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

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