Burton Albion 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Diamonds were unable to hold on for a draw as Marc Goodfellow’s late goal for Burton Albion moments after coming on as a substitute, gave the home side three points. Daryl Clare had earlier put Albion in front after just 11 minutes, but a fierce drive from Andy Burgess just before the end of the first half meant the two sides were level at the break. A spirited performance in the final ten minutes however, was not as Diamonds left the Pirelli Stadium empty handed.

Manager Garry Hill had made just one change from the side which beat Weymouth on Saturday, with Curtis Woodhouse returning from suspension to replace Marcus Kelly. Jon Challinor moved forward to accompany Simeon Jackson in attack.

Brewers manager Nigel Clough was forced to make three changes from the team which lost at Ebbsfleet United at the weekend ending their six week unbeaten run. Mark Greaves and captain Darren Stride were both ruled due to injury, while Dave Farrell, who also took a knock was named on the bench as a precaution. Keith Gilroy, Ryan Austin and fans favourite Daryl Clare returned to the starting line up.

With the rain easing off slightly just before kick-off, both sides found it difficult on the wet surface. The home side started more confidently and Daryl Clare blasted over the bar in the opening seconds, but neither side were coping very well with the conditions. Diamonds seemed happy to defend with most of the play taking place in the Diamonds half and on 11 minutes, Albion went in front. As Andy Corbett took the ball down the right flank, his cross in to the centre found Daryl Clare with time to place a shot past keeper Dale Roberts.

Both sides then had some good chances. The Albion defence had difficulty coping with a bouncing ball in the area, but neither Lee Tomlin nor Simeon Jackson were able to get the vital touch on the ball. Burton’s veteran keeper Kevin Poole then tipped a Tomlin effort out for a corner. At the other end however, Albion still looked dangerous coming forward and Daryl Clare had another shot on goal drift inches past the post.

As the half progressed, it was difficult to see how Diamonds were going to get back on equal terms. Jon Challinor was being constantly caught in an offside position, snuffing out any chance of further Diamonds’ attacks. Andy Corbett and Daryl Clare were a constant headache with the Diamonds defence having difficulty coping with several dangerous crosses and Roberts was well positioned to gather a powerful header from defender Aaron Webster after a John McGrath corner.

Diamonds got a lucky break on 42 minutes when they got an equaliser. After a misunderstanding in the Albion defence, they lost possession some ten yards outside their own penalty area. Curtis Woodhouse was quick to pounce and sprayed the ball out to Andy Burgess on the left. After taking the ball forward, he drilled a 25 yard shot low into the far corner past the helpless Kevin Poole.

Half-time: Burton Albion 1 – 1 Rushden & Diamonds

The second half started with a flurry of activity as both sides tried to take the initiative. Phil Gulliver headed wide from a corner but on 49 minutes, Burton thought they had taken the lead. Following a free kick, John McGrath’s played the ball short to Michael Simpson who fired in a fierce shot which went in off the post. As the players celebrated, the referee consulted with the linesman and disallowed the goal indicating offside. With Woodhouse back on the goal line, it was difficult to see who exactly was offside but Diamonds were grateful for the decision.

The controversy seemed to spur on both sides and Lee Tomlin’s shot on goal two minutes later produced a good save from Poole. Moments later, Simpson tried to chip the ball over Dale Roberts from the edge of the area, but the tall Diamonds keeper was able to reach up and pluck the ball out of the air. Roberts then made a superb save from Ryan Austin’s free kick to keep Diamonds in the game.

Andy Burgess tried to create some chances for Diamonds and had an effort on goal blocked on 57 minutes, but Albion still looked more likely to score. Shaun Harrad fired over from 15 yards, while Corbett also went wide. The referee then made another controversial decision as he appeared to halt another Burton attack after an infringement, but then as both sets of players stopped suddenly waved the home side to play on.

Both teams made substitutions in the final quarter, Michael Rankine and Marcus Kelly replacing Jon Challinor and Lee Tomlin, but it was Albion’s first substitution on 75 minutes which was to make the difference. Moments after Marc Goodfellow had replaced Keith Gilroy, the forward scored with his first touch. Curtis Osano had surged forward during a Diamonds attack but lost possession leaving him hopelessly out of position. Burgess raced back to cover as Corbett sent the ball forward to Marc Goodfellow in space on the edge of the area and after one touch away from Burgess, sent a volley past Roberts.

Andy Gooding came on for his Diamonds debut on 79 minutes as Diamonds pressed to get level. Chris Hope went forward with Andy Burgess to join Jackson and Rankine, leaving just Phil Gulliver and Dean Howell at the back. A Hope free-kick from just outside the area was deflected past the post while Osano headed just wide but the three minutes of added time was not enough as referee blew for full time.

Full-time: Burton Albion 2 – 1 Rushden & Diamonds

Diamonds could probably have little complaint at the result with Albion’s disallowed goal at the start of the second half mystifying most people in the ground, although they did put 100% effort into trying to salvage something in the final ten minutes of the game. After just missing out on the play-off’s last year (thanks to Diamonds final day victory at the Pirelli Stadium), Burton look a good bet to still be in contention for League football come May. Diamonds meanwhile found out they will be visiting the Shay in next Saturday’s FA Trophy tie, as Halifax Town beat Bishop Stortford 4-1.

Teams:

Burton Albion – Poole, Corbett, Webster, James, McGrath, Clare (Farrell 86), Gilroy (Goodfellow 75), Harrad (Edwards 82), Austin, Brayford, Simpson.

Subs not used: Deeney, Clough.

Rushden & Diamonds – Roberts, Osano, Gulliver, Hope (c), Challinor (Rankine 67), Woodhouse, Jackson, Burgess, Tomlin (Kelly 72), Shaw (Gooding 79), Howell.

Subs not used: Bastock, Hales.

Goals: Clare 11 (1-0), Burgess 42 (1-1), Goodfellow 77 (2-1).

Booked: Nil.

Referee: Mr W.Barratt (Worcs)

Attendance: 1460 (125 away).

Reporters Man of the Match: Andy Burgess

By Dave Mason

Rushden & Diamonds 3 Weymouth 2

Manager Garry Hill was full of praise for his players as they put last week’s poor performance at Crawley behind them. Diamonds made the perfect start with Tom Shaw heading them in front within 2 minutes, but goals from Scott Doe and former Diamond Michael Malcolm either side of the break saw the away side take the lead. Two goals from Simeon Jackson in the final half hour secured the points for Diamonds.

