Evesham United 2 Rushden & Diamonds 0

 

FA Cup sponsored by e.on – 4th Qualifying Round

Saturday 25th October 2008 – 3pm

St Georges Lane, Worcester

On one of the darkest days in their history, Rushden & Diamonds were knocked out of the FA Cup by Evesham United by two goals to nil. The Robins deservedly go into the first round of the competition for the first time. Although the Diamonds lost Gareth Jelleyman to a straight red card midway through the second half, it did not appear that this affected the result, as a goal in either half sealed the win, and the Diamonds failed to create a serious threat on goal as they chased the game in the second half. Danny Scheppel was involved with both goals, although there was some doubt about whether the first goal might be credited as a Curtis Osano own goal. The Diamonds discipline was also poor, and as well as the red they picked up four yellow cards.

Manager Garry Hill made two changes from the York game, with new loan signing Brendan Moloney replacing Phil Gulliver in defence, although surprisingly Hill moved Curtis Osano into the centre of defence with Moloney playing at right back. The formation was 4-4-2 with Daryl Clare replacing Leon Knight to play up front with Lee Phillips.

The Robins had lost their captain Steve Lutz to suspension, but had Simon Fitter returning after a one match ban.

As in recent away games, the Diamonds started brightly, with Andy Burgess initially looking like he might influence the game. On five minutes it was his cross after a mazy run that saw him sidestep his man three times that Daryl Clare could only head wide.

At the other end though it was apparent that Gary Hay would be a real threat, and he narrowly missed connecting with a cross from Mark Hands a minute later. Lee Tomlin looked threatening on the right for the Diamonds early on, helping Daryl Clare to win a corner that was then squandered.

Slowly the Diamonds confidence and commitment seemed to ebb away, with passes going astray that were often down to the receiving player being on their heels. Dead ball opportunities were also continually being wasted – tame kicks not getting past the first defender by both Tomlin and Burgess summed up the waning efforts of the Conference-level players.

The home side were winning their share of ball in midfield and forced another corner as Hayden and Scheppel combined.

Although Gareth Jelleyman was looking troubled by the home side threat down the right he did manage to get a good ball forward to Daryl Clare who controlled well but shot over. Clare was getting little joy, seeing another shot blocked, and then trying a shot from 40 yards which keeper Vaughan had as much time as the competition sponsor to deal with.

The Robins took the lead on 19 minutes as a throw on the right saw Mark Hands pick out a Simon Fritter run towards the by-line, and his low cross was fired into the roof of the net as a result of a challenge between Danny Scheppel and Curtis Osano at the near post.

Brendan Moloney was looking dangerous going forwards, with two of his raids resulting in shots that were gathered by Vaughan, and a third run feeding Lee Tomlin whose run into the box was well stopped by the home defence amongst muted penalty appeals.

The home side had further goalscoring opportunities falling to Steve Hands, who shot wide on both occasions, as well as one to Mark Owen, who also failed to take that chance.

Lee Tomlin was looking far more of a threat on goal than either of the two strikers at this point, with one slick move where he flicked the ball over the head of a defender, Gazza-style, and then hit a powerful shot well saved by Vaughan.

After a quiet period Andy Burgess made one further impact on the game as he picked up a loose ball after Moloney and Tomlin shots had been blocked, he jinked inside and hit a shot with his weaker right foot that was just wide of the right-hand post.

Late in the half Lee Phillips saw his flick well saved by the home keeper after he had been put through by Daryl Clare who was looking more effective creating rather than taking chances – with both strikers criticising Lee Tomlin for his contribution despite the youngster finding the target more often.

In the dying seconds of the half Curtis Woodhouse appeared to unlock the referee’s notebook with a foul, and he was quickly followed by fellow captain Danny Hodnett.

The Diamonds thus went into half-time a goal behind, with the home side being good value for their lead, but also with the hope that the visitors might be able to put their experience and fitness to good use in the second half.

Half Time : Evesham Utd 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

After such a lack lustre performance in the first half, it was perhaps a surprise that no changes were made at half-time, but perhaps manager Hill was giving the starting 11 a chance to redeem themselves. Any thoughts that this might be one of those cup ties where the higher ranked team batter away at the opposition goal for 45 minutes against an 11-man defence were quickly dispelled when it became clear the Robins would keep their same shape and continue to play good football.

In one of several parallels with the recent away disappointments at York and Oxford, levels of possession were fairly even, but it was the home side who looked far more threatening in the final third. Chris Hope gave away a free kick with a push on Hay about 25 yards from goal, and Simon Fitter nearly surprised everyone with a quick dipping free kick which has dropping under the bar before a retreating Roberts tipped it over the bar. The Diamonds keeper took a knock for his troubles and he fell into the back of the net off the post. For a while it appeared he might not continue, but he carried on after attention from Simon Parsell, albeit unable to take the dead ball kicks.

On the hour mark the ineffective Andy Burgess was replaced by Leon Knight, with Knight taking Tomlin’s role on the right, pushing Tomlin towards the left.

On 64 minutes Gareth Jelleyman went into what looked like a 50-50 tackle with Simon Fitter just in front of the Diamonds bench, with the ball squirting into touch. Fitter shouted out in apparent anguish, and referee Hayward quickly took Jelleyman to one side and brandished a red card to the Diamonds defender. Whilst the referee might have been rather harsh in his interpretation of the challenge as two footed, and influenced by the player reaction, he showed leniency towards Lee Tomlin in only showing him a yellow for what appeared to be serious dissent regarding the decision – if he felt that the comment was directed towards him.

With a certain amount of additional jostling from the Diamonds players, as well as animation from the bench, there was hope that this passion might transfer to the performance for the remaining half-hour, as it had done against Histon, but sadly that was not to be the case, and too many heads dropped, even though the deficit was only one goal at this point.

The Robins continued to threaten, with a great move between Owen and Scheppel finding the impressive Hay in space in the box, but Brendan Moloney saved his new team mates further embarrassment with an excellent tackle.

Michael Hayden then won a free kick an inch or so from the edge of the penalty area as he was brought down by Osano – again the Diamonds have referee Hayward to thank for his leniency in his interpretation of where the offence occurred, and this time the dead ball expert Fitter fired a powerful shot just wide of the right hand post, having now recovered from the pain he appeared to be in after the Jelleyman tackle.

Manager Hill brought on Smith and Kelly and moved to a 4-3-3 formation but it made little difference to a side that lacked urgency. As in recent away games Lee Phillips did still continue to put in the desired effort, but he had been pushed further back, and was seen as much in action in his own penalty area as in the opponents half – he too received a yellow card, evidently for a foul.

On the 80 minute mark the home side made the game safe, as a break down the left by Michael Hayden saw a cross headed home by Danny Scheppel, and this time there was no doubt about the scorer – even a fully fit Roberts would have struggled to get a hand to the powerful header.

Any Diamonds attacks were being snuffed out before Vaughan was called into action, and Knight joined Tomlin with a yellow card for dissent as the game entered injury time. That was the only evidence of passion in the last quarter – none of the mass attacks, keeper going forwards, one man left in defence tactics that are so often seen when teams chase the goals that will prevent their exit from the major cup competition in the country. Perhaps the only real threat from the Diamonds came in injury time from one of their few corners of the half, but Chris Hope could only direct his header wide.

The final whistle sounded to deserved celebrations by the home side and their fans, with the Diamonds players left to reflect on a second half where they had failed to muster a meaningful effort on the Robins’ goal, and a game where they had been second best in so many departments to a team two leagues below them – not least in terms of passion and will to win.

Evesham were certainly good value for their win, and in Gary Hay and Simon Fitter they had two players who looked more than capable at playing at a higher level. Whilst Diamonds fans will take time to get over their disappointment they will be wishing the Robins well as they go into the hat for the FA Cup First Round for the first time in their history, with dreams of a glamour tie against the likes of Leeds United.

For the Diamonds it was the first time that they had failed to reach the first round of the FA Cup for 11 seasons, and only the fourth time in their history that they have gone out of the competition at the first hurdle.

The Diamonds players and staff now have to lick their wounds, and consider what went so comprehensively wrong in so many aspects of their performance before facing high flying Cambridge United at the Abbey Stadium next weekend.

Full-time: Evesham Utd 2 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Teams:

Evesham United (Red / White stripes) : Nathan Vaughan, Anthony Watson, Michael Hayden, Danny Hodnett (Capt), Steve Luckett, Steve Hands, Simon Fitter, Danny Scheppel, Mark Owen, Gary Hay, Mark Hands

Subs : Danny Lennon (for Owen 78), Allando Davis (for Hay 87), Joe Clarke (for M Hands 90+1)

Subs not used : Michael Batchelor, Leon Woodley, Tom Etheridge

Rushden & Diamonds (Yellow) : Dale Roberts, Brendan Moloney, Curtis Osano, Chris Hope, Gareth Jelleyman, Lee Tomlin,  Curtis Woodhouse (Capt), Michael Corcoran, Andy Burgess, Daryl Clare, Lee Phillips

Subs : Leon Knight (for Burgess 60), Sam Smith (for Clare 75), Marcus Kelly (for Tomlin 77)

Subs Not Used : Alan Marriott, Phil Gulliver, Rob Wolleaston, Jake Beecroft

Goals: Scheppel 19, Scheppel 80

Yellow Cards: Woodhouse, Hodnett, Hayden, Phillips, Tomlin, Knight

Red Cards : Jelleyman

Referee: Mr K Hayward

Attendance : 609

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