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

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