Hill made four changes from the team which lost at Crawley. Curtis Woodhouse was serving a one match suspension after picking up his fifth yellow card, while Michael Rankine and Lee Hales were on the bench. Tom Shaw earned his chance to start, while Jon Challinor and Marcus Kelly returned to the midfield. Loan signing Dale Roberts made his debut, replacing Paul Bastock. Andy Gooding, who signed after being released from Coventry City was on the bench.

Weymouth manager Jason Tindall made just one change from the side which beat Kidderminster on penalties to progress through to the FA Trophy 3rd on Tuesday night with Scott Doe replacing the suspended Kyle Critchell. Injury problems meant Ashley Vickers, Simon Weatherstone, Narada Bernard, Nick Crittenden and Lewis Ironside were all still sidelined. Former Diamond Michael Malcolm, who signed earlier this month was also in the starting line-up, while Stuart Douglas was on the bench.

Within the opening minute, Diamonds were on the attack as Simeon Jackson chased down a ball to the by-line, winning a corner. Marcus Kelly stepped up to take the kick and put in a great ball to the near post, which keeper Jason Matthews appeared to get a hand to, pushing the ball onto the bar. As the ball bounced out to the far post, Tom Shaw was on hand to nod the ball home and give Diamonds an early lead.

The goal seemed to give the home side a boost as they looked confident coming forward, although the Terras had a penalty appeal turned down after a Trevor Challis free kick bounced around the penalty area. But it was Diamonds who had the better possession with some good exchanges in midfield as they looked to get a second. Jon Challinor headed just wide from a Marcus Kelly free kick on 7 minutes, while the keeper just beat Simeon Jackson to a cross from Dean Howell after 15 minutes.

After the early domination, Weymouth started to mount a few attacks and Scott Doe should have done better with a free header, finding the keeper’s hands. Challinor had a couple of shots on goal, shooting wide, then firing a long shot straight at Matthews. Paulo Vernazza received a yellow card for a foul on Marcus Kelly, but on 24 minutes, he was responsible for Weymouth’s equaliser. After a quick move out of defence involving Trevor Challis and captain Anton Robinson, Stuart Beavon was fouled by Curtis Osano on the edge of the area. Vernazza’s free kick was deflected past Roberts by Scott Doe.

The goal inspired Weymouth and they had their best spell. On 29 minutes, a long ball from the back saw Roberts race out to clear, but the ball fell straight to Daniel Phillips. Fortunately for Diamonds, his first time effort on the open goal went well wide and from the goal kick, Burgess nearly countered with a 30 yard shot that the Weymouth keeper held at the second attempt.

Weymouth were having difficulty containing Burgess and he set Osano away on the right wing, his cross/shot skimming across the goal and just clearing the far post. With half time approaching, Diamonds had a couple of good chances. Another corner from Marcus Kelly on 42 minutes caused all sorts of problems again, as his cross dipped at the near post. The ball was cleared only as far as Tom Shaw, whose shot was blocked on the line and cleared away. Then just before the break, Phil Gulliver’s clearance was touched on by Shaw to Lee Tomlin who fired a shot past the Weymouth keeper, striking the inside of the post and rebounding out across the goal. Deep into injury time, new keeper Dale Roberts had a scare when he fumbled the ball, but Chris Hope was alert and cleared the danger.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 – 1 Weymouth

While Diamonds had taken the lead at the start of the first half, it was Weymouth who took the lead with three minutes of the restart. The home side were guilty of some poor defending again as Robinson on the left, took the ball towards goal. His cross to the far post left Roberts with no chance as Michael Malcolm side-footed the ball home to give the visitors the lead.

Diamonds could probably consider themselves to be unfortunate to be behind but chances fell at both ends. Jackson provided a great ball for Lee Tomlin, the ball just being cleared for a corner, while Malcolm shot wide for the visiotrs. Weymouth replaced Daniel Phillips with James Coutts on the hour. Within a minute, Diamonds had a strong appeal for a penalty turned down as Lee Tomlin took a tumble in the area, as the defender cleared the ball away for a corner. But it didn’t matter in the end as Diamonds levelled from the corner. This time it was Burgess who sent the ball over from the left and Challinor’s flick gave Simeon Jackson an easy chance at the far post with a close range volley.

Tomlin was replaced by Michael Rankine on 64 minutes, as Diamonds pushed forward. Vernazza had a 25 yard shot drift wide for Weymouth, while Tom Shaw was put through on goal by Jackson moments later and forced a good save from the keeper. Shaw was close again on 70 minutes, just failing to connect with another Burgess corner. Moments later, Burgess hit the woodwork, the ball coming down off the bar just behind Challinor at the far post, but the defence managed to clear the danger. On 75 minutes, Diamonds got the all important third goal as Chris Hope sent a long ball out from the back. Michael Rankine flicked the ball on to send Simeon Jackson clear on goal, and although Matthews managed to get a hand on the ball, it had enough pace to cross the line before the defenders were able to get back.

Michael Rankine’s arrival certainly seemed to liven up the Diamonds attack, and his cross from the by-line set up another chance for Challinor. Shaw was penalised for handball on 82 minutes, just 5 yards outside the area as he shielded his face from a shot on goal, but James Coutts fired the free kick over the bar. But Diamonds continued to attack, and after they were awarded a free kick in a similar position, Shaw also fired over.

With five minutes of injury time signalled, Diamonds started to defend deeper and deeper which made for a nervous few moments, but they defended well enough to earn the three points.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 3 – 2 Weymouth

Garry Hill was pleased to get a victory against his former side and praised a good team performance. Rankine’s introduction just after Jackson had levelled the scores seemed to make the difference as he chased down every ball, providing the vital flick for the winning goal. Diamonds are in action again on Tuesday night when they visit the Pirelli Stadium to take on Burton Albion.

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds – Roberts, Osano, Gulliver, Hope(c), Challinor, Jackson, Burgess, Tomlin (Rankine 64), Shaw, Kelly (Hales 88), Howell.

