Rushden & Diamonds 5 Solihull Moors 0

Rushden & Diamonds clinched their first win at Nene Park since the first home game of the season as they defeated Solihull Moors to reach the first round proper of the FA Cup with a comfortable win. The five goals equalled their tally in the league at Nene Park so far this season, and several further chances were squandered against a tiring Moors team. News that they will host Macclesfield Town in the next round will have reached the dressing room shortly after the game.

Garry Hill was orchestrating from the South Stand, and he made a single change from the team that started in the draw at Exeter last Saturday, with Curtis Osano replacing Wayne Hatswell in defence. Loan signing Craig McAllister continued up front alongside Simeon Jackson.

Solihull Moors manager Bob Faulkner was forced to make further changes to an already injury hit squad, with Dave Morrison sidelined after injury on Tuesday night. He was able to restore Theo Streete to his place in the back line, and also brought in recent signing Andy Ducros. This meant the Moors played a 4-5-1 formation with striker Danny Davidson supported by his midfield.

On a grey autumn afternoon Diamonds kicked off towards the Airwair stand, with the opening exchanges fairly even as Moors harried the Diamonds defence, and their goalkeeper Matt Ghent impressed with some early saves. An early chance fell to Peter Faulds but his shot was waywards.

On 14 minutes Diamonds almost took the lead, as a great tackle by Andy Burgess saw him win the ball and feed to Simeon Jackson on the left hand edge of the area. After the striker managed to get the ball from under his feet he hit a great curling shot that hit the right hand angle of post and bar and flew away from goal.

On 17 minutes Diamonds did take the lead, as good work by Marcus Kelly on the left saw him hit a looping cross which flew over the defence to Andy Burgess on the right, he combined with Curtis Osano to get the ball back over to Marcus Kelly, in space about 15 yards out on the left hand corner of the area. His shot took a significant deflection off Richard Follett, and past Matt Ghent into the net, but Marcus will surely claim the goal.

Dean Howell was looking threatening on the left, getting past his man and to the by-line on more than one occasion, but the two strikers were not able to get on the end of any of a series of dangerous looking crosses. Other attempts on goal were foiled by a combination of good defending, poor finishing and the referee’s whistle, with Phil Gulliver almost adding a second until halted by the that whistle.

Moors were still threatening on occasion, with Peter Faulds missing his second great chance of the afternoon as he got onto the end of a cross from the Darren Middleton.

Diamonds had a claim for a penalty in the 33rd minute when Phil Gulliver was knocked down by Lee Collins.

On 35 minutes Simeon Jackson might have done better when an Andy Burgess ball into the box flicked off Theo Streete, hit Jon Challinor and fell to Jacko, but his shot was easily smothered. He had a better chance on 42 minutes, when a cross-shot from 35 yards by Andy Burgess seemed to take Ghent by surprise, and he could only parry to Jackson, but rather than lift it back over the goalkeeper he went for power, and the shot rebounded off the keeper and back into play.

On the stroke of half-time Diamonds got the two goal cushion they perhaps deserved when Andy Burgess fed Jon Challinor in the right channel, and his cross looked to be heading straight to Jackson for a tap in, before Lee Collins stretched out a foot to knock the ball past his own goalkeeper for an own goal.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 2 Solihull Moors 0

With the second goal seeming to have knocked the stuffing out of the Moors team, the second half was mostly one-way traffic.

Marcus Kelly made a great 45 yard run through the Moors defence, and fed Simeon Jackson, whose cross deflected pass everybody in the area. Curtis Osano started finding more space on the right, and Ghent did well to save a Jon Challinor shot when he was fed by Osano.

On 61 minutes any lingering doubt about the result disappeared as Simeon Jackson turned provider as he crossed from the left to find a stooping Andy Burgess in plenty of space to head the ball home from 6 yards.

Jon Challinor almost made it four a few minutes later as he hit a dipping shot which hit the top of the net, but that only delayed things until the 73 minute when a Marcus Kelly corner on the left was flicked on to an unmarked Phil Gulliver at the far post, who fired home from close range.

It then looked only a matter of time before the Diamonds got their fifth, to equal their tally of goals at Nene Park this season. One of the most glaring misses seen at Nene Park saw Andy Burgess fail to tap in a Michael Rankine cross from the left, and as he buried his head in his shirt to hide his embarrassment the Moors midfielder Lee Ayres was shown a red card, presumably for something he said about the fact that Burgess was not flagged offside.

After a Jon Challinor goal had been ruled out for offside, and Michael Malcolm had wasted a great chance with a wayward shot when Andy Burgess was in the clear,it appeared the fifth goal may not come, but on 85 minutes perhaps the goal of the game came, as Michael Rankine was fed by a great through ball by Jon Challinor in the right hand channel, and he hit a great shot into the left hand corner of the net to bring back memories of his FA Cup exploits last season against Yeovil.

