Rushden & Diamonds 0 Droylsden 0

This was an afternoon that had the press corps checking their thesaurus for appropriate words to describe the game, the weather conditions or the size of the crowd. The crowd was the poorest since the Southern League days, and surely there have been few worse games since the Diamonds left that league.

Manager Hill made six changes from the side that beat Halifax in the Setanta Shield just two days earlier, with the three cup-tied players returning to the line-up, as well as a rare start for Lee Tomlin and also El-Kholti and Gooding started as they had at Kidderminster.

Droylsden had also played on Thursday, drawing with runaway leaders Aldershot, which followed a victory over Halifax, so manager Dave Pace kept faith with the majority of those players, although Steven Daly was suspended following his dismissal on Thursday, and although Jamie McGuire’s two match ban was not due to start until Monday he did not make the 16.

At a damp and gloomy Nene Park, with a swirling wind, the Bloods kicked off towards the Peter De Banke terrace, and within three minutes they had had to bring on Robbie Talbot for Dale Johnson. Andy Burgess was playing in left midfield, with Lee Tomlin on the right, and Conal Platt pushed forwards to support Charles Ademeno.

The visitors did have a couple of early attacks that looked dangerous, whilst for the Diamonds Conal Platt was far more involved than he had been against Kidderminster. Phil Gulliver made a great tackle on Terry Fearns after he had got past Michael Corcoran who was playing at right back. Fearns was able to get in a shot after good work by Chris Denham after 22 minutes, but it was deflected wide for a corner.

That was the end of the Bloods threat for the half, as the Diamonds started to have more of possession without really threatening Phillips goal. In fact it was as late as the 33rd minute that Phillips was called into serious action when he had to field an El-Kholti cross, and then shortly afterwards an Andy Gooding cross was met by Andy Burgess on the edge of the box, and his looping header had Phillips scrambling backwards to tip the ball over the bar.

The resultant Platt corner also looked dangerous as it looped in the wind and narrowly missed dropping in at the far post.

Andy Burgess was getting some space out on the left, and one of his crosses was headed straight to Woodhouse by the Bloods defence, but he could only shoot wide – as if summing up the dour first half.

Half time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Droylsden 0

The Diamonds came out very early for the second half, setting an expectation that they might be about to show greater drive in the second period.

For the first few minutes of the half it appeared that this might be the case, as a run down the right by Lee Tomlin, found Ademeno, who hit a quick pass to Andy Gooding running into the area, but his shot was blocked. Ademeno then managed to rob out-muscle Strong and feed Andy Burgess who could only miskick. A minute or so Diamonds won a free kick, and Conal Platt found Andy Burgess who put in a dangerous looking cross that was well cleared.

Lee Tomlin then made a decent run down the right and crossed to Platt and Burgess, and although neither player could reach the header, Platt was able to retrieve the ball and knock it across to Burgess whose header was saved by Phillips.

The Bloods then created their first chance for 20 minutes or so, with Mackin setting up Denham for a powerful shot which the dependable Roberts gathered.

The next action perhaps summed up the afternoon, as a decent looking Diamonds break involved an interchange between Tomlin and Ademeno, setting Platt up for a shot which he sliced so badly that it went out for a throw in.

After this initial action the game settled back into a midfield struggle, with neither side showing enough quality to put a telling move together. The Bloods tried switching Chris Denham between either wing, and he remained their best player when he kept on his feet.

Abdou El-Kholti was starting to look dangerous on the left, as he and Burgess started to work out the strategy down that wing, but Corcoran on the other side had very few chances to get forwards.

Garry Hill brought on his three substitutes, but by that stage the game had settled into a stupor that even the quality of those players could not change. Even the fourth official had descended to the level of the game as he too struggled – in his case to operate his numbers board.

When the Diamonds did try to get the ball forwards quickly along the ground they did look dangerous, with one move starting from their own penalty box with Gooding and Burgess finding Tomlin in space, but his ball forwards to Woodhouse running into spacewas hit far too hard.

As the home fans streamed away towards the end the Bloods fans continued to cheer on their team, and it took a couple of late saves from Roberts, notably from Denham, to deny them seeing their first away win of the season.

The Diamonds now have a few days off until the Setanta Shield final at Aldershot on Thursday, but will need to shake off the lethargy shown at Nene Park this afternoon.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Droylsden 0

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (White): Dale Roberts, Michael Corcoran, Abdou El-Kholti (Dean Howell 68), Chris Hope (Capt), Phil Gulliver, Lee Tomlin, Andy Gooding, Curtis Woodhouse, Andy Burgess, Conal Platt (Jon Challinor 68), Charles Ademeno (Michael Rankine 61),

Subs Not Used : Tom Shaw, Marcus Kelly,

Droylsden (Blue) : Paul Phillips, Lee Roche, Colin Cryan, Greg Strong, Kevin Lynch, Levi Mackin, Sean Newton, Ashley Burbeary, Chris Denham, Dale Johnson (Robbie Talbot 5, Ged Murphy 73), Terry Fearns (Adam Dugdale 82)

Subs Not Used : Karl Munroe, Danny Ellis

Goals: None

Yellow Cards: Strong, Mackin, Roche

Referee: Mr M Stewart

Attendance: 1186 (31)

Man of the Match sponsored by Roger and Norma Smart : Andy Gooding

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Halifax Town 0

It is often said that in cup competitions it is the final scoreline that matters, and using that principle Rushden & Diamonds will be happy with the victory and progression to the final of the Setanta Shield. The performance may not have been convincing, and only Halifax’s striker crisis prevented them from making something from the many chances they created, but the win takes R&DFC to their first final in a national Cup competition.

