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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