Rushden & Diamonds 4 Weymouth 1

Rushden & Diamonds scored a couple of late goals to create an impressive final scoreline, but in truth there was little that was impressive in the game with Weymouth at Nene Park. Even initial thoughts that Michael Rankine might have scored a hatrick proved incorrect, as it was later confirmed by Garry Hill that the first goal was credited to Danny Williams – and the second Diamonds goal was confirmed as Mark Albrighton’s.

Rushden fielded an unchanged starting line-up from the game at Forest Green – in fact the entire 16 players were unchanged.

After their 7-0 defeat at Cambridge on Saturday, manager Jason Tindall gave most of those players a chance to redeem themselves, with the only change being Narada Bernard replacing Ishmael Welsh. This meant Bernard was finally getting a chance on the Nene Park pitch following his appearance on the Diamonds books during the Graham Westley era. Ex-Boston midfielder Simon Weatherstone, ex-Yeovil midfielder Nick Crittenden and Stuart Beavon, who was linked to a move to Nene Park earlier this season all appeared for the Terras.

With a chilly wind and the attraction of Champions League football on TV it was a very disappointing turnout at Nene Park to see whether Diamonds could put another three points towards those they needed to guarantee Conference Football next season.

Weymouth kicked off attacking the Peter De Banke terrace, and as on Saturday, the most memorable thing from the early play were the misplaced passes, the poor free-kicks either straight out of play, or to opposing goalkeepers, and a general end-of-season lack of urgency about the game.

Jon Ashton picked up an early yellow card for a foul, and this seemed to affect his performance for the remainder of the half. Neither midfield seemed to get to grips with their opponents, so it was left to the likes of Paul Watson to try to assist the forwards with telling through balls.

When the Diamonds forwards did make a raid through the Weymouth defence it was almost always accompanied by a weak shot such that goalkeeper Matthews was untroubled for the first 40 minutes. One raid by Michael Rankine on the left hand edge of the box resulted in both him and Tony James being dragged to the floor, and just when it looked like the big striker might get away from his man James hooked out a leg and cleared the ball to touch. Another break by Jackson saw a great ball across the area narrowly elude Rankine as he ran in on goal.

There was a feeling that if a goal did come it was likely to be as a result of an error – and such errors by both defence and attack in a Diamonds break shortly before half-time saw the ball break to Paul Watson in near left corner flag and he was fouled as he tried to get a cross in. All the tall players moved forward for the free kick, but Danny Williams hit a cheeky low shot towards the near post, which bounced near the goal line, and up into the net. There was initial suggestion that it might have deflected off Michael Rankine and into the net, and the Diamonds players weren’t sure whether to congratulate Williams or Rankine, but the striker tried to make it clear it was his goal by tapping his chest, and it was only after the game that it was confirmed to be Williams goal.

After a half so lacking in quality, it was fitting that the final action of the half was almost a bizarre own goal, as a backpass from Adam Cottrell was initially missed by goalkeeper Matthews, but he was able to turn and gather the ball just as it reached the goal line.

So half-time was reached with the Diamonds in the lead, but to be honest the quality of football on show in that half really merited a 0-0 scoreline. As with the previous two games, it was hoped that the second half would be a significant improvement on the first.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 – 0 Weymouth

After scoring so close to half-time, Diamonds took this impetus into the early exchanges in the second half, and Jon Ashton seemed to have put his nervousness from the first half behind him as he started to link up with the attack, with one great ball finding Danny Williams in plenty of space on the right, and he took the ball to the by-line, with plenty of time to measure his cross, but his cross was just over Rankine’s head. Gary Mills also started to get into the game more, with a couple of defence splitting passes to create these chances for the forwards, and as Curtis Woodhouse continued to impress, Marcus Kelly began to contribute, with excellent support from Paul Watson.

Diamonds had a couple of other good chances to get the vital second goal, with Chris Hope in particular getting on the end of a great freekick by Curtis Woodhouse, but his header narrowly beat the far post.

Diamonds won their first corner of the game as late as the hour mark, but it was Weymouth who were starting to look more dangerous with Raphael Nade having a header just over the bar.

On 57 minutes Weymouth carved out an equaliser, with a raid down the left finding Chris Hope caught in possession by the pacy Beavon, and the ball broke to Narada Bernard, whose cross presented the unmarked Nick Crittenden with a simple chance to score.

To their credit, Diamonds reacted quickly to this reverse, with a Michael Rankine run finding Simeon Jackson in the clear on the left side of the box. His shot was blocked for a corner, taken on the left by Danny Williams, and the corner was met by Mark Albrighton who bundled the ball home to make the scoreline 2-1.

Weymouth then began to look a tired side, and both Rankine and Jackson had good chances to seal the game, but they were also getting caught offside too often. When Weymouth did look threatening it was largely due to indecisions in Diamonds midfield, notably when Kelly tried a couple of tricks to get the ball out of the corner, and firstly conceded a throw in a dangerous position, then gave away a hand ball on the edge of the box.

Danny Williams was starting to find more and more space, and his distribution also began to reap dividends as he fed the ball to Rankine in a great shooting position, but the striker rushed his shot and clipped it past the far post.

There was a scare when the impressive Tynan almost got in a mix-up with Job Ashton as the defender tried to shepherd the ball to him, but although the Weymouth forwards looked dangerous when heading towards the box, they created little inside it.

On 85 minutes the points were sealed, as a long ball upfield by Tynan was misjudged by a defender under pressure from Jackson, who then seized the ball and hit a great shot which rebounded off the bar with Matthews well beaten, presenting Michael Rankine with a simple tap-in.

Stuart Beavon continued to worry the Diamonds defence, and a great chest pass to Raphael Nade should have brought more than a corner, but Hope and Albrighton continued to look commanding.

As the match moved into injury time, Lee Tomlin had replaced Simeon Jackson, and great work by Paul Watson on the left won a free kick which was whipped in to Tomlin, whose excellent first touch and shot was only partially parried, out as far as Michael Rankine, who had a couple of touches to compose himself and get his second goal.

So, in the end an emphatic scoreline created by the good response to the Weymouth equaliser, but in truth the quality of football on show left something to be desired, but at least those fans who come to Nene Park to see a Diamonds win and a few goals will have gone home happy. The three points are probably enough to guarantee Conference football next season, although a victory over Southport at Nene Park over the Easter period will reinforce this prior to the challenges of York, Kidderminster and Stevenage.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 4 – 1 Weymouth

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (Red): Scott Tynan, Jon Ashton, Paul Watson, Chris Hope, Mark Albrighton, Danny Williams, Gary Mills (Dave Savage 89), Curtis Woodhouse, Marcus Kelly, Simeon Jackson (Lee Tomlin 87), Michael Rankine

Subs not used: Matt Baker, Michael Bostwick, Jason Goodliffe

Weymouth (Mustard / Navy Blue): Jason Matthews, Narada Bernard, Ashley Vickers, Tony James, Adam Cottrell (Daniel Phillips 74), Nick Crittenden, Jamie Coutts (Conal Platt 60), Anton Robinson (Brian Dutton 88), Simon Weatherstone, Raphael Nade, Stuart Beavon.

Subs not used: Louis Bell, Jason Tindall

Goals: Williams (44), Crittenden (68), Albrighton (73), Rankine (85, 90+2),

Booked: Jon Ashton, Ashley Vickers, Paul Watson

Referee: Mr M Bull

Assistants: Mr L Venamore, Mr P Andrews

Attendance: 1623 (Away 91)

Diamonds Man of the Match sponsored by New Life Church: Simeon Jackson

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