Rushden & Diamonds 1 Stafford Rangers 1

Diamonds extended their unbeaten run to eight games after two late goals livened up the stalemate. Marco Adaggio headed Rangers ahead after 79 minutes, with Simeon Jackson sparing Diamonds blushes to equalise 6 minutes from the end – his fourth goal in four games.

Manager Garry Hill made four changes from the side which had drawn against Grays Athletic on Tuesday evening. Keeper Paul Nicholls was given a chance to impress in place of Paul Bastock, while Michael Rankine, Jon Challinor and Lee Tomlin dropped to the bench. Marcus Kelly started for the first time since his shoulder operation, while Michael Malcolm and Simon Rusk were given another chance, Rusk starting this time in midfield. Burgess remained on the right side of midfield. Although Curtis Woodhouse was available after serving his four match suspension, injury kept him out of the squad.

Stafford Rangers had also drawn 1-1 on Tuesday evening at home to Histon and manager Phil Robinson made just one change, Chris Flynn replacing Ross Draper in midfield.

The half started fairly evenly with both sides looking lively but unable to test their respective keeper. Stafford had the first real chance on 8 minutes when a Kevin Street corner was headed goalward by Djoumin Sangere. With Nicholls stranded, Martin Foster was on the line to head the ball to safety. Diamonds tried to respond and after Curtis Osano’s cross had been flicked on by Chris Hope, Michael Malcolm’s overhead kick went straight to the Scott Loach in the Stafford goal. The game continued to go from one end to the other and Richard Sutton tried a long range effort, driving his shot wide from 20 yards.

A long pass from Burgess on 18 minutes found Simeon Jackson clear on the left side just outside the area, but the keeper raced out of goal and clattered into Jackson before he could get a shot away earning him a yellow card. As the half progressed, Diamonds continued to have more possession. Malcolm was fouled outside the area on 28 minutes and Chris Hope tried his luck from the free kick but the wall stood firm and the ball rebounded away with Jackson’s follow up also blocked. Stafford offered very little in the way of attacking options but Diamonds were unable to cut a way through Wayne Daniel and Djoumin Sangere, the tall defenders easily coping with any high balls into the area.

Andy Burgess shot over the bar from 25 yards, and Curtis Osano made a good attacking run to the by line, but no-one was in the middle to get on the end of his cross. As the half ticked away, a long ball from Paul Nicholls was flicked on by Malcolm but Jackson’s shot was blocked again as the score remained goalless.

HT: Rushden & Diamonds 0 – 0 Stafford Rangers

 

As the second half commenced, Diamonds looked to try and turn possession into goals with the crowd urging Diamonds forward. Dean Howell was proving a handful on the left and shot wide from long range on 52 minutes. Moments later, Wayne Hatswell headed inches over from a Kelly corner, but was adjudged to have fouled Wayne Daniel as he went for the ball. With Diamonds continuing to put pressure on the visitors, Stafford made a change up front, Neil Grayson coming on for David McNiven. Within 60 seconds, Grayson went into the referees notebook for a poorly timed challenge on Andy Burgess.

Grayson did look lively after coming on however, and Stafford started to counter more and more. He set up Rangers best chance on 70 minutes, turning back a cross from the byline. Marco Adaggio tried an overhead kick that Nicholls did well to tip past the post.

With 20 minutes remaining, Andy Burgess switched to his natural left side, while Marcus Kelly came over to the right. Crossing with his more natural foot, he fed a great ball through to Jackson on the edge of the area. The striker fired a shot on goal that beat the keeper, but struck the crossbar. Stafford still looked as of they could be dangerous and on 76 minutes after Martin Foster had fouled Kevin Street, Paul Nichollls did well to save low from Neil Grayson’s free kick.

On 79 minutes, disaster struck as Stafford took the lead. Fred Murray, who had been lucky not to head into his own net minutes earlier, sent one of his long throw-ins into the Diamonds area. As Grayson and Hatswell went up, the ball was flicked on to Marco Adaggio, who sent a powerful header past Nicholls to give Stafford the lead.

With time running out, Jon Challinor and Michael Rankine came on for Kelly and Foster and Diamonds tried to step up a gear. Jackson shot from the edge of the area. Although the keeper failed to gather the ball, Cedric Avinel was on hand to clear away. As Diamonds pushed up Adaggio beat the offside trap but his right foot drive was well held by Nicholls. Diamonds continued to attack and finally got their just rewards on 84 minutes. With Andy Burgess back on the right and being taunted by the Stafford supporters close to his own penalty area, he sent a superb pass the length of the field which just cleared Djoumin Sangare, the last defender. Simeon Jackson ran on to the loose ball and volleyed a right foot drive past Scott Loach for the equaliser.

Diamonds were looking to go after the win, but they had left it too late. As the clock ticked down, Burgess tried another long pass to Jackson but this time, Jackson lost his footing.

 

FT: Rushden & Diamonds 1 – 1 Stafford Rangers

 

While the unbeaten run continued, it felt like another two points lost as Diamonds struggle to find their goal-scoring touch, although it was nice to see Simeon Jackson’s confidence has now fully returned. Garry Hill must be wondering why his players are unable to produce a match winning performance at home. On paper, Diamonds should have had little problems overcoming the part-timers from Stafford, but they only came to life after the visitors had scored, and 11 minutes was not enough time to get a result. After 13 games, this was the 6th 1-1 draw and at no point have Diamonds taken a two goal advantage. Their away form is certainly an improvement from the lack-lustre displays at Nene Park and hopefully next Saturdays visit to Altrincham will see them return to winning ways. Before that, Corby Town’s win at Ramsgate in the FA Cup means that the Hillier Senior Cup tie scheduled for Wednesday evening at the Rockingham Triangle will go ahead as planned.