Manager Garry Hill restored the five players he had rested on Monday, but there was no place in the starting line-up for Lee Tomlin, Hill preferring the Rankine and Challinor partnership.

Halifax Manager Chris Wilder had a different challenge in naming his starting line-up – with only 15 fit players to choose from he could only name 4 substitutes, and had to name the makeshift strike partnership of Daryl Taylor and Lewis Killeen.

Halifax kicked off towards a sparsely populated Peter De Banke end, and it immediately became clear they were planning to play a sweeping passing game.

After a poor clearance by Phil Gulliver was compounded by a miskick by Curtis Osano a Lewis Killeen shot was saved by Roberts.

The first sign of the Diamonds defence’s struggle to deal with the ball over their heads into space was on 9 minutes, as a Kearney through-ball looked to be threatening little danger, but as Roberts headed towards it, he seemed to hesitate, and Dean Howell headed the ball past him, seemingly giving Daryl Taylor an open goal, but Phil Gulliver was able to get in a saving challenge.

A great run by Simon Heslop saw an excellent save by Roberts as he tipped the ball over the bar.

Jon Challinor did have the ball in the net on 13 minutes, but the flag had been raised and whistle blown for offside well before he netted.

On 15 minutes a Diamonds raid down the left saw Michael Rankine cleverly beat the Halifax offside trap by dodging back onside just as the ball was passed to him (something very clear to those in the pressbox, even if the Halifax fans at an angle didn’t spot the correct decision. Rankine laid the ball off to Marcus Kelly, who ran past his marker and hit a shot towards goal that flicked off a defender for a corner – again the travelling fans weren’t happy with the decision, but the flick was clearly audible. The corner was taken on the left by Tom Shaw, and it found Chris Hope on the far side of the box, who had made space to head the ball back into the six yard box, where Michael Rankine was quick to react and knock the ball into the net.

The goal was against the run of play at that time, and the Shaymen continued to press towards goal with fluent passing moves.

Another flowing move saw Kearney feed Heslop passing the ball right through the heart of the Diamonds defence, who in turn passed to Whitehouse, whose shot was saved by Roberts.

Dean Howell was again showing his worth going forwards, as he and Kelly linked up well on several occasions, and in one notable move he cut back to hit a cross with his right foot, but Tom Shaw could not get enough power into his header as he met the cross, resulting in an easy save.

Simon Heslop continued to get forwards to support the strike pair, and he hit a dangerous shot just wide of the right hand post on 24 minutes.

Jon Challinor was having to drop back to assist the midfield, and he and Kelly combined for Kelly to hit a great cross which looked to be heading towards Michael Rankine until Matt Doughty cut it out and headed clear over the bar.

Curtis Woodhouse found more joy by switching to the left, and fired a cross-field ball to Michael Rankine who showed great ball control but his shot was blocked by Jake Wright.

As with the league game earlier a few weeks earlier there were problems between Roberts and Howell when it came to clearing up loose balls, with Howell conceding a needless corner. From that corner Matt Doughty was able to hang back unmarked, and he hit a powerful shot that was saved by Roberts.

Chris Hope committed himself to a challenge on Heslop as half-time approached, but the midfielder was able to evade the challenge to run through and see his shot saved by Roberts.

The half ended with the Diamonds relieved to be ahead, and with a chance to work out how to counter the threat from the sweeping Halifax moves, as it was clear that if the visitors improved their strike threat there was every chance that they would get an equaliser.

Half time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Halifax Town 0

The second half started in a similar pattern as the first, with the Diamonds only having a single meaningful attack in the first 10 minutes, as Dean Howell swept down the left, shook off a foul, but saw his cross blocked.

In fact it was Howell again who escaped his defensive challenges to sweep forwards 11 minutes into the half, and this time his cross was caught by Legzdins.

At the other end good chances were missed by Matt Doughty after Tom Shaw was harshly penalised for a tackle on Mark Whitehouse, and several good runs by Daryl Taylor failed to deliver an end product.

The Diamonds team did start passing the ball through the middle, rather than just relying on a threat down the left, with Andy Burgess moving inside, selling a couple of dummies to set Jon Challinor away on a run that was stopped by good defending.

Halifax started to try to change things by bringing on substitutes, but this only seemed to make the game more scrappy, and apart from Michael Rankine getting on the end of a Marcus Kelly corner but being adjudged to have fouled the goalkeeper, there was a long period with little goalmouth action.

The game did stir back into life when Lee Tomlin replaced Jon Challinor on 75 minutes, and he immediately started running at a tiring defence, although perhaps was too unselfish when his run had taken him past two defenders, but laying the ball off to Andy Burgess had seen the move slow down and the defence be given time to get in their challenges.

Tomlin did show that he was prepared to go it alone, as he burst past two defenders and hit a wickedly curling shot which just screwed wide of the top-right angle of post and bar.

As time ran out Halifax forced a couple of corners and free kicks in dangerous positions, but although Diamonds had pulled back all their players into defence, apart from Marcus Kelly, the Shaymen still kept two defenders and the goalkeeper back to mark him.

The final chance fell to Simon Ainge from a corner, but his hooked shot over his head flew over the goal, and the referee blew for full time.

