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

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