Chances for further goals went begging, but Peter Faulds missed what was possibly an easier chance than Andy Burgess had squandered, as he scooped over from a couple of yards with the goal gaping, Neither the Moors players nor their fans let their heads drop as they saw their FA Cup dreams end for another season.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 5 Solihull Moors 0

Although the attacking performance was the best seen at Nene Park this season, it remains to be seen whether such form can be repeated against Conference opposition, or against League Two Macclesfield in a fortnight, but there can be no complaints as the team advanced into the next round.

With the prospect of a replay in the Midlands now removed, the Diamonds will have an extra couple of days to prepare for the visit of Oxford United on Thursday night in the televised game.

Teams

 

Rushden & Diamonds (White) : Paul Nicholls, Curtis Osano, Dean Howell, Chris Hope (capt), Phil Gulliver, Jon Challinor, Andy Burgess, Martin Foster (Tom Shaw 64), Marcus Kelly, Craig McAllister (Michael Rankine 70), Simeon Jackson (Michael Malcolm 70)

Subs Not Used Paul Bastock, Wayne Hatswell

Solihull Moors (Yellow / Blue): Matthew Ghent, Richard Follett, Peter Faulds, Lee Collins (Capt), Theo Streete (Dale Anderson 70), Tim Gould, Lee Ayres, Darren Middleton, Daniel Davidson, Andy Ducros (Jason Moore 60), Carl Motteram (Phil Midworth)

Subs Not Used : Joszef Jakab, Adam Rachel

Goals : Marcus Kelly, Lee Collins (OG), Andy Burgess, Phil Gulliver, Michael Rankine

Yellow Cards : Lee Collins, Lee Ayres

Red Cards : Lee Ayres

Referee: Mr R P Whitton

Attendance: 1076 (Away 82).

Man of the Match chosen by the Evans Family : Andy Burgess

Exeter City 2 Rushden & Diamonds 2

Diamonds had to settle for a draw in an entertaining game at St.James’ Park. Simeon Jackson scored twice early in the second half after a Wayne Hatswell own goal had given the home side a first half lead. Jamie Mackie got the home side level again, with Diamonds holding out under pressure during the closing moments.

 

With manager Garry Hill still serving his suspension, assistant Kevin Hales again took charge. There was just one change to the starting line-up from the previous Saturday’s defeat against Forest Green Rovers, with Phil Gulliver replacing Simon Rusk in the back four. Gulliver and Wayne Hatswell line-up in the centre, while Chris Hope moved out to the right side. Abdelhalim El Kholti had recovered from injury to take his place on the bench. Midfielder Jon Challinor was returning to his former club for the first time since his departure in the summer.

 

Grecians manager Paul Tisdale made two changes from his side which drew 0 – 0 at Northwich Victoria last weekend. Adam Stansfield and Lee Elam were dropped to the bench, with Wayne Carlisle and Jamie Mackie starting.

 

Both sides started cautiously with an equal amount of possession, but Diamonds were pushing forward and had a couple of early chances. Andy Burgess had a shot deflected for a corner in the opening few minutes, and then had a really good chance to open the scoring on 12 minutes when he headed over Dean Howell’s cross from 10 yards after the full back had made a surging run down the left.

 

Almost immediately, Exeter took the lead. From the goal kick, Richard Logan took the ball into the Diamonds half, and sent a through ball right to Jamie Mackie. His cross was met by Wayne Hatswell, who was caught in two minds and headed the ball past Paul Nicholls to give the home side the lead.

 

Until the goal, Diamonds had been holding their own, and the home side seemed fairly lacking in ideas during the opening 25 minutes. Wayne Hatswell was having a private battle with Jamie Mackie which earned him a yellow card when he brought him down 10 yards outside the area. Matthew Gill’s free-kick found Dean Moxey, but Nicholls was alert and saved at the near post. Moments later, Nicholls was guilty of a poor clearance throwing out to Matthew Gill. The midfielder ran towards goal, but both Challinor and Gulliver challenged and cleared, the referee ignoring appeals for a penalty.

 

Andy Burgess had started off on the right side of midfield, but after switching to the left side just before the half hour, Diamonds looked far more dangerous. On 29 minutes, Exeter were caught napping from a free-kick. Howell passed to Marcus Kelly who ran towards goal and shot from 25 yards, striking the post. Diamonds were having their best period with keeper Andy Marriott saving Chris Hope’s flicked header, Matthew Taylor blocking a Challinor shot and Simeon Jackson heading over from an Andy Burgess cross.  At the other end, George Friend headed wide but Diamonds continued to press forward with Challinor heading wide just before the half time whistle.

