Altrincham 0 Rushden & Diamonds 4

 

After the much improved performance the previous weekend, Rushden & Diamonds were able to continue the good form with one of their best performances of recent seasons, as they secured a valuable three points with a comfortable 4-0 victory over Altrincham on a foggy afternoon in Cheshire. Four well-taken goals will also have pleased the Diamonds management as much as the travelling fans.

The Diamonds lined up with two changes from the side that beat Eastbourne, with Andy Burgess returning to replace the departed Brendan Moloney (with Michael Corcoran moving to right back), and new loanee Simon Brown replacing Lee Phillips, whose absence from the squad meant that the same five substitutes were named.

Altrincham manager Graham Heathcote was able to name the same side that had beaten high-flying Cambridge United last weekend. The home side’s policy of putting numbers directly onto striped kit would make it difficult to identify shirt numbers at the best of times, but this was made doubly difficult for the fans due to the poor conditions.

The Diamonds started in a very lively manner, with the home team restricted to attacking on the break. The Diamonds midfield was looking a far more coherent outfit with two natural wide men in Tomlin and Bolasie causing the Altrincham defence real problems – although unlike against Eastbourne they stuck to the arrangement of Tomlin on the right once it was clear he had the beating of Matt Doughty.

Up front Michael Rankine was winning his share of headers, and a couple of them fell to Simon Brown who showed agility and vision although he was unlucky with the final ball, seeing one good turn and shot blocked, and seeing appeals for a penalty turned down after another good move.

The Diamonds defence did need to counter the movement of Little and the support from Senior, but with both Corcoran and Jelleyman having good games there was always the assurance that Curtis Osano was able to cover any overlaps.

When Little and Senior did combine well they saw a Little effort saved by Roberts after 10 minutes, and then when they set up Dale Johnson five minutes later, Dale Roberts was well positioned to pull off a smart save.

The main talking point of the game came on 19 minutes when a ball forwards saw the speedy Bolasie looking to get clear down the left, but the pace was just too much for Shaun Densmore as he tried to challenge. Perhaps the speed of the challenge was enough to influence referee Joyce to award the red card rather than a yellow card that most expected.

The Diamonds took the lead on 30 minutes when Michael Rankine won a freekick after a challenge in midfield, and the kick was spread wide to Gareth Jelleyman whose cross was floated into the area, and Rankine challenged home keeper Ralph for the ball, who could only half-punch it clear to Andy Burgess who hit a 30 yard shot with his right foot low into the right corner of the net. As the goal was his first of the season it was quite a way to get off the mark.

The home side had a chance for a quick reply, when a rapid move down the left saw Colin Little finding space for a cross which found Chris Senior, but his first shot appeared to hit Dale Johnson and his attempt at the rebound found the side netting.

Shortly afterwards the home fans were hopeful that referee Joyce might even things up after a Bolasie challenge on Lawton, but it was clear that there was no malice in the challenge and a yellow card was appropriate.

A minute later Wolleaston and Corcoran combined on the right, and the Corcoran cross was headed towards goal by Michael Rankine, but deflected wide for a corner. Bolasie on the left was finding a lot of room, and saw one long range effort fly into the travelling Diamonds fans, and another into the side netting.

Yannick Bolasie continued to run into space on the left, and his cross put Simon Brown free, and although the striker squeezed his shot through Keeper Ralph’s legs, the deflection took enough pace off the shot to allow a home defender to clear off the line.

The Diamonds dominated the remainder of the first half and scored a deserved second goal just before the break when Burgess and Tomlin combined allowing Lee Tomlin to hit a low shot into the right hand corner of the net with his left foot.

Half-Time : Altrincham 0 Rushden & Diamonds 2

Both Managers made a change at half-time, with Garry Hill bringing on Marcus Kelly for the excellent Bolasie. Whether this was as an injury precaution or because of the risk of him picking up a second yellow wasn’t clear at the time.

As the fog thickened the home side had their one spell of the game where they applied some pressure on the Diamonds defence, and did almost get a goal back in controversial circumstances, as Dale Johnson took a tumble on the right edge of the area under very little contact from Curtis Osano, and although the home fans appealed for a penalty whilst the Diamonds fans felt a goal kick should have been awarded, referee Joyce awarded a free-kick just outside the box. From the kick, taken by Senior, Colin Little saw his effort hit the post for the only time that Roberts was beaten all afternoon.

