Kidderminster Harriers 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

After six League meetings against Kidderminster Harriers without scoring, Diamonds quickly made amends when Dean McDonald put them a goal up on 11 minutes. Harriers reply was quick as Russell Penn got the home side level three minutes later and despite Diamonds having the upper hand for most of the second half, it was Penn who gave the home side three points with a winner late in the second half.

Lack of discipline during Monday’s defeat at the hands of Histon saw Curtis Woodhouse and Lee Tomlin serving suspensions, while Marcus Kelly and Michael Corcoran were both sidelined with injuries. Leon Knight signed two year deal on Thursday after being on non-contract forms, and joined Lee Phillips in attack while Dean McDonald and Jake Beecroft replaced Tomlin and Woodhouse in midfield. Justyn Roberts made his debut in central defence replacing Corcoran.

Harriers were unbeaten at home this season and boss Mark Yates had a fully fit squad. He made just one change from the team which drew 2-2 at Burton Albion on Monday with Brian Smikle replacing David McDermott in midfield after an impressive substitute performance.

Diamonds started well and had two early chances created by Andy Burgess playing on the left side of midfield. His long cross ball found Dean McDonald on the right, who played the ball back to Jake Beecroft. He in turn set up Curtis Osano to shoot just wide. A similar ball from Burgess moments later set McDonald free, but his shot from 20 yards went wide.

Dean McDonald, playing on the right side of midfield was causing problems for the home defence, and his goal gave Diamonds a deserved lead on 11 minutes. It was another long cross ball from Burgess that set him free on the right, but instead of taking the ball towards goal, he checked back and ran across the edge of the penalty area. His shot from a central position deflected off Andy Ferrell and nestled into the corner of the net.

Harriers tried to respond immediately with Matthew Barnes-Homer firing a shot at Alan Marriott, and within three minutes of Diamonds taking the lead, they pulled level when Martin Brittain sent the ball in to the penalty area, where Russell Penn was waiting at the far post to head the ball home.

After a hectic first fifteen minutes, the game settled down. On 23 minutes, Diamonds were awarded a free kick on the edge of the area after Jake Beecroft had been fouled, but Chris Hope wasted the opportunity by firing the ball over the bar. Diamonds were looking fairly comfortable although Harriers’ midfielder Martin Brittain was causing some problems with his probing crosses.

Curtis Osano went into the referees note book for a foul on Harriers leading scorer Justin Richards, and Brittain whizzed the free kick right through the crowded penalty area. Diamonds new signing Leon Knight came close on 40 minutes, shooting wide from the edge of the area having been fairly quiet throughout the game. Lee Phillips also had a chance moments later after a defensive slip, his shot being blocked for a corner.

At the end of the first half, Kidderminster’s Mark Creighton was booked for a challenge on Marriott, while Dean McDonald had to go off in injury time after pulling up with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. Sagi Burton came on with less than a minute remaining of the first half.

Half-time: Kidderminster Harriers 1 – 1 Rushden & Diamonds


With Sagi Burton slipping into the back four, Gareth Jelleyman moved up to a midfield role in the second half as Diamonds pushed forward. Russell Penn received a yellow card for a foul on Beecroft deep in the Harriers half. Burgess’s free kick found Phillips at the far post, but Adam Bartlett in the Harriers goal gathered comfortably. At the other end, Mark Creighton forced a fine save from Marriott on 53 minutes when he met Brittain’s corner kick.

Diamonds continued to push forward but were unable to make the pressure count. They had to be wary of the home side however and Burton did well to cut out a dangerous chip into the box from Andy Ferrell. Burgess shot wide on 62 minutes, and again two minutes later after a poor clearance following an overhead kick by Jelleyman across the area.

Diamonds continued to have the better chances and on 69 minutes, a Burgess cross from right was flicked on by Phillips, with Knight’s shot being saved by Bartlett. Sam Smith replaced Phillips, and Diamonds frustration earned another yellow card moments later when Andy Burgess protested a linesman’s decision too vigorously.

Although the home side were looking second best, Diamonds got a warning on 77 minutes when Russell Penn forced a good save from Marriott with a 20 yard shot. The warning was not heeded however as two minutes later, a long throw from Ferrell was not cleared properly and Russell Penn got his second, planting a left footed shot from 12 yards into the corner of the net.

Michael Rankine replaced Jelleyman on 83 minutes as Diamonds pushed three up front, but that allowed the home side to nearly add another. Both Ferrell and Richards came close to making the game safe for the home side.

As the game entered added time and Diamonds pushed for an equaliser, Rob Wolleaston fired in a fierce drive towards goal. It seemed it wasn’t their day as it struck Leon Knight full on leaving the diminutive striker needing treatment. After six minutes, the referee finally signalled the end with Diamonds suffering a second defeat in five days.

Full-time: Kidderminster Harriers 2 – 1 Rushden & Diamonds


Diamonds could feel that they should have come away with at least a draw, and with just two points from the last four games, they must be more clinical in front of goal. On the plus side, youngster Jake Beecroft looked an able replacement for Woodhouse in midfield and could feel pleased with his performance. They set off for their longest away trek of the season on Tuesday evening, when they play Barrow at Holker Street. Although the Cumbrian side have had an excellent start to the season, their defeat against Stevenage Borough must give Diamonds hope of returning with three points.



Kidderminster Harriers – Bartlett, Baker, Ferrell, Creighton (c), Jones, Barnes-Homer (Bennett 80), Penn, Richards, Smikle, Brittain (McDermott 90+3), Lowe.

Subs not used: Coleman, Knights, McGrath.