Subs not used: Bastock, Gooding, El Kholti

Weymouth – Matthews, Challis (Gross 74), Browning, Phillips (Coutts 60), Beavon (Douglas 87), Robinson (c), Doe, Vernazza, Kitamarike, Ngala, Malcolm.

Subs not used: Jambarti, Domoraud.

Goals: Shaw 2 (1-0); Doe 24 (1-1), Malcolm 48 (1-2), Jackson 61 (2-2), Jackson 75 (3-2).

Booked: Vernazza 20 (foul), Phillips 45 (foul), Challis 68 (foul).

Referee: Mr P.Gibbs (West Midlands)

Attendance: 1448 (104 away).

Derek Jones Bodywork Ltd Man of the Match – Simeon Jackson

By Dave Mason

Rushden & Diamonds 4 Northampton Spencer 2 (aet)

Monday 21st January 2008 at Nene Park

Northants Hiller Senior Cup semi-final

With Diamonds winning the Hillier Senior Cup in 2007 and Northampton Spencer winning in 2006, both teams were looking to progress to another County Cup Final. An early strike from Jon Challinor gave Diamonds a half-time lead, but Spencer came back to score twice through Graham Cottle’s spot kick and Tom O’Brien to put the home side under pressure. Tom Shaw’s second header in three days put the game into extra time and he added a penalty after Lee Tomlin was brought down 15 minutes into the extra period. Debutant Sam Page made the game safe before the final whistle. 

Diamonds had beaten Corby Town (5-0) and Cogenhoe United (4-1) in the previous rounds, and once again fielded a mix of first and youth team players, with Aynsley McDonald making his first team debut at left back. Also playing his first game was central defender Sam Page, released from MK Dons. Chris Hope, still trying to get some match fitness captained the side.

The UCL Premier Division side had defeated Kettering Town (2-1) and Stewarts & Lloyds (3-2) to reach the semis. Their game at Kingsthorpe Mill at the weekend was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, but player manager Steve Jelley made two changes from their last game – a 5-1 win against Wootton Blue Cross. Former Diamond Kevin Slinn and Jelley himself making way for Josh Urquhart and Dan Chilton who captained the side.

Diamonds kicked off towards the Airwair Stand in their red shirts, with Northampton Spencer playing in their normal white and green kit. The early play saw Diamonds pressing forward and Hope went just wide from an early corner, but after just 6 minutes, Diamonds went in front. Jon Challinor intercepted a pass on the half-way line and headed towards goal. His shot from some 35 yards left keeper Shaun Markie with little hope as the ball flew into the top corner.

Spencer tried to respond and within moments, Phil Cassidy’s cross finding Tom O’Brien just in an offside position. It looked if Diamonds might dominate the UCL side with chances falling to Lee Tomlin and Tom Shaw, whose header was cleared off the line by Josh Urquhart.

Diamonds continued to push forward with Spencer’s final ball letting them down. On 21 minutes, keeper Shaun Markie just got a hand to Tomlin’s fierce shot from the edge of the area to push the ball away for a corner. Ben Nunn was pushing forward on the right adding support for Tomlin, while centre backs Chris Hope and Sam Page were able to snuff out any danger posed by the visitors.

Margarson was called into action on 35 minutes, punching away a dangerous free kick from the impressive Scott Marshall. Just before the break, Diamonds had another great chance to increase their lead when a long ball out of defence found Lawrence Lambley surging forward. His speed allowed him to beat the keeper to the ball, but his touch took the ball wide. Tomlin fired into the side netting as Lambley laid the ball back. As Diamonds pushed forward, Challinor had a shot blocked, while Tomlin’s header from Rankine was easily saved by the keeper.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 – 0 Northampton Spencer

The visitors came out for the second half looking more determined and any thought that they could sit back and relax were soon dispelled. Tom Shaw and Alex Bolt were both booked for over zealous challenges as Spencer went on the attack. Scott Marshall’s free kick from ten yards outside the area produced an excellent save from Margarson, pushing the ball away for a corner.

Challinor’s pass to Rankine on the right side of the goal saw him try a deft little chip over the advancing keeper, but the ball landed on the roof of the net. Diamonds still looked in control, but a poor back pass from Chris Hope on 56 minutes saw Margarson left hopelessly exposed. The keeper was lucky to only receive a yellow card as he brought down Tom O’Brien as the midfielder tried to round the keeper. Graham Cottle stepped up and placed the penalty wide of Margarson as the ball went in off the post for an equaliser.

Diamonds came straight back, Lambley’s cross ball to Tomlin saw the ball rebound off the top of the crossbar before being put behind for another corner. But from Diamonds corner, Spencer made a quick break out of defence and took the lead. Another defensive slip saw Matt Collins gain possession, and his pass sent Tom O’Brien clear to shoot past Margarson.

Jake Beecroft replaced Michael Rankine on 67 minutes, as Jon Challinor was pushed forward into the front line and within seconds, Diamonds drew level. As the ball was played in from the right, unmarked Tom Shaw was in the perfect position to head the ball past Markie.

Youth striker Sam Smith replaced Ben Nunn on 74 minutes as Diamonds pushed for a winner. Smith went into attack, while Chris Hope went to the right back position. But Diamonds were lucky not to concede again on 80 minutes, when Hope slipped, allowing Matt Collins a shot on goal. As the ball was deflected upwards, Aynsley McDonald got back on the line to clear the ball away. Diamonds tried to push forward in the closing minutes, and Beecroft’s one-two with Lambley was well held by the visiting keeper.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 2 – 2 Northampton Spencer

With penalties looming at the end of extra time, Diamonds pushed forward with Shaw’s shot clearing the crossbar and Tomlin’s shot blocked. They looked more controlled than the visitors as the chances continued. Sam Smith had a great opportunity on 99 minutes, but shot wide. Chances fell to Challinor and Bolt, but Diamonds finally regained the lead just before the end of the first period. A quick break following a Spencer free-kick saw Challinor set Tomlin away to chase a ball into the penalty area. As the keeper challenged, he seemed to go down easily although the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty. Although Markie escaped punishment, Pete Gregory’s protests earned him a red card as Tom Shaw placed the penalty into the left side of the goal.