The victory takes R&DFC to the final of the competition, currently scheduled to be played at the Recreation Ground, Aldershot next Thursday evening – April 3rd.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Halifax Town 0

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (White): Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano, Dean Howell, Chris Hope (Capt), Phil Gulliver, Marcus Kelly, Andy Burgess, Curtis Woodhouse, Tom Shaw, Jon Challinor (Lee Tomlin 75), Michael Rankine

Subs Not Used : Martyn Margarson (GK), Andy Gooding, Lawrence Lambley, Abdou El-Kholti

Halifax Town (Yellow / Blue) : Adam Legzdins, Tom Harban, Matt Doughty, Peter Atherton, Jake Wright, Nicky Gray (Simon Ainge 89), Tom Kearney (Capt), Simon Heslop (Danny Forrest 63), Mark Whitehouse, Lewis Killeen (Anthony Griffith 68), Daryl Taylor

Sub Not Used: Craig Mawson (GK)

Goals: Rankine (15)

Yellow Cards: Atherton (74), Woodhouse (79)

Referee: Mr G Sutton

Attendance: 880 (Away 51)

Man of the Match sponsored by the Rolton Group : Dale Roberts

Kidderminster Harriers 2 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Rushden & Diamonds went down to a Bank Holiday defeat at Aggborough, with a number of fringe players being given the chance to start a game by Garry Hill, but the outcome was one of the few really disappointing away performances the travelling Diamonds fans have seen this season.

The decision of manager Hill to make the five changes illustrated his commitment to bring some silverware to Nene Park this season, with the Setanta Shield semi-final against Halifax scheduled for later in the week. Club Captain Chris Hope was joined on the substitutes bench by Jon Challinor, Marcus Kelly and Andy Burgess as they all dropped out of the starting 11 from Saturday’s draw again York. Dean Howell wasn’t included in the 16, despite taking part in the pre-match warm-up. This meant a first full start for Conal Platt, as well as a rare start for Abdou El-Kholti. Andy Gooding, Phil Gulliver and Michael Rankine also returned to the starting line-up.

Although the Diamonds did exert a little initial pressure from the kick-off, it was quickly clear that the Harriers were able to play flowing football, with Jeannin and Russell on the left linking with either the strikeforce or the supporting player Darryl Knights.

As early as the 4th minute a powerful Simon Russell shot from the left corner of the box was tipped wide by Roberts for a corner. Shortly afterwards Harriers won a corner when Jeannin fed Daryll Knights, and Michael Corcoran blocked the shot. The resulting corner saw the two dominant Harriers centre backs come forwards, and it was captain Mark Creighton whose powerful headed thudded back off the crossbar. As the ball then bounced in the area it was dropped by Dale Roberts, but his defenders managed to clear the danger.

Abdou El-Kholti did make a few runs down the left wing early on, but otherwise there was little penetration from either the Diamonds midfield or strikeforce. Charles Ademeno did get a decent header at goal from a Tom Shaw corner, but it hit a defender.

On the 15th minute mark the Harriers took a deserved lead. A flowing move down the left, involving the influential Jeannin saw a Russell cross reach Iyseden Christie, who might have done better with his headed attempt on goal, but did at least force a corner on the right. Simon Russell was proving the Kidderminster dead-ball specialist, and his short corner move allowed him to make space to the side of Michael Corcoran and hit a powerful low cross that Iyseden Christie was able to volley home to Roberts’ right.

Kidderminster were then unlucky not to have a clear run on goal, as Michael Rankine fought for the ball in midfield, but as he tried to lay the ball off to his midfield team-mates he only succeeding in bisecting them, and feeding Matt Barnes-Horner, who was several yards beyond the last defender. The Linesman obviously didn’t realise that the ball had been laid on by a Diamonds player, and thus raised his flag for offside. Rankine had a chance at the other end, as Tom Shaw found him on space on the left-hand edge of the box, and although he did well to wrong-foot his marker, a covering defender was able to block his shot on goal.

On the half-hour mark the continuing pressure from the home side almost forced a deserved second goal, as firstly Knights received a long ball and fed Simon Russell whose shot was just wide, and then a Christie cross was palmed off Matt Barnes-Homer’s head by Roberts.

The half ended with the Harriers only one goal ahead, despite having much the best of the play, leaving the Diamonds with some hope that they might improve in the second half to present a realistic threat to their dominant opponents.

Half-time: Kidderminster Harriers 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

As the game restarted without any changes in personnel, the pattern of the first half was quickly restored, with the home team making a succession of fluid passing moves, with Russell Penn getting a greater share of the action, and Darryl Knights again tormenting the static defence as he linked up with the strike pair of Christie and Barnes-Homer.

Within a minute a mix-up in the Diamonds midfield involving Conal Platt saw Iyseden Christie clear though on goal, but the covering defenders were able to get in a challenge – the initial mistake being enough to make manager Hill throw down his half-time cup of tea in frustration.

Premiership veteran Jeff Kenna was having a far better game than in the recent Setanta Shield game, and he raided forwards down the right in the 50th minute and fired in a powerful cross that was met with a clear and clean header by Mark Creighton, who celebrated his 100th appearance for the Harriers with a powerful header past Roberts.

After the second goal had been conceded the Diamonds players seemed to get a sense of urgency that had been lacking so far, and for a 15 minute period they did at least match their opponents. Tom Shaw had two shots in quick succession, both of which were caught by Chris MacKenzie high to his right. Another move saw Michael Rankine finding space just outside the right corner of the six yard box, but he could only blaze over the goal. Diamonds also had a couple of free-kick opportunities on the edge of the Harriers box, but unlike in the Setanta Shield game, Andy Gooding was unable to make anything of them.

Manager Hill also tried a number of substitutions to see if this could generate enough of a threat to get a goal back, with first Lee Tomlin replacing the largely anonymous Ademeno, and then Challinor and Kelly replacing Shaw and Woodhouse – a move that also signalled Hill’s intention to rest his key midfielders for the Halifax game.