 

Half-time: Exeter City 1 – 0 Rushden & Diamonds

 

Encouraged by the final fifteen minutes of the first half, Burgess continued on the left, with Kelly seemingly having more freedom on the right. Chris Hope was moving forward at every opportunity. Martin Foster received a yellow card from referee Darren Sheldrake for an innocuous challenge, having been warned in the first half.

 

Diamonds got back on level terms after 52 minutes when Phil Gulliver headed the ball forward from the halfway line. Craig McAllister flicked the ball on for Simeon Jackson to head past Marriott. They were starting to take control and were first to nearly every ball. Just three minutes later, Jackson got clear on the right and passed back to Chris Hope who was supporting well. Hope’s cross was controlled well by Kelly in the area, and he turned and shot against the foot of the post, the ball bouncing out to safety.

 

Moments later on 56 minutes with the Exeter defence under siege, the ball was played forward to Simeon Jackson in the area who had space to fire a shot at goal. Marriott did well to block the shot, but the ball rebounded straight back to Jackson who made no mistake with the second effort. Diamonds were playing the best football they had played all season and every time they went forward, looked likely to get another goal.

 

Chris Hope had a header blocked as Diamonds tried to make the game safe, but on 64 minutes against the run of play, another defensive error handed Exeter an equaliser. A long ball out of defence led to hesitation between Phil Gulliver and Paul Nicholls. Jamie Mackie nipped in and shot past Nicholls, his shot striking the post. Wayne Carlisle followed up on the right side and fired in a shot which went across the goal and found Mackie on the other side and fired a shot past the helpless Nicholls from 12 yards.

 

The goal gave the home side more confidence and ended Diamonds dominance during the opening period of the second half. Challinor had a shot deflected for a corner on 66 minutes, but Matthew Gill shot wide for the home side and Nicholls did well to gather a dangerous cross from Jon Richardson.

 

Diamonds came under more pressure during the final 10 minutes, and Chris Hope became the third player to enter the referee’s notebook after kicking the ball away. Adam Stansfield came on for George Friend as Exeter put three up front, and it was Stansfield who had a great chance five minutes from time but fired his shot across goal after getting clear on the right.  Stansfield had another chance as the clock ticked down, slicing a shot wide. Steve Basham came on to provide even more firepower and the former Oxford striker had the chance to get the winner in the 89th minute. Adam Stansfield provided him with the perfect cross, but an amazing one handed save from Paul Nicholls denied him a goal. In the final few seconds, Rankine blocked another shot from Basham and Diamonds were relieved when the final whistle blew.

 

Full-time: Exeter City 2 – 2 Rushden & Diamonds

 

Two defensive errors cost Diamonds dearly in a game they should have gone on to win after Jackson’s double in four second half minutes. At times, they played some of their best football of the season and when Andy Burgess switched to left, they looked far more dangerous going forward. They could have got another before the Grecian’s equalised, but with the home side putting Diamonds under a lot of pressure in the final few minutes, perhaps a draw was a fair result. For those that braved the long trip down to Devon, it was an encouraging performance and one hopes they can improve on their home displays in next Saturday’s FA Cup tie against Solihull Moors.

 

Teams:

Exeter City – Marriott, Friend (Stansfield 79), Gill (c), Mackie, Carlisle, Cozic, Edwards, Taylor, Richardson, Logan (Basham 85), Moxey.

Subs not used: Jones, Tully, Elam.

 

Rushden & Diamonds – Nicholls, Gulliver, Hope (c), Hatswell (El Kholti 74), Challinor, McAllister (Rankine 78), Jackson, Burgess, Foster, Kelly (Shaw 90), Howell.

Subs not used: Bastock, Malcolm.

 

Goals: Hatswell-og 13 (1-0), Jackson 52 (1-1),

           Jackson 56 (1-2), Mackie 64 (2-2).

 

Booked: Hatswell 26 (foul), Foster 50 (foul),

              Hope 81 (unsporting behaviour).

 

Referee: Mr D.Sheldrake (Surrey)

 

Attendance: 3106 (55 away).

 

Reporters Man of the Match: Marcus Kelly.

 

 

By Dave Mason

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Forest Green Rovers 2

Rushden & Diamonds continue to under-achieve at Nene Park as they lost to Forest Green Rovers at home for the first time in their history. Although the team put on an improved attacking performance, it was sloppy defending that cost the two goals, and at least two other glaring opportunities were spurned by Rovers.

Stand-In Manager Kevin Hales made two changes from the team that started in the defeat at Cambridge on Tuesday, with the injured Curtis Osano being replaced at right back by Jon Challinor, whose place in midfield was taken by Andy Burgess. New Loan signing Craig McAllister started up front in place of Michael Rankine.

Forest Green manager Jim Harvey made two changes from the starting line-up that beat Northwich Victoria, with John Hardiker and Jamie Pitman returning to the side,

On a mild autumn evening Diamonds kicked off towards the Peter De Banke terrace, and immediately looked to have a greater attacking threat than in recent games, with Craig McAllister impressing on his debut, winning more than his share in the air, and often finding his strike partner Jackson. At the back Wayne Hatswell stood out, as in the first quarter the Rovers strike force failed to live up to its reputation.