Rushden & Diamonds – Marriott, Osano, Jelleyman (Rankine 83), Hope, McDonald (Burton 45+3), Knight, Phillips (Smith 72), Burgess (c), Wolleaston, Beecroft, Roberts.

Subs not used: Gulliver, McGuiness.


Goals: McDonald 11 (0-1), Penn 14 (1-1), Penn 79 (2-1).


Booked: Osano 38 (foul), Creighton 44 (foul), Penn 50 (foul), Burgess 76 (dissent), Jones 81 (foul).


Referee: Mr S.Cummins (Cheshire)


Attendance: 1524 (approx 180 away).


By Dave Mason


Rushden & Diamonds 1 Histon 2


Rushden & Diamonds lost their unbeaten record in the Blue Square Premier season in controversial fashion, after having two players sent off in a 2-1 defeat by Histon at Nene Park.

After an excellent first half that had seen the visitors take a one goal lead, yet seen the Diamonds only denied by several top-class saves by the Histon keeper as well as the woodwork, the whole game changed as a result of incidents either side of half-time.

The first half ended in controversy, as a 50-50 challenge between Woodhouse and Nightingale saw both players end on the floor, with Antonio Murray getting involved and jostling Woodhouse, preventing him getting to his feet. A dozen or so players then joined in the general melee, and referee Fletcher dismissed Tomlin for his involvement, and booked Woodhouse and Sagi Burton, as well a single Histon player.

The second half then started with similar controversy, as a foul by Curtis Woodhouse was seen as worthy of a second booking, so the Diamonds were down to nine men. Marcus Kelly had come on as a substitute at half-time, but within 5 minutes he had to be substituted as he suffered a nose injury in a challenge with Wright.

The Nine-men Diamonds team battled bravely, even after conceding a second goal, getting a goal back as Michael Corcoran headed home – his debut goal for the club – and the equaliser was only denied by two further excellent saves by Danny Naisbitt from Lee Phillips.

The match line-ups saw Rob Wolleaston partnering Curtis Woodhouse in central midfield at the expense of Michael Corcoran, and new signing Leon Knight starting in place of Michael Rankine. Curtis Woodhouse was starting his 50th League Game for the club.

Histon started without the injured Erkan Okay, and the suspended Nathaniel Knight-Percival.

On a cool and windy afternoon, Histon chose to start with the wind at their backs, kicking towards the Airwair stand.

It quickly became clear that the Histon tactics were based around dead-ball situations, either the kicks from Lanre Oyebanjo, or the long throws of Mat Mitchel-King. After facing a long throw expert on Saturday, it might have been expected that the Diamonds defence would be able to cope with the Mitchel-King throws better than they did.

It was a Oyebanjo corner on 8 minutes that could have brought the visitors an early goal, as it was flicked on by Langston to Wright in the centre of goal, but the striker was unable to direct his header other than back in the direction of the corner flag.

Leon Knight made an initial impression a minute later as he flicked the ball to Lee Phillips, whose shot rebounded off a defender to Rob Wolleaston, but his shot was saved. From the resulting Tomlin corner Andy Burgess leapt and headed towards the left hand side of the goal, but keeper Danny Naisbitt made a great diving save.

Another Mitchel-King throw brought danger as it flicked off the group of players and went to Neil Andrews right in the centre of the area, but the midfield player scuffed his shot.

A further Mitchel-King throw brought the reward that had threatened for some time, as it was flicked on by Robbie Nightingale for Antonio Murray to prod home with a toe-poke that wrong-footed Marriott.

The goal was the signal for the Diamonds to increase their workrate, and attempts on goal, with a Lee Phillips shot hitting the post, and then another Phillips shot bringing out another fine save by Naisbitt. Lee Tomlin started to get some joy running at the Histon defence, with one great run towards the right corner seeing him beat two defenders before firing into the side netting.

Tomlin then saw a great shot turned over by Naisbitt, and his good work along with Rob Wolleaston saw Leon Knight running towards the area before being upended, but Mr Fletcher deemed that the award of the free-kick was sufficient punishment. After a freekick that had to contend with a wall that looked too close, and being closed down before the ball was touched, the final Diamonds chance of the half saw another great save from Naisbitt, this time for Knight.

The rest of the half saw the action repeatedly interrupted by the loud blasts of Mr Fletchers whistle, but just as the half appeared to be ending with the Diamonds wondering how Naisbitt had kept them at bay when the whole game changed. A 50-50 challenge between Woodhouse and Nightingale might normally have ended up with a free-kick either way, but as Woodhouse attempted to get to his feet, and Nightingale stayed down, Antonio Murray got involved and started pushing Woodhouse back into the grounded Histon player. This immediately inflamed the situation, and various other players rushed to get involved, and, as with such incidents it is difficult to work out who is trying to pull players apart, and who is trying to get involved, but the result was that Lee Tomlin was dismissed for getting hold of a Histon player, and Woodhouse and Burton were shown yellows for the Diamonds, Ada for Histon, as Nightingale was left on the floor still suggesting he needed attention.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Histon 1

Garry Hill brought on Marcus Kelly for the second half, in place of Sagi Burton, making his 150th appearance for the club. Before the impact of any formation changes had been seen, further decisions by Mr Fletcher had further dictated the course of the game. Curtis Woodhouse made a tackle on Robbie Nightingale that looked a "routine" foul and free kick, and initially that appeared to be all that would happen, but Mr Fletcher then seemed to have a change of heart and showed Woodhouse a second yellow, and reduced the Diamonds to nine men.

More was to come a minute later though, with Marcus Kelly receiving a blow to his face from a challenge by Danny Wright. He had to leave the field with a suspected broken nose, and was replaced by Michael Corcoran after only taking part in five minutes of the game, after the Diamonds had played two or three minutes with only eight men.

