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

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