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

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