Histon continued in their hard-tackling direct style, and the Diamonds fans were drawing comparisons with their tackling to the one that had seen Woodhouse dismissed. Rob Wolleaston continued to run and chase down with great energy, despite the abuse he was receiving from the visiting fans.

As expected, the two man advantage meant that Histon players were getting even more space at their dead-ball situations, and a Oyebango corner from the left found an unmarked Jack Midson at the far post to score the Histon second goal.

When it might have been expected that the nine-men Rushden team would enter a damage-limitation mode, they did the opposite, and pushed to get something from the game, with an initial reward 10 minutes later when a Jelleyman freekick was headed back by Hope to Michael Corcoran who headed into the top corner.

The Diamonds fans were given further encouragement that they might overcome the odds to get something from the game, but perhaps the sight of Michael Corcoran being booked for a challenge that was well below the severity of what had been unpunished earlier could have been deflating. More was to come though – Lee Phillips faced up to the free kick (only just inside the Diamonds half) at what looked a reasonable distance to those observing from the side, but Mr Fletcher, without measuring the distance, decided that Phillips had not retreated far enough and showed him the yellow. Given the Diamonds were behind at the time, it was unlikely that Phillips would have been seeking to gain advantage by time-wasting.

In contrast to Phillips 8-12 yard retreat, a few minutes later the Diamonds were awarded a freekick with a Histon player making no attempt to retreat more than one yard, but as Andy Burgess’s free kick struck him, Mr Fletcher decided that the ball had not been stationary when Burgess kicked it as the Diamonds fans bayed out questions about consistency.

Good work by Andy Burgess saw Lee Phillips taking on the Histon defence towards the right corner, and his shot looked goalbound from a narrow angle before Naisbitt tipped it over. A challenge from Nightingale which appeared to include the use of an elbow also saw no further punishment than a free-kick, taken by Gareth Jelleyman, and it appeared to be headed wide by a defender.

A further chance fell to Lee Phillips, and again the striker seemed to do everything right at he hit a powerful shot towards the top corner, but again Danny Naisbitt was able to touch the ball around the post.

Chris Hope moved up front as the Diamonds pressed for an equaliser, but Histon showed ability to kill the game off, and it duly ended as the first Diamonds defeat of the season.

The end of the game saw a great reaction from the Diamonds fans to the players who had fought so hard under such difficult circumstances all afternoon. Although the unbeaten record has gone, the performance and team spirit were still greatly encouraging.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Histon 2


Rushden & Diamonds (White) : Alan Marriott : Curtis Osano – Gareth Jelleyman – Chris Hope – Sagi Burton : Rob Wolleaston – Curtis Woodhouse (Capt) – Andy Burgess – Lee Tomlin : Lee Phillips – Leon Knight

Subs : Marcus Kelly (for Burton 45), Michael Corcoran (for Kelly 50), Sam Smith (for Knight 60)

Subs Not Used : Michael Rankine, Justyn Roberts

Histon (Red / Black) : Danny Naisbitt, Lanre Oyebanjo, Matthew Langston, Patrick Ada, Robbie Nightingale, Antonio Murray, Neil Andrews, Mat Mitchel-King (Capt), Jamie Barker, Danny Wright, Jack Midson

Subs : Ben Coker (for Barker 45), Damien Reeves (for Murray 55), Tyler Campbell (for Wright 63)

Subs Not Used : Lance Key, John Kennedy

Goals: Antonio Murray (16), Jack Midson (54), Michael Corcoran (64)

Yellow Cards: Midson (20), Burgess (33), Woodhouse (45), Burton (45), Ada (45), Woodhouse (48), Corcoran (68), Phillips (68)

Red Cards : Lee Tomlin (45), Curtis Woodhouse (48)

Referee: Mr R Fletcher

Attendance: 1613 (Away 165)

Man of the Match chosen by Pro-Digital Systems : Michael Corcoran

Kettering Town 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Kettering v Rushden & DiamondsRushden & Diamonds maintained their unbeaten start to the Blue Square Premier season after fighting back to earn a 1-1 draw with local rivals Kettering Town at Rockingham Road. It took a late Sam Smith equaliser, his fourth league goal in as many league appearances, to earn the point, after the home side had dominated the first half. The Diamonds once again improved following the introduction of Smith and changing things in midfield, but Garry Hill will be asking questions about what caused the first half performance to be so ineffective.

The home side named new signing Craig Westcarr on the bench, and also paraded several of their other summer signings, including Ex-Diamond Gareth Seddon, ex-Walsall midfielder Darren Wrack, Exodus Geoghaghan and loanee Alfie Potter.

For the Diamonds Garry Hill brought in Michael Rankine for his first league appearance of the season following his recovery from injury. Andy Burgess started on the wide left with Michael Corcoran partnering Curtis Woodhouse in central midfield.

It was the first Diamonds trip up the A6 in seven years, and very little seemed to have changed at their neighbours venue in that time – apart from the fact that they are now a full-time team. A disappointing crowd was almost 2000 fewer than in the game during the Diamonds push for the Conference title in 2001.

The game kicked off in the sunshine at 12 noon, and it was the home side that appeared to have prepared better for the early start as they dominated early proceedings.

A sign of things to come in the first half was the first sighting of the prodigious Exodus Geoghaghan long-throw, which Gareth Seddon connected with an overhead kick that was only just wide to the left of the goal.

On nine minutes the home side took the lead, as Brett Solkhon found Alfie Potter in space in midfield, and he launched a ball forwards that found a gap in the Diamonds defence for Gareth Seddon to run onto. His shot flicked off the advancing Marriott, and as several of the Diamonds defenders appeared flatfooted, Chris Beardsley was able to pick up the loose ball on the right and square the ball to the waiting Gareth Seddon for a simple tap home. The Diamonds questioned whether Seddon was onside for the original run, as the linesman on the home stand side had been in conversation with the fourth official just as the free kick was taken that started the move that led to the goal.

