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.


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.


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