Rather unusually, Lee Tomlin had been switched to play on the left wing for the first part of this half, with Kelly playing down the right, but the tactic worked well, as although Kelly was not able to torment his marker as much as Tomlin and Bolasie had done in the first half, there were still quality chances being created down the Diamonds right, one of which gave Simon Brown a chance near the penalty spot, but he dwelt rather too long and his shot was blocked.

Rob Wolleaston had followed his commendable performance against Eastbourne with his best performance away from Nene Park of the season, and he combined well with Kelly to make a run into the right side of the box near the goalline, and was unlucky to see his effort hit the side netting.

It appeared only a matter of time before the Diamonds third goal came, and in fact they were denied by a very late flag for offside against Michael Rankine when it appeared he ran from an on-side position. The fact that the linesman on the far side continued to spot other occasions where Rankine was offside confirmed that the visibility was not an issue. Other chances fell to Chris Hope, who headed wide from a corner, and to Marcus Kelly, whose shot was blocked.

Although the fog had worsened at half-time, and the weather was one of the main concerns, it was always clear enough to see across the pitch and to see Curtis Osano score his first goal for the club (after almost 80 appearances) with a deft near post flick of a Lee Tomlin corner.

One rather bizarre incident saw the Linesman on the tunnel side of the pitch flagging for a throw-in as a Jelleyman forward pass looped into touch then back onto the field of play, allowing Michael Rankine to run into the area largely unchallenged, but saw his attempt cleared to an Altrincham player, and it appeared the referee was trying to play advantage until the insistent linesman pointed out that such an advantage cannot be played when a ball goes into touch.

Tomlin and Kelly switched wings as Daryl Clare joined the action for the last quarter, and the chances continued, with the number of Diamonds efforts on goal well into double figures, approaching twenty by the end of the game.

Graham Heathcote resorted to taking off the two players who normally have been the most reliable for him in attack – Chris Senior and Colin Little, as they had been kept so quiet by the dominance of Hope, Osano, Jelleyman and Corcoran in one of the best defensive displays of the season. Lee Elam and Alex Meechan renewed their acquaintance with the Diamonds, but neither could make any impact.

It was the Diamonds who threatened their fourth goal, with substitute Luke Boden getting forwards and shooting over, and then an Andy Burgess shot was tipped around the post by keeper Ralph.

The best goal was saved for last, as Andy Burgess picked up the ball with six or seven defenders in front of him, but he danced through them to slot low into the net for the fourth goal. Few Diamonds fans can remember a better Burgess goal since the Football league days – and indeed his first goal and overall performance reminded them of his game at Blackpool in Division 2, two leagues higher.

Referee Joyce blew the final whistle and prepared to face the home fans who wanted to make their feelings known, the Diamonds players celebrated an excellent performance, that clearly would have easily won them the game even if the home side had managed to keep all eleven on the pitch.

Full Time : Altrincham 0 Rushden & Diamonds 4

Teams

Altrincham : Andy Ralph, James Smith, Mark McGregor, Greg Young, Shaun Densmore, Robbie Lawton (Capt), Anthony Danlyk, Matt Doughty, Dale Johnson, Colin Little, Chris Senior

Subs : Warren Peyton (Lawson HT), Alex Meechan (Little 68), Lee Elam (Senior 68)

Subs Not Used : Stuart Coburn, Chris Lane

Rushden & Diamonds : Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano, Gareth Jelleyman, Chris Hope, Michael Corcoran, Lee Tomlin, Rob Wolleaston, Yannick Bolasie, Andy Burgess (Capt), Michael Rankine, Simon Brown

Subs : Marcus Kelly (Bolasie HT), Daryl Clare (Brown 62), Luke Boden (Wolleaston 68)

Subs Not Used : Clayton Fortune, Sam Smith

Goals : Burgess ( 30, 87), Tomlin (40), Osano (64)

Yellow Cards : Yannick Bolasie (24)

Red Cards : Shaun Densmore (20)

Referee : R Joyce

Attendance : 924 (approx 80 travelling fans)

Diamonds Man of the Match (chosen by the Travel Club) : Andy Burgess

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Rushden & Diamonds 2 Eastbourne Borough 0

 

Rushden & Diamonds defeated Eastbourne Borough by two goals to nil at Nene Park on a bitterly cold Northamptonshire afternoon. The performance was the most convincing seen at home this season, with the Diamonds dominant throughout. The two-goal margin equalled the Diamonds biggest home win in the league this season.