Tomlin did threaten with one dangerous looking run towards the box, with the striker beating two defenders, and it was only the outstretched foot of Gavin Hurren, thrust out behind him, that stopped Tomlin being clean through on goal.

As the game moved into injury time, there was still an opportunity for Lee Tomlin to pick up yet another yellow card for dissent as he berated the linesman who appeared to have rightly awarded the home team a throw in.

The game ended fittingly with Kidderminster in possession, in a game that represented their 8th victory over the Diamonds, contrasting with the seven draws and seven defeats. The last Diamonds player to score against Kidderminster in a league game was Paul Hall, with the last six league meetings resulting in a blank for the Diamonds strikeforce. With the exception of the efforts of Tom Shaw, it always looked likely that this game would similarly end without a Diamonds goal.

Having put so much emphasis on the Setanta Shield game on Thursday, there will be additional pressure on the Diamonds team to deliver, to justify the lacklustre showing for the travelling fans in this game at Aggborough.

Full-time: Kidderminster Harriers 2 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Teams:

Kidderminster Harriers (Red / White): Chris MacKenzie, Jeff Kenna, Gavin Hurren, Mark Creighton, Simon Russell, Russell Penn, Dean Bennett, Matthew Barnes-Horner (Michael McGrath 86), Alex Jeannin, Iyseden Christie, Darryl Knights (Brian Smikle 83)

Subs Not Used : Dean Coleman, Andy Ferrell, Paul Bignot

Rushden & Diamonds (Yellow) : Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano, Abdou El-Kholti, Phil Gulliver, Michael Corcoran, Conal Platt, Tom Shaw (Jon Challinor 82), Andy Gooding, Curtis Woodhouse (Marcus Kelly 82), Michael Rankine, Charles Ademeno (Lee Tomlin 69)

Subs Not Used : Chris Hope, Andy Burgess

Goals : Iyseden Christie (15), Mark Creighton (50)

Yellow Cards : Hurren, Creighton, Tomlin

Referee: Mr S Rushton

Attendance: 1477 (Away 137)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Tom Shaw

Rushden & Diamonds 1 York City 1

Rushden and York shared the spoils on a cold and windy Easter Saturday as Diamonds were unable to make their early domination count. Richard Brodie gave the visitors the lead on 55 minutes, with Chris Hope equalising from a corner six minutes later.

Manager Garry Hill made two changes to the team which had lost at Histon last weekend. Curtis Woodhouse returned after his boxing victory last Sunday, while Charles Ademeno was preferred to Michael Rankine in attack. Jon Challinor was fully fit again having recovered from the stomach bug that forced him off at Histon. Both Rankine and Andy Gooding were named on the bench – Gooding having had treatment for a sprained ankle, but Lee Tomlin was not named in the squad after a thigh strain.

York boss Colin Walker made just one change from the team that won at Forest Green on Tuesday night, with the injured Nicky Wroe being replaced in the eleven by striker Onome Sodje. David McGurk (calf), and Manny Panther (knee) had both recovered from injury with Panther named amongst the substitutes. Craig Farrell remained sidelined due to a foot injury.

Although York have a slender chance of making the play-offs, they didn’t seem to have much urgency in their play as Diamonds looked more lively during the opening twenty minutes. Despite having greater possession though, they were unable to penetrate the York defence. Jon Challinor and Charles Ademeno looked to have a good understanding with each other but were unable to open up the visitors. Ademeno had a good chance after just 6 minutes, his shot from Tom Shaw’s corner being cleared off the line by Stuart Elliott.

Within the opening fifteen minutes, Andy Burgess fired over, while Ademeno and Challinor both had efforts saved by keeper Tom Evans. York were forced to make a change on 15 minutes, when defender Darren Kelly appeared to suffer a leg injury with Darren Craddock replacing.

A counter attack from the visitors on 20 minutes saw Richard Brodie’s cross find Mark Robinson at the far post. He in turn found Martyn Woolford whose shot went over. York had to wait until just before the half hour point for their first real shot on target. Martyn Woolford’s corner found captain Dave McGurk, and his header went through the crowded area, with Dale Roberts having to dive right to push the ball wide.

On 34 minutes, Simon Rusk’s foul on Charles Ademeno led to a free kick to Diamonds in a dangerous position just outside the area. Chris Hope’s shot lacked power however and was easily taken by Evans. During the final ten minutes of the first half, neither side was able to mount a challenge on goal and despite having better possession, Diamonds couldn’t break down the York defence to create a scoring opportunity. The nearest they came was a shot from distance by Andy Burgess just before the whistle, which went straight at the keeper.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 – 0 York City

Having been second best for most of the first half, York started the second period more determined. They had a real chance to go in front within two minutes of the restart after Onome Sodje dispossessed Curtis Osano deep in the Diamonds half. Sodje’s cross to the far post found Richard Brodie’s right foot, but he was unable to direct the ball into the net and Dale Roberts pushed the ball away to safety. Osano blocked an effort from Mark Robinson, while Stuart Elliott shot straight at Roberts.

After 55 minutes, York went ahead as they pushed forward again. Simon Rusk played the ball across field to find Ben Purkiss who was free on the right. His cross found Richard Brodie running in at the far post who headed past Dale Roberts.

After the goal, York started to fade again as Diamonds went forward. On 61 minutes, Marcus Kelly was fouled on the left some 15 yards outside the area. Kelly took the free kick high to the far post where Chris Hope came in unmarked and headed past Tom Evans to bring the scores level again.

Midway through the second period, Michael Rankine came on for Charles Ademeno as Diamonds tried to push forward. On 75 minutes, a poor clearance by Evans found Curtis Woodhouse with space to play the ball straight back over the defence and in to Rankine. But as the keeper advanced, he fired over the bar. Adbou El-Kholti replaced Kelly immediately after the miss, taking up a position in the left midfield.

The Minstermen were guilty of getting caught in possession time and time again, but Diamonds had difficulty taking advantage. With just under ten minutes remaining, Chris Hope played the ball up to Challinor in the area. As he tried to get a shot on goal, he appeared to be impeded, but nothing was given by the referee Rob Whitton. Challinor was in the wars again at the other end of the field on 86 minutes as he received an elbow in the face from Brodie as he tried to get on the end of a Woolford corner. After three minutes of treatment, he was taken off with Conal Platt coming on for his home debut.

Diamonds continued to push forward in stoppage time and Tom Shaw came close after Dean Howell’s cross was flicked on by Platt. Moments later, Shaw’s corner found Hope again in the area, but his shot went just past the upright.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 – 1 York City

Another point sees Diamonds move up a place to 14th with Garry Hill still striving for a top ten finish. Three games in the next week commence with a Bank Holiday Monday afternoon game at Aggborough against old rivals Kidderminster Harriers. It will be 22nd competitive meeting between the two sides.

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds – Roberts, Osano, Hope(c), Challinor (Platt 86), Woodhouse, Ademeno (Rankine 69), Burgess, Shaw, Kelly (El-Kholti 75), Howell, Corcoran.

Subs not used:. Gulliver, Gooding.

York City – .Evans, Robinson (Panther 80), Elliott, McGurk(c), Parslow, Sodje, Woolford, Rusk (Lloyd 89), Brodie, Purkiss, Kelly (Craddock 15).

Subs not used: Mimms, Fortune-West.

Goals: Brodie 55 (0-1), Hope 61 (1-1).

Booked: Nil.

Referee: Mr R.Whitton (Essex).

Attendance: 1423 (140 away).

Man of the Match chosen by Mick Heffron – Curtis Woodhouse

By Dave Mason

Histon 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Diamonds run of five wins came to an end at the Glassworld Stadium as substitute Neil Andrews struck an injury time winner to seal the points for Histon. Antonio Murray had given the home side the lead midway through the second half, before Charles Ademeno got an equaliser, scoring his first goal for Diamonds. But as Diamonds pressed forward looking for a winner, a quick break out of defence allowed the Stutes to emulate their win over Diamonds at Nene Park earlier this season.

Garry Hill made just one change from the side which had beaten Ebbsfleet United on Tuesday evening, with Michael Rankine starting in place of Charles Ademeno, who dropped to the bench. Similarly, Histon made just one change from the side which had lost to Aldershot in midweek. Adrian Cambridge had suffered a back injury during that game and manager Steve Fallon named Robbie Nightingale in the starting line-up.

Histon started well and had two half chances in the opening ten minutes. Jack Midson shot wide from John Kennedy’s centre, while Danny Wright headed over after some good movement between Midson and Antonio Murray. Both Midson and Wright were proving to be a handful for Diamonds defence. The closest Diamonds came in the opening 15 minutes was a header from Michael Rankine which lacked power and went harmlessly to Danny Naisbitt in the Stutes goal.

On 17 minutes, a nasty foul by Antonio Murray saw Andy Gooding receive treatment for a leg injury and although he continued for a short while, he was forced to be withdrawn some five minutes later, hobbling to the dressing room. Phil Gulliver replaced him moving into the centre of the defence, with Michael Corcoran moving right. Curtis Osano went into a midfield role.

The home side continued to press forward with Robbie Nightingale’s shot being deflected to Dale Roberts in the Diamonds goal. As the half progressed though, Diamonds started to created several chances themselves. Jon Challinor had two attempts, the first just going over the top, while the second striking the crossbar. Although Antonio Murray escaped a booking for his foul on Gooding, his poor challenge on Marcus Kelly saw him receive a yellow card.

 

Midson and Wright combined well again for the home side on 30 minutes, with Roberts saving low down but it was Diamonds that had an excellent opportunity after a quick ball out from Marcus Kelly to Curtis Osano. With Challinor free on the right, Osano failed to take advantage and ended up overrunning the ball.

 

On 38 minutes, Histon went close again with Murray’s fierce shot from 30 yards drifting just wide of the post, but moments later, Diamonds thought they had gone in front. Jon Challlinor robbed Patrick Ada on the edge of the area and sent the ball square to Andy Burgess. He played the ball back for Challinor to beat Naisbitt from 18 yards, but the linesman’s flag went up for offside and the goal was disallowed.

 

Half-time: Histon 0 – 0 Rushden & Diamonds

 

Histon made one change at the start of the second half, with Matt Langston replacing Gareth Gwillim. Chances continued for both sides and Danny Wright should have done better after getting on the end of Antonio Murray’s cross, but he headed straight at Roberts. On 53 minutes, Marcus Kelly had a cross cum shot bounce back off the crossbar, while three minutes later, Nat Knight-Percival sent a powerful shot into the side-netting.

 

Jon Challinor had been ill before the game and just before the hour, he was taken off with Charles Ademeno coming on to replace him in attack. On 63 minutes, Neil Andrews came on for Histon in place of Robbie Nightingale. Both sides continued to attack and Roberts had to be alert to a chip in from Jack Midson and booted a clearance in to touch. But on 65 minutes, it was the home side that went in front when Midson sent a long ball forward from the halfway line. With the defence split, Antonio Murray latched on to the ball and chipped over the advancing Dale Roberts to give the Stutes the lead.