Sean Calcutt replaced Chris Hope for the final fifteen minutes and the game was made safe on 112 minutes. Shaw’s short free kick was played forward by Bolt to Sam Smith. His cross from the right found Sam Page, who sent a low shot into the net. Northampton Spencer had a final chance to reduce the arrears 4 minutes from time when a long ball set Ashley Bradshaw away, but Margarson did well to push the ball past the post.

After extra time: Rushden & Diamonds 4 – 2 Northampton Spencer

So Diamonds progress to the final where they will meet the winners of the other semi – Rothwell Town versus Brackley Town scheduled to be played on Tuesday February 5th. The location for the final has yet to be confirmed.

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds – Margarson, Nunn (Smith 74), McDonald, Hope (Calcutt 105), Page, Bolt, Challinor, Shaw, Rankine (Beecroft 67), Tomlin, Lambley.

Subs not used: Day, Freshwater.

Northampton Spencer – .Markie, Urquhart, Langley, Giles, Chilton (Moss 83), Gregory, Marshall, O’Brien, Collins, Cottle (Stratford 109), Cassidy (Bradshaw 102).

Subs not used: Frost.

Goals: Challinor 6 (1-0); Cottle 57pen (1-1); O’Brien 59 (1-2); Shaw 68 (2-2); Shaw 105pen (3-2); Page 112 (4-2).

Booked: Shaw 47 (foul); Bolt 52 (foul); Margarson 56 (foul).

Sent Off: Gregory 105 (abusive language).

Referee: Mr N.Field (Northants)

Attendance: 205

Reporters Man of the Match – Tom Shaw.

Crawley Town 4 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Rushden & Diamonds were brushed aside by a rampant first half performance from Crawley Town, with the three first half goals bringing back memories of the games at Woking and Northwich under Paul Hart last season. A number of ex-Diamonds players took centre-stage for Crawley, with Jamie Cook scoring a hat trick, and the current crop of Diamonds players will be trying to find the reason why 10 of them could perform so well one weekend and so poorly the next.

Manager Hill made the one enforced change to the team that outplayed Exeter, with Chris Hope returning to the line-up to replace the departed Wayne Hatswell, meaning a rare place on the bench for Abdou El-Kholti. Steve Evans selected a Crawley side that started with Paul Watson, Glenn Wilson and Jamie Cook in their side, although Ronnie Bull missed the game due to illness, despite warming up. Midweek signing Kevin James took his place on the bench.

On a dull afternoon at the Broadfield Stadium, Diamonds kicked off towards the flag-bedecked home end, and it was soon clear that Lee Tomlin had been switched from the left to the right, with Andy Burgess playing a wider role towards the left wing.

Crawley looked very lively from the off, with Mustapha Carayol giving Curtis Osano a torrid time down the left wing. In the centre both Pittman and Cook were getting time on the ball from the Diamonds centrebacks, and Curtis Woodhouse was often left to repel the Crawley threat through central midfield on his own.

For Crawley, Paul Watson was being used as their free kick specialist, but two early attempts found little reward, and Glenn Wilson was playing in central defence, being sent forwards for corners and free kicks – something he wasn’t used to in his time at the Diamonds, when he and Watson would stay back in defence while their fellow defenders went forward for the dead ball situations.

Carayol picked up an early yellow as the only reward for his flair down the left, as he nudged the ball away after the Reds had conceded a free kick. Shortly afterwards Crawley won a free kick of their own, about 15 yards inside their own half, with Wilson going forwards. The kick from Bayes found Wilson and Thompson, and between the pair they knocked the ball past a static Diamonds central defence for Jon-Paul Pittman to run on and slot the ball past Bastock for the opening goal on 11 minutes.

Paul Watson shot narrowly over from a freekick after Jamie Cook was felled on 18 minutes, and then a minute later another Cook run was only stopped by a desperate Chris Hope tackle, which earned the returning defender a yellow card. A series of Crawley corners then came to nothing, before a rare Diamonds attack saw Michael Rankine winning an aerial challenge following a throw in, but the referee decided to award a free kick anyway. From the Andy Burgess kick, Chris Hope leapt to win a header only to see it strike the bar and away behind the goal, although referee Phillips thought there might have been a touch from Bayes too.

The winger Carayol (on-loan from the MK Dons) was continuing to get plenty of space down the left, although his end-product wasn’t as good as his build-up play, but he managed to get a ball across the box in the 33rd minute, which Bastock looked to be gathering as it went beyond the far post, but without a great deal of pressure he fumbled the ball, allowing Jamie Cook to nip in, and with two touches fire the ball home.

Bastock was able to make some amends almost immediately afterwards, as Crawley threatened to run away with the game, as Jon-Paul Pittman broke through and fired a shot which Bastock did well to save. Curtis Woodhouse picked up a yellow card shortly afterwards for what looked like a cumulative number of fouls.

Although much of Crawley’s threat had come down the left or through the middle early on, they also were starting to present a threat down the right, and it was from this side that Pittman was able to get behind Howell and fire a cross to find Jamie Cook had slipped his marker, and the ex-Diamonds player was able to head home his second goal to make it 3-0.

Further Crawley Free kicks in dangerous positions, and a number of corners were the result of continuing domination by the home team, but just as half-time approached a chance out of nothing came to Michael Rankine, as the ball cannoned off a defender to find him in space in the area. Although he hit his shot well, Bayes did well to spread his body in front of the shot, and it deflected off him and onto the post for a corner – but Diamonds play in the first half had not deserved what would have been a lifeline at the break.

Half-time: Crawley Town 3 Rushden & Diamonds 0

One can only speculate on what was said in the Diamonds half-time team talk, but it seemed to have had an effect as the Diamonds finally started getting their share of possession, and spent a reasonable amount of time around the Crawley penalty area. Few chances of note were coming from this pressure though, so manager Hill made the decision to change three of the four midfielders rather than experiment with moving Tomlin back to the position on the left he occupied so successfully against Exeter, or pushing him up front instead of one of the ineffective strike pair. Thus Hales, Tomlin and Burgess were replaced by Challinor, Shaw and Kelly.

