mr Stephen Tomlinson

Assistants: Mr W J Smeulders, Mr L Betts

Attendance: 2122 (Away 85).

Diamonds Man of the Match sponsored by Anne Aston: Simeon Jackson

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