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

Teams:

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

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