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

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