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

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