Rushden & Diamonds 1 Northwich Victoria 0

Rushden & Diamonds achieved only their third league win at Nene Park this season with a narrow 1-0 victory over Northwich Victoria in a match lacking in quality. It was a game with the proverbial "0-0 written all over it" until a first half stoppage time goal broke the deadlock, but in truth Northwich were unlucky to go away empty handed.

Manager Hill made three changes to the eleven that started on Boxing Day, with the suspended Lee Tomlin replaced by Craig McAllister. Martin Foster and Jon Challinor returned to the midfield at the expense of Lee Hales and Marcus Kelly.

Northwich manager Dino Maamria also made changes to the team that gave the club their first away league victory of the season on Boxing Day, with the suspended Lee Horrocks replaced by Adam Morning, with Richard Battersby and Michael Byrne dropping to the bench to be replaced by Natt Kerr and Josh Wilson. This still meant that ex-Diamonds Scott Tynan, Danny Williams and loanee Simon Rusk all featured in the starting line-up, and nine of the team were in the starting line up when the Vics beat the Diamonds at the Victoria Stadium at the end of November.

As a low winter sun set over Nene Park to end a sunny winter afternoon the Vics kicked off towards the Peter De Banke terrace, but it was the Diamonds who had the early pressure with the first five minutes being spent on the edge of the Vics penalty area. Andy Burgess started on the left of midfield, with Jon Challinor on the right. The best attack in this period came from a Curtis Osano run down the left, feeding inside to Curtis Woodhouse who found Simeon Jackson with room to turn and hit a shot, which was comfortably caught by Tynan.

Just as it appeared the Vics might be looking to focus on defence they started to find gaps in the Diamonds defence, with Danny Williams threading the ball through the middle to Michael Carr but he could only hit a weak shot straight to Bastock. On eleven minutes, the Vics won a free kick 35 yards out, and Michael Welch hit a powerful dipping shot, which Paul Bastock did well to spoon away for a corner

The Diamonds were struggling to get any penetration into the Vics half, with neither wide player making runs towards the corners. Even when they swapped sides, very little impression was made into a well-organised Vics defence.

On 28 minutes the Vics had their best attack of the half, with Adam Morning feeding Lucas Akins just outside the left corner of the penalty box, and his run took him past both central defenders and his shot thudded against the post and away to safety.

Just as the fourth official signalled there was to be a minute of injury time at the end of a soporific first half, the Diamonds won a free kick near the halfway line as Danny Williams handled the ball as he tussled with Andy Burgess. Burgess took the kick and it was met by Wayne Hatswell, with a powerful header towards the bottom left corner, although the ball may also have got a touch off Simeon Jackson who also appeared to claim the goal.

So the half ended with Northwich feeling unlucky to be behind, and the Diamonds wondering how they looked so dominant in the first few minutes then struggled to put a meaningful attack together for the remaining 40 minutes of the half..

Half time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Northwich Victoria 0

On the restart, the Vics continued where they had left off, providing the majority of the attacking threat, with Adam Morning not afraid to make runs towards the left corner and hit decent looking crosses into the box – something the Diamonds midfield failed to do all game.

A succession of Vics corners from left and right looked dangerous, with Michael Carr guilty of a couple of wayward shots.

In fact it was Simeon Jackson who started to get wide himself, and on a couple of occasions he was able to hit dangerous low crosses into the box with Craig McAllister just being unable to stretch far enough to turn them into the net. Jacko also put in a couple of decent runs through the middle as he shrugged off the attentions of Ryan Brown, but his final shot was wide.

On the 55-minute mark Diamonds almost scored with a repeat of their opening goal as an Andy Burgess free-kick from the left was met by Wayne Hatswell in the area, but this time hit header was over the bar.

Although both sides were starting to create a few more chances in an improved second half, neither goalkeeper was being called upon to make significant saves. One Diamonds threat came when a quick freekick taken after a foul on McAllister was threaded through to Jackson, but his shot was blocked and Phil Gulliver was unable to scramble in the rebound.

Paul Bastock did continue to play his part in the action, with a save from an Akins shot, followed by an excellent catch to field the resulting corner. Substitute Jake Speight also posed problems through the centre, with one run at the defence yielding a shooting chance that went just over.

Diamonds then managed to run the clock down, as a succession of yellow cards killed any rhythm that the Vics had, and the game ended in a Diamonds victory.

Although the second half was an improvement over a very poor first half, the Diamonds win could not be described as comfortable. With Diamonds away form and results better than their home performances, it must be hoped that this form can continue at Broadhall Way, Stevenage on New Years Day.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Northwich Victoria 0

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (White):

Paul Bastock, Curtis Osano, Dean Howell, Wayne Hatswell, Phil Gulliver, Martin Foster, Andy Burgess, Curtis Woodhouse, Jon Challinor, Craig McAllister (Michael Rankine 76), Simeon Jackson

Subs Not Used: Martin Margarson, Lee Hales, Tom Shaw, Marcus Kelly

Northwich Victoria (Green / Black) : Scott Tynan, Natt Kerr, Michael Carr, Michael Welch, Ryan Brown, Danny Williams, Simon Rusk, Josh Wilson (Michael Byrne 76), Lucas Akins, Adam Morning, Nick Farquarson (Jake Speight 63)

Subs Not Used: Ben Connett, Richard Battersby, Jake Johnson

Goals: Wayne Hatswell

Yellow Cards: Williams, Wilson, Woodhouse, Byrne, Kerr

Referee: R Merchant

Attendance: 1519 (Away 102).