Gareth Seddon was demonstrating what the Diamonds were deprived of when he was suffering illness whilst at Nene Park, with a number of lively runs, especially down the left, and from one of these runs he saw his cross headed narrowly wide by Alfie Potter.

Two minutes later, sloppy play by Andy Burgess saw Alfie Potter steal the ball from him in midfield and launch a crossfield ball that found Seddon on the left, Seddon held off Curtis Osano to hit a decent-looking shot that Alan Marriott did well to save.

Both sides seemed confused by some of the offside decisions being given (or not given), and this contributed to a nervous look to the Diamonds defence, with increasing reliance on Marriott to get them out of trouble as he dealt with the corners, freekicks and Geoghagan long throws.

There was very little of note from the Diamonds on the attacking front in the first half, with perhaps the biggest scare being when Lee Harper struggled to deal with a Lee Tomlin cross from the right. Chris Hope did have one headed attempt on goal following a Curtis Osano throw, but it was easily fielded by Harper.

The Diamonds players and fans were relieved to hear the half-time whistle as the home side deservedly led 1-0 at the interval.

Half-time: Kettering T 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

The talk of the ground at half-time was how much the home side needed to have converted at least one more of their chances in the first half, and, as expected, it was a completely different Diamonds side that emerged for the second.

Both Andy Burgess and Lee Tomlin had first halves they would like to forget, but suddenly the Diamonds started to threaten down both flanks.

Lee Tomlin made a surging run after showing great control to bring down a long ball from Gareth Jelleyman, beating two players as he progressed towards the centre of the goal, knocking the ball wide to Andy Burgess on the left, but the cross just eluded Lee Phillips.

Kettering still looked dangerous from set pieces, and Guy Branston could have done better as he found space for a free header from a corner from the right, but he could only head straight at the impressive Marriott.

An old-fashioned goal-mouth scrambled followed a Tomlin corner just after the hour mark, with goal attempts by Phillips and Rankine being blocked by Harper, the woodwork or defenders Branston and Geoghaghan on the line before Tomlin ran around and hit a further shot that was also blocked. Shortly afterwards a Tomlin shot from outside the box hit Lee Phillips before it could test Harper.

Garry Hill changed things on 67 minutes, bringing on Sam Smith and Rob Wolleaston. When this didn’t immediately pay dividends he then made the final of his three substitutions, taking off Sagi Burton, bringing on Marcus Kelly on the left, allowing Andy Burgess to switch to the right, combining a role of covering for Curtis Osano who had moved into central defence, as well as supporting Lee Tomlin.

Tomlin was looking the most dangerous player on the field at this point, and there were loud appeals for a hand-ball in the area as a Tomlin shot was blocked. Good hold-up play by Lee Phillips allowed Andy Burgess to launch a pinpoint ball to Tomlin, and his run on goal saw a shot which crept under the onrushing Harper, but as Harper had managed to take some of the power out of the shot, it was left to Sam Smith to run on and knock the ball into the net, only to see that the linesman had signalled he was offside, although he appeared to have run onto a loose ball.

Diamonds had a further chance for the equaliser as the second of a pair of corners, this time from the left, eluded the main bunch of players in the centre of the goal, falling to Chris Hope, but his attempt was blocked and Sam Smith’s attempt to follow up was blocked by Guy Branston.

Andy Burgess was also showing his abilities in all areas of the pitch, after his disappointing showing in the first hlaf, and he had a long shot on 80 minutes which looked like it might did into the top-left corner, but it narrowly missed.

On 83 minutes the Diamonds scored the goal that looked like it was coming for a while. Once again it was Andy Burgess on the right that hit a dipping pass forwards that fooled Branston into allowing it to bounced, and as it went past him Sam Smith was able to run in and head it past Harper to make it 1-1.

At this point it looked like the Diamonds might go on and win the game, but there was still time for one more scare at the other end, as John Dempster headed over following a free-kick for the home side, and Craig Westcarr scuffed a shot following a good run and cross from Jean-Paul Marna on the right.

Brett Solkhon had taken a knock, and as all three home substitutes had been used he was forced to hobble around in the striker role, leaving Gareth Seddon to move back into midfield, but he was guilty of a “striker’s challenge” on Lee Phillips which earned both men a yellow card as Phillips showed his disgust at the challenge.

As a minimum of five minutes of additional time were signalled, the Diamonds wasted a chance to create something from a corner, as another attempt at a short corner move was wasted – and then the saw a rehearsed free-kick move moments later also waste any chance of getting a strike on goal.

The game ended after about seven minutes of additional time with a result that neither side could complain about, although some felt that had the home side scored the second goal in the first-half the game might have ended differently. The Diamonds can also reflect on the number of goal attempts they had in the second half, including the disallowed goal and the goalmouth scramble.

There is now only a short break before the visit of Histon on Bank Holiday Monday – a team that earned their first victory of the season with a 4-3 win on Saturday – and a team that did the double over the Diamonds last season.

Full-time: Kettering T 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1


Kettering Town (Red) : Lee Harper, Nicky Eaden, Exodus Geohaghan , Guy Branston, Tommy Jaszczun, Danny Potter, Brett Solkhon, Darren Wrack, Andre Boucaud, Gareth Seddon, Chris Beardsley

Subs : Jean-Paul Marna (for Beardsley 73), Craig Westcarr (for Boucaid 76), John Dempster (for Geohaghon 76)

Subs Not Used: Stewart Dorrill, Owain Warlow.