 

With time running out, Lee Tomlin was brought on to replace Chris Hope as Diamonds went to a 3-4-3 formation with Tomlin, Ademeno and Rankine up front. Lee Tomlin had a shot blocked shortly after his introduction, and Diamonds got level after 77 minutes. Tomlin took the ball to the by-line after a through ball from Marcus Kelly, and sent it over to the far post. The keeper appeared to have it covered but he clattered into two other defenders who also went up for the ball and it fell nicely for Charles Ademeno to fire the ball into the roof of the net from ten yards.

 

With seven minutes remaining Jamie Barker replaced Nat Knight-Percival and he had a hand in a good move which ended in a great chance for Danny Wright, but the striker headed over from close range. Both sides were looking to win the game, and Diamonds tried to push forward in the remaining few minutes. Osano shot wide while Tomlin had another effort blocked, but deep into the three minutes of stoppage time, Histon got the winner. Again, it was a long ball out of defence which saw Danny Wright and Michael Corcoran chasing for a ball down the right flank. Wright was first to the ball and put in cross for Neil Andrews to place a shot past Roberts.

 

Full-time: Histon 2 – 1 Rushden & Diamonds

 

Although disappointing to have conceded so late in the game, it was mainly due to Diamonds pushing forward with a desire to win the three points that left them exposed at the back and ultimately led to the Histon winner. Although the run of five consecutive wins and five away wins has come to an end, it has left them mid table, and in with a chance of winning some silverware in the form of the Setanta Shield. The planned semi-final game against either Halifax or Burton Albion on Wednesday has had to be postponed as the two teams have yet to resolve their quarter final tie, so next up is York City at Nene Park on Saturday where they have the chance to avenge their FA Trophy exit. In the meantime Curtis Woodhouse pursues his boxing with a welterweight bout in the Sheffield United Academy Sunday evening. After 4 wins so far, he is looking to continue his rise through the ranks.

 

Teams:

Histon – Naisbitt, Okay, Mitchell-King(c), J.Kennedy, Murray, Nightingale (Andrews 63), Knight-Percival (Barker 83), Wright, Gwillim (Langston HT), Ada, Midson.

Subs not used: Key, N.Kennedy.

 

Rushden & Diamonds – Roberts, Osano, Hope (Tomlin 72), Challinor (Ademeno 58), Burgess, Rankine, Shaw, Gooding (Gulliver 22), Kelly, Howell, Corcoran.

Subs not used: Platt, El-Kholti.

 

Goals: Murray 65 (1-0), Ademeno 77 (1-1), Andrews 90+3 (2-1).

 

Booked: Murray 29 (foul).

 

Referee: Mr C.Pawson (Yorkshire)

 

Attendance: 767 (approx 200 away).

 

By Dave Mason

Ebbsfleet United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 3

Rushden & Diamonds made it five away wins in a row with an impressive 3-0 win at Ebbsfleet United. This makes it the best sequence of away wins since the start of the 2000-2001 season and it takes them into the top half of the Blue Square Premier table for the first time this year.

Well taken goals by Challinor, Rankine and Tomlin capped a great team performance, where the entire team deserves praise with coping with difficult conditions to record another clean sheet away from home.

After losing twice at Stonebridge Road in the first season back in the Conference, the Diamonds were looking for their first victory at this level over the Kent club.

Manager Garry Hill made three changes to the side that beat Northwich Victoria on Saturday, with Tomlin, Gulliver and Woodhouse replaced by Ademeno, Corcoran and Gooding respectively. Gulliver and Tomlin were joined on the bench by Michael Rankine, Conal Platt and Abdou El Kholti.

Fleet manager Liam Daish started with three ex-Diamonds, Ronnie Bull at left back, Peter Hawkins in central defence and Michael Bostwick in midfield in a line up that had few changes from the line-up that started in the semi-final of the FA Trophy, Bull replacing Opinel being the main change.

On a gusty evening Ebbsfleet kicked off towards a sparsely populated home end. The feature of the first quarter was how both teams struggled to get to grips with the wind that was at the Fleet backs. Charles Ademeno showed pace early on to outstrip Gary MacDonald, but in doing so he took a knock which seemed to slow him down for much of the remainder of the half.

Andy Burgess was showing great determination in his tackling, and he and Jon Challinor were linking up well on the right. At the other end goalkeeper Roberts was doing well to cope with the long wind-assisted through balls, often having to take the role of sweeper to clear the danger from the Fleet strikers.

Diamonds had a number of early corners, but the Fleet defence were coping with the aerial threat easily.

The first serious attempt on goal came in the 11th minute when a long Cronin clearance was flicked on to Chukki Eribenne, but his well-hit volley flew across goal and just wide of the left-hand post.

On 19 minutes Andy Burgess picked up a Yellow card that had looked like coming for a while, following a challenge on Ronnie Bull. A few seconds later it was the Diamonds that won a free kick just inside their own half and after some debate about whether Roberts would take it, Chris Hope stepped up and hit a powerful kick down the right channel. Andy Burgess and Jon Challinor were there, and up against Ronnie Bull and Peter Hawkins, and although it looked like Hawkins had a chance to clear, it came off his body and fell to Jon Challinor who hit a looping volley into the far corner of the net, right in front of the 65 or so Diamonds fans.

Challinor almost repeated the feat a few minutes later as he turned and hit a Hope free kick, but this time it was straight at Cronin.

The Diamonds defence continued to impress as they held their own against Ebbsfleet pressure assisted by the strong wind, but on 39 minutes Ebbsfleet should have equalised, as a long McPhee throw was flicked on by Barrett to John Akinde who was clear on goal, but Dale Roberts was able to parry his shot and Andy Burgess was there to tidy up.