The Diamonds took the lead in the first half, with a goal from Lee Tomlin after he received a pass from Brendan Moloney with his back to goal, turned and hit a powerful shot into the right hand of the net. The Diamonds also had two goals disallowed in the first half, the second of which was for a challenge by Michael Rankine on the keeper as he headed home a cross from the left that looked rather harsh.

The second half followed a similar pattern, and the second goal came on 55 minutes when a Chris Hope header from a Lee Tomlin corner was saved, but Michael Rankine was there to force the ball home from close range. The Diamonds produced far more down the flanks than in recent weeks, with both Tomlin and Bolasie prepared to run at their men and get in decent crosses that resulted in far more attempts on goal than seen in recent games.

Manager Garry Hill made several changes with Daryl Clare, Marcus Kelly and Luke Boden dropping to the bench, meaning a first start for Yannick Bolasie as well as a return for Gareth Jelleyman, and starting places for Lee Tomlin and Lee Phillips. Chris Hope captained the side in the absence of Curtis Woodhouse and Andy Burgess.

The Diamonds kicked off towards the Peter De Banke terrace. facing into a low setting sun.

The partnership of Phillips and Rankine had been restored for the first time since the early season games, and it almost delivered in the first few minutes as Rankine showed great control to shield the ball past Austin and narrowly missed with a powerful shot.

Lee Tomlin was presenting a threat on both flanks, as he and Bolasie regularly switched wings, but although he was often able to beat his immediate marker he was sometimes thwarted by two or more other defenders. He did get a number of dangerous crosses into the box though, although the Diamonds strike pair could not quite force any of them home. Whilst on the left he hit a powerful shot from the corner of the box which Hook did well to tip wide.

Tomlin was also producing a number of dangerous corners, and from one of these Hook could only flap at the ball, which fell to Chris Hope but he could only force the ball wide.

After the determined Lee Phillips was fouled by Pullan, Rob Wolleaston was able to pick up the quick freekick and run towards the box and see a shot deflected wide.

Mid-way through the half the visitors had their best spell of the half, forcing Curtis Osano to concede a corner, and then as the ball was half-cleared Ben Austin was able to get in a shot from 25 yards that Dale Roberts was unable to hold (his one error of the game), and as Allan Tait ran in to challenge for the loose ball he was flagged offside just before he was challenged in the area – a challenge which brought cries for a penalty from the visiting fans in the South Stand – although, of course, it was the first offence that counted.

Just after the half-hour the Diamonds took the lead. Lee Phillips and Yannick Bolasie combined on the right to put the left side of the visitors defence under pressure, and the supporting Brendan Moloney was able to pick the ball up, run at the stretched defence and then lay the ball across the front of the area to Lee Tomlin. Tomlin showed both skill and composure to turn and hit the ball into the right hand side of the net for his first league goal of the season.

The Diamonds then had a goal disallowed when good work by Michael Rankine on the left touchline created a shooting chance out wide for Lee Tomlin, and as Lee Phillips tried to divert the ball past Hook he was flagged offside – with the ball going into the net without a touch as the whistle went.

The visitors did present the occasional threat, with much of the danger coming from Matt Crabb, either from his runs down the left, or his delivery from dead-ball situations. One such free kick took the faintest of flicks off the head of a defender ahead of the inrushing Allan Tait and away for a corner.

Lee Tomlin was clearly having his best game of the season, possibly the best since the game at Broadhall Way last season, and one great run saw him leave two defenders floundering in the box, and then get in a dangerous low cross that was well cut out at the near post ahead of Michael Rankine who would have had a "tap-in".

Rob Wolleaston was making more forward runs than during his previous appearances in central midfield, and on one of these he skipped past two defenders and was unlucky that a third challenge half-blocked his shot allowing Hook to save.

