Rushden & Diamonds 0 Crawley Town 1

Rushden & Diamonds produced their most disappointing performance of the season to date, losing to an injury time winner from Crawley substitute Steve Fletcher as their run of games without a win was stretched to six at Nene Park.

This was the first game of the season where the Diamonds have failed to score – and in fact visiting keeper Rayner was only called upon to make one save all afternoon – from a freekick.

Manager Garry Hill made it clear afterwards how disappointed he was with the performance, how disappointed he was for the fans that witnessed it, and how he planned to resolve the situation.

As well as the poor performance, an additional worry will be the disciplinary record, with a further four yellow cards being picked up.

On a wet autumnal afternoon the Diamonds started with the anticipated line-up, with the unfit Gareth Jelleyman being replaced by Justyn Roberts, with Sagi Burton returning at Centre Back. Lee Phillips had recovered sufficiently from his midweek knock to take his place in the team, albeit with a bandaged head.

Crawley kicked off towards the Peter De Banke terrace, watched from the South Stand by their manager Steve Evans, and quickly found holes in the Diamonds defence to generate a couple of half-chances, but neither resulted in Marriott needing to make a save.

Curtis Osano was perhaps looking the most threatening Diamonds player on the attack, with one great run seeing his ghost past the wide defender, cut inside past a second defender and then hit a left foot shot that flew only narrowly wide of the right hand post.

The best Diamonds move of the game came in the first quarter, as Andy Burgess wrong-footed ex-Diamond Glenn Wilson on the left and broke into the area, laying the ball off to Lee Phillips – the strike then prodded the ball to Rob Wolleaston, but, as was to become the pattern for the afternoon, the midfielder dragged his shot wide from close range.

At times though, the midfield and strikeforce seemed extremely disjointed, evidenced by one run by Osano where nobody came to support him, and although he almost lost the ball, it was left to him to try to retrieve it ahead of several Diamonds players who were nearer the ball.

There was also the sight of Andy Burgess repeatedly moving infield and then there being no outlet on the left, and also the sight of Burgess winning the ball near his own goalline and them pumping it upfield to an empty space on the left where only he might have been the player expected to receive it.

The Diamonds seemed unable to connect with the strikeforce, other than with long balls that were food and drink to the Crawley defence. On the one occasion Andy Burgess was able to turn past Quinn it was clear that the defender was lacking in pace, but the Diamonds did not have the guile to engineer similar opportunities – and Quinn was more than capable of clearing any aerial threat.

At the other end Crawley continued to generate the occasional half-chance, and won a number of corners – with one scraping just wide of the far post after Alan Marriott appeared to have been fouled as the ball came across his area.

 

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Crawley Town 0

After such a disappointing first half, the muted crowd must have been looking for some entertainment in the second, but most of the action seemed to centre around referee West. Although he had been willing to tolerate a certain amount in the first half, preferring warnings to yellow cards, his approach in the second half was to penalise a lot more – reacting to Crawley protests to 50/50 challenges, and issue yellow cards whether or not the player had committed an earlier offence. This saw Sagi Burton and Chris Hope booked for minor fouls, as well as Leon Knight for dissent after he had been penalised for a foul on Wright, as well as Curtis Woodhouse.

On the hour mark the Diamonds forced Simon Rayner into his only save of the game, as Leon Knight was tripped by Pinault, and Andy Burgess’s free kick was comfortably dealt with by the keeper.

The remainder of the third quarter saw misplaced passes from Wolleaston, long balls from defence mopped up by the Crawley defence, and a number of dead-ball opportunities wasted, mostly by Burgess.

The Diamonds had an appeal for a penalty, as a quickly taken freekick saw a Burgess cross head towards Leon Knight, who bounced off a solid challenge by the impressive Jake Wright.

Garry Hill brought on Michael Rankine for Phillips, but with little difference to the pattern of play, and then Marcus Kelly and Jake Beecroft replaced the disappointing Burgess and Wolleaston, but Kelly also failed to take advantage of dead-ball situations.

Crawley had their own appeal for a penalty, as the Diamonds readjusted following the substitutions, with a Sagi Burton challenge on Danny Forrest being seen as a legal one by referee West.

Perhaps the best action involving a Diamonds player was seen on 80 minutes, as Michael Corcoran made an excellent tackle on ex-Diamond Jamie Cook on the edge of the six yard box.

It then looked like the game might peter out into a goalless draw, which, given the poor quality on show, might have been a reasonable result, but there was still time for Crawley to claim their reward for creating a greater share of the chances on the afternoon. They won a series of throw-ins near the Diamonds line, and from a long throw from the left by Quinn, the ball was flicked over to the right to Dannie Bulman, and his cross was met by substitute Steve Fletcher with a powerful header which hit the underside of the bar before going into the net for the winning goal.

Referee West brought the game to an end as the Diamonds fans headed to the exit or voiced their feelings about the performance.

Garry Hill has stressed his determination to resolve the problems on show in this game, and will need to do this before the Diamonds appear on Setanta TV against fellow strugglers Lewes on Thursday evening.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Crawley Town 1

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (White) : Alan Marriott : Michael Corcoran – Justyn Roberts – Chris Hope – Sagi Burton : Curtis Osano – Rob Wolleaston – Curtis Woodhouse (Capt) – Andy Burgess : Lee Phillips – Leon Knight

Subs : Michael Rankine (for Phillips 56) Marcus Kelly (for Burgess 80), Jake Beecroft (for Wolleaston 80)

Subs Not Used : Phil Gulliver, Sam Smith

Crawley Town (Red) : Simon Rayner, Sam Rents, Simon Weatherstone, Jake Wright, Danny Forrest, Dannie Bulman (Capt), Thomas Pinault, Jamie Cook, Lewis Killeen, Glenn Wilson, Adam Quinn

Subs : Steve Fletcher (for Killeen 66) Anton Douglas (for Cook 86)

Subs Not Used : Jamie Stevens, Chris Giles, Brad Thomas

Goal: Steve Fletcher (90+3)

Yellow Cards: Burton, Knight, Woodhouse, Hope

Referee: Mr R West

Attendance: 1376 (Away 91)

Man of the Match chosen by Pressbox : Curtis Osano

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