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds – Nicholls, Osano, Hope(c), Hatswell, Jackson  Burgess, Foster (Rankine 80), Kelly (Challinor 80), Malcolm (Tomlin 85), Howell, Rusk.

Subs not used: Gulliver, Shaw.

 

Stafford Rangers – Loach, Sutton, Daniel(c), Sangare, Flynn, Street, McNiven (Grayson 62), Adaggio, Murray, Avinel, Oldfield.

Subs not used: Alcock, Ingram, Draper, Hopkinson.

 

Goals:       Adaggio 79 (0-1); Jackson 84 (1-1).

 

Booked:    Loach 18 (foul), Grayson 63 (foul),  Rusk 84 (foul).

Referee:   Mr S.Creighton (Berks)

Attendance:  1533 (88 away).

Robin Bailey Man of the Match – Chris Hope.

By Dave Mason

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Rushden & Diamonds 1 Grays Athletic 1

Simeon Jackson gave Diamonds the perfect start with a goal after just 9 minutes, but during a poor second half performance, Grays equalised through Karl Murray and probably felt unlucky not to have returned to East London with the three points.

Manager Garry Hill made two changes to the side which gained an injury time draw at Halifax at the weekend. Andy Burgess and Chris Hope had both recovered to make the starting line up, while Simon Rusk and Phil Gulliver dropped to the bench. Dean Howell was playing against one of his former clubs and continued at left back, while Curtis Woodhouse was serving his final match ban following his sending off at Salisbury.

Grays manager Justin Edinburgh made four changes from the side that lost at home to York City on Saturday. Jamie Stuart was suspended after his dismissal during that game, while Craig McAllister and Charlie Hearn dropped down to the bench and Adam Gross failed to make the sixteen. In came Ernie Cooksey following his suspension, Mark Marshall, Jack Haverson and Danny Kedwell who partnered Gavin Grant up front.

Both sides had early efforts on goal with Gavin Grant shooting wide for the visitors, and Andy Burgess firing well over the bar. Diamonds looked to close Grays down quickly and started to control the midfield from an early stage with Andy Burgess and Jon Challinor taking on the defence at every opportunity. After just 9 minutes, Diamonds took the lead. Curtis Osano made a forward run down the right and passed the ball forward to Simeon Jackson, who fired in a 25 yard shot past keeper Ross Flitney into the corner of the net.

After the goal, Grays were unable to make much headway up field and created very little in the way of chances. Burgess was causing problems and Flitney had to be quick off his line taking the ball off the head of Michael Rankine. Diamonds wouldn’t let the visitors settle and chased down at every opportunity although neither side were creating much in front of goal. Jackson’s cross after a lovely cross field ball from Burgess was just too high for Lee Tomlin, while on 27 minutes, Dennis Oli had the first real chance for Grays, heading over from close range following a Stuart Thurgood corner.

On 37 minutes, Jackson tried his luck again from long range, but although his 30yard effort bounced awkwardly, striking the keepers chest, it was gathered at the second attempt. Rankine also shot over the bar from long range. As the half drew to a close, a collision between two Grays defenders allowed Rankine to gain possession at the edge of the penalty area. His cross went behind Jackson, but fell to Lee Tomlin whose goal bound shot struck Jon Ashton and deflected for a corner. Jon Challinor’s corner was then dropped by Flitney, but gathered at the second attempt.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 – 0 Grays Athletic

Grays made a change at the start of the second half with Charlie Hearn replacing Jack Haverson who was injured in the collision at the end of the first half. Andy Sambrook moved inside to partner Jon Ashton in the centre of defence. The visitors certainly came out looking a different side as they became much more competitive in midfield. In the opening ten minutes, Danny Kedwell had a shot blocked by Chris Hope, and then Charlie Hearn shot wide from the resultant corner. Gavin Grant also forced a good save from Paul Bastock.

Diamonds attacking options seemed to diminish, although Dean Howell’s dangerous cross was punched away by the keeper. With Diamonds on the back foot, Grays drew level on 58 minutes. After Curtis Osano had fouled Ernie Cooksey five yards outside the area, Thurgood fired in the free kick, forcing Bastock to palm away his fierce drive. Karl Murray was first to follow up the loose ball and drilled his shot past the keeper.

Over the next fifteen minutes both sides made changes with James Lawson replacing Mark Marshall for Grays and Marcus Kelly and Michael Malcolm coming on for Lee Tomlin and Simeon Jackson. Malcolm had Diamonds best chance of the half shortly after coming on, heading just wide after some great work by Kelly on the left.

Goalmouth action was in short supply as both sides struggled to find some sort of form. James Lawson’s shot on 82 minutes was caught by Bastock at the near post, while Lawson turned provider moments later, Kedwell heading over. Diamonds only goal-bound attempt was from a Chris Hope free-kick five minutes from time, but it went straight at the keeper.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 – 1 Grays Athletic

Having controlled the midfield for the first 45 minutes, the first half performance was an improvement on some of the recent games, but Diamonds fell away in the second half with Jon Challinor and Andy Burgess largely anonymous. On a positive note, Diamonds are now undefeated in seven games although five draws takes the shine off the achievement with goals a rare commodity at the moment. The attendance seems to reflect the recent performances with the gate being the lowest at Nene Park for a League match for over twelve years. With Stafford Rangers struggling at the bottom of the League, Garry Hill must be hoping for a vast improvement on Saturday afternoon.

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds – Bastock, Osano, Hope(c), Hatswell, Challinor, Jackson (Malcolm 74), Burgess, Rankine, Tomlin (Kelly 67), Foster, Howell.

