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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