Marcus Kelly had some initial success on the left, with one dangerous low cross flashing across the area eluding everybody. One McAllister knock-down from a Challinor throw found Simon Rusk on the edge of the box, but his powerful shot flew wide to the left of the goal. On 16 minutes a Kelly flick-on found McAllister, who headed on to Jackson, but the strikers shot was just wide of the left-hand post.

Three minutes later an Andy Burgess shot just cleared the bar after a poor clearance fell to him. At this point the Diamonds looked to have the strongest attack seen at Nene Park all season, with Rovers struggling to get into the game. Hatswell turned provider as head read a poor throw in, and quickly knocked the ball upfield for McAllister to run onto, but an alert Robinson left his area to clear to touch.

Jackson then fed McAllister, and his well hit shot was palmed wide by Robinson for a corner. From that cornet Chris Hope headed the ball across the box from the near post, and although the ball was cleared to Jon Challinor, he hit a powerful shot just wide.

Apart from a couple of raids by Les Afful, Rovers weren’t in the game in the first twenty minutes, but from a Tonkin throw on 22 minutes Lee Dodgson worked the ball across the area, finding Les Afful on his own, but with his back to goal. Rather than a simple backheel into the net, he chose to try to turn, but the ball became tangled under his feet, and he could only manage to move the ball towards the penalty spot rather than the goal. This however, was a sign that there was a real threat from Rovers, and a minute later a Pitman free-kick found Fleetwood, whose shot was well saved by Nicholls.

Shortly afterwards Anthony Tonkin tried his luck from 35 yards, forcing Nicholls to tip the shot over the bar. Although the resultant corner was fielded by Nicholls, his clearance went skywards to midway inside the Diamonds half ,where Simon Clist knocked the ball forwards for Fleetwood to run onto as the Diamonds defenders appealed for offside – but the striker had run from well onside, and was straight through on goal. Rather unselfishly for a striker who has scored so many goals, rather than taking on a good opportunity himself, he squared to the unmarked Mark Beesley who had a simple tap-in for the goal on the half-hour mark.

Diamonds continued to have a decent threat up-front, with a Chris Hope header from a corner sailing just over the bar, but the half ended with Rovers rather fortunate to be ahead.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Forest Green Rovers 1

The second half didn’t deliver the same level of entertainment as the first, with Rovers getting the upper hand, and twice looking certain to increase their lead, as first Beesley had a shot well saved by Nicholls, and Fleetwood couldn’t convert the rebound, and then Jones missed a excellent chance from the resultant corner. Chris Hope also came to the rescue as a Wayne Hatswell mistake appeared to give Fleetwood a clear run on goal,

Although the Diamonds didn’t look as threatening up-front in the second half, Simeon Jackson continued to look for openings, even when he ended up offside on several occasions, and it was this determination that saw him force a corner on the right on 68 minutes. The corner was taken short to Martin Foster, and his cross was met by Chris Hope, with a powerful header thumping against the post, but an alert Simeon Jackson was there to net the rebound.

Rovers immediately responded, and could have retaken the lead straight from the kick-off as they continued to run at the Diamonds defence. A long ball found substitute Danny Carey-Bertram apparently free to run on goal, but a great covering tackle by Chris Hope cleared the danger. The defender then appeared to almost put into his own net from a corner, with Martin Foster clearing off the line.

Craig McAllister left the pitch to a warm reception, and it appeared that Diamonds had settled for a draw, but 4 minutes from time Lee Dodgson fed Danny Carey-Bertram in acres of space on the right of the area, and he was able to find Mark Beesley also unmarked in the area for his second tap-in goal of the game.

Diamonds then pressed for an equaliser, with Michael Malcolm making a dangerous run into the area on the right, but he chose to shoot straight at Robinson rather than looking for a team mate. Chris Hope then had a great chance to earn a point as a free kick found him in space in the area, but his shot was straight at Robinson.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Forest Green Rovers 2

Although the attacking performance was the best seen at Nene Park this season, it was the defence that caused concern as Rovers were able to find a number of gaps by playing the ball on the ground around or through it, and getting their strikers into space in the area which could easily have resulted in three or four goals to the away side.

With a longer break before the long trip to Exeter next Saturday, the R&DFC staff will be looking to further familiarise Craig McAllister with his new team mates, and build on some of the positive signs up front, as well as keeping a look out for the FA Cup draw on Monday.

Rushden & Diamonds (White) : Paul Nicholls, Jon Challinor, Dean Howell, Chris Hope (capt), Wayne Hatswell, Simon Rusk (Tom Shaw 70), Andy Burgess, Martin Foster, Marcus Kelly(Michael Malcolm 84), Simeon Jackson, Craig McAllister (Michael Rankine 76)

Subs not used:Paul Bastock, Phil Gulliver

Forest Green Rovers (Green): Ryan Robinson, Anthony Tonkin (Mark Preece 45), Darren Jones, Chris Giles (capt), Jamie Pitman (Jonathan Smith 60), Mark Beesley, Simon Clist, John Hardiker, Mark Fleetwood, Les Afful (Daniel Carey-Bertram 56), Lee Dodgson

Subs not used: Terry Burton, Adriano Rigoglioso

Goals : Beesley (32), Jackson (68), Beesley (86)

Yellow Cards : Jamie Pitman

Referee: Ms Amy Rayner

Attendance: 1381 (Away 62).

Man of the Match chosen by Colin Wright : Simeon Jackson

Cambridge United 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Cambridge United 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Rushden & Diamonds saw their unbeaten streak of nine games come to an end in front of the Setanta TV cameras at the Abbey Stadium. After a very poor first half the game livened up in the second, and after a great save by Danny Potter for Cambridge, it was his opposite number Paul Nicholls who will be avoiding watching the TV highlights after he could only push a header from Scott Rendell into his own net.

Manager Garry Hill made one unenforced change to the team that won at Altrincham on Saturday, with Andy Burgess being replaced by Simon Rusk.

Cambridge manager Jimmy Quinn made several changes, starting with ex-Diamonds Mark Peters, Mark Albrighton, Lee Fortune-West and Marvin Robinson. Lee Boylan returned to the bench alongside leading scorer Scott Rendell in a line up with apparent attacking intent.

On an autumnal evening Cambridge kicked off towards the home end, and it was the home side that quickly started to dominate. Their two wide players were finding acres of space on the wings, with Courtney Pitt getting in a succession of decent looking crosses towards the two tall strikers. Paul Nicholls was struggling to field these, and was resorting to punching the ball clear, only to see it quickly return into his area.

Cambridge continued to dominate the first quarter, with Mark Peters being allowed a free header as he came up for a corner, but he could only direct his effort wide.

On 20 minutes, Simon Rusk received another booking for a foul tackle on Leo Fortune-West taking his tally for the season to six.

As the game reached the half-hour the Cambridge threat began to diminish, with the Diamonds midfield getting to grips with the Cambridge style of play, and their attacking threat receded to the level shown by the Diamonds strikeforce, who failed to force Potter into any kind of a save in the first half.

So the half ended with a whimper, and thoughts turned to how much of an improvement might be possible in the second half.

Half-time: Cambridge United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

As had been witnessed several times in recent weeks. R&DFC are capable of transforming themselves at half-time – and again that was the case. Suddenly there was a real attacking threat, and the Cambridge defence began to look stretched.

Simeon Jackson won a free kick on the edge of the area, and a good delivery from Kelly was headed out by Mark Peters, and as the ball returned into the area it was Leo Fortune-West that helped out his defence by outmuscling Michael Rankine. Shots from Rusk, Jackson and Rankine were all blocked without reaching Potter, but on 53 minutes good work by Michael Rankine found Simon Rusk in space on the edge of the area, and as his shot took a big deflection Danny Potter made a great save low to his right. The save was even more impressive given this was Potter’s first real save of the game.

Shortly afterwards Marvin Robinson appeared clean through, but his touch let him down, and he fell under a challenge from Howell. Leo Fortune-West had a similar opportunity a minute later, and he was fouled by Wayne Hatswell.

On the hour mark Diamonds forced a rare corner, and again Leo Fortune-West helped out his defence by clearing the threat. A free kick move saw Simeon Jackson find space in the area, but he dwelt on the ball long enough for Michael Morrison to lunge and block his shot. Marcus Kelly found enough space in the area to get in one of the best headed attempts on goal from the Diamonds, but it went just wide.

Perhaps it became clear that Diamonds were unlikely to score on the night when a Michael Rankine attempt on goal on the 77th minute cleared the home end and headed in the direction of the choice of Chinese or Indian restaurants in the Newmarket Road.

By this point U’s manager Quinn had shown he was prepared to throw on all three of his substitutes in quick succession in an attempt to reverse the tide, and indeed this had the desired effect, as first Reed, then Rendell then Boylan all had decent attempts on goal – as did Darren Quinton.

On 80 minutes a long kick by Potter fell to Boylan, who laid it back to Gleeson, and his cross was met the head of Scott Rendell and although well directed it looked like Paul Nicholls could easily deal with it, but he only managed to palm it with both hands into the side of the net.

After the goal Garry Hill quickly brought on three substitutes, but the impact these had contrasted with the positive impact seen from the Cambridge substitutes earlier. In fact apart from a couple of attempts by Burgess, on his 250th appearance for the club, to perform tricks in front of the TV camera, neither he, Tomlin or Shaw made any impact, although Jon Challinor did have one attempt on goal which flew just wide. Simeon Jackson found his way into the box, but could only shoot wide under pressure from Mark Albrighton on the corner of the six-yard box.