Subs not used: Nicholls, Gulliver, Rusk.

Grays Athletic – Flitney, Sambrook, Thurgood(c), Oli, Kedwell, Murray, Ashton, Marshall (Lawson 59), Cooksey, Grant (O’Connor 81), Haverson (Hearn HT).

Subs not used: Knowles, McAllister.

Goals:      Jackson 9 (1-0); Murray 58 (1-1).

Booked:    Nil.

Referee:    Mr R.Wigglesworth (Yorks)

Attendance:  1345 (48 away).

Pest Free Man of the Match – Chris Hope.

By Dave Mason

Halifax Town 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Rushden & Diamonds saw their unbeaten streak extend to six games, including four games unbeaten on the road, with a late Simeon Jackson penalty earning a 1-1 draw at the Shay.

Manager Garry Hill made one enforced change to the team that won at Weymouth on Tuesday, with the injured Andy Burgess being replaced by Lee Tomlin.

Halifax manager Chris Wilder also made one change, with Lewis Killeen – a scorer in the Shaymen’s recent win – replaced by Danny Forrest,

On an autumnal afternoon Halifax kicked off towards the home end.

The pattern for play was quickly set, with Halifax starting to dominate the midfield, and with any one of their midfield or strikeforce being prepared to run at the Diamonds defence. Diamonds on the other hand saw any attacking threat coming from long balls, and although Michael Rankine won his share, too many went straight through to Mawson – indeed his main task for the half was fielding these loose balls.

The Halifex attacking threat was coming from all angles, including a direct run from well inside his own half by Danny Forrest which saw his shot blocked.

On the 20 minute mark Halifax should have gone in front, when a great run by Andy Campbell, on the left, saw a cross find Danny Forrest in acres of space in the area, but he could only head over the bar.

On 22 minutes Halifax took a deserved lead. A long ball down the right channel was allowed to bounce over his head by Wayne Hatswell, and as Phil Gulliver challenged for the bouncing ball with Andy Campbell he was adjudged to have fouled the striker, about 25 yards out on the right hand edge of the box. Although the Diamonds set up a five man wall, Steve Torpey hit a powerful free kick past them and into the top left hand corner of the net.

Immediately after the goal Simon Rusk was caught napping as he attempted to deal with a harmless looking pass from midfield, and only an alert Bastock prevented Andy Campbell having a free run on goal after he robbed the defender.

On 24 minutes Diamonds had their one attempt on goal of the half, as a long ball from Bastock was shielded back by Jackson to Challinor, but his shot was well wide and over.

Diamonds were resorting to high long balls throughout much of this period, with neither wide midfielder managing to get any penetration down the wings.

The final action of the half almost saw Halifax take a two goal lead their dominance of the half might have merited. Work on the right by Forrest saw an attempted cross flagged as having deflected off a defender for a corner. Steve Torpey took the corner from the right, and it found Andy Campbell completely unmarked just outside the far post, but his powerful volley was parried by Bastock at point blank range.

So the half ended with only the sole attempt on goal by the Diamonds, and with the need for some half-time motivation from Garry Hill.

Half-time: Halifax Town 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Although there was the expectation of an improved performance from the Diamonds in the second half, with Michael Malcolm replacing Michael Rankine, it was Halifax who continued to dominate in the first ten minutes of the half, with Steve Torpey giving Rusk many problems, helping to win a succession of Halifax corners. From one of these Cortez Belle aimed a bullet header goalbound, but, not for the first time of the afternoon, Paul Bastock came to the Diamonds rescue. A second Belle header from a subsequent corner was blocked on the line as Town threatened to seal the game up. Other chances fell to Andy Campbell, who had what looked like a free header in the six-yard box following a corner,

The game seemed to change on 55 minutes, when Andy Campbell was replaced up-front by Daryl Taylor, a move that allowed the Diamonds to start pushing forward far more as the defence needed less support from midfield.

The first sign of a Diamonds threat came when good pressure from Lee Tomlin forced Belle to skew a clearance for a corner, which resulted in Martin Foster hitting a powerful shot into a crowd of defenders.

Diamonds fans gave Marcus Kelly a great reception on his return to the team, and he immediately looked threatening asDiamonds switched to 3-4-3.

Chris Hope was now playing up front – and was winning everything in the air, as well as showing plenty of vision to lay the ball off to Kelly and Malcolm. On 80 minutes he also showed enough cunning to beat the offside trap and hit a decent half-volley from a long ball forward, but unfortunately it was straight at Mawson.

Shortly afterwards a Foster free kick found Simeon Jackson in space on the left corner of the six yard box, and his dipping shot was only just over the bar.

Diamonds were starting to lay siege to the Town goal, with a powerful goalbound Martin Foster shot blocked by a defender, then a great move involving Foster and Challinor resulting in the ball being laid square to Jackson on the edge of the six yard box. He had to stretch for his shot, and Mawson palmed the ball wide to Lee Tomlin, who hit a great volley that was blocked on the line by Ryan Toulson.

The referee awarded 4 minutes of injury time, and in the third of these Diamonds forced a penalty, as a long ball found Simeon Jackson, near the penalty spot, and as he turned past his marker he was knocked to the ground, and referee Harwood had not hesitation in awarding the spot kick, despite protests from the home team.

Simeon Jackson stepped up to take the kick, and although Mawson went the right way the ball nestled in the left hand corner of the net.

Chris Hope switched back to his day-job for the final minute, and as the final whistle went, first the Halifax players, and then their manager Chris Wilder spent time remonstrating with referee Harwood.