Rushden & Diamonds (Yellow) : Alan Marriott : Curtis Osano – Gareth Jelleyman – Chris Hope – Sagi Burton : Lee Tomlin – Curtis Woodhouse (Capt) – Michael Corcoran – Andy Burgess : Lee Phillips – Michael Rankine .

Subs : Sam Smith (for Rankine 67), Rob Wolleaston (for Corcoran 67) Marcus Kelly (for Burton 73)

Subs Not Used : Dean McDonald, Justyn Roberts

Goals: Gareth Seddon (9) Sam Smith (83)

Yellow Cards: Branston, Seddon, Phillips

Referee: Mr N Kinesley

Attendance: 2897 (Away 630)

Diamonds Man of the Match : Alan Marriott

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Wrexham 1


Rushden & Diamonds maintained their unbeaten start to the Blue Square Premier season with a battling 1-1 draw with an impressive Wrexham side at Nene Park. In a game that had many similarities with the visit of Ebbsfleet five days earlier, it was the visitors who had much the better of the first half, let down by poor finishing, but an improvement in the second half had given the Diamonds the lead, once again via substitute Sam Smith, but on this occasion the visitors scored the first goal the Diamonds have conceded this season to get a deserved draw.

Goalkeeper Alan Marriott continues to impress, with two top class saves the highlight of a commanding performance, that earned him the man-of-the match award, but the Diamonds defence also rode their luck on several occasions.

There was some controversy over the Red Dragon’s goal, with Michael Corcoran and Chris Hope both awaiting the signal to return to the pitch after receiving treatment for what the match officials deemed to be blood-related injuries. The match was restarted with a contested drop-ball between both captains, and from this the visitors forced the ball through to Shaun Whalley, who netted whilst the Diamonds players appealed for offside.

The match line-ups saw Rob Wolleaston making a surprise start in place of Dean McDonald as the partner to Lee Phillips, albeit in a slightly deeper role. Sagi Burton stood in for the injured Phil Gulliver, and Michael Corcoran continued in place of Marcus Kelly as he had done in the second half on Tuesday evening. For Wrexham, Brian Little had to replace Nat Brown who had picked up an injury in the midweek defeat at York. Levi Mackin returned after his suspension following his dismissal in the first game of the season.

The Diamonds Central defenders were struggling to get the ball clear, with too many headers going to opponents. A number of early chances for Wrexham came as a result of these errors, as well as good work by Sam Aiston down the left, which resulted in decent chances for Jefferson Louis and Simon Whalley. Alan Marriott picked up a yellow card as a he fielded a deflected cross from Whalley and was forced over the line by a Wrexham player just outside of the near post. As Marriott protested he felt he had been fouled, the referee deemed he threw the ball to the corner taker in an act of dissent.

At the other end Rob Wolleaston had a couple of early chances, attempting to prove that Garry Hill’s decision to change a winning team / formation was correct, but he could not force a save from Gavin Ward. A Lee Tomlin corner was headed to Curtis Woodhouse whose first shot was well blocked, but he was also able to hit the rebound, and this missed the goal to the right.

The Diamonds fans thought that they had taken the lead just before the half-hour, as they had not spotted the linesman on the North Stand flag clearly raise his flag well before the ball hit the net from a Lee Phillips shot after good work by Michael Corcoran as he powered forwards.

Just past the half-hour a long ball saw Shaun Whalley bursting past two static defenders, but the alert Marriott raced out of his area to head clear, although his header was also lacking in height and depth, and the ball fell to Simon Brown who appeared to have the goal at his mercy 25 yards out, but Marriott threw himself to his left to force the shot around the post for one of many Wrexham corners.

As half-time approached the fourth official indicated only a minimum of one minute extra was planned – rather surprising given the booking and the two injury stoppages, but the Diamonds had reason to be grateful for this period to be kept brief, and Wrexham again found their way down the left-hand side via Sam Aiston, and the winger was adjudged to have been fouled by Curtis Osano just as he crossed from the by-line. From the resultant free-kick the ball went over the players in the middle to find Steve Evans, completed with bandaged head, running in on the far post to head powerfully towards goal, but Alan Marriott closed off his impressive personal display in the half with an acrobatic leap to tip the ball over the bar.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Wrexham 0

The second half started in a similar vein to the first, with Wrexham dominant, and Alan Marriott once again tested as he made another leaping save to tip a shot from Tom Kearney over the bar after Curtis Woodhouse had committed a foul on Jefferson Louis in a dangerous position, and the Wrexham captain had combined with Simon Brown to outwit the Diamonds players who were expecting a shot from the free-kick, but instead Kearney took the ball around Woodhouse to reach the edge of the area before shooting.

Referee Proctor-Green was lenient with Levi Mackin for a couple of foul tackles that did not merit a yellow card, but Sagi Burton was not as lucky as he mistimed a tackle on Jefferson Louis.

As on Tuesday, Garry Hill made a change that immediately changed the Diamonds shape and approach, with Sam Smith replacing Rob Wolleaston on 56 minutes, and again within five minutes his arrival had produced a goal.

Curtis Osano immediately found more space on the right as the Red Dragons adjusted to Smith’s presence, and he combined with Lee Tomlin to force the ball into dangerous positions which the Wrexham defence struggled to clear properly, as the Diamonds defence had done earlier. As the ball was knocked around the 18-yard box Simon Spender failed to clear properly, hitting Andy Burgess, who was able to take the ball to the by-line and hit a ball low across the area for Sam Smith to tap in for his third goal in three appearances.

