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

Teams:

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

Match Sponsored by http://www.diamondcircle.co.uk

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