Full-time: Halifax Town 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

The greatly improved performance in the last half-hour saw the Diamonds earn a draw that was some reward for the efforts in that period, even if the first hour had been totally dominated by the home team. After seeing the Diamonds concede many late goals on the road in the past few seasons, it was an excellent reward for the 85 or so travelling fans, who are certainly getting good value from the team on its travels.

Teams:

Halifax Town (Blue / White):

Craig Mawson, Adam Quinn, Tom Kearney (Cpt), Danny Forrest (Greg Yound 88), Andy Campbell (Daryl Taylor 55), Jon Shaw, Ryan Toulson, Jake Wright, Cortez Belle, Anthony Griffith, Steve Torpey (Matt Doughty 84),

Subs Not Used: Steve Bushell, Darryn Stamp

Rushden & Diamonds (Red) Paul Bastock, Simon Rusk (Marcus Kelly 79), Dean Howell, Phil Gulliver, Wayne Hatswell (Capt) (Chris Hope 67), Curtis Osano, Jon Challinor, Martin Foster, Lee Tomlin, Simeon Jackson , Michael Rankine (Michael Malcolm 45),

Subs not used: Paul Nicholls, Tom Shaw

Goals : Steve Torpey, Simeon Jackson (Pen)

Yellow Cards : Wright, Kearney

Referee: Mr C Harwood

Attendance: 1384 (Away approx 85)

Diamonds Man of the Match : Paul Bastock

Weymouth 1 Rushden & Diamonds 2

After Weymouth’s Jefferson Louis had cancelled out Simeon Jackson’s early goal, Diamonds looked to be heading for a fourth consecutive draw, but recent signing Michael Malcolm scored an 83rd minute winner to secure all three points against manager Garry Hill’s former club.

Hill was returning to Weymouth for the first time since his departure in January this year and made two changes from the side which drew against Burton Albion on Saturday. Simeon Jackson partnered Michael Rankine in attack, with Michael Malcolm dropping down to the bench. Captain Chris Hope was unwell during the journey to the south coast, and former Terra Dean Howell took his place in the back four with Wayne Hatswell playing a more central role.

Weymouth had taken three wins and two draws from their last five games and manager Jason Tindall made three changes to the side which defeated Droylsden at the Butchers Arms at the weekend. Midfield duo Nick Crittenden and captain Simon Weatherstone, who was available again after suspension, made the starting eleven replacing James Coutts and Sido Jombarti. John Stewart replaced Jason Matthews in goal. Paolo Vernazza (knee) and Trevor Challis (hamstring), and Narada Bernard remained sidelined with injury.

Diamonds kicked-off towards the Carlsberg Stand and both sides had early efforts, Nick Crittenden shooting wide and Curtis Osano running towards goal and firing a shot over the bar. In fact, the opening exchanges were fairly even with neither side being able to get a shot on target. A booking for Weymouth’s Justin Roberts after 9 minutes for a petty offence was a foretaste of things to come. The defender kicked the ball a couple of yards back after awarding Diamonds a free kick and set the standard by which the referee was going to control the game which finished with another eight names in his notebook.

Shortly after the booking however, Diamonds took the lead. The free kick from Jon Challinor on the right found Andy Burgess at the far post. He headed the ball back across the face of the goal where Simeon Jackson was waiting to fire a shot past keeper John Stewart. As Weymouth tried to counter immediately after the restart, the referee booked Simon Rusk for a fairly innocuous foul on Stuart Beavon and both teams should have been aware that any sort of challenge was going to earn them a card.

Beavon, who had almost joined Diamonds from Didcot Town last year, nearly got the home side back in the game after 13 minutes when he saw Paul Bastock venture out of his goal.  The striker tried to chip the ball towards goal, only to find Wayne Hatswell covering back and heading the ball away to safety. Bastock made a poor clearance minutes later punching the ball straight into the path of Jefferson Louis, but his goal-bound shot was blocked.

Wayne Hatswell and Jon Challinor were then booked for fouls on Stuart Beavon and Kyle Critchell respectively. From the second of the free kicks awarded, Marcus Browning had a free header on goal but went wide of the target. On 29 minutes, Dean Howell’s through ball to Jackson saw the keeper just get his fingertips to knock the ball away from goal. Weymouth continued to press for an equaliser but were being caught offside on several occasions. Browning’s frustration earned him a yellow card on 32 minutes for a foul on Challinor, but within 60 seconds, Weymouth were level. A cross from the left seemed to wrong foot everyone, and although the ball went behind Jefferson Louis, he had time to try an overhead kick which just crept inside the post.

Louis and Beavon were both causing problems for Diamonds and they teed up Simon Weatherstone to shoot just wide. Deep into injury time, Bastock made up for earlier indiscretions with an excellent save, palming a shot from Conal Platt just past the post.

Half-time: Weymouth 1 – 1 Rushden & Diamonds

Andy Burgess had picked up a knock late in the first half, and Lee Tomlin came on to replace him for the second half. Within half a minute of the restart, Dean Howell became the sixth player to be booked for a foul on Nick Crittenden as the referee continued to penalise every challenge. Both side struggled to get going after the break, and it wasn’t until 58 minutes that there was a shot on goal when Conal Platt fired wide from just outside the area. Platt then nearly caught Diamonds by surprise when he unleashed a fierce shot from just inside the area, but Bastock got down well and saved low to his left.

Diamonds first chance of the half came on 66 minutes from a quick free kick by Jon Challinor, but Jackson shot wide. Both Curtis Osano and Lee Tomlin then had shots deflected wide in quick succession. Another foul a few minutes later saw Martin Foster carded for a foul on Platt.

Within minutes of Michael Malcolm coming on for Simeon Jackson, Paul Bastock was the hero again on 75 minutes, tipping over a deflected shot from Stuart Beavon. Moments later though, he could only watch as Louis headed onto the crossbar and out of play. Louis continued to cause problems and had another chance as Weymouth pressed for a winning goal, shooting across the goal and past the post. It wasn’t all Weymouth though. Jon Challinor beat the keeper with a chip, but Justin Roberts cleared off the line. As the ball came back into the area, Challinor challenged the keeper for the loose ball and tapped the ball into the net, but the referee decided the keeper had been fouled. Protests from Michael Rankine resulted in yet another card. Diamonds were having a good spell of pressure and they finally got their rewards on 83 minutes. Osano sent a cross to the far post where Lee Tomlin nodded the ball back. With the keeper stranded, Michael Malcolm guided the ball into the net to give Diamonds a valuable lead.

With 5 minutes remaining, Weymouth made three substitutions within four minutes as they went on the attack. On the stroke of full time, Jefferson Louis had a great chance, but completely mishit his shot with the defence flat-footed. He tried to make amends in injury time, but shot just inches wide with Bastock beaten. That turned out to be the home side’s final effort, although the referee still had time to book Danny Phillips for a foul on Tomlin.

Full-time: Weymouth 1 – 2 Rushden & Diamonds

The home side might have felt that they deserved at least a share of the points, and certainly had enough chances to maintain their five game unbeaten run, but while Paul Bastock made a string of fine saves, they were guilty of squandering several opportunities. Diamonds took full advantage of their chances. With six bookings on the night, it might prove to be an expensive victory but at least the players were able to celebrate with those supporters that had made the long midweek trip. Diamonds face another long away trip on Saturday when they visit Halifax Town.

Teams:

Weymouth – Stewart, Kitamirike (Vickers 88), Weatherstone(c), Roberts, Critchell, Crittenden, Browning (McCallum 85), Robinson, Platt (Phillips 86), Louis, Beavon.

Subs not used: Coutts, Douglas.

Rushden & Diamonds – Bastock, Osano, Gulliver, Hatswell(c), Challinor, Jackson (Malcolm 76), Burgess (Tomlin HT), Rankine, Foster, Howell, Rusk.

Subs not used: Nicholls, Shaw, Beecroft.

Goals:     Jackson 10 (0-1), Louis 33 (1-1), Malcolm 83 (1-2).

Booked:  Roberts 9 (u/s behaviour), Rusk 11 (foul), Hatswell 17 (foul), Challinor (foul), Browning 32 (foul), Howell 46 (foul), Foster 73 (foul), Rankine 80 (dissent), Phillips 90+2 (foul).

Referee:   Mr M Mullarkey (Devon)

Attendance:   1252 (35 away).

Reporters Man of the Match – Wayne Hatswell

By Dave Mason

Rushden & Diamonds 0 Burton Albion 0

Rushden & Diamonds continue to struggle at Nene Park with a point in a goalless draw in the Blue Square Premier, with the scoreline illustrating perfectly the quality of football and entertainment on show, especially in the first half, although things did improve somewhat in the second.

Manager Garry Hill made two changes from the team that started in the draw at Torquay last Saturday, with the suspended Curtis Woodhouse being replaced by Simon Rusk, and striker Michael Malcolm coming straight into the side, with only places on the bench for Simeon Jackson and Lee Tomlin. Rusk started at right back, with Curtis Osano moving forward to right midfield, and Andy Burgess switching back to the left.

Burton manager Nigel Clough made two changes from the starting line-up that beat Torquay, with captain Darren Stride and Andy Corbett both starting the game after being on the bench in midweek. Striker Daryl Clare was still unfit, but Northampton Town loanee Sam Aiston retained his place in the Brewers starting XI.

On a warm afternoon Burton kicked off towards the Peter De Banke terrace.

The first ten minutes were possibly the best of the half, as Diamonds attacked a Burton side playing a back five with Andy Corbett being given the job of trying to mark Andy Burgess. It was Burgess that represented the Diamonds biggest threat during this period, combining well with Wayne Hatswell on a couple of occasions, getting in good crosses from the by-line, but headers from Osano and Rankine didn’t really threaten the Burton goal.

Curtis Osano started to get forward on the right, but apart from a header over the bar and a run towards the box that won a free kick, there was little end product. Michael Malcolm looked lively up front on occasions, but again there was little threat on Poole’s goal.

After 10 minutes Burton started to venture forwards, with Aiston getting to the by-line but his low cross eluded all of his team mates. Diamonds won their first corner on 15 minutes, but like many of the opportunities in the half it was wasted.

The one shot on target of the first half came on 27 minutes, with Burton’s John McGrath hitting a low shot that Bastock gathered. At the other end Diamonds forced a further chance from a free kick, which fell to Phil Gulliver to the right of the goal, but his attempt to emulate Rio Ferdinand only resulted in a ball that squirmed to a grateful defender.

The rest of the first half passed without any incident at all until the one minute into added time – when a lunge from Darren Stride earned him a yellow card.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Burton Albion 0

The second half did deliver rather more than the first, with the Diamonds starting with an increased sense of urgency, and a early chance fell to Andy Burgess, after Rusk and Osano combined on the right, but Burgess could only execute an air shot as Rusk’s cross came over.

Five minutes later it was Burgess the provider, as his cross from the left seemed to offer Michael Rankine an easy header, but the striker could only head wide. There was also a threat through the middle for a while, as Rankine and Malcolm combined, but neither striker could get in a telling shot.

On 51 minutes Malcolm and Osano combined, and the cross from the right from Osano found Burgess in a great position, but his shot was blocked, and as the ball ricocheted around the area Malcolm had two further attempts on goal, but both of these were also blocked.

After this bright start to the half, the Diamonds let the Brewers get more possession for the next quarter, and following a foul by Jon Challinor, an Aaron Webster free kick found Andy Corbett in plenty of space on the right edge of the area, and Bastock was forced to punch the powerful shot clear.

Albion also forced a number of corners, and Sam Aiston was starting to get forwards on the left, but as with the Diamonds there was no end product. Michael Malcolm limped off on 65 minutes to be replaced by Simeon Jackson.

At the other end, another Diamonds break saw Michael Rankine run on to a through ball and hit a dipping shot just over the bar, but whilst that was a creditable attempt, it was Rankine that missed the easiest chance of the game when a great Simeon Jackson run on the left saw a dangerous low cross from the by-line, but the big striker was left holding his head in his hands for the second time in the half as he failed to connect.

After a very quiet period the Diamonds started to get forward better, once Lee Tomlin came on to play wide right, with Curtis Osano dropping back to full back. On one of these attacks a decent run saw Andy Burgess cut into the area, and go down under a challenge which the referee saw as a dive, and blew his whistle just as a follow-up shot from Foster was cleared off the line. Burgess was one of several yellows in the second half, with Simon Rusk especially unlucky to see yellow after Sam Aiston appeared to deliverately run into him to win a free kick.

Jackson continued to find ways through the Brewers defence, and as well as creating a chance for himself, after shaking off a defender he also found space to hit a dangerous low cross that was just behind Andy Burgess.

As the match moved into injury time, Lee Tomlin and Jackson continued to combine well, with Tomlin being fouled on the edge of the box, but again the free kick was unable to produce a telling attempt on goal.

The final whistle signalled the end of another disappointing performance from the Diamonds at Nene Park, in a game that highlighted the goalscoring problems at home, with little to test the opposition keeper. Diamonds have scored just two goals in Northants so far this season. The improvement in the second half indicated that the potential is there, but the Nene Park crowd need to see evidence of this for 90 minutes. It was, at least, the second clean sheet of the season, but those that travel to Weymouth on Tuesday night will hope for a repeat of the level of entertainment seen in recent away games.

Manager Hill was pleased with the performance, and that his side came through a tough test of their character against a team in the top four in the league, and thought that had the chances been taken his side would have won the game. He was also pleased with the consistency in the last four games, and the workrate over the 90 minutes.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Burton Albion 0

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (White) : Paul Bastock, Curtis Osano, Phil Gulliver, Chris Hope(c), Wayne Hatswell, Simon Rusk (Lee Tomlin 71), Martin Foster, Jon Challinor, Andy Burgess, Michael Malcolm (Simeon Jackson 65), Michael Rankine

Subs not used:Paul Nicholls, Tom Shaw, Dean Howell

Burton Albion (Yellow / Black) : Kevin Poole, Andy Corbett, Aaaron Webster, John McGrath, Darren Stride, Jake Edwards, Danny Holmes, Shaun Harrad, John Brayford, Andy Gooding, Sam Aiston (David Farrell 82)

Subs Not Used:Marc Goodfellow, Keith Gilroy, Martin Taylor, Ryan Austin

Yellow Cards : Stride (45), Hatswell (62), Rusk (71), Holmes (85), Burgess (88)

Referee: A Hendley

Attendance: 1807 (Away 313).

Man of the Match sponsored by Breakthrough Breast Cancer Charity : Andy Burgess

Salisbury City 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

In a bad tempered game which culminated in a red card for Curtis Woodhouse and Salisbury’s Michael Fowler, Diamonds came away from their first visit to the Raymond McEnhill Stadium feeling mugged as an injury time goal from substitute Marvin Brown cancelled out Jon Challinor’s 48th minute strike.

Manager Garry Hill made two changes from Tuesday evenings draw against Crawley Town, with Phil Gulliver starting in place of Paul Watson, providing a back row of Chris Hope, Wayne Hatswell with Curtis Osano moving forward on the right to provide support in midfield. Simeon Jackson partnered Michael Rankine up front, while Dean Howell was dropped to the bench. Andy Burgess played right midfield, with Jon Challinor on the left.

Salisbury Manager Nick Holmes made just one change from the side which lost 4-0 at Torquay on Tuesday night. Defender Luke Oliver on loan from Stevenage Borough replaced Tim Bond at the back.

The game was officiated by deaf referee Andrew Rodda and as Diamonds won the toss, they elected to play towards the terrace enclosing the visiting fans. Both sides had early corners but neither caused any real problems for the defenders. Rankine had a shot blocked after some good work by Jon Challinor, while Salisbury’s Robbie Matthews headed wide from a free kick after Phil Gulliver had fouled leading scorer Matt Tubbs just outside the area. A small scuffle broke out as Matthews claimed he had been fouled and it was a taste of things to come. Neither side was able to take control of the midfield as Salisbury pressed to continue their unbeaten home run.

After 19 minutes, Diamonds had a couple of good chances to take the lead. Woodhouse found the keeper off his line but chipped the ball wide, while a Rankine shot rebound off a defender. The ball was chipped back over the stranded Ryan Clarke but lacked any strength and the keeper managed to retrieve the ball before it crossed the line. The height of recent signing Andy Sandell was causing some concern for Diamonds, but they appeared to be getting on top as the half progressed. Andy Burgess was clearly fouled on the edge of the area in another attack, but no free kick was awarded. Curtis Osano went in strongly to regain possession, but promptly received a yellow card for his challenge. Burgess continued his argument with the referee as the game progressed and when another foul on Simeon Jackson went unnoticed, he also went into the book.

