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

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