The change allowed the improvement in possession to continue, with Marcus Kelly getting initial success on the left, although his runs were ending as he cut inside and found the ball on his right foot. It was thus rather against the run of play (at the time) when Crawley scored their fourth goal. Jon-Paul Pittman challenged for the ball on the half-way line on the right hand side with two Diamonds defenders who were pushed forwards, and he knocked the ball 30 yards into space, beating them for pace as he chased the ball. He then laid the ball across the area, to find Jamie Cook in plenty of space on the edge of the six-yard box, and he took a couple of sublime touches to outwit Bastock and then roll the ball home from a narrow angle for an excellent hat trick against his old side.

That seemed to signal the end of the minor Diamonds revival, and it was then Crawley who looked the more likely to score again for the next 20 minutes or so, with Cook narrowly missing converting a Pittman cross, and then Carayol being denied in a one-on-one with Bastock, and then a Cook run down the left saw the ball go across the box, with a great dummy by substitute James seeing the ball reach Pittman but a great covering run by Dean Howell saved further embarrassment.

Diamonds had seen an effort ruled out for offside, and another dangerous break was thwarted by the flag as time ticked away. In the 85th minute a Dean Howell cross from the left was headed out for a corner on the right. Marcus Kelly took the kick, with Tom Shaw getting away from his marker Cook and heading the ball down towards the left hand corner of the goal, with a defender only helping it into the roof of the net, for a barely deserved consolation.

The game ended with smiling faces on the Crawley bench contrasting with the scowls to their left. Quite how a team can look so good one weekend, and then be so disjointed and ineffective the next remains one of the puzzles of football, but in Diamonds case they will need to rediscover that quality before the visit of Weymouth next weekend. With a County Cup game on Monday and a Fans Forum on Thursday it will be a busy week at the club, but the focus must be on finding the cup form seen at Nene Park for games in the Blue Square Premier.

Full-time: Crawley Town 4 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Teams:

Crawley Town (Red) : Ashley Bayes, Paul Watson, Kieran Murphy, Glenn Wilson, Jamie Stevens, Dannie Bulman (Kevin James 64), Tyrone Thompson, Thomas Pinault, Mustapha Carayol (James Krause 76), Jon-Paul Pittman, Jamie Cook (Magno Viera 89)

Subs: Lee Blackburn, Pierre Joseph-Dubois

Rushden & Diamonds (Yellow) : Paul Bastock, Curtis Osano, Dean Howell, Chris Hope, Phil Gulliver, Lee Hales (Tom Shaw 55), Andy Burgess (Marcus Kelly 55), Curtis Woodhouse, Lee Tomlin (Jon Challinor 55), Simeon Jackson, Michael Rankine

Subs Not Used : Martyn Margarson, Abdou El-Kholti

Goals : Jon-Paul Pittman, Jamie Cook (3), Tom Shaw

Yellow Cards : Carayol, Hope, Woodhouse

Referee: D Phillips

Attendance: 1226 (Away 146).

Man of the Match : Not merited

Rushden & Diamonds 3 Exeter City 0

 

Rushden & Diamonds reached the third round of the FA Carlsberg Trophy with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Exeter City in an entertaining match at Nene Park, maintaining their 100% record at Nene Park over the Devon Club. Once again those fans who invested in watching the Diamonds in a Cup Game at Nene Park were rewarded with goals and an excellent performance.

Manager Hill made two changes to the sixteen that lined up last weekend against Salisbury with Simeon Jackson returning in place of Marcus Kelly, with Lee Tomlin moving to left midfield, and Martyn Margarson returned to the bench.

Exeter manager Paul Tisdale also made changes to the team that lost 1-0 at local rivals Torquay United on New Year’s Day, prior to their 11 day break, with neither Jamie Mackie or Andy Marriott in the squad.

As a low winter sun set over Nene Park to end a sunny winter afternoon the Grecians won the toss and elected to let Diamonds kick off with the sun in their faces – towards the Peter De Banke terrace. Credit must go to the groundstaff for preparing a pitch that showed no signs of the heavy rain that had fallen in the past 36 hours.

The Grecians had some initial pressure, forcing a couple of early corners, but from when the Diamonds forced their first corner on seven minutes it became one-way traffic for the remainder of the half.

This corner resulted in Curtis Woodhouse feeding Michael Rankine in a great position, but he dwelt too long on the ball, and although the blocked shot rebound back to him, he dwelt too long for a second time and the ball was cleared to safety.

Lee Tomlin was causing all kinds of threats down the left, with his running and his willingness to take the ball first time and move forwards towards goal, and it was from one of these runs that a corner was conceded on the right hand side after 9 minutes. Kelly hit a looping corner high across the area, Gulliver headed back to find Wayne Hatswell in space on the edge of the box, but his shot was just wide of the left-hand post.

Bertie Cozic picked up the first yellow of the game as he struggled to counter the threat of Tomlin, and it was the birthday-boy Tomlin who again got in a great cross from the left to find Rankine, but his header looped across the goal.

Both the Diamonds full backs were also presenting a threat going forwards, with Curtis Osano beating two men in a run that resulted in a corner, and from that kick Wayne Hatswell saw another effort, this time a header, well caught by Jones.

On 18 minutes an even nearer miss came when Tomlin and Burgess linked well down the left, and fed the overlapping Howell. His cross found Lee Hales, who hit a powerful shot from the edge of the box, which was half blocked, and although the ball was then knocked in the net by Tomlin the flag was already up for offside.

The chances were coming on a regular basis at this point, with a Simeon Jackson attempt with his left foot missing narrowly to the right of the goal after good work by Rankine to flick on a Bastock punt.

The Exeter threat was very rare at this point, with Hatswell and Gulliver having great games, although Paul Bastock did well to get his fingertips to a low cross from Stansfield from the left, just foiling the run of Wayne Carlisle. Curtis Woodhouse picked up a yellow card for a tackle in midfield to even up the card count.

On 26 minutes Hatswell narrowly missed with a header from a corner, and a minute later Michael Rankine could only head over an Andy Burgess cross after a sublime crossfield ball from Lee Tomlin.

On 28 minutes came the breakthrough that the Diamonds play deserved. A Diamonds corner on the right was headed out of the area to about 25 yards out, not far from the left hand edge of the "D", and Lee Hales hit a dipping volley which Jones did well to get a hand to, but he could only help it into the top right hand corner of his net. Such a spectacular goal was perhaps what was needed after so many easier chances had not been converted.