The Diamonds then had a couple of chances to get the vital second goal, and as on Tuesday night they were inspired by good work by Sam Smith to chase down a loose ball, earning a corner that became a sequence of three, but the visitors defence held firm

Brian Little made a double change, bringing on Baynes and Taylor, and within a minute Baynes had found space on the left to present Taylor with a chance he was unable to convert.

As with the Diamonds substitution, it took less than five minutes to pay dividends – albeit in controversial circumstances. Chris Hope went down in a challenge, and the referee stopped play to allow attention in the centre of the field, midway into the Diamonds half. During the stoppage Michael Corcoran had also had an earlier head wound checked, but the fourth official held him off the pitch to do a further check, and with Hope asked to leave the field, after receiving attention, play restarted with a drop-ball and the Diamonds down to nine man. The drop-ball was contested between both captains, and from this the visitors forced the ball through to Shaun Whalley via Simon Brown, who netted whilst the Diamonds players appealed for offside.

The visitors looked the more likely to snatch all of the points in the final quarter, with a couple of quick dangerous breaks following sloppy play in the Diamonds midfield.

The Diamonds then had a couple of chances to regain the lead, with good work by Sam Smith to chase down a loose ball, beat his man and attempting to square the ball to Curtis Woodhouse didn’t quite pay off, as the ball was too close to keeper Ward. A well hit low shot by Lee Tomlin was well gathered by Ward at the second attempt.

The game ended with the Diamonds picking up a point from one of their "bogey teams" that they have now failed to record a victory in seven attempts, including restricting the visitors to fewer than two goals at Nene Park for the first time.

Garry Hill reported after the game that he hopes to have Michael Rankine and Phil Gulliver fit for next weekend as the Diamonds attempt to preserve their unbeaten record over the Bank Holiday Weekend with a trip up the A6 followed by the visit of Histon on Bank Holiday Monday.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Wrexham 1


Rushden & Diamonds (White) : Alan Marriott : Curtis Osano -Gareth Jelleyman – Chris Hope – Sagi Burton : Lee Tomlin – Curtis Woodhouse (Capt) – Rob Wolleaston – Michael Corcoran – Andy Burgess : Lee Phillips

Subs : Sam Smith (for Wolleaston 56), Jake Beecroft (for Corcoran 88)

Subs Not Used : Dean McDonald , Justyn Roberts , Marcus Kelly

Wrexham (Sky Blue / Black) : Gavin Ward, Carl Tremarco, Darran Kempson, Steve Evans, Simon Brown, Jefferson Louis, Shaun Whalley, Levi Mackin, Tom Kearney (Capt), Simon Spender, Sam Aiston

Subs : Wes Baynes (for Aiston 71), Neil Taylor (for Louis 71)

Subs Not Used : Anthony Williams, Shaun Pejic, Marc Williams

Goals: Sam Smith (60) , Shaun Whalley (75)

Yellow Cards: Marriott, Burton

Referee: Mr S Proctor-Green

Attendance: 1805 (Away 377)

Man of the Match chosen by Jackson Garratt : Alan Marriott

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Rushden & Diamonds 2 Ebbsfleet United 0


Rushden & Diamonds maintained their winning start to the Blue Square Premier season with a battling 2-0 victory over a classy Ebbsfleet United side at Nene Park. With the visitors playing a expansive passing game not seen in Irthlingborough since the visits of Grays and Morecambe two seasons ago, it was evidence of the spirit and determination of Garry Hill’s side that they were able to keep the game scoreless until a series of substitutions in the second half gave them the edge in the last third of the game.

After the series of dour games that were witnessed at Nene Park at the start of last season, it was a welcome sight to see such entertainment early in the season, with the bonus of two home league goals (something not seen until November last season) and three points.

Ebbsfleet will feel that their performance in the first hour should have merited something from the game, but both sides were guilty of missing several gilt-edged chances, as well as hitting the woodwork in the first half.

On a chilly August evening the Diamonds lined up with one change from the game at the weekend, with Phil Gulliver starting at the expense of Sagi Burton. Jake Beecroft took a place on the bench at the expense of Scott Mitchell.

Ebbsfleet United were unchanged from the side that drew with Mansfield Town.

Ebbsfleet kicked off towards the Peter De Banke terrace, and, as with the Eastbourne game on Saturday, the Diamonds could have gone behind in the first minute, as a Charles free-kick found its way through to Luke Moore, who forced an excellent one-handed save from Marriott.

Almost immediately the Diamonds had a chance to take the lead themselves, as a deft McDonald back-flick found Lee Phillips but his left foot shot was wide of the left-hand post. The pair combined to set up Lee Tomlin for a shot a minute later, but he was wide of the other post.

Ebbsfleet then dominated much of the rest of the half, starting with a Stacy Long corner which James Smith headed against the post, and then Marriott and Woodhouse cleared up as Luke Moore tried to follow up with a shot.

Further attempts followed from the dangerous wide men Long and Shakes, as well as the impressive Michael Gash. Moore almost turned provider at his cross gave Neil Barrett a chance to break the deadlock. The Fleet won a series of corners, but failed to take advantage

It wasn’t quite all one-way traffic though, and the Diamonds forced a couple of corners, the first that Chris Hope might have done better with his header, and then the next one floated over Hope’s head toward Andy Burgess, who let it drop over his head as he turned and hit a left foot shot that flew back off the bar.

Curtis Osano was called upon to block several good moves down the Fleet left, with Moore and Long combining well, but the Diamonds managed to hold out until half-time, and must have been feeling relieved to have reached the interval without conceding a goal, given the number of chances the Fleet had generated.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Ebbsfleet United 0

The second half started in a similar vein to the first, with Ebbsfleet dominant, and Alan Marriott’s handling was tested on a series of free-kicks and corners, and Michael Gash failed to convert a Barrett cross.

The game started to tilt in the Diamonds favour after 55 minutes, when Garry Hill brought on Michael Corcoran to assist in midfield in place of Kelly, and immediately Curtis Woodhouse was freed to start getting forwards and threaten the visitors defence. A Jelleyman free-kick reached Lee Phillips in the corner of the box, and his deft turn and flick allowed Dean McDonald to prod towards the goal, but Cronin was able to smother.

A further Diamonds change on the hour saw Sam Smith replace McDonald, and this change also produced a rapid result, as within five minutes Sam Smith had collected a Woodhouse pass in the left channel and smashed a shot from 25 yards low into the left-hand side of the goal.

A few minutes later a Diamonds break saw an excellent ball forwards from Lee Tomlin give Smith a chance to show his speed and run clear of the defence, but his shot was wide to the left of goal. A few minutes later he combined with Burgess to lay the ball to Woodhouse, whose cross presented Lee Phillips with his second excellent chance of the game, but the striker could only lever the ball over the bar.

On 77 minutes the Diamonds got the second goal that was surely needed against such a threatening opponent. A quick Woodhouse throw on the left was picked up by Smith and he threaded a pass between two defenders for Lee Phillips to latch onto and score his debut league goal for the club.

Fleet continued to try to force their way back into the game, and perhaps their best chance came when Curtis Osano tried to play a bit too much football on the right edge of the area, and ended up putting Marriott in trouble with a pass across the area, which Marriott kicked against Akinde, and the ball screwed across the area towards the waiting Michael Gash, but fortunately the spin on the ball meant he misjudged his shot and Sagi Burton was able to clear.

The game ended with Garry Hill able to reflect on the courage and determination of his side in the second half, who were able to put the first half onslaught behind them, and go on to win the game.

This sort of determination will be needed again on Sunday when Wrexham are the visitors, and if the level of entertainment is maintained then the favourable comparison with last season will be maintained.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 2 Ebbsfleet United 0


Rushden & Diamonds (White) : Alan Marriott : Curtis Osano -Gareth Jelleyman – Chris Hope – Phil Gulliver : Lee Tomlin – Curtis Woodhouse (Capt) – Andy Burgess – Marcus Kelly : Lee Phillips – Dean McDonald

Subs : Michael Corcoran (for Kelly 56), Sam Smith (for McDonald 61), Sagi Burton (for Gulliver 72)

Subs Not Used : Jake Beecroft, Rob Wolleaston

Ebbsfleet United (Red) : Lance Cronin, Peter Hawkins, Sacha Opinel, James Smith (Capt), Stacy Long, Michael Gash, Craig Stone, Neil Barrett, Ricky Shakes, Luke Moore, Darius Charles

Subs : George Purcell (for Barrett 71), John Akinde (for Hawkins 79), Kwesi Appiah (for Gash 83)

Subs Not Used : Sam Mott, Mark Ricketts

Goals: Smith 64, Phillips 77

Yellow Cards: Jelleyman

Referee: Mr A Hendley

Attendance: 1467 (86 away)

Man of the Match chosen by a representative of the NFA : Lee Phillips

Eastbourne Borough 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1


Rushden & Diamonds will be pleased to have avoided the potential banana skin of playing a newly promoted team on the first Saturday of the season, but will feel rather fortunate that the home side wasted a number of excellent chances to snatch a point, especially in the last half hour.

The Diamonds came down to Sussex without Michael Rankine who was still recovering from injury, and preferred Marcus Kelly to Scott Mitchell in the starting line-up, allowing Andy Burgess to play in central midfield.

With this being the first Blue Square Premier game of the campaign it meant that those of the new signings that took to the pitch would be making their league debuts for the club – Alan Marriott , Gareth Jelleyman , Sagi Burton . Dean McDonald and Lee Phillips all started the game, and Rob Wolleaston was to make his debut later in the game.

On a wet and blustery afternoon in Sussex, the home side kicked off with the wind and weather at their backs, and within a minute they might have snatched the lead, as one of their many long balls of the first half flicked off the head of Sagi Burton for a corner. The dangerous corner from Crabb was flicked on by Matt Smart, and rebounded off the body of keeper Marriott.

After the initial surprise, and the clear indication that the hosts were to be no pushover, the Diamonds started to get stuck in, with Woodhouse and Burgess looking strong in midfield, although the Sports took advantage of the wind at any opportunity to pump the ball long, with ex-Diamond Jean-Michel Sigere looking especially dangerous as he anticipated the trajectory and bounce better than the Diamonds defenders.

Lee Tomlin demonstrated his abilities by latching onto a Curtis Osano throw, beating his man, and then setting off on a run on goal parallel to the goalline, but Keeper Hook did well to gather the shot at the second attempt.

The Diamonds weren’t coping very well with the Sports offside trap, despite the fact that the wind meant that balls forward were being held up for McDonald and Phillips to run onto. Matt Smart was lucky to escape without a booking after a lunge into Andy Burgess, and from the free kick Burgess flicked the ball across the area for Lee Tomlin to hit on the volley but the shot flashed wide.

Smart then received a deserved yellow card for a challenge on McDonald mid-way through the half. The offence, just outside the area, was almost punished, as a Lee Tomlin freekick took a deflection off the wall allowing Hook to catch.

Within a couple of minutes the Diamonds were ahead, and again it was Tomlin that was instrumental, as he beat a man on the right-hand edge of the box and ran powerfully in on goal, being brought down by Jenkins for a clear penalty.


Curtis Woodhouse stepped up and stroked the spot kick home for the first Conference goal at Priory Lane.


Burton and Hope continued to have to cope with the aerial threats from the long ball over their heads and from dangerous crosses from Armstrong, as Eastbourne continued to look dangerous.

Curtis Woodhouse was given his first yellow card of the season as, although he won the ball from Smart, the referee felt he went through in the tackle.

On 38 minutes, perhaps the best team move of the half from the Diamonds saw Woodhouse feed McDonald who found Tomlin, who checked inside and out past his man and hit a powerful shot that took a slight deflection before Hook acrobatically tipped the ball around the post for a corner.

The last action of the half saw Dean McDonald run into the area from the left to feed Tomlin, whose shot was well blocked, before it broke to Andy Burgess who flicked the ball back to Tomlin who hit an acrobatic shot over his shoulder just wide of the goal.

The half ended with the Diamonds feeling they had just "shaded it" playing into the wind, but realising there was still a lot more work to do.

Half time: Eastbourne Borough 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

With the wind at their backs, the Diamonds started the second half much the brighter, with Lee Hook struggling to reach the half-way line with his kicks out of his area. Marcus Kelly was starting to move inside to find more space, and he had an early shot that went over the bar. Lee Tomlin was carrying on where he left off, as he controlled a long cross-field ball from Jelleyman with great skill, then turned his man inside and out and hit a dangerous looking cross that just eluded Phillips and McDonald. McDonald also looked more dangerous, with a good turn followed by a chip that went just over the bar with Hook beaten.

Matt Crabb continued to pose a threat down the left for the home team, and he hit a pass that eluded Chris Hope toward Andy Atkin, but Sagi Burton was able to match a latch ditch tackle to prevent the forward having a clear run on goal.

At this point the half appeared to swing in the Sports favour, and after 57 minutes a Harding shot looked to be heading towards goal but Jean-Michel Sigere tried to divert it into the net, but could only put it wide. After a foul by Burton, Matt Crabb hit the free kick towards Matt Smart, whose shot took a big deflection, wrong-footing everyone, including Marriott, but it squirmed just wide.

At the other end the Diamonds still had a threat, with a Marcus Kelly shot hitting the bar after he had again cut inside, and then a dipping shot form Curtis Woodhouse falling just behind the goal.

Shortly afterwards Jean-Michel Sigere had his best chance of the game as he ran onto a long ball beating Marriott to the ball and chipping it back at an angle over the keeper’s head, but Gareth Jelleyman was alert enough to cover back and clear the ball off the line for a corner.

Matt Smart then had a totally free header from the corner, as nobody in the Diamonds defence picked him up, but he could only head wide when it looked easier to hit the target.

The third of the home substitutions saw the introduction of Simon Wormull , another ex-Diamond, and he was guilty of missing the best chance of the game, as both he and Nathan Crabb ran clear of the diamonds defence onto a through ball from another substitute Allan Tait, but with time to spare he seemed to rush his shot and hook the ball over the bar with the goal at his mercy. It was the sort of chance that would be scored 99% of the time – or at least force a decent save, so perhaps it was a sign this wouldn’t be the home side’s day.


Rob Wolleaston had joined the action, and immediately looked lively as he joined up with Tomlin and Phillips, to force a corner. From that kick the ball was cleared as far as Woodhouse on the left, who had the vision to find the corner-taker Lee Tomlin on the right, and his pass into the area was directed to Chris Hope, but he could only direct the ball wide of the post, meaning the Diamonds would have a nervous ending to the game.

Referee Halliday signalled an extra five minutes at the end of a half that had not seen any significant interruptions, although he had warned Diamonds a couple of times for time-wasting, including a yellow card for Gareth Jelleyman, these would only have warranted an extra 30 seconds or so. One assumes that the referee might be applying the strategy of adding on 30 seconds for each substitution, but if that is adopted across the board in the Blue Square Premier then 6 or 7 minutes of injury time will become commonplace.

Ironically during this period the one significant injury of the half occurred, following a Lee Tomlin challenge on Smart that also saw the Diamonds player given a yellow card, although even this only seemed to generate an extra 30 seconds of added time to the five minutes already signalled.

The Diamonds survived these jittery minutes without real danger, but were pleased to hear the final whistle which confirmed their first victory of the season.

Manager Garry Hill confirmed how impressed he was with the job that Garry Wilson was doing, and will be hoping his side do not concede as many chances to Ebbsfleet United on Tuesday evening in their first game of the season at Nene Park. He will also be concerned about the three yellow cards picked up on opening day.

Full-time: Eastbourne Borough 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1


Eastbourne Borough : (Red / Black) : Lee Hook, Ben Austin, Paul Armstrong, Andy Atkin, Darren Baker, Matt Crabb, Pat Harding, Neil Jenkins, Marc Pullan, Jean-Michel Sigere, Matt Smart

Subs : Simon Wormull (for Matt Crabb 64), Allan Tait (for Sigere 75), Nathan Crabb (for Atkin 66)

Subs Not Used : Chris Winterton, Jay Lovett

Rushden & Diamonds (Yellow): Alan Marriott : Curtis Osano – Chris Hope – Sagi Burton – Gareth Jelleyman : Lee Tomlin – Curtis Woodhouse – Andy Burgess – Marcus Kelly : Lee Phillips – Dean McDonald

Subs : Phil Gulliver (for Kelly 86), , Rob Wolleaston (for McDonald 70), Michael Corcoran (for Burgess 81),

Subs Not Used : Scott Mitchell, Sam Smith

Goals: Curtis Woodhouse (Pen 25)

Yellow Cards : Smart (21), Woodhouse (35), Jelleyman (88), Tomlin (90)

Referee: Mr A Halliday

Attendance: 1609 (away approx 150)

Diamonds Man of the Match : Lee Tomlin

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