Man of the Match nominated by Noel O’Rourke – Wayne Hatswell

Rushden & Diamonds 0 Stevenage Borough 0

 

Rushden & Diamonds had a touch of the Boxing Day blues as they were held to a stalemate by high-flying Stevenage in a match devoid of entertaining football for long periods. They may have some satisfaction from gaining a point, but the above average crowd were left wondering why it took until the 65th minute for Garry Hill to bring on Craig McAllister and finally produce football to keep them from their post-Christmas slumbers.

Manager Hill reflected the busy holiday period by making several changes to the starting eleven, with Jon Challinor, Craig McAllister and Martin Foster dropped to the bench, with Lee Hales getting his first league start, and Lee Tomlin partnering Simeon Jackson up front.

Stevenage manager Peter Taylor reverted to the majority of the players that had featured prior to the Setanta Trophy defeat at Woking, playing a 4-5-1 formation with Steve Morison up front.

As the cloud gathered over Nene Park to end a sunny winter afternoon Diamonds kicked off towards the Peter De Banke terrace, but it was the visiting side that had all of the early pressure, with a shot from Stuart Lewis bouncing just in front of Paul Bastock, who did well to spoon the ball over the bar for a corner.

A succession of corners followed, with Andy Burgess being guilty of trying to prevent the ball going out and only presenting Boro with a chance to get the ball back into a dangerous position. Diamonds were there own worst enemies at time, with several mix-ups in defence on the left resulting in further corners conceded.

There was little attacking threat from the Diamonds in the early stages, with no outlet down the middle other than the occasional run by Lee Tomlin, and one shot from the striker after good work by Lee Hales. Dean Howell and Marcus Kelly did combine well on the left on a couple of occasions, and in one attack created by a great crossfield ball by Andy Burgess, Kelly was able to burst into the area, but the threat was cleared away for a corner.

On 20 minutes Diamonds had a rare chance, with a Marcus Kelly free kick finding Andy Burgess who cut back onto his right foot, but could only hit a shot well over the bar. There was some decent link up play between Burgess and Osano at times, but too often these moves resulted in a high-ball to the diminutive strikers who were easily out-jumped by the tall Stevenage defenders.

On the half-hour Stevenage almost took the lead, as a long ball forward flew over the heads of Gulliver and Hatswell, but they were able to cover back as Steve Morison threatened, forcing him wide enough to allow Paul Bastock to make a decent save at his near post.

Bastock almost gave away a simple goal to Morison a few minutes later as he dwelt on a simple ball back to him, and it appeared more luck that judgement that his kick missed on oncoming striker and was scrambled away.

Perhaps the best Diamonds move of the half was on 33 minutes, as Andy Burgess gathered the ball in his own box following a Stevenage corner, carried the ball 10 yards and fed Lee Tomlin near the half-way line. The striker then ran at two defenders, getting the better of them and attempting to feed Simeon Jackson, but his strike partner was forced to check back and his final shot under pressure then went behind.

So the half ended with Stevenage perhaps the more disappointed that they were not ahead.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Stevenage Borough 0

On the restart, Diamonds had a claim for a penalty within three minutes, as Lee Tomlin held the ball up and then laid it into the area for the onrushing Curtis Woodhouse, who appeared to be bodychecked by Luke Oliver, but referee Rayner waved away claims for a penalty.

Further controversy followed on 50 minutes, with Lee Hales putting in a great tackle to halt a run out of defence by Stuart Lewis. Lewis stayed down for a short while, but had got back to his feet before Alan Julian cleared the ball to touch to allow him to receive attention. On the restart, Lee Tomlin failed to realise that the throw was meant to be returned to Julian, and burst into the area, gaining a "corner". Julian and a number of team mates jostled Tomlin, who realised his mistake, but referee Rayner still decided to book Julian for his actions, and also Tomlin – although it was not clear why. The corner was duly kicked straight out for a goal kick.

Just after the hour came Stevenage’s best chance of the game, with Craig Dobson receiving the ball in his own half, beating Marcus Kelly for pace as he burst forwards, and as Kelly gave up the chase he took on Dean Howell, cutting back inside and hitting a decent shot which Bastock did well to save.

This save, followed by the introduction of Craig McAllister shortly afterwards, saw a change in direction of the game, and now there was an outlet for the midfield via McAllister, the Diamonds suddenly looked to have an attacking threat, with a number of chances created, although wayward finishing by Jackson, Kelly and Burgess meant that Alan Julian didn’t have a lot to deal with.

With three minutes to go McAllister was awarded an indirect free kick as he was obstructed on the edge of the box following good work by Burgess and Osano on the right, with Osano notably starting to get forward more. As too often happens, Wayne Hatswell was too far from the ball when it was touched to him, and his shot was easily charged down.

Andy Burgess had the final real chance of the game, but his curling dipping shot was just over the bar,

Boxing Day games often attract a number of occasional visitors to Nene Park, but few of them will feel they have been missing much when they reflect on the football on show in the first hour. The game did liven up with the introduction of McAllister, but by then both sides were tiring and perhaps a goalless draw summed up the afternoon, and was a fair result in the end. The Diamonds must now reconsider tactics before the visit of Northwich Victoria on Saturday, especially given the Cheshire side’s victory over the Diamonds only a few weeks ago.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Stevenage Borough 0

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (White) :

Paul Bastock, Curtis Osano, Dean Howell, Wayne Hatswell, Phil Gulliver, Lee Hales (Jon Challinor 80), Andy Burgess, Curtis Woodhouse, Marcus Kelly, Lee Tomlin (Craig McAllister 66), Simeon Jackson

Subs Not Used : Michael Rankine, Tom Shaw, Martin Foster

Stevenage Borough (Sky Blue / Blue) : Alan Julian, John White, Ronnie Henry, Luke Oliver, Mark Arber, Craig Dobson, Junior Lewis, Stuart Lewis, Daryl McMahon (Tyrone Berry 76), John Martin, Steve Morison

Subs Not Used : Barry Fuller, James Russell, Zoltan Liptak, Tony Stokes

Goals : None

Yellow Cards : Martin, Julian, Tomlin, Hales

Referee: A Rayner

Attendance: 2405 (Away 644).