Burgess was starting to put in some good crosses from the right and Curtis Woodhouse, who had been fairly anonymous, headed over at the far post. Neither side was really threatening, although Salisbury had a chance right at the end of the half after a fierce shot from Tubbs was saved by Bastock. Darrell Clarke followed up but his shot was blocked.

Half-time: Salisbury City 0 – 0 Rushden & Diamonds

Salisbury’s Michael Fowler tried to lob the keeper in the opening moments of the second half after some good movement between Andy Sandell and Darrell Clarke provided an opening, but his effort went wide. Immediately from the goal kick, Diamonds took the lead. Bastock’s long ball upfield was flicked on by Rankine leaving Jon Challinor in acres of space. After striding towards Ryan Clarke in the City goal, he calmly placed the ball wide of the keeper and into the net.

The goal seemed to give Diamonds confidence as their control and passing improved. Simeon Jackson nearly caught out Jon Bass after 54 minutes after a poor back pass to his keeper, but Clarke managed to save the defenders embarrassment. Diamonds certainly looked to be on top with the home side getting caught offside on numerous occasions as the defence appeared to be working as one. Sandell sent a good ball into the area but Wayne Hatswell made no mistake in clearing the ball away for a corner.

After Simeon Jackson had a shot on goal saved after 65 minutes, City realised they were In danger of falling further behind, so brought on Marvin Brown and Liam Feeney to change things around. Diamonds were still having the better chances, and Hatswell’s ball up to Burgess at the far post saw the ball played back across the goal with no-one to poke the ball home, eventually being cleared for a corner.

On 70 minutes however, a moment of madness seemed to dictate the course of the game. Curtis Woodhouse slipped close to the centre circle, and shielded the ball as he tried to retain possession. Salisbury’s Michael Fowler came in with a strong challenge which resulted in a melee involving virtually all of the outfield players. As the players were separated, the referee consulted with his assistants and sent off both Woodhouse and Fowler.

After the incident, Jackson was brought off to be replaced by midfielder Tom Shaw, leaving Diamonds to play with just Rankine in attack. The sending off seemed to give Salisbury added impetus as Diamonds set their sights on defending their lead for the remaining 20 minutes. Salisbury certainly played as if they had an extra man. Marvin Brown sent in a dangerous cross which the keeper managed to deal with, while Liam Feeney sent in a curling shot on 76 minutes from the edge of the area, which Bastock just managed to tip past the post.

Brown, Matthews and Prince started to push forward for Salisbury in the final five minutes as they tried to preserve their unbeaten home record. In a rare attack for Diamonds, Burgess tried to take the ball forward but shot high and wide. Marvin Brown was still causing problems, and Wayne Hatswell was lucky not to be penalised after appearing to push Brown in the penalty area with 2 minutes remaining. Matthews then fired a fierce shot at goal, but Bastock was perfectly positioned to make the save look easy. As the game entered 4 minutes of injury time, Lee Tomlin replaced the tireless Rankine in order to run down some time, but it wasn’t enough. After the ball was pumped forward in the 93rd minute, Robbie Matthews knocked the ball down to Marvin Brown who slipped his marker and found space to fire a right foot drive past Bastock.

Full-time: Salisbury City 1 – 1 Rushden & Diamonds

Despite dominating large periods of the games, Diamonds still failed to come away with the three points with a lapse in the defence in added time proving to be their undoing. Although both side played the final 20 minutes with ten men, it was the home side that was least affected and it looked as if they had an extra man. The frustration of conceding such a late goal, when the game should have been in the bag seemed to boil over to the touch line at the final whistle as tempers flared. The loss of two points keeps Diamonds down in 17th position. Next Saturday sees Diamonds entertain Burton Albion at Nene Park with Diamonds needing to get some positive results before they lose touch with the front runners.

Teams:

Salisbury City – R.Clarke, Bass (Prince 77), Robinson, Cook(c), Fowler, Turk, Tubbs (Brown 67), Matthews, D.Clarke (Feeney 67), Sandell, Oliver.

Subs not used: Bartlett, Bond.

Rushden & Diamonds – Bastock, Osano, Gulliver, Hope(c), Hatswell, Challinor, Woodhouse, Jackson (Shaw 73), Burgess, Rankine (Tomlin 90+1), Foster (Howell 84).

Subs not used: Nicholls, Lambley.

Goals:     Challinor 48 (0-1); Brown 90+3 (1-1).

Booked:  Osano 29 (foul); Burgess 33 (dissent), Hope 50 (foul).

Sent off:  Fowler (foul); Woodhouse 71 (v/conduct).

Referee:   Mr A.Rodda (Devon)

Attendance:   1538 (approx 125 away).

Reporters Man of the Match – Andy Burgess.

By Dave Mason

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Crawley Town 1

Substitute Simeon Jackson gave Diamonds a share of the points with an 82nd minute equaliser after they had fallen behind to a first half strike from Guy Madjo.

Manager Garry Hill named just one change from the side which had beaten York five days earlier, with Paul Watson replacing Abdou El Kholti at left back. Jon Challinor continued in his role up front with Michael Rankine, in preference to Lee Tomlin and Simeon Jackson, both of whom were named on the bench.

Crawley Manager Steve Evans had been manager of Boston United when they pipped Garry Hill’s Dagenham & Redbridge side to the Conference title in 2002 in controversial fashion. Although Hill had come up against Evans while in charge at Hornchurch, the meeting added some extra spice to the fixture. Crawley had drawn at home to Burton Albion at the weekend, and Evans also made just the one change, with former Doncaster Rovers striker Jon-Paul Pittman replacing Magno Silva Vieria. Former Diamonds Ronnie Bull, Jamie Cook and James Krause all started, while Glenn Wilson was on the bench after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Both sides tested the keeper in the opening moments, with Jon Challinor’s shot straight at Ashley Bayes, while Guy Madjo’s effort was blocked by Wayne Hatswell. Crawley started to take control of the game, causing problems for the home defence in the opening ten minutes. Martin Foster was guilty of giving the ball away cheaply allowing Jamie Cook to send a fierce shot into the goalmouth. Bastock seemed to mishandle with the ball falling into the path of Madjo, but the striker missed the target and struck the ball onto the post.

On 13 minutes, more defensive frailties allowed Crawley to take the lead as Diamonds defence was torn apart again. Dannie Bullman played the ball out to Jon-Paul Pittman on the right, and fired the ball past the onrushing Bastock at the near post. Guy Madjo running in made sure the ball cross the line from about two yards out.

Crawley continued to look dangerous as Cook and Madjo made surging runs at the defence. Pittman should have done better when he had some space following a Pablo Mills free kick, but miss-hit his shot to let Diamonds off the hook. Challinor and Rankine looked ineffective up front, but Challinor did force a one handed save from Bayes after a cross from Dean Howell, while Rankine had a shot deflected just wide of the post.

Andy Burgess had made a slow start but started to cause the Red Devils more problems as the game progressed providing support on the right. His cross to Wayne Hatswell caused some panic, but a quick break then saw Thomas Pinault play the ball into the path of Cook. Bastock was alert and spread himself and smothered the ball. Guy Madjo had the ball in the net again on 27 minutes following another quick and incisive break, but the linesman rather dubiously ruled offside to the relief of the home fans.

Diamonds started to get into the game more as the half drew to a close. Andy Burgess shot too close to the keeper to cause Bayes much trouble, then following a good one-two with Curtis Osano, sent in another cross from the right which was just too high for those waiting in the middle.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 – 1 Crawley Town

While Crawley dominated the first half, it was Diamonds who started to take control at the start of the second period. Runs down the flank from Osano and Howell were starting to hurt Crawley as they pressed for an equaliser. Howell was just unable to convert a cross from Osano, while Chris Hope nearly got on the end of a Burgess cross. Another great cross from Burgess on 57 minutes saw the ball skim across the goalmouth but no-one was on hand to provide the finishing touch.

Crawley were content to defend, although their forwards were quick on the break. Lee Tomlin came on for Howell just before the hour mark providing a three man attack, with Martin Foster moving left. Rankine headed just wide, and Tomlin laid a great ball out to Burgess, but a great tackle from James Krause denied Burgess the chance to get on the score-sheet.

The Devils had the occasional foray out of defence, Bullman’s 30 yard shot deflecting for a corner, while Pittman played on after being given offside earning him a yellow card. A Burgess back-heel set up Osano to run down the right flank, but again the ball was cleared away. Diamonds could sense that it was only a matter of time before they were rewarded and Simeon Jackson was introduced with 17 minutes remaining, with Challinor dropping back to midfield.

Challinor headed wide and Hatswell headed into the side netting but still Diamonds couldn’t get the ball in the net. They had to be aware of the quick break and Madjo chipped the ball over Bastock into the net on 80 minutes, ignoring the whistle for offside, and earning him a yellow card.

After all the hard work in the second half, Diamonds pressure finally paid off after 82 minutes when Devils captain Tyrone Thompson made a mistake at the back. Simeon Jackson pounced on the loose ball, ran towards goal and slotted the ball past the keeper. It looked as if Diamonds might go on the win the game. Osano made another good run on the right, but his cross was just too high for Burgess although it appeared Michael Rankine was impeded. His protests saw him enter the referee’s notebook. Lee Tomlin shot just wide from 25 yards, and as the game entered 5 minutes of added time, his powerful cross was parried by the keeper to Tom Shaw, but his shot was blocked by some desperate defending. As Crawley tried to run down time, their final substitution took just under two minutes as Guy Madjo strolled off. Since he had already been booked, he was extremely fortunate not to have been given a red card, although manager Steve Evans was sent from the dugout for his part in the fiasco. The time-wasting was enough however for the points to be shared.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 – 1 Crawley Town

Diamonds second half performance was a vast improvement on the first half, and if they had played as well in the first period, they would probably have come away with all three points. As it was, a draw was probably a fair result over the 90 minutes. Diamonds travel down to Salisbury this coming Saturday for their first visit to the Raymond McEnhill Stadium. The previous meeting between the clubs on 24th April 1996 at the old Victoria Park Ground finished 2-0 in favour of Diamonds as they went on the gain promotion to the Conference the following week.

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds – Bastock, Osano, Watson (Jackson 73), Hope(c), Hatswell, Challinor, Woodhouse, Burgess, Rankine, Foster (Shaw 78), Howell (Tomlin 58).

Subs not used: Nicholls, Gulliver.

Crawley Town – Bayes, Bull, Mills, Stevens, Thompson (c), Madjo (Wilson 90+6), Bulman, Pittman (Dubois 89), Pinault, Cook (Evans 81), Krause.

Subs not used: Clapham, Silva Vieria.

Goals:     Madjo 13 (0-1); Jackson 82 (1-1).

Booked:  Challinor 16 (foul); Pittman 66 (u/conduct);

Madjo 80 (u/conduct); Rankine 85 (dissent);

Tomlin 90 (foul).

Referee:  Mr O.Langford (Staffs)

Attendance:  1534 (60 away).

Footballcv Man of the Match – Andy Burgess.

By Dave Mason

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