Burton Albion 1 Rushden & Diamonds 2

After falling behind to a Jon Shaw strike, goals from Simeon Jackson and Curtis Woodhouse either side of the half time break secured a win for Diamonds on the final day of the season. Burton were still in with a chance of the play-off’s, but in the end, wins for York and Exeter meant the Albion supporters were not left too disappointed as they finished one place out of the play-offs positions.

Manager Garry Hill announced three changes to the side that had beaten Northwich Victoria on Monday evening. Jon Ashton had recovered from a hamstring injury, while Wayne Hatswell and Simeon Jackson were also named in the starting eleven. Glenn Wilson, Paul Watson and Lawrence Lambley all reverted to the substitute’s bench with no place for Mark Wright. Dave Savage took the captains armband from Chris Hope.

Burton boss Nigel Clough made one change from the side which won at Northwich last weekend. Winger Keith Gilroy replaced Marc Goodfellow, while John Brayford returned from suspension and was named as substitute.

Following a minute’s appreciation for Alan Ball who died on Wednesday, Diamonds won the toss and chose to kick towards the two hundred or so Diamonds supporters who had made the journey to the newly built Pirelli Stadium. Albion started strongly and had a fair amount of the early possession, although they were unable to cut their way through the Diamonds defence. Early efforts for Alex Nicholls and Keith Gilroy were easy for keeper Matt Baker.

Diamonds replied with Curtis Woodhouse firing in a free kick from the edge of the area after Tomlin was fouled. Michael Rankine shot wide from the corner. Daryl Clare was proving a handful for Chris Hope as he conceded several free kicks trying to stop the striker, while a foul on Andy Ducros a couple of yards outside the penalty area led to Clare shooting over the bar. Keith Gilroy was also causing problems down the left flank, but Albion were unable to convert any of his efforts. Baker punched clear on 17 minutes to relieve some of the pressure.

Although Diamonds defence was kept busy, the improved passing of the past couple of weeks continued, and they started to make a few chances of their own. Rankine did well to win the ball off a defender and sent in a dangerous low ball across the area, but neither Jackson nor Tomlin could make up enough ground to get a foot on the ball. Ashton also had a half chance on 34 minutes after a Woodhouse corner, his strong header going wide.

Just when Diamonds started to look more comfortable, Albion took the lead on 38 minutes. The defence failed to deal properly with a through ball, and the ball ricocheted off Hope, into the path of Jon Shaw. The striker calmly took the ball in his stride and side footed past Matt Baker to the delight of the home supporters.

Diamonds nearly got on level terms within two minutes, when Jackson took the ball deep into the Albion area, but his shot was pushed round the post by 43 year old keeper Kevin Poole. But just as the fourth official indicated an additional minute to be added on, Simeon Jackson hammered in an equaliser. After receiving a long ball forward some 25 yards out, he let fly with a low shot. The veteran keeper seemed surprised by the speed of the shot and the ball was into the net by the left hand post before he could get down.

Half-time: Burton Albion 1 – 1 Rushden & Diamonds

 

With Exeter losing at home to Southport, Diamonds could have expected increased pressure as the second half commenced. Daryl Clare made a good run through the area, but Hatswell was on hand to block his run and clear for a corner. After the corner was initially cleared, the ball was pumped back in to Clare, who blasted shot wide.

Diamonds took the lead on 58 minutes after Michael Rankine was fouled five yards outside the area on the left hand side. Danny Williams, who had been pretty anonymous for most of the game sent over a perfect cross to Jon Ashton at the far post. With the keeper wrong footed, Ashton nodded the ball across the goal where Curtis Woodhouse had the easy job of bundling the ball over the line to give Diamonds the lead.

After the number of fouls committed by Chris Hope in the first half, it was ironic that after Wayne Hatswell’s first mistimed challenge on Alex Nicholls, he was shown a yellow card. Diamonds were determined not to let Albion back into the game, and tried to close the game down as with their previous two matches. Tomlin also entered the referee’s notebook a few moments later, after kicking the ball away as Albion tried to take a quick free kick. On 67 minutes, Chris Hope had to be alert to a quick break as Jon Shaw ran towards goal, but a well timed tackle guided the ball out for a corner.

Diamonds continued to play well, and could have added a third on 69 minutes when Dave Savage was fouled deep in the Albion half. Woodhouse struck the free kick over Poole and onto the crossbar, the ball being cleared to safety. Albion had two great chances to get back on level terms as the game entered the final fifteen minutes. Captain Darren Stride sent a great ball to put Jon Shaw clear, but with only Baker between him and the goal, the Diamond s keeper made an excellent one handed save. Moments later, they seemed to have a strong penalty appeal after Ashton appeared to push Daryl Clare, but nothing was given. Then with just three minutes remaining, Stride shot over the bar from ten yards.

Diamonds comfortably played out the remaining minutes, but should have increased the lead in the final minute when some great footwork from Lee Tomlin took him past a defender and down the left flank. He unselfishly passed the ball into the middle to an unmarked Michael Rankine, but his wayward shot must go down as one of the misses of the season.

Full-time: Burton Albion 1 – 2 Rushden & Diamonds

 

So Diamonds stay unbeaten in their final three games to finish in the top half of the table. It remains to be seen how many of the current squad will be retained, and how many new faces will start Diamonds 16th season. Manager Garry Hill and assistant Kevin Hales will have a busy closed season trying to prepare Diamonds for a serious attempt at promotion. With Nationwide ending their sponsorship of the Conference, the League will become the Blue Square Premier when the 2007/08 season kicks off in just sixteen weeks time on 18th August.

Teams:

Burton Albion – Kevin Poole, Aaron Webster, Andy Corbett, Darren Tinson, Darren Stride (c), Daryl Clare, Andy Ducros, Keith Gilroy (Marc Goodfellow 60), Jon Shaw, Paul Carden, Alex Nicholls (Shaun Harrad 86).

Subs not used: Terry Henshaw, John Brayford, Lee Bell.

Rushden & Diamonds – Matt Baker, Jon Ashton, Chris Hope, Wayne Hatswell, Dave Savage (c), Michael Rankine, Simeon Jackson (Glenn Wilson 86), Lee Tomlin (Paul Watson 90+), Mark Albrighton, Curtis Woodhouse, Danny Williams (Lawrence Lambley 62).

Subs not used: Scott Tynan(GK), Jake Beecroft.

Goals:              Jon Shaw 38 (1-0), Simeon Jackson 45+ (1-1),

Curtis Woodhouse 58 (1-2).

 

Booked:           Wayne Hatswell 60 (foul), Lee Tomlin 63 (time-wasting),

Matt Baker (time-wasting).

Sent off:            –

Referee:           K.Evans (Lancs)

Attendance:     2910 (approx 200 away)

By Dave Mason

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