Rushden & Diamonds 2 Halifax Town 2

Rushden & Diamonds earned another draw at Nene Park with a scrambled injury time equaliser from Phil Gulliver making it 2-2. It was probably a fair result from a game that produced little of great quality from either side.

Manager Hill kept faith with the eleven that started in the FA Trophy game with Halifax the previous weekend, This meant that Lee Tomlin was on the bench, along with Curtis Woodhouse on his return from injury. David Brown made his Nene Park debut, and Michael Corcoran was on the bench.

Halifax manager Chris Wilder made two initial changes to the team that lost to the Diamonds in the trophy, with Tom Kearney returning to the side and Simon Ainge making his first league start. He was forced into a third change when Alex Bailey was injured in the warm-up and Tom Harban took his place in central defence.

As a low winter sun shone over Nene Park, Halifax kicked off towards the Peter De Banke terrace, and within three minutes they had taken the lead, as Dean Howell played the ball square across the area to keeper Roberts, but he allowed the ball to run in front of him, for Craig Nelthorpe to run onto and score.

Halifax continued to dominate the first quarter of the game, and it was Roberts who twice prevented Town going further ahead to make partial amends for his early mistake.

The first of these saves came after seven minutes as an excellent ball from Heslop allowed Anthony Griffith to run into the area, but Roberts was quickly off his line to block the shot and see it spin away for a corner.

Diamonds had few threatening attacks in this period, with Marcus Kelly having the best of them as he ran on to one of the many flicks-on that Michael Rankine was able to deliver. Kelly’s shot was blocked for the first Diamonds corner of the half. The corner duty was falling to Tom Shaw for this game, and he saw a partial clearance reach Michael Brown, whose powerful shot hit Chris Hope and Jon Challinor could only skew his shot wide from the loose ball.

On 17 minutes Roberts made his second excellent save of the period, as Phil Gulliver allowed the ball to bounce over his head and Jon Shaw hit a powerful shot that he did well to save at close range.

The Halifax attacks were forcing the Diamonds defenders into more and more mistakes, and Howell and Gulliver managed to combine to concede a corner under little pressure on 21 minutes. The resultant corner was well caught by Roberts, and his quick clearance found David Brown wide on the right, who easily beat Doughty but his cross was just behind Marcus Kelly as he ran in on goal.

For the second quarter the Diamonds started to dominate play, with David Brown starting to link well with Rankine, as the big striker continued to win more than his fair share of the 50/50 balls, and also show some deft touches in distribution to Brown or Burgess.

One great move saw Shaw, Burgess and Osano combine on the right, with Osano’s cross headed narrowly wide by Rankine. Andy Burgess was having some joy with his flicks and touches, and one of these found Challinor, whose shot rebounded to Rankine, but the striker could only force the ball wide.

Another excellent move saw a Rankine overhead kick near the half-way line find Brown, in the middle, but the return ball was well cut out by Adam Quinn. A few minutes later, on 40 minutes, Brown was able to get away from his marker, and run onto a ball over the defence down the left channel. As he attempted to flick the ball around Simon Ainge the ball appeared to hit the defender’s arm, and the the linesman on the far side signalled a penalty.

After protests from the Halifax players had been waved away, Tom Shaw stepped up and hit the spot kick into the left-hand side of the net.

The equaliser was a reasonable reward for the Diamonds attacking play in the second quarter, and the half ended with the scoreline even.

Half time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Halifax Town 1

Any thoughts that the Diamonds improved play in the latter part of the first half might be continued after half-time were quickly dispelled, as the match turned into a stalemate for the early part of the second half. Neither side really threatened to get ahead until a great move between Rankine, Shaw, Burgess and Brown saw the striker first dummy the ball to free Burgess, then hit a cross which Michael Rankine was inches away from getting his foot to the ball.

At the other end Adam Quinn was allowed a free header at a corner, but failed to hit the target. Marcus Kelly found Michael Rankine in the area, but the strikers shot was narrowly wide. The match then quietened down, and there appeared little prospect of any more scoring.

Both sides then started to make changes to try to liven things up, but little of note happened until the 80th minute. Andy Campbell had come on for goalscorer Nelthorpe 12 minutes into the half, and shortly after he was narrowly caught offside by a square-looking Diamonds defence he managed to spring the offside trap after Tom Kearney was gifted the ball by Curtis Osano, and the Halifax captain hit a through ball for Campbell to run unchallenged into the area, taking the ball wide of Roberts and easily knock the ball into the net.

Garry Hill’s immediate response was to take off striker David Brown, and bring on Andy Gooding, moving Lee Tomlin into the middle. This almost paid dividends when Tom Shaw combined with Andy Burgess after Lewis Killeen had given the ball away near the half-way line, and after his first cross was blocked his second cross found Michael Rankine, but his attempt on goal was well blocked.

As the game moved into three minutes of injury time it appeared that the points were heading north to Yorkshire until the Diamonds won a throw on the left, and with the big defenders going up into the area, Michael Rankine was allowed to take the throw. His long throw caused panic in the Town defence, with Tom Shaw in the thick of the action, and the ball broke to Phil Gulliver on the edge of the six yard box to force the ball home for a late equaliser.

The game ended shortly afterwards with perhaps the final scoreline being fair to both sides, but it will be Halifax who will be the most disappointed with the result. The Diamonds now face Grays in midweek, and will be looking to pick up a win to increase their buffer with the drop zone.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 2 Halifax Town 2

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (White):

Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano, Dean Howell, Chris Hope (Capt), Phil Gulliver, Jon Challinor, Andy Burgess, Tom Shaw, Marcus Kelly (Lee Tomlin 61), David Brown (Andy Gooding 80), Michael Rankine

Subs Not Used : Paul Bastock, Curtis Woodhouse, Michael Corcoran

Halifax Town (Yellow) : Adam Legzdins, Matt Doughty, Adam Quinn, Tom Kearney (Capt), Lewis Killeen, Jon Shaw, Craig Nelthorpe (Andy Campbell 57), Anthony Griffith, Simon Ainge (Darryn Stamp 78), Tom Harban, Simon Heslop

Subs Not Used : Tom Sharpe, Steve Torpey, Nicky Gray

Goals: Nelthorpe, Shaw (Pen), Campbell, Gulliver

Yellow Cards: Osano, Quinn, Harban

Referee: Mr M Bull

Attendance: 1472 (80)

Man of the Match sponsored by Sports Programmes : Andy Burgess

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