There was still time for Jon Challinor to get in a great clearing header from a dangerous free kick as the entire Diamonds side showed how much they wanted to win this game.

The half ended with Diamonds deservedly ahead, as although they had been under some pressure, their organisation and effort had earned them the lead.

Half-time: Ebbsfleet United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Fleet manager Liam Daish made a half-time substitution to try to get some more attacking threat in his side, but the pattern of play was largely unchanged, with both sides struggling to make an impact in the box. One great chance fell to Jon Challinor as he appeared to have a free header about 12 yards out, from a Shaw free kick, but he could only direct it wide.

Shaw incurred some criticism from the bench as he tried a 40 yard shot that bounced twice before reaching Cronin, but it did show the Diamonds attacking intent,  Referee Beck then gave Chris McPhee a yellow card for dissent after the Fleet midfielder felt that Marcus Kelly had dived to win a free kick near the corner flag – and did a top quality impression of how a dive should look – but Referee Beck saw this as dissent.

Manager Hill wasn’t content to try to defend the one goal lead, and with such an attacking bench he was able to bring on three forward players. First to come on was Michael Rankine, who replaced Charles Ademeno, and immediately started seeing some return on his ability to win headers against the Fleet defence.

Challinor made one of many good runs on the night on 65 minutes, and as the ball bounced off Ronnie Bull he had a great chance to find Marcus Kelly unmarked in the area, but his cross was cut out by Cronin.

Shortly after Lee Tomlin had replaced Challinor he played his part in a move that almost brought the Diamonds second goal, as he rose to flick on a through ball into space for Michael Rankine, and once the striker had beaten Peter Hawkins for pace he was unlucky to see his shot deflect off Cronin and creep just wide.

Although the big striker was getting a few taunts from the Fleet fans after his miss, he was able to silence those taunts in the best possible way a few minutes later.

A quick Diamonds throw on the left found Andy Gooding about 30 yards out. He ran straight at the Fleet defence, beat one man, played a one-two with Kelly to beat a second and get to the goalline, where he laid the ball off to Michael Rankine to fire home the Diamonds second goal.

Shortly after the goal manager Hill was able to introduce Conal Platt to make his Diamonds debut. The Diamonds were still in command in defence, notably when Michael Corcoran “took one for the team” blocking a powerful shot with his body.

Most of the Fleet fans had left after Rankine’s goal, but those that remained saw what was possibly the best goal of the three, and good work by Conal Platt on the front of the penalty box on the left saw him lay a great pass across the area to the on running Lee Tomlin, who went past Ronnie Bull at great speed and hit a powerful shot into the far corner to put the icing on the cake.

There was still time for the Fleet to have what was perhaps their best chance of the game, but a desperate block by Michael Corcoran meant the clean sheet was maintained, and the Diamonds can go into the game at Histon on Saturday with confidence they are playing better than when Histon came to Nene Park before Christmas. Although there have been many difficult away trips in the past month, those able to follow the Diamonds over this period have been rewarded by seeing five consecutive away wins.

Full-time: Ebbsfleet United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 3

Teams:

Ebbsfleet United (Red / White): Lance Cronin, Mark Ricketts, Ronnie Bull, Peter Hawkins, Gary MacDonald, Stacy Long, Chris McPhee, Neil Barrett, Michael Bostwick (Luke Moore 60), Chukki Eribenne (Raphael Nade 76), John Akinde (George Purcell 45)

Subs Not Used : Sam Mott, Sacha Opinel

Rushden & Diamonds (Yellow) : Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano, Dean Howell, Chris Hope, Michael Corcoran, Marcus Kelly (Conal Platt 86), Andy Burgess, Andy Gooding, Tom Shaw, Jon Challinor (Lee Tomlin 74), Charles Ademeno (Michael Rankine 65)

Subs Not Used : Phil Gulliver, Abdou El-Kholti

Goals : Challinor (21), Rankine (81), Tomlin (92)

Yellow Cards : Burgess (20), Eribenne (31), McPhee (51), Corcoran (63), McDonald (74)

Referee: Mr S Beck

Attendance: 546 (Away 66)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Michael Corcoran

Northwich Victoria 0 Rushden & Diamonds 4

Rushden & Diamonds progressed to the Northern Area Final of the Setanta Shield with a storming first half performance putting four goals past Northwich Victoria at the Victoria Stadium. Despite playing into driving wind and rain in the first period, some excellent finishing by Jon Challinor and Marcus Kelly meant the game was effectively over at the interval.

After losing on their previous two appearances at the Victoria Stadium, playing first in blue, then in red, it was third time lucky with the yellow strip.

Manager Garry Hill fielded a team of familiar faces, with Lee Tomlin getting a start as Michael Rankine was carrying a knock picked up in training. Abdou El-Kholti and Andy Gooding dropped to the bench with Burgess and Kelly returning to the starting line-up, along with Dean Howell, with Michael Corcoran cup-tied. A youthful looking bench included keeper Joe Day, Jake Beecroft and Alex Bolt. Jon Challinor had narrowly missed a suspenson, after his fifth booking of the season at Farsley was received just after the cut-off date for suspensions.

Vics manager Dino Maamria didn’t risk top scorer Lee Steele, and ex-Diamond Danny Williams remained out injured.

On a breezy winter afternoon R&DFC kicked off towards the 75 or so travelling fans. The game started rather tamely, as both sides struggled to get to grips with the blustery conditions, and although the majority of the early play was in the Vics half, only a storming run by Tom Shaw through the middle represented any goal threat.

After the first quarter of an hour the Vics started to get forwards, and won the first of several corners following good covering work by the Diamonds defence to block a shot by Josh Wilson. However, in keeping with most of what was to follow, the Vics failed to take any advantage of the dead ball opportunities.