Man of the Match sponsored by Stagecraft : Andy Burgess

Cambridge United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

 

Rushden & Diamonds deservedly went through to the next round of Setanta Shield with a convincing 1-0 win over Cambridge United at the Abbey Stadium.

After a dominant first half-hour capped by a Tom Shaw goal Cambridge did start to present an attacking threat, but Paul Bastock was only forced to make one real save all game. Diamonds also hit the post twice in the second half, and did not appear to pick any injury worries prior to the Christmas period.

Manager Garry Hill fielded a team of familiar faces, with Abdou El-Kholti and Lee Hales getting starts. Cambridge fielded three fringe players, including recently signed youngster Robbie Willmott. Andy Burgess and Chris Hope didn’t make the sixteen.

On a cool winter evening R&DFC kicked off towards the 100 or so travelling fans. They started with a formation that might best be described 4-5-1 with McAllister up front supported by Tomlin on the right, Kelly on the left and a central midfield of Shaw, Hales and Woodhouse.

It was the Diamonds that dominated the first half-hour, with constant harrying of the United defence yielding a number of half chances, with Lee Tomlin lively on the right and Kelly on the left, Marcus Kelly had two shots midway through the half, forcing Potter into conceding a corner with the most dangerous one.

Abdou El-Kholti was also providing an additional threat down the left, with two low crosses causing problems for the U’s defence. On 25 minutes, Kelly showed great vision to find Tom Shaw in plenty of space on the edge of the "D". The midfielder decided to place his shot rather than going for power, but he was too far out, and Potter made an easy save.

On 29 minutes Diamonds deservedly went ahead, with a Lee Tomlin run from left to right resulting in Craig McAllister laying the ball off to Tom Shaw just outside the "D", and this time he hit a shot with power and beat Potter to his left to make the score 1-0.

Cambridge then seemed to wake up, and started to push forwards, but only really created one chance of note in the half, when a Stephen Reed cross was met by Bastock and Rendell at the same time, but the ball squirmed to safety.

Craig McAllister continued to impress, and went close with a shot from the left hand corner of the box that didn’t have quite enough dip on it to get over Potter and under the bar.

So the half ended with Diamonds deservedly one goal to the good.

Half-time: Cambridge United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

The Diamonds made two changes at half-time, with McAllister and El Kholti being rewarded for their excellent first half performances with a rest for the second, as Dean Howell and Michael Rankine took to the field.

The U’s did start the half with rather more purpose than they showed in the first, and Gavin Hoyte was guilty of a dreadful miss as the ball was headed across the box to him, and from the corner of the six yard box he could only poke the ball well wide.

Marcus Kelly continued to look a threat, and he linked up with Tom Shaw to set up Michael Rankine but the striker screwed his shot wide.Lee Hales also had an attempt on goal, as the Diamonds remained in charge. Curtis Osano was also getting forwards and beating defenders with powerful runs, and after his team-mates failed to capitalise on one of the chances he made them, the defender made a run through the defence and hit a great shot from the right hand side of the box, which hit the inside of the left hand post, but somehow came back out into play.

On 78 minutes the U’s had their best attack of the game, as Boylan and Rendell combined to free Pitt, and his dangerous cross caused a goalmouth scramble, with first a great block by Phil Gulliver, and then a great save by Paul Bastock from Lee Boylan.

Jimmy Quinn then brought on Leo Fortune-West in a final throw of the dice, but it was Diamonds who might have wrapped the game up on 86 minutes, as Jon Challinor came on and presented an immediate threat, and after linking with Lee Tomlin fed Michael Rankine, and his attempt on goal ricocheted off defender and goalkeeper onto the post and away to safety.

With a Lee Tomlin booking for dissent / timewasting the only other incident, the Diamonds will be happy to progress into the next round.

Full-time: Cambridge United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

A well-deserved win will hopefully set the team up nicely for the Christmas period, starting with the visit of Stevenage Borough on Boxing Day.

Teams:

Cambridge United (Amber / Black): Danny Potter, Stephen Reed (Leo Fortune West 83), Mark Albrighton, Danny Brown, Dan Gleeson, Rob Wolleaston, Scott Rendell, Gavin Hoyte, Michael Hyem (Courtney Pitt 55), Joshua Coulson, Robbie Wilmott (Lee Boylan 55)

Subs Not Used : Mark Convery, Michael Morrison

Rushden & Diamonds (Red) Paul Bastock, Curtis Osano, Abdou El-Kholti (Dean Howell 45), Phil Gulliver, Wayne Hatswell, Lee Hales, Tom Shaw (Jon Challinor 83), Curtis Woodhouse, Marcus Kelly, Lee Tomlin, Craig McAllister (Michael Rankine 45)

Subs Not Used Martyn Margarson, Simeon Jackson

Goals : Tom Shaw 29

Yellow Cards : Lee Tomlin

Referee: Mr R Fletcher

Attendance: 1309 (Away 102)

Diamonds Man of the Match: :Marcus Kelly

Bamber Bridge 2 – 3 Rushden & Diamonds

FA Trophy – 1st Round

At Irongate, Bamber Bridge FC

Diamonds fought back after twice falling behind to win 3-2 at Irongate. Bamber Bridge took the lead from an Alex Porter penalty before Phil Gulliver equalised for Diamonds. Porter put the Brig in front just before the half time whistle, but two second half goals from Lee Tomlin secured a place in the second round.