At the other end a great cross from Pitt was met by Rendell, but his shot was just wide of wrapping up the game.

The U’s managed to soak up any final pressure from the Diamonds, and the game ended with victory for the home side.

Full-time: Cambridge United 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

The improved performance in the second half once again showed that the team has the potential if only it can be applied for 90 minutes, and arguably the Cambridge winner came against the run of play, However, with manager Hill handing over the reins for the next fortnight, the priority for his stand-in will be to ensure that the team bounce back as soon as Friday night against in-form Forest Green.

Teams:

Cambridge United (Amber / Black): Danny Potter, Michael Morrison, Mark Albrighton,Mark Peters, Dan Gleeson, Rob Wolleaston, Darren Quinton, Mark Convery (Stephen Reed 66), Courtney Pitt, Marvin Robinson (Lee Boylan 76), Leo Fortune-West (Scott Rendell 72)

Subs Not Used :Stephen Smith, Gavin Hoyte

Rushden & Diamonds (Red)

Paul Nicholls, Curtis Osano, Dean Howell, Chris Hope, Wayne Hatswell, Simon Rusk (Tom Shaw 86), Martin Foster, Jon Challinor, Marcus Kelly (Andy Burgess 84), Michael Rankine (Lee Tomlin 84), Simeon Jackson.

Subs Not Used : Paul Bastock, Phil Gulliver

Goal : Scott Rendell (80)

Yellow Cards : Rusk (21),

Referee: Mr R Fletcher

Attendance: 3009 (Away approx 263)

Diamonds Man of the Match : Wayne Hatswell

Altrincham 1 Rushden & Diamonds 2

Diamonds extended their unbeaten League run to nine games as Michael Rankine and Simeon Jackson fired them into a first half lead. But they made hard work of what should have been a comfortable win after a defensive error allowed Chris Senior to get a goal back for the home side which made for a rather nervous ending.

Manager Garry Hill announced two changes from the side which drew against Stafford Rangers the previous weekend. Simon Rusk was suspended after picking up his fifth booking last Saturday (having received 2 yellow cards with Northwich Victoria), while Michael Malcolm dropped to the bench. Jon Challinor returned to midfield, while Michael Rankine joined Simeon Jackson in attack.

Altrincham manager Graham Heathcote had first choice keeper Stuart Coburn still sidelined with a groin injury sustained three weeks ago, while Gareth Whalley (ankle) and Stephen Aspinall (knee) were also unavailable. He was however, able to name the same side which won away at Crawley Town last Saturday and they were looking for their third successive win.

The home side looked to take Diamonds by surprise and within the first twenty seconds, squandered a good chance to take the lead as Robbie Lawton went forward on the right and sent in a cross for Pat McFadden. The midfielder making only his second start of the season failed to get a proper connection and the ball went wide of the goal.

After the excitement of the opening seconds, both sides seemed to settle for mediocrity as they both found it difficult to create any clear-cut chances. With Altrincham and Rushden struggling to score goals this season, it seemed more likely that any goal was likely to be caused by a mistake at the back. During the opening half hour, possession was fairly even. Diamonds and Altrincham had opportunities from free kicks outside the area, but neither keeper was troubled.

Diamonds had to wait until midway through the first half for their first chance. Marcus Kelly made a mazy run through the centre, his shot from just outside the area was deflected wide by Ryan Shotton. Diamonds seemed to be gaining in confidence as Jon Challinor and Martin Foster started to gain control in midfield. The Robins were quite successful in trying to close them down at every opportunity and Paul Nicholls was tested on 34 minutes when he had to save low from Colin Little.

It was Diamonds that made the breakthrough on 36 minutes as Kelly caused more problems for the home side. His forward pass found Jon Challinor in space on the left and he had time to centre the ball away from the reach of Richard Acton. As Gary Scott and Michael Rankine challenged for the ball, it was Michael Rankine who was the stronger, and slid the ball in from six yards.

Nicholls had to punch clear from a Val Owen cross, while Pat McFadden blasted over following another cross, but Diamonds were looking more confident going forward. Jackson’s shot from the edge of the area was saved low down by Acton, while another great ball from Kelly saw Rankine challenge with the keeper, the ball going loose for Jackson to shoot wide. Simeon Jackson was looking lively and within the minute added on at the end of first half, he got his just rewards. He took the ball into the left side of the area and with the defence standing off, fired a shot past the keeper and into the corner of the net.

Half-time: Altrincham 0 – 2 Rushden & Diamonds

Diamonds had not had the luxury of a two goal lead at any stage this season, and they looked as if they would increase it in the opening ten minutes. Burgess shot just wide with the keeper out of position, Rankine had a shot and header wide, while Jackson shot over from long range.

Diamonds looked confident on the ball but as they tried to play the ball out of defence on 55 minutes, they came unstuck. The Robins were continuing to chase every ball down, and as Wayne Hatswell tried to play the ball wide, he was dispossessed by Colin Little. His pass forward sent Chris Senior clear on goal, and as Nicholls came out, he took the ball wide and slotted the ball into the empty net.

The goal certainly gave Altrincham hope as they tested the visitors defence. Chris Lane and Chris Senior both tried long range shot, but Nicholls’ handling was safe. At the other end, Burgess and Kelly tried to test Acton. Kelly had certainly been a threat to the home side, and they were relieved on 70 minutes, when he was replaced by Lee Tomlin. Tomlin had impressed in the midweek game at Corby Town, and he was immediately into the action by taking a quick free-kick to Jackson, but his shot was blocked for a corner. Tomlin’s corner found Hatswell, but his strong header went straight into the keeper’s arms.

Michael Malcolm replaced Rankine with 15 minutes to go as Diamonds tried a different front man. Altrincham’s Val Owen received a yellow card for a foul on Martin Foster, and Malcolm shot wide from Curtis Osano’s free kick. As Altrincham tried to come forward, Malcolm and Tomlin both shot wide with the clock running down. With three minutes added time, Simeon Jackson came off to the applause of the visiting fans, Robbie Lawton’s complaints to the referee earning him a yellow card. In Altrincham’s final attack, Val Owen shot through a crowded penalty area, his drive going wide of the far post.

Full-time: Altrincham 1 – 2 Rushden & Diamonds

Diamonds unbeaten run continues as they look to make it 10 games at Cambridge United on Tuesday night’s televised game. That will be manager Garry Hill’s last game in charge before his two week suspension and five game touchline ban comes into force.

Teams:

Altrincham – Acton, Lane, Tinson (c), Shotton, Scott, Lawton, Owen, Peyton (Potts 70), McFadden (Logan 52), Little (O’Neill 79), Senior.

Subs not used: Munroe, Sedgemore.

Rushden & Diamonds – Nicholls, Osano, Hope (c), Hatswell, Challinor, Jackson (Shaw 90+2), Burgess, Rankine (Malcolm 75), Foster, Kelly (Tomlin 70), Howell.

Subs not used: Bastock, Gulliver.

Goals: Rankine 36 (0-1), Jackson 45+1 (0-2), Senior 55 (1-2).

Booked: Owen 81 (foul), Lawton 90+2 (dissent).

Referee: Mr M.Brown (Yorks)

Attendance: 941 (80 away)

Reporters Man of the Match – Marcus Kelly.

By Dave Mason

Corby Town 0 Rushden & Diamonds 5

Wednesday 3rd October 2007

Rockingham Triangle, Corby Town FC

(Northants Hillier Senior Cup – Round 1)

Diamonds cruised to a 1st Round victory in the Hillier Senior Cup, securing their biggest win for over six years. Corby Town play in the British Gas Business (Southern League) Premier Division, and with Diamonds putting out a number of first team players for the fixture, the gulf between the two sides was evident by the 5-0 score-line.

Kevin Hales took charge from the touchline with Garry Hill taking a view from the stands. The only youth team player to make the starting eleven was full back Ben Nunn, although Sean Calcutt, Lewis Hilliard and striker Sam Smith were on the bench with Jake Beecroft. Abdelhalim El Kholti had the chance to start for the first time since his debut at York last month having recovered from injury, while Phil Gulliver and Jon Challinor played as central defenders. Michael Malcolm partnered Michael Rankine in attack.

Corby Town manager Kevin Wilson made a number of changes from the side that beat Ramsgate at the weekend. In fact, it would be fair to say that most of their first team squad were rested for the game. Former Diamonds Danny Crane, Tom Bonner, plus on loan Lawrence Lambley were all missing, together with regulars Derek Brown, Adam Wykes, Liam Daly, Darren Lynch and Wayne Diuk.

As a result of each managers selection, the game turned out to be a very one sided affair with Diamonds having time to control the match from the kick-off. Lee Tomlin was enjoying freedom on the right of midfield as the home side allowed him time to show a few tricks. Tomlin’s early cross from the right picked out Michael Malcolm to shoot just wide of the upright. Diamonds had a number of corners in the opening period and on 7 minutes, Abdelhalim El Kholti’s corner allowed Jon Challinor a free header, but Michael Evans was well placed in the Corby goal.

Tomlin and Rankine were combining well, and Rankine was fouled just outside the area while running onto a Tomlin through ball. Marcus Kelly shot over from the free-kick. On 18 minutes, Diamonds had another good opportunity when El Kholti sent the ball in from the left to Michael Malcolm. He in turn laid the ball off to Tom Shaw who tried to place a shot past Evans, but the keeper managed to turn the ball away for a corner. Rankine headed over from Kelly’s corner kick.

It seemed only a matter of time before Diamonds took the lead and on 26 minutes, Tom Shaw played a ball from the halfway line which just cleared defender Dominic Hallows. Lee Tomlin pounced and chipped the ball over the advancing keeper.

Just seven minutes later, Tomlin turned provider when he slipped the ball over the last man into the path of Michael Rankine who made no mistake firing a low shot under the keeper for a two goal lead.

Diamonds were able to prise open the home defence at will and should have gone into the break leading by more than just the two goals. After 35 minutes, Malcolm’s flick gave Rankine another chance, but the keeper did well to block his shot, while on 41 minutes, Simon Rusk found Kelly on the wing. After bringing the ball in, his shot flew just over the bar. Corby failed to have any meaningful effort on Paul Nicholl’s goal as any attempted break from the home side was quickly snuffed out.

Half-time: Corby Town 0 – 2 Rushden & Diamonds

Lewis Hilliard came on at the start of the second period for his 1st team debut in place of El Kholti, playing on right midfield. Marcus Kelly dropped back to left back. Diamonds continued to tease the Steelmen with Rankine attempting an overhead kick early on. Rankine was through again on 49 minutes after a long ball from Challinor, forcing another good block from the keeper. As ball went loose, he got to his feet quickly and struck the ball against the post. The ball rebounded to Tomlin who shot just wide. Corby had their first chance minutes later as they won a corner. Jamie Paterson’s kick to the near post was palmed away by Paul Nicholls.

It seemed inevitable Diamonds would extend their lead and on 59 minutes, Lewis Hilliard’s right wing cross to the far side was inch perfect for Lee Tomlin to volley home.

Corby’s Ollie Wilkinson had to go off on 63 minutes after sustaining an injury, with Tony Cosgrove replacing him at the back. Tomlin was still tormenting the defence and his pass from the left found Malcolm in the middle. The former Kettering forward tried to manoeuvre into a scoring position, but sent a shot skimming past the far post. From the goal kick, Corby’s Robert Richie-Smith tried his luck from 30 yards, but Nicholls had little difficulty in plucking the shot out of the air.

Diamonds fourth came in the 69th minute after Tom Shaw had forced a corner on the right. Kelly’s cross found Michael Rankine at the near post to nod home from close range. The home side were unable to cope with the trickery of Tomlin and the strength of Rankine, and they were relieved when both players were replaced after the goal. Youth team striker Sam Smith came on for his debut with Jake Beecroft picking up in midfield. 

Richie-Smith was by far Corby’s best player and sent in a good ball into the centre for Scott Cross, but the striker shot over the bar. At the other end, Lewis Hilliard was showing what a great prospect he is for the future, and a one-two with the pacey Sam Smith ended in the keeper saving well. The home side were allowing Diamonds to pass at will and after some neat interplay between Malcolm, Shaw, Hilliard and Beecroft, Lewis Hilliard chopped the ball back for Tom Shaw to place the ball beyond Evans for number five.

In the final minute, Sam Smith missed a great chance to grab a goal for himself, firing wide from close range after Shaw had cut back from the by-line.

Full-time: Corby Town 0 – 5 Rushden & Diamonds

So Diamonds progress to the next round, with the draw expected to take place later this week. Diamonds have won the Cup on three previous occasion, 1994, 1999 and of course last year. Round 2 ties are due to be played week commencing 29 October and Kettering Town’s exit was a major surprise. Raunds Town, Rothwell Town and Stewart & Lloyds join the teams in the next round after receiving Round 1 byes.

Other results were as follows: Cogenhoe United 2 Desborough Town 0; Long Buckby 3 Wellingborough Town 3 (Long Buckby won 4-2 on pens); Northampton Spencer 2 Kettering Town 1. Woodford United’s game at Brackley Town was postponed due to the Reds FA Cup replay and should be played next week.

Teams:

Corby Town – Evans, Scott (c), Hallows, Paterson, Wilkinson (Cosgrove 63), Malone, Richie-Smith, Towers, Cross, Miller, Difante.

Subs not used: McIllick, Hall, Harman.

Rushden & Diamonds – Nicholls, Nunn, El Kholti (Hilliard HT), Gulliver (c), Challinor, Rusk, Tomlin (Beecroft 70), Shaw, Rankine (Smith 70), Malcolm, Kelly.

Subs not used: Calcutt.

Goals: Tomlin 26 (0-1); Rankine 33 (0-2), Tomlin 59 (0-3), Rankine 69 (0-4), Shaw 78 (0-5).

Booked: Nil.

Referee: Mr C.Miller (Northants)

Attendance:  Approx 250.

Reporters Man of the Match – Lee Tomlin.

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