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

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