Manager Garry Hill was forced to make two changes, with Wayne Hatswell and Dean Howell both suspended after receiving their fifth bookings at Droylsden last weekend. Chris Hope returned as captain despite not having fully recovered from an Achilles problem, while Adbou El Kholti came in at left back. With Paul Nicholls out injured for around six weeks, Martyn Margarson had been recalled from his loan spell at Rugby Town and was named on the bench.

Bamber Bridge manager Phil Entwistle made just one change from their previous League game against Chorley two weeks ago – last Saturday’s game being postponed due to the weather. Striker Sean O’Neil had recently returned from a spell at Leigh RMI and he partnered prolific scorer Ryan Salmon up front. Salmon had scored 20 goals in all competitions this season and the Brig had only lost once at home, having won all five of their last League games in the Unibond League First Division North.

Diamonds kicked off towards the clubhouse in their red away strip for only the sixth time this season having not won this year in those shirts. They started off the stronger side, but were unable to press home the advantage of their higher League status. Martin Foster’s early ball through to Michael Rankine was kicked away by the keeper, but neither side were able to create much in the way of chances. Diamonds first real opportunity came on 16 minutes after Jon Challinor had won a free kick. Andy Burgess fired in a shot which Terry McCormick did well the save low down at the near post.

Although the Brig were looking lively, Diamonds tried on several occasions to fire a long ball over the top for the forwards to run onto. Diamonds defence looked strong and Bamber Bridge were unable to get any shots on goal – but it was the home side that went in front on 27 minutes. Captain Alex Porter sent the ball forward for Danny Mahoney to chase and as he tried to control the ball inside the area, he was brought down by Adbou El Kholti. Alex Porter stepped up to take the penalty, and sent the ball low and to the keepers left leaving Bastock with no chance.

Diamonds tried to respond immediately with Rankine twice heading over and Challinor firing in a shot off target. Chris Hope pulled up with a recurrence of his Achilles injury, and was replaced on 38 minutes by Lee Tomlin – Jon Challinor moving into the back four.

The Brig had a rare opportunity again on 38 minutes when Adam Tong headed over after a cross from the left but within five minutes, Diamonds pulled level. After Paul McMenemy fouled Simeon Jackson some 30 yards out, Andy Burgess sent in the free kick and Phil Gulliver got the faintest of touches to send the ball past McCormick and into the net.

Martin Foster was having a good game in midfield closing down the opposition at every opportunity while Curtis Osano came forward on several occasions and forced a good save from the keeper as half time approached. Diamonds probably felt they should have gone into the break ahead, but in the second minute of injury time, it was the home side that went in front again. Danny Mahoney sent the ball in from the left to Alex Porter, and as the defenders stood off, he fired a shot into the top corner of the goal.

HT: Bamber Bridge 2 – 1 Rushden & Diamonds

Diamonds came out at the start of the second half all guns blazing and within 30 seconds, got back on level terms. Simeon Jackson ran down the left flank and centred to ball to Lee Tomlin just inside the area. He had the space to fire a low shot on goal, and although the keeper managed to get a hand to the ball, it flew just inside the far post.

Rankine fired a fierce shot over the bar, then put Tomlin away on the right with his cross from the by-line going agonisingly across the face of the goal with no-one able to touch the ball home. At the other end, Danny Mahoney headed wide, while it wasn’t until the 55th minute that Diamonds won the first corner of the game. The home side were struggling at that point and both Adam Tong and Glen Steel went into the referee’s notebook. On 61 minutes after Steel’s booking for a foul on Rankine, Andy Burgess found Lee Tomlin free at the far post, and he made no mistake volleying the ball past McCormick.

Jackson tried to make the game safe by lobbing the keeper moments later, but the ball went over the bar, while a Tomlin shot was misdirected wide. With fifteen minutes remaining both sides made changes – Neil Spencer replacing Sean O’Neil for the home side, and Craig McAllister coming on for Simeon Jackson for Diamonds.

In the final ten minutes, the home side tried to create more openings up front. Ryan Salmon’s header went straight at Bastock, while Adam Tong had a great chance inside the area, but again, the shot was easy for the keeper. As Bamber Bridge tried to wrestle the ball away from Diamonds, Ryan Salmon and Matt Mahoney both went into the referee’s notebook, but it was all to no avail as Diamonds saw out the closing moments.

FT: Bamber Bridge 2 – 3 Rushden & Diamonds

Although Diamonds seemed to make hard work in getting the win, Bamber Bridge put up a spirited resistance and could so easily have forced a replay late in the second half. Diamonds on the other hand were probably unfortunate to be behind at the break, and after Lee Tomlin had put Diamonds back in the lead, they also had opportunities to put the tie beyond doubt. But it was Diamonds who make Monday’s second round draw, and they will be hoping for a home tie on January 12th.

Teams:

Bamber Bridge – McCormick, Steel, McMenemy, Melling (Williams 80), Tong, M.Mahoney, Brown, D.Mahoney, Salmon, O’Neil (Spencer 70), Porter.

Subs not used: Fletcher, Carroll, Dashti.

Rushden & Diamonds – Bastock, Osano, Gulliver, Hope (Tomlin 38), Challinor, Woodhouse, Jackson (McAllister 76), Burgess, Rankine (Hales 87), Foster, El Kholti.

Subs not used: Margarson, Kelly.

Goals: Porter 27pen (1-0), Gulliver 42 (1-1), Porter 45+2 (2-1), Tomlin 46 (2-2), Tomlin 61 (2-3)

Booked: Tong 59 (dissent), Steel 61 (foul), Salmon 84 (foul), M.Mahoney 90 (foul).

Referee: Mr C.Pawson (Yorkshire)

Attendance: 330 (approx 60 away)

Man of the Match – Lee Tomlin

By Dave Mason

Droylsden 1 Rushden & Diamonds 4

Diamonds returned from the outskirts of Manchester thoroughly soaked, but with an important three points after three successive defeats. Wayne Hatswell and Michael Rankine gave Diamonds a first half lead, but there was controversy after the officials failed to notice that Simeon Jackson had also scored, the ball skimming out through a hole in the back of the net. Second half penalties from Jackson and Rankine, plus one for the home side from Jody Banim in the worsening conditions left the score-line at 4-1 in favour of Diamonds.

Chris Hope was out with a sore achilles tendon and manager Garry Hill gave a start and the captaincy to Wayne Hatswell. Craig McAllister and Marcus Kelly were both demoted to the bench, with Michael Rankine partnering Simeon Jackson in attack. Following his boxing victory on Wednesday night, Curtis Woodhouse returned to midfield in place of Marcus Kelly.

Droylsden were without a game last weekend and boss Dave Pace made just one enforced change from the side which beat Forest Green Rovers two weeks ago. Jamie McGuire was suspended after picking up five bookings, and Kevin Lynch came in to replace him. Steve Halford (ankle) and Jamie Tandy (head) had both recovered from injury to be named on the bench.

Despite a number of pitch inspections prior to the game, referee Ross Joyce deemed the playing surface fit enough for the game to commence, although most inside the ground were doubtful that the game would be completed as the rain continued to fall heavily. Both sides had difficulty getting used to the dire conditions, the ball holding up in many areas of the ground. With players slipping and sliding, Dean Howell and Chris Denham clashed early on with Howell ending up sliding into the advertising hoardings. Both players’ reactions led to them entering the referee’s notebook.

Neither side were able to create any clear-cut chances, although Diamonds had a narrow escape on 19 minutes, when Phil Gulliver cleared off the line after a cross from Denham was deflected past Paul Bastock. Moments later Bastock did well to hold on to a shot from Jody Banim. Jon Challinor had a couple of efforts on goal, the first sailing over the bar, while another going just wide from an Andy Burgess corner.

Both keepers needed to take extra care with the slippery ball and Bastock touched away a dangerous corner kick from Gareth Morris, but it was from a corner kick at the other end conceded by Colin Cryan which led to the opening goal on 36 minutes. Burgess sent the kick to the far post, where Hatswell headed towards the keeper. Paul Phillips fisted the ball straight back to Hatswell under a challenge from Jackson, and Wayne Hatswell made no mistake with his second effort volleying the ball into the net.

Two minutes later, Diamonds doubled their lead – or at least they thought they had when a long ball forward found Simeon Jackson with time to fire a shot past Phillips from 25 yards. The ball went just inside the post, but skimmed under the net, hit the advertising hoardings behind the goal and bounced out. As the players went to celebrate, the keeper placed the ball for a goal kick and to the amazement of those present, the referee waved play on despite the strong protests.

Diamonds looked more confident in the conditions and Woodhouse had a shot saved by the keeper, and Foster fired over the bar. As half time approached, keeper Paul Phillips came out of his area to clear a ball up field, but it fell straight to Andy Burgess on the half-way line. Seeing the keeper off his line, he lobbed the ball towards goal. It looked as if it just had enough power to cross the line, but struck the post and rebounded out. Michael Rankine followed up and slid in to put the ball over the line from two yards out.

Half-time: Droylsden 0 – 2 Rushden & Diamonds

There was no let up in the rain as the second half commenced, and Diamonds soon increased their lead. After Jon Challinor had put Jackson through on goal, Lee Roche clattered into the striker and the referee made amends for his earlier mistake by awarding a penalty. Roche was sent off for the challenge, leaving the Bloods down to ten men. Simeon Jackson made no mistake from the spot, sending the ball low to the keeper’s right.

Rankine nearly got another moments later after some good control gave him space for a shot on goal. The keeper parried the shot away, but only as far as Curtis Woodhouse, who followed up and struck the post. The ball just eluded those following up. Wayne Hatswell received a yellow card for a foul on Kevin Lynch, and Bastock did well to punch away Gareth Morris’ free kick. After 55 minutes, Droylsden made a couple of changes with Jamie Tandy and Steve Halford replacing Burbeary and Warner.

Diamonds were still looking to extend their lead and Challinor came close again after Rankine laid the ball off, his shot being pushed wide by the keeper. The home side continued to try to get back into the game and Paul Bastock made a brilliant save from Jamie Tandy on 58 minutes. Moments later, they were awarded a penalty after Marcus Kelly fouled Banim on the edge of the area. Jody Banim took the spot kick himself and sent Bastock the wrong way.

Within a minute, the referee awarded a third penalty, this time in Diamonds favour. As Rankine challenged to keep the ball in play close to the by-line, both he and Morris slipped to the ground. Morris, feeling he had been fouled grabbed the ball but no free kick had been awarded so a penalty was given for handball. Michael Rankine powered home the spot kick.