As the match moved into first half stoppage time there were two incidents to provide a talking point over a warming half-time coffee. Firstly Lee Phillips showed his commitment and determination as he chased a loose ball into the corner with Neil Jenkins, and put in a sliding challenge which referee Adcock deemed worthy of a yellow card. Whilst the referee appeared to have got that decision right, there was more contention about his next decision. Lee Tomlin had once again switched to the left, and he combined with Gareth Jelleyman to produce a cross that looked to have given Michael Rankine a perfect chance to run in and outjump the keeper to head home. However, as the crowd started to celebrate, referee Adcock decided that the challenge was an unfair one, and the goal did not stand.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Eastbourne Borough 0

As might have been expected, the visitors came out for the second half with more intent, with Danny Brown starting to find some space away from his ex-Cambridge United team-mate Rob Wolleaston.

Once again Lee Phillips showed his determination to combine with Moloney and Bolasie to force a corner, and from the Lee Tomlin kick Chris Hope found space for a goal bound header that was parried by Hook, but Michael Rankine was on hand to force the ball over the line from close range.

Yannick Bolasie was impressing on both sides of the pitch, and he showed he was not afraid to make a strike on goal from almost on the touchline, with the powerful shot only just over the bar, winning applause from the NenePark crowd who were really appreciating the positive attitude on display.

Brendan Moloney was able to get forward more than in his previous appearances, and he too was able to provide the sort of crosses that the Diamond forward line (and crowd) have been looking for all season, although Michael Rankine could have done better with the chance presented to him, and he blazed over from close range.

Dale Roberts did have to make one excellent save during the half, as a cross from ex-Diamond Simon Wormull was met by Jay Lovett as the two substitutes combined.

Bolasie combined with Rankine again as the match neared its conclusion, but the striker’s shot was saved, and the final threat on goal came from a Marcus Kelly run that beat two defenders but Hook was able to watch the shot go over his bar.

The Diamonds now have a blank midweek before the trip to Altrincham who will have been buoyed by their victory over Cambridge United, so this will present a real test on the road, following the run of home games.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 2 Eastbourne Borough 0

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (White): Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano, Gareth Jelleyman, Chris Hope (Capt), Brendan Moloney, Lee Tomlin, Rob Wolleaston, Yannick Bolasie, Michael Corcoran, Michael Rankine, Lee Phillips

Subs: Sam Smith (for Phillips 79), Marcus Kelly (for Tomlin 84), Luke Boden (for Wolleaston 87)

Subs Not Used: Daryl Clare, Clayton Fortune

Eastbourne Borough (Yellow) : Lee Hook, Darren Baker, Neil Jenkins, Matt Smart (Capt), Ben Austin, Marc Pullan, Andy Atkin, Allan Tait, Matt Crabb, Mo Harkin, Danny Brown

Subs : Simon Wormull (for Crabb 68), Jay Lovett (for Harkin 68), Pat Harding (for Atkin 79)

Subs Not Used: Lyle Taylor, Darren Budd

Goals :Tomlin (34), Rankine (55)

Yellow Cards: Harkin (32), Phillips (45+1), Jenkins (76)

Referee: Mr J Adcock

Attendance: 1037 (away 43)

Man of the Match chosen by the Evans Family : Lee Tomlin

Rushden & Diamonds 0 Kidderminster Harriers 1

 

Rushden & Diamonds problems finding the net continue, as they lost to Kidderminster Harriers by a single goal at Nene Park. As well as only scoring two goals in their last seven first team games, it was the fourth home game in a row against Kidderminster that they have failed to score.

The game was won by a Justin Richards penalty scored five minutes before half-time, after Curtis Osano was judged to have handled a Brian Smikle cross, hit at pace from a yard or so away from him. Richards had missed several other good chances in the first half, with Dale Roberts making three excellent saves.

At the other end, the Diamonds created more chances than in recent games, especially in the first half, but both Rankine and Clare failed to convert decent opportunities in both halves of an entertaining game. Rankine in particular missed an excellent chance mid-way through the second half when he skied over from 10 yards.

Manager Hill had selected Michael Corcoran at left back in place of Clayton Fortune, with Andy Burgess returning to the bench at the expense of Sam Smith. Chris Hope was making his 100th League start for the club. Harriers manager Mark Yates was able to stick with the line-up that had climbed the league in recent weeks, with the returning Luke Jones only claiming a place on the bