Farsley Celtic 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Jon Challinor scored Diamonds winning goal on 73 minutes as the referee dominated proceedings, awarding two red and seven yellow cards in a game that could hardly be described as bad tempered.

Manager Garry Hill surprised those who made the trip to the outskirts of Leeds by naming a 3-5-2 formation, with Chris Hope, Phil Gulliver and Michael Corcoran at the back and Curtis Osano and Abdou El-Kholti pushing wide into midfield. Tom Shaw returned to the middle in place of Marcus Kelly who was not named in the squad. Dean Howell and Andy Burgess both dropped to the bench. Michael Rankine and Jon Challinor provided the attack.

With Celtic having beaten fellow strugglers Stafford Rangers at the weekend, manager John Deacey named an unchanged eleven, with just one change on the bench – striker David McNiven (on loan from Stafford) returning after being refused permission to play against his parent club.

Celtic’s win at the weekend saw them escape the relegation zone for the first time since Christmas and they were looking to pull further away from Weymouth and Altrincham. They started the better of the two sides and within the opening two minutes, nearly took the lead after Rory Prendergast and Damien Reeves combined well. Phil Gulliver did well to get a foot to the ball and Dale Roberts gathered. Scott McNiven then fired a free kick too close to the keeper, but the best chance fell on 16 minutes when Reeves ran unchecked from the halfway line and shot from the edge of the area with Roberts producing an excellent save low to his left.

Diamonds had very little in the way of chances and the players seemed uncomfortable with the formation. Prendergast fired a free kick that was deflected for a corner. Tom Shaw’s forward pass to Jon Challinor finally provided the visiting supporters with some excitement but the flag went up for offside as his shot went just wide of the goal. On 29 minutes as Celtic pressed forward again, the course of the game was changed. Rory Prendergast was challenged in the area and immediately appealed to referee Paul Curry for a penalty, but the official was unmoved. After taking his protest too far and swearing at the referee, he was immediately shown a red card for foul and abusive language.

Straight way, Diamonds started to get back into the game and Rankine was fouled as he tried to turn George Santos just outside the area. Curtis Woodhouse fired the free kick over the bar. Moments later, Jon Challinor tried to challenge Curtis Aspden on the edge of the box but caught the keeper’s leg in the process. Aspden reacted angrily to the challenge and pushed the Diamonds striker to the ground and was extremely lucky only to be shown a yellow card as Challinor was also booked. Challinor’s work rate was second to none and just before the whistle, his deflected shot only just cleared to bar.

Half-time: Farsley Celtic 0 – 0 Rushden & Diamonds

Within 20 seconds of the restart, it was Challinor again who nearly got the opening goal, shooting over the bar from twenty yards. Diamonds started to exploit their one man advantage as they moved the ball around the field with slow and deliberate passing. Curtis Woodhouse tried to bend a shot around Aspden on 53 minutes, but the keeper did well to save.

Charles Ademeno came on after 59 minutes and replaced Andy Gooding who was guilty of some poor passing after some recent good performances. Michael Rankine entered the referee’s notebook for a foul on Amjad Iqbal as Diamonds pressed forward. Then after Ademeno had won a corner, Chris Hope headed Shaw’s cross onto the top of the crossbar. Shaw himself was later booked for a challenge from behind.

Lee Tomlin replaced Michael Rankine as Diamonds tried to increase the pressure, and when Andy Burgess came on for Curtis Osano on 71 minutes, Abdou El-Kholti dropped back and they reverted to the favoured 4-4-2 formation. Within two minutes, Diamonds scored what proved to be the decisive goal. Charles Ademeno turned on some speed and cut in from the left. As his run into the penalty area was blocked, the ball ran free to Jon Challinor, who blasted a low shot past the keeper from 16 yards.

Michael Corcoran became the fourth Diamonds player to be booked for another strong challenge, as Farsley brought on James Knowles and David McNiven to replace Scott McNiven and Andy Watson. As the resultant free kick was taken by Roy Stamer, George Santos appeared to have been hindered, but his penalty appeal was turned down.

In the final ten minutes, Tom Shaw saw his effort saved while Chris Hope’s header was clawed past the post by Aspden. George Santos was booked as Diamonds looked to make the game safe. Andy Burgess shot over while Charles Ademeno came close to opening his account as he rounded the keeper only to be forced wide by Celtic captain Amjad Iqbal. As the four minutes of added time came to an end, a foul on Ademeno saw Santos receive a second yellow card and complete a miserable evening for the home side.

Full-time: Farsley Celtic 0 – 1 Rushden & Diamonds

It was unfortunate for both sides that the game was dominated by some poor decisions from the referee, but the home side now have to count the cost of losing key players Rory Prendergast and George Santos due to suspension. The three points for Diamonds see them move up another place as they bid to move into the top half of the table. There is a break from League action on Saturday as Diamonds try to progress to the last four of the Setanta Shield against Northwich Victoria at the Victoria Stadium (3pm kick-off). Woking and Aldershot are already through to the Southern Section Final, while Halifax Town, Droylsden and Burton Albion still have to contest the other place in the Northern Section.

Teams:

Farsley Celtic – .Aspden, Jackson, Iqbal(c), Reeves, Watson (D.McNiven 76), S.McNiven (Knowles 76), Bentham, Krief, Torpey (Stamer 63), Santos, Prendergast.

Subs not used: Backhouse, Bambrook.

Rushden & Diamonds – Roberts, Osano (Burgess 71), Gulliver, Hope(c), Challinor, Woodhouse, Rankine (Tomlin 63), Shaw, Gooding (Ademeno 59), Corcoran, El-Kholti.

Subs not used: Platt, Howell.

Goals: Challinor 73 (0-1).

Sent off: Prendergast 29 (abusive language), Santos 90+2 (2nd yellow card).

Booked: Aspden 34 (violent conduct), Challinor 34 (foul), Rankine 61 (foul), Shaw 68 (foul), Corcoran 75 (foul), Santos 84 (foul), Santos 90+2 (foul).

Referee: Mr P.Curry (Northumberland)

Attendance: 475 (45 away).

Man of the match: Jon Challinor

By Dave Mason

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