Tom Shaw came on for a rare appearance after 66 minutes replacing Jon Challinor as Diamonds looked to keep possession in the final quarter. Rankine shot into the side netting from a narrow angle, while the quick footed Chris Denham was causing Howell and Hatswell problems at the back. Howell was fortunate not to receive a second yellow card for one of his challenges.

On 87 minutes with the keeper off his line, Curtis Woodhouse nearly added another from 40 yards, but Cryan managed to get back to head off the line, Woodhouse seemed to injure himself taking the shot and had to go off leaving both sides to play out the remaining time with ten men. There was still time for the home side to have two final attempts on goal – Bastock saving with his feet from Banim, then just managing a one handed save after Gulliver nearly headed into his own goal.

Full-time: Droylsden 1 – 4 Rushden & Diamonds

The referee will feel somewhat embarrassed when he sees the footage of Jackson’s “goal” but at least it had no effect on the result. In all honesty, the game should never have gone ahead in such atrocious conditions, but at least it was the home side that felt more aggrieved with the result. With a break from League action until Boxing Day, Diamonds have visits to Bamber Bridge in the FA Trophy next weekend, followed by Cambridge in the Setanta Shield tie just before Christmas.

Teams:

Droylsden – Phillips(c), Roche, Cryan, Murray, Warner (Halford 55), Denham, Morris, Lynch, Burbeary (Tandy 55), Banim, Daly (Talbot 62).

Subs not used: Senior, Murphy.

Rushden & Diamonds – Bastock, Osano, Gulliver, Hatswell(c), Challinor (Shaw 66), Woodhouse, Jackson (McAllister 58), Burgess (Kelly 52), Rankine, Foster, Howell.

Subs not used: Nicholls, Tomlin.

Goals: Hatswell 36 (0-1), Rankine 45 (0-2), Jackson 51pen (0-3), Banim 60pen (1-3), Rankine 62pen (1-4).

Booked: Howelll 9 (u/sporting behaviour), Denham 9 (foul), Burbeary 40 (foul), Hatswell 53 (foul), Halford 73 (foul).

Sent off: Roche 50 (foul).

Referee: Mr R.Joyce (Cleveland).

Attendance: 417 (approx 60 away).

Man of the Match – Michael Rankine.

By Dave Mason

Rushden & Diamonds 2 Histon 3

Rushden & Diamonds were overwhelmed by a storming second half performance by Histon after managing to equalise twice in the first half, The Histon domination with the wind at their backs in the second half was such that the Diamonds did not force Histon goalkeeper to make a save in that half, and thus lost their first ever fixture with the Cambridgeshire club.

Manager Garry Hill made one change to the 16 from the FA Cup game on Saturday, with Martin Foster returning to the starting line up after injury, in place of Curtis Woodhouse who was preparing for his next bout.

Histon manager Steve Fallon kept faith with the team that won 2-1 at Altrincham on Saturday.

On a cool and damp December evening Histon kicked off into the wind towards the Peter De Banke terrace, and within three minutes could easily have been ahead, as the Diamonds defence failed to deal properly with a Histon raid, allowing the ball to break to the right where the cross was met by a largely unchallenged Nathaniel Knight Percival, and also his hooked shot went to the right of the goal, Danny Wright also found himself in space, but his header came back off the bar.

Diamonds first real attack saw Simeon Jackson outpace Matthew Mitchell-King, forcing the defender to foul him and earn a yellow – perhaps this was a sign that although both Histon central defender had plenty of aerial presence, the Diamonds midfield might be able to take advantage of Jacko’s pace.

Both sides looked to have adopted an attacking policy, with chances at either end, Diamonds seeing wayward shots from Jackson and Challinor, and a Burgess shot deflected for a corner.

Following the “wonder-goal” from Marcus Kelly on Saturday, Diamonds had two attempts at repeating it, with first a Paul Bastock free kick bouncing over the keeper Naisbitt’s head and over the bar, and then great vision from Andy Burgess from 40 yards saw his attempt go over the keeper’s head but bounce behind him and up over the bar.

Histon were also getting good reward from Adrian Cambridge long throws, with Cliff Akurang and Danny Wright looking threatening, and it was this forward combination that put Histon ahead on 28 minutes, as a long ball out of defence found Dean Howell and Danny Wright challenging for the ball, and although there were strong claims for a foul on the defender, Wright was allowed to carry on and shoot, with the shot being bundled home by Cliff Akurang with a simple finish.

Diamond were quickly searching for an equaliser, with Curtis Osano starting to look threatening, and he linked up with Andy Burgess down the right forcing a foul from Knight-Percival on Osano just outside the right corner of the box. Marcus Kelly took the free kick which found Chris Hope with time and space to direct his header into the left hand side of the goal.

The Histon long throws continued to cause a threat at one end, and at the other Simeon Jackson was caught offside three times by an alert Histon defence.. On 39 minutes Jon Challinor fouled John Kennedy in central midfield at they challenged in the air. The resultant free kick was 30 yards out, and it appeared the Diamonds defence were expecting a high ball from Gareth Gwillim but his left footed free kick looped around several players and past a static Bastock into the net.

Again Diamonds made a rapid response, and within 90 seconds were level again. Andy Burgess received the ball from Curtis Osano on the right wing, and cut inside hitting a left footed shot from 25 yards. The power was too much for Naisbitt, and he could only palm the ball out, and Simeon Jackson was on hand to tuck into the net.

There were two more chances for the Diamonds to take a lead into half-time, with Jon Challinor chesting down for Simeon Jackson to blaze over the bar, and Marcus Kelly presenting Jacko with a second chance that was only narrowly over.

So an entertaining half ended honours even.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 2 Histon 2

The second half was a completely different story to the first. Histon were able to take full advantage of the wind at their backs, and the old cliché of pinning the Diamonds back in their own half was never more appropriate, as Diamonds struggled to get near the Histon goal for at least 35 of those 45 minutes, failing to make Naisbitt make a save for the entire half.

As in the first half, Histon had a real threat from Adrian Cambridge long throws, and it was Cambridge who delivered the ball into the box on 68 minutes, and as the Diamonds defence failed twice to get in a telling clearance the ball looped out of the box to an unmarked John Kennedy, who hit a telling volley into the top right hand corner of the net.

As much as Garry Hill tried to chance things, with Rankine, Hatswell and Tomlin coming on, very little difference was made to the one way traffic towards the Diamonds goal, with further chances for Akurang and Knight-Percival following long throws from Cambridge. Once Cambridge was substituted there were a couple of chances made by Tomlin and then Jackson, and both might have done better with shooting opportunities that flew high and wide, but the Diamonds performance in the second half did not merit any return.

The final whistle signalled the end of another disappointing performance from the Diamonds at Nene Park, notably in the second half. Although this was only the second league game at Nene Park where the Diamonds have scored more than one goal, it will be the fact that the midfield and defence were overrun in the second half that causes much concern. Excellent performances by the likes of Foster and the Osano and Burgess combination going forwards in the first half meant nothing as the side capitulated in the second.

They must now regroup before the trip to Droylsden on Saturday in a game that takes on greater significance as the team try to halt a four game losing streak in their last league game before Christmas.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 2 Histon 3

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (White) : Paul Bastock, Curtis Osano, Dean Howell, Chris Hope (Wayne Hatswell 72), Phil Gulliver, Jon Challinor, Andy Burgess, Martin Foster, Marcus Kelly (Lee Tomlin 78), Craig McAllister (Michael Rankine 66), Simeon Jackson

Subs Not Used : Paul Nicholls, Lee Hales

Histon (Red / Black) : Danny Naisbitt, Craig Pope, Matthew Langston, Matthew Mitchell-King , Gareth Gwillin, John Kennedy, Erkan Okay, Adrian Cambridge (Antonio Murray 84), Nathanial Knight-Percival, Cliff Akurang, Danny Wright

Subs Not Used : Lance Key, Matthew Haniver, Jamie Barker, Robbie Nightingale

Goals : Akurang (28), Hope (30), Gwillim (41), Jackson (43), Kennedy (68)

Yellow Cards : Mitchell-King, Foster, Challinor, Cambridge

Referee: O Langford

Attendance: 1351 (Away 141).

Man of the Match sponsored by the Diamonds Rioja Club : Andy Burgess

Bristol Rovers 5 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Rushden & Diamonds took an early lead against Bristol Rovers in challenging conditions at the Memorial Stadium, but the excellent pace and movement shown by Rovers meant that they were able to create a succession of clear cut chances that were converted to seal a convincing victory for the League One side. Despite the 5-1 scoreline, there was some good football on show from both sides, and with better finishing in a spell towards the end of the first half the Diamonds might have stayed in the game for rather longer.

Manager Garry Hill was able to return to the touchline following the expiry of his ban, and he made two changes to the side that lost at Northwich, with Paul Bastock preferred to Paul Nicholls in goal, and Andy Burgess returning from injury to replace Martin Foster who had been carrying a knock for a while. Burgess took his place in right midfield with Jon Challinor reverting to the centre.

Rovers Coach Paul Trollope was already struggling to put out a back four, and with a third suspension starting he used David Pipe at right back.

The talking point before the game started was the weather. After poor weather on Friday, the succession of storms in Bristol on Saturday morning was followed by a longer spell of hail and rain from 12:30, and although the pitch had recovered well from the recent cup replay, the heavy rain meant that an inspection was called for at 2pm, with the gates kept locked until the verdict was received. Referee Melin quickly decided the pitch was playable, and as the weather was improving he appeared to have little hesitation to confirm the game would be started.

With a strong wind blowing towards the South Stand where the Diamonds fans were seated, the teams changed ends, giving the visitors the advantage of the wind in the first half.

Rovers started much the brighter, with Pipe and Igoe combining well on the right, with Igoe able to hit a succession of crosses that the Diamonds defence had to scramble for corners, with Curtis Osano needing all of his composure to keep the ball the right side of the post on more than one occasion. The short corner move used from the left was working well too, with several dangerous crosses threatening the opening goal, with Andy Burgess helping out the defence as he cleared on goal bound effort from on the six-yard line.

Diamonds did have some attacking threat, with Dean Howell getting forward and finding Craig McAllister, whose touch went narrowly behind his strike partner. Marcus Kelly was putting in some good runs down the left, and well as harrying Pipe into a couple of mistakes. Following such pressure, on 10 minutes he received the ball from Curtis Woodhouse not far from the half way line, wide on the left, and he hit what looked like an adventurous "up and under" ball, 45 yards from goal, towards the strikers for them to run and challenge the defence. However, the strong wind gave the ball extra impetus, and Steve Phillips in the Rovers goal couldn’t back pedal quickly enough to prevent the ball going over his head and into the net to give the Diamonds the lead. Whether he meant it as an attempted lob over the keeper only he will know, but it was enough to send the Diamonds fans behind that goal wild, and also receive Alan Shearer’s nomination for goal of the day on Match of the Day – so it was certainly quite a goal !

As the Diamonds managed to hang on to their lead, despite a number of near misses, especially following dangerous breaks down the right by Igoe, and resultant corners, the Rovers fans were getting impatient, and made little effort to get behind their team whilst they were behind. Curtis Osano was starting to find freedom to combine with Andy Burgess on the right, and he and Marcus Kelly were both able to force corners via runs to the by-line. One of these saw a chance fall to McAllister as a Challinor shot was blocked, but he was facing away from goal and couldn’t feed a team-mate before the Rovers defence got in their challenges. Another dangerous move saw Marcus Kelly run at the Rovers defence through the middle, but his shot was over the bar this time. Simeon Jackson also made himself room to get in a decent looking shot, but Phillips was able to smother to his left.

However, just as it looked like Diamonds might be able to preserve their lead, everything changed on the half-hour mark. Suddenly the heavens opened again, and a squally shower hit the ground. This seemed to distract the visitors, and they allowed a loose ball in midfield to be gathered by Rickie Lambert, and gave him time to pick out a pass to Andy Williams, who had plenty of time and space to slot it low past Bastock.

Before Diamonds had regrouped they were 2-1 behind, as once again the Rovers midfield were allowed too much time in the build up to a move which saw the ever threatening Igoe feed Craig Disley via a low cross which saw the midfielder again get too much time in the heart of the penalty box, and he slotted into the net.

To their credit, the heads of the Diamonds players didn’t go down, and in fact they then had their best spell of the game leading up to half-time. They had realised that Phillips was struggling to deal with the windy weather, and tried their luck on goal at every opportunity. Shots from Burgess and Challinor flew well over, but a Simeon Jackson shot was only parried into a dangerous position by Phillips, but luckily his defence were alert and cleared the ball to touch. Another Burgess shot was on target, but Phillips palmed it away, narrowly eluding Simeon Jackson.

Half-time: Bristol Rovers 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

The old adage about how important the next goal would be was clearly very relevant as the two teams restarted. After an initial Diamonds flurry, it was Rovers who began to find more and more space, especially on the right. The Diamonds did still manage to threaten, with Jon Challinor shooting over, and a dangerous Burgess cross being well dealt with by the Gas defence.

Perhaps it was no surprise though when Rovers extended their lead, although poor defending was to blame, as an innocuous ball in from the right flew across the area towards the goal line on the left of the Diamonds goal, with Andy Burgess looking to have a simple job to get the ball away. He dwelt on the ball however, allowing Lambert to get a cross back into the box. It looked like Curtis Osano should have been able to deal with this cross, but he let the ball go over his head, leaving Craig Hinton with an easy header to make it 3-1.

Shortly afterwards Rovers went four ahead, thus killing off any hope of a Diamonds revival. Woodhouse and Challinor got into a tangle in midfield, both appearing to leave the ball to each other, and a simple ball from Campbell found Igoe, and he fed Disley who in turn set up a gilt-edged chance for Rickie Lambert to slot home.

As expected both sides then made use of their substitutes – with Diamonds bringing on the alternate strike pairing of Tomlin and Rankine. Tomlin in particular looked very lively, and he carried on where his team-mates left off in testing the nervous looking Phillips, with one shot squirming out of the keeper’s hands and going past him, but, fortunately for him, he had done enough to force it wide of the post. Another Tomlin effort saw another Phillips fumble, but this time it hit his own boot and flicked away thus preventing the consolation goal.

In fact it was Rovers who scored the final goal of the game, with Stuart Campbell finding time and space to feed a poorly marked Rickie Lambert to score his second of the game.

Although Paul Bastock couldn’t really be blamed for the five goals, he hadn’t really had much opportunity to show what he could do, but this changed in the last few minutes, as he was forced to make two excellent saves to prevent the scoreline taking on an embarrassing look.

Full-time: Bristol Rovers 5 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Although Rovers gave the Diamonds a lesson in effective set-up play, there was enough of merit on show from the Diamonds against a team two leagues higher to offset the disappointment of the final scoreline and missing out on the potentially lucrative third round tie.

In a well fought and well refereed game, despite the squally conditions, it was also pleasing to see such flowing football combined with excellent discipline from both sides.

Diamonds only have a short time to put thoughts of Cup glory out of their minds as they must prepare for the visit of Histon on Tuesday night, a team that is challenging for a play-off spot.

Teams:

Bristol Rovers (Blue / White):

Steve Phillips, Sammy Igoe, Craig Hinton, Stuart Campbell, Andy Williams (Matt Groves 77), Rickie Lambert, Chris Carruthers, David Pipe, Craig Disley (Tom Parrinello 87), Lewis Haldane (Chris Lines 65), Aaron Lescott

Subs Not Used : Mike Green, Alex Kite

Rushden & Diamonds (Yellow): Paul Bastock, Curtis Osano, Dean Howell, Chris Hope, Phil Gulliver, Curtis Woodhouse (Lee Hales 90+1), Andy Burgess Jon Challinor, Marcus Kelly, Craig McAllister (Michael Rankine 65), Simeon Jackson (Lee Tomlin 65)

Subs Not Used : Paul Nicholls, Wayne Hatswell

Goals : Marcus Kelly (10), Andy Williams (23), Craig Disley (24), Craig Hinton (51), Rickie Lambert (54 and 86)

Yellow Cards : None

Referee: Paul Melin

Attendance: 4816 (Away 215)

Diamonds Man of The Match : Marcus Kelly

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