Lee Tomlin was trying to make the most of his rare start, and a good run through the middle saw him ghost past two defenders before a third managed to block a powerful shot.

Further Vics corners came and went, and there was also good work from Tom Shaw to dispossess Joel Byrom after he had been found in space by Michael Byrne during a quick Vics break after a Diamonds free kick opportunity was wasted.

Marcus Kelly really seemed to have benefitted from the rest he was given in midweek, as he was chasing down his opponent at every opportunity, and it was this persistence that won the Diamonds a corner on 23 minutes. The hard and low corner was taken on the left by Tom Shaw, and when the defender on the near post failed to intercept it, it fell to Jon Challinor who netted easily with his left foot.

This goal signalled a period of Diamonds dominance, with Lee Tomlin having another good run and shot. The Vics did have one threatening moment when a long ball through the middle found Aaron Burns running in on goal, but what appeared to be a great tackle by Chris Hope just outside the “D” was flagged as a foul by the linesman, but the Byrne kick was deflected away for a corner.

Marcus Kelly was continuing to threaten down the left, and after being put through by an Andy Burgess header he was able to reach the by-line and hit a powerful low cross of great quality, but it was just cut out by an alert Belle before it reached Challinor as the game reached the half-hour mark.

Kelly was to get a reward for his efforts a minute or so later, as Andy Burgess fired the ball low from the right to find Marcus Kelly in space in the left channel, and the winger carried on his run into the box and fired a low shot that beat Tynan easily to the keeper’s left.

More was to follow shortly afterwards, as Cortez Belle fouled Jon Challinor just in from the right touchline, picking up a booking as a result. Marcus Kelly took the free kick, and although the kick did take a slight flick off a defender the goal was clearly Kelly’s. The goal reminded those with good memories of the goal scored by Tony Gallimore from the same spot when the Vics beat the Diamonds 4-1 in their first visit to the Vics new home.

Rather than settling for the three goal lead, the Diamonds players continued to push forwards, with Kelly and Challinor appearing to get in each other’s way as they were allowed time to move the ball forwards to the right edge of the six-yard box. The ball was cleared wide to Andy Burgess, and he picked up a free kick just in from the right touchline, but at a shallower angle than the one that brought the third goal. Marcus Kelly again took the free kick, and this time the ball rebounded off Scott Tynan and a Vics defender allowing Jon Challinor to chest the ball home to make the scoreline 4-0 to the visitors.

The half ended with Diamonds four goals to the good, and although they hadn’t totally dominated the action in the first period, the quality of their finishing had brought the goals that had effectively ended the game as a contest.

Half-time: Northwich Victoria 0 Rushden & Diamonds 4

Vics manager Dino Maamria brought on Natt Kerr at the break, and his performance in the second half, at both ends of the pitch, made him clearly the Vics best player.

The Diamonds did have the ball in the net for a fifth time, but Jon Challinor had been flagged offside well before he netted.

The second half was a fairly tame affair, with Dale Roberts continuing his good form in the Diamonds goal. It was a chance for a number of substitutions, with Abdou El-Kholti replacing Chris Hope, meaning that Dean Howell switched to a more central role, as well as a chance for youngster Jake Beecroft. For the Vics, Cortez Belle was pushed up front, but their best chances fell to Natt Kerr, with one goalbound shot following a corner being met with an excellent save from Roberts. Kerr was also allowed a free header following a free kick which he directed just wide.

Belle had one goalbound shot saved by Roberts, and El Kholti appeared unlucky to pick up a yellow card after appearing to win the ball cleanly. Perhaps the final indication that it was not to be the Vics day came when Kerr found space in the area, after Roberts was unable to gather a corner, but before he could convert what looked a simple tap-in he was robbed by Dean Howell.

The final action of the game saw an attempted lob by Jon Challinor go just over, as neither of the Diamonds goal-heroes could bag their hat-trick.

The game ended shortly after Lee Tomlin limped off leaving the Diamonds with 10 men, but an excellent team performance had meant that the result had been confirmed long before this.

Full-time: Northwich Victoria 0 Rushden & Diamonds 4

The Diamonds now face either Halifax Town or Burton Albion in the Setanta Shield Northern Section Final, provisionally planned for Nene Park on Wednesday 19th March (but watch for official confirmation on this site, along with details of the arrangements for televising this game, and any other fixture changes). The Halifax / Burton game is being played on the 13th March. The Southern Section Final is between Aldershot Town and Woking and is on Tuesday 18 March.

Teams:

Northwich Victoria (Green / White): Scott Tynan, Michael Bowler, Cortez Belle, Michael Welch (Natt Kerr 45), Ryan Brown, Michael Byrne (Luke Horrocks 76), Joel Byrom, Josh Wilson, Jamie Mullan, Aaron Burns, Cayle Hanley (Danny Meadowcroft 63)

Subs Not Used : Ben Connett (GK), Matthew Crowell

Rushden & Diamonds (Yellow) Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano, Dean Howell, Chris Hope (Abdou El-Kholti 57), Phil Gulliver, Marcus Kelly, Andy Burgess, Curtis Woodhouse (Andy Gooding 63), Tom Shaw (Jake Beecroft 71), Jon Challinor, Lee Tomlin

Subs not used:: Joe Day (GK), Alex Bolt

Goals : Challinor (24), Kelly (31), Kelly (36), Challinor (43)

Yellow Cards : Belle, Byrne, El-Kholti

Referee: Mr M Brown

Attendance: 495 (Away 76)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Marcus Kelly

%d bloggers like this: