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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