Curtis Woodhouse was another of many Diamonds players who was having a great game, and his surging run latched on to a great through ball from Lee Tomlin, hit on the volley from a Bastock clearance. The resultant cross found Michael Rankine with his back to goal, and as he superbly turned his man it looked like all of the hard work had been done, but he was unable to regain sufficient balance to hit a telling shot.

Andy Burgess forced a corner on 35 minutes as he helped on a long ball from Phil Gulliver, forcing Rob Edwards to concede a corner. Again the corner was half cleared, this time to Lee Hales in the right channel just outside the box, and he was able to change feet with a deft left and right flick and prod the ball to Andy Burgess in space just outside the left edge of the box, and he hit a dipping shot which again found the right hand corner of the net.

Again, the 2-0 lead was no more than the Diamonds deserved, although they did have one scare when Phil Gulliver appeared to hold down Cozic just outside the box, but the Carlisle freekick was well over the bar.

A further cross by Andy Burgess resulted after a marvellous move in which he fed Lee Tomlin with a great reverse ball, and Tomlin similarly showed great vision to return the complement. The cross found Michael Rankine, but his header was deflected wide.

So the half ended with the Diamonds team applauded off the pitch after another great cup performance at Nene Park, with all eleven players making a contribution to the team effort.

Half time: Rushden & Diamonds 2 Exeter City 0

The Grecians made one change was made at half-time, bringing on Steve Basham for Richard Logan, and again they started the half more brightly, but the Diamonds defence continued to have an excellent afternoon mopping up any threat on goal.

Curtis Osano showed great skill with a run past several defenders and a shot that was unfortunate to be deflected over the bar. Michael Rankine was holding the ball up well, and twice fed in Simeon Jackson, with the second of these runs resulting in a penalty claim.

The Diamonds won a free kick on the edge of the area on 53 minutes, with Wayne Hatswell again getting forward to hit a powerful shot just over the bar.

Wayne Carlisle continued to do his best to try to help the Exeter strike pair, but his shot went across the area with neither of them getting the touch needed.

Lee Tomlin was taken off to great applause on 65 minutes, and he will be able to reflect on another impressive performance as he celebrates his birthday this evening. Marcus Kelly resumed his role on the left.

On 73 minutes Simeon Jackson and Kelly combined, after a Rankine flick-on and the winger was able to cut into the area, but his right foot shot was straight at Jones.

Another Rankine flick-on on 79 minutes saw Simeon Jackson running through on goal, only to be tackled to the ground by Jon Richardson. The only decision to be made was whether it was a foul, and once referee Rushton decided it was then the inevitable red card followed.

Phil Gulliver had a go with the freekick this time, but his powerful shot was wide of the left-hand post.

The 10 man Exeter side tried to continue pressing forwards by playing three at the back, but on 83 minutes the game was over when a Hatswell freekick on the half-way line found Andy Burgess on the left. He combined with Marcus Kelly, and their one-two allowed the winger to break into the area and switch the ball back onto his left foot as his marker floundered, and hit a shot past Jones to make it 3-0.

The Exeter fans nearly all showed sporting appreciation for Jon Challinor as he replaced Simeon Jackson, and apart from one last chance for Michael Rankine as he was allowed to play on from what looked an offside position, and a good save from Paul Bastock from Welsh International Rob Edwards’ free-kick, the match ended 3-0.

So, a deserved win for the Diamonds with all of those on the pitch putting in worthy performances, and the manager also getting the credit for his formation change and playing Lee Tomlin wide left. He will be especially happy to see the three goals coming from midfield as for the second game running his strikeforce had plenty of chances without getting the desired ratio of goals.

The excellent cup form at Nene Park will perhaps get another opportunity this season as the Diamonds await Monday’s draw, but next weekend it will be back to league action at Crawley. The third round of the FA Trophy is on 2nd February, so the planned game at Burton that day will need to be rearranged.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 3 Exeter City 0

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (White):

Paul Bastock, Curtis Osano, Dean Howell, Wayne Hatswell, Phil Gulliver, Lee Hales (Tom Shaw 88), Andy Burgess, Curtis Woodhouse, Simeon Jackson (Jon Challinor 84), Lee Tomlin (Marcus Kelly 65), Michael Rankine

Subs Not Used: Chris Hope, Lawrence Lambley

Exeter City (Blue) : Paul Jones, Steve Tully, George Friend, Matt Gill, Adam Stansfield, Wayne Carlisle, Bertie Cozic (Ryan Harley 70), Rob Edwards, John Richardson, Richard Logan (Steve Basham 45), Dean Moxey (Liam Sercombe 59)

Subs Not Used : Andy Taylor, Lee Elam

Goals: Hales (28), Burgess 36), Kelly (84)

Yellow Cards: Cozic, Woodhouse

Red Card: Richardson

Referee: Mr S Rushton

Attendance: 1098 (Away 147).

Man of the Match nominated by Alan Bailey : Wayne Hatswell

Rushden & Diamonds 0 Salisbury City 0

 

Rushden & Diamonds recent shortage of goals at Nene Park continued as they were held to a goalless draw by 10-man Salisbury City.

Diamonds’ Manager Garry Hill made one change to the eleven that started on New Years’ Day at Stevenage, with the departed Craig McAllister replaced by Michael Rankine. Salisbury manager Nick Holmes stuck with the team that won 3-0 at Weymouth on New Years Day.

As a low winter sun set over Nene Park to end a sunny winter afternoon the Whites (wearing Royal Blue) 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 Whites penalty area. Andy Burgess was playing in a roving role in midfield, with him and Lee Tomlin also offering the threat down the right.

An early corner saw Hatswell and Gulliver finding space in the area, but they appeared to get in each other’s way and the header was over the bar. In the sixth minute it was Burgess who beat two men running into the box on the right, but his shot was well saved.

It was Burgess again on 14 minutes as he linked up well with Lee Tomlin on the right touchline, and from their interchange a dangerous Burgess cross was headed out for a corner.

A minute later came one of Diamonds best chances of the game, as a Howell throw was poorly defended by Robinson, and crossed back into the area where Rankine and his marker both appeared to miss their header, but as the ball dropped the striker was the first to react and clip in a low shot which was unlucky to hit the heel of Aaron Cook and flick away to safety.

Rankine and Tomlin were starting to combine well when Tomlin came in from his wider role, and from one of these Tomlin showed great two footed control and hit a shot from 25 yards that was just wide.

Dean Howell was getting forward well, and from his cross Andy Burgess headed just over on 25 minutes.

The main drama of the game came on 27 minutes, with a rare Salisbury attack seeing a cross from the left from Andy Sandell run across the area, and as Wayne Hatswell went to clear he was tackled rather late by Ian Herring, who had been spoken to by referee Sutton only minutes earlier. Herring was shown what looked rather a harsh red card.

Howell was then in action in defence clearing a threat from Matt Tubbs as he raced on to a Sandell cross, and then worked well with Marcus Kelly to get in a low cross than went behind Rankine and his marker, but was met by Andy Burgess who saw another of his attempts blocked.

Salisbury did have an improved attacking threat after they had reorganised their 10 men, with Michael Fowler shooting wide as half-time approached.

So the half ended goalless, with Diamonds having nothing to show for their greater possession and territorial advantage, with Ryan Clarke only really called to make one good save from Burgess, but his handling was also top class.

Half time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Salisbury City 0

One change was made at half-time – with referee Sutton changing to a green shirt to avoid the clash with the Salisbury Royal Blue.

The half continued in a similar vein to the first, with plenty of Diamonds possession in midfield, and reasonable progression into the area, but their attempts on goal were either wayward or blocked by good defending.

One of the best chances of the half came early on, when a dangerous run by Lee Tomlin saw his flick punched out to Andy Burgess, with his shot being blocked, falling to Wayne Hatswell, whose shot was also blocked, and Curtis Woodhouse had the final attempt, and as for most of the afternoon his shot was wayward.

On 56 minutes, Salisbury had a great chance, when a Sandell corner appeared to be controlled by his arm by Marvin Brown, but the referee allowed him to play on and hit a shot that was blocked on the line by Curtis Woodhouse.

Woodhouse, Howell and Kelly combined well on the left after the ball was switch across field by Lee Tomlin, but the final shot by Kelly hit Tomlin and went away for a goal kick.

A similar move involving Howell and Burgess saw a wayward shot from Burgess, and again the Diamonds could not turn their half-chances into a final threat on goal.

On 63 minutes, Marcus Kelly was replaced by Simeon Jackson who was given a great reception on his 100th appearance for the club. He quickly started harrying the City defence, linking up with Andy Burgess down the left channel only to see his shot saved by Ryan Clarke, who was being called into action more in this half.

On 65 minutes, excellent work by Michael Rankine on the right saw him get to the by-line and chip the ball across the goal for Clarke to palm out to Andy Burgess who quickly moved the ball to Curtis Woodhouse, and his shot hit the arm of defender Cook, but referee Sutton judged the contact accidental.

Lee Tomlin was now playing wide left, and much of Diamonds threat was coming down this side as he linked with Howell and Burgess. It was the Burgess / Tomlin combination that looked to helped break the deadlock on 75 minutes as they combined to allow Tomlin to hit a low cross, which Michael Rankine bundled home, but the striker was adjudged offside.

After a sequence of play that saw a number of wayward attempts by Woodhouse, Jackson, Tomlin and Burgess, Salisbury started to present an attacking threat as the game moved into the final 10 minutes, and had a couple of chances to snatch an unlikely late goal and the three points, but good vision from Howell to run across and clear the threat, as well as firm defending from Hatswell and Gulliver kept them at bay.

The final action saw Simeon Jackson presented with a great chance by a Michael Rankine flick on down the right channel, but his shot was wide of the right post (although Clarke may have got a touch), and then, in the final action, a Jackson shot from the edge of the area was destined to go wide left, but it took a flick off Jon Challinor, but this was not enough to divert it on target.

The game ended in perhaps a fitting goalless draw. Although the Diamonds had seen plenty of possession, the attacking threat in the box was not enough to break down 10-man Salisbury City. They now switch to FA Trophy action next Saturday with the visit of Exeter City.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Salisbury City 0

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (White):

Paul Bastock, Curtis Osano, Dean Howell, Wayne Hatswell, Phil Gulliver, Lee Hales, Andy Burgess, Curtis Woodhouse (Jon Challinor 83), Marcus Kelly (Simeon Jackson 63), Lee Tomlin, Michael Rankine

Subs Not Used: Chris Hope, Tom Shaw, Lawrence Lambley

Salisbury City (Royal Blue) :Ryan Clarke, Jonathan Bass, Matthew Robinson, Aaron Cook (capt), Wayne Turk, Scott Bartlett, Matt Tubbs (Liam Feeney 72), Marvin Brown (Robbie Matthews 58), Darrell Clarke (Michael Fowler 34), Ian Herring (S/O 27), Andy Sandell

Subs Not Used: James Bittner, Oliver Barnes

Goals: None

Yellow Cards: None

Red Card: Ian Herring

Referee: Mr G Sutton

Attendance: 1380 (Away 96).

Man of the Match sponsored by Macron – Andy Burgess

Stevenage Borough 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

 

Rushden & Diamonds were denied the victory their second half performance deserved by two late goals and a refereeing controversy at Broadhall Way. After a fairly tame first half, an excellent second half performance by the Diamonds should have been rewarded when a clear penalty was not seen by the Officials, but justice appeared to have been done when Michael Rankine gave the Diamonds the lead, but two late goals gave a surreal feel to the final scoreline.

Manager Hill reflected the busy Holiday period by again making several changes to the starting eleven, with Jon Challinor and Simeon Jackson only on the bench, and Martin Foster not featuring in the squad. This meant recalls for Lee Hales and Marcus Kelly after they sat out the Northwich game, with Lee Tomlin returning to partner Craig McAllister up front. This meant the line-up was similar to the team put out for the game versus Stevenage on Boxing Day, with McAllister for Jackson the only difference.

Boro manager Peter Taylor brought in Tyrone Berry for Daryl McMahon, and gave a start to recent signing Scott Laird, although there was no place in the squad for Ashley Westwood. John Martin had recovered from a hamstring injury that caused him to miss the game at Altrincham.

On a dull afternoon at Broadhall Way, Diamonds kicked off towards the sparsely populated home end, with Andy Burgess playing in central midfield, with Lee Hales and Lee Tomlin sharing duties wide right. Diamonds had a couple of early attacks with Dean Howell getting forwards down the left. The only threat on goal in the first fifteen minutes came from a Phil Gulliver header from a free-kick which was narrowly wide.

For Stevenage their first really threatening attack came on 16 minutes when a loose ball across the field from Curtis Osano was quickly switched to the Stevenage right and their main threat Craig Dobson, whose dipping cross was headed backwards and away for a corner. The Diamonds defence had their hands full with Dobson and Morison at times, but Dean Howell was able to combine some excellent covering tackles with a couple of dangerous runs forwards.

On 34 minutes Lee Tomlin won the ball off Daryl McMahon on the half-way line and ran at the Boro defence, finding room to hit a powerful shot from 20 yards that was grasped at the second attempt by Julian.

This was perhaps Diamonds best chance of a half that was rather reminiscent of the Boxing Day stalemate, although the Diamonds did seem to present a greater attacking threat.

Half-time: Stevenage Borough 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Although the first half had been reasonably even, and fairly tame, the same couldn’t be said for the second. The Diamonds team inspired by Lee Tomlin’s attacking flair, backed by a solid defence and midfield took the game to their promotion seeking opponents. Those in yellow were constantly harrying their opponents into mistakes, and always willing to stretch for interceptions or run down any loose ball.

Right at the start of the half Lee Tomlin set the scene for his second half performance by winning a free kick on the edge of the area after being fouled by Mark Arber, but Lee Hales could only blast the free kick into the wall.

A succession of Diamonds attacks were the highlight of the first 30 minutes of the half, with Peter Taylor fielding his remaining two substitutes in an attempt to reverse the tide, and the Boro crowd venting their feelings towards the underperforming players.

Lee Tomlin was showing great confidence and touch, with a couple of sublime turns in the penalty box resulting in powerful shots that were unfortunately straight at Julian. Andy Burgess was tracking more out to the right, and he too was able to leave the Boro defence flailing with his touch and ball control. Marcus Kelly remained a threat with his pace on the right, and Curtis Woodhouse combined a battling performance in midfield with a number of runs through the middle, although his shooting was rather waywards, or like Tomlin’s, was well blocked by last ditch defending. The Diamonds were able to penetrate the Stevenage defence almost at will, with one great flick over his head by Tomlin finding Marcus Kelly in space in the area, and although he was closed down he passed to Osano, who completed the circle back to Tomlin whose shot was deflected for a corner.

Boro did have one dangerous attack during this period, and after a mistake by Osano and shot by Stuart Lewis, Daryl McMahon should have done better with a free shot that he could only drag across goal.

On 73 minutes came the major talking point of the game. Another great run by Tomlin after excellent control saw his shot deflected away for a corner. As Kelly’s corner came in it was deflected out towards the penalty spot where Wayne Hatswell was in space. His volley looked bound for the bottom left corner of the goal until a falling Barry Fuller cradled the ball with his arm against his body and then away from the goal. All the players looked at the referee, expecting him to award what appeared to be an inevitable penalty and red card, but he could only look across to his assistant on the right, who ought to have had a perfect view of the offence. For some reason the assistant failed to confirm what everyone had seen, so Mr Hopkins had to wave play on. The Diamonds bench of course were vocal in their protests as the Stevenage contingent could only keep a low profile.

Curtis Osano was also able to get forwards, and on one such run he beat three opponents as he cut inside and hit a left foot shot that

On the 83rd minute it looked like some justice was done, as Diamonds took the lead. Good work by Andy Burgess in central midfield found Marcus Kelly on the left, and he beat his man and hit a powerful shot that took a slight deflection on it’s way to Michael Rankine who slotted home from ten yards.

Manager Hill then took off the impressive Tomlin and replaced him with Jon Challinor in an attempt to seal the victory, as the travelling fans celebrated rather prematurely, and as was seen so many times in previous seasons, there was still time for things to go wrong for the Diamonds.

In the 89th minute Steve Morison picked up the ball on the right, held off his marker and hit a powerful shot that Bastock did well to parry, but the ball fell to substitute Zak Burke who had a simple chance to equalise.

As the fourth official signalled three minutes of added time, the Diamonds were suddenly under pressure for almost the first time in the half, and good work on the left involving Burke and McMahon saw Phil Gulliver bring down McMahon for a penalty as clear as the one the Diamonds had been denied. Mark Arber stepped up and netted easily. There was still time for a couple of Diamonds attacks that threatened a dramatic equaliser, but referee Hopkins brought the game to an end shortly afterwards.

Boro manager Peter Taylor confirmed shortly after the game that he thought that R&DFC deserved to win – although he didn’t see the "penalty" when Fuller handled, he felt R&DFC deserved to be 2 or 3 up before the late drama.

Once again the Diamonds have produced an excellent performance away from Nene Park – albeit with no reward. The result brought back memories of late turnarounds as far back as the Cheltenham game in 1999, and many others in the Tippett and Hunter reigns, yet the quality of performance in this game was a major consolation. They must now try to bring that level of performance back to Nene Park, starting with the visit of Salisbury City on Saturday.

Full-time: Stevenage Borough 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Teams:

Stevenage Borough (White / Red) : Alan Julian, Mark Arber, Ronnie Henry, Luke Oliver, Scott Laird, Junior Lewis (Barry Fuller 62), John Martin (Daryl McMahon 27), Stuart Lewis, Craig Dobson, Tyrone Berry (Jak Burke 58), Steve Morison

Subs Not Used : James Russell, Tony Stokes

Rushden & Diamonds (Yellow) : Paul Bastock, Curtis Osano, Dean Howell, Wayne Hatswell, Phil Gulliver, Lee Hales, Andy Burgess, Curtis Woodhouse, Marcus Kelly, Lee Tomlin (Jon Challinor 86), Craig McAllister (Michael Rankine 74)

Subs Not Used : Chris Hope, Tom Shaw, Simeon Jackson

Goals : Michael Rankine (83), Zak Burke (89), Mark Arber (pen) (90+1)

Yellow Cards : Ronnie Henry, Phil Gulliver, Andy Burgess

Referee: J Hopkins

Attendance: 2702 (Away Fans 333).

Diamonds Man of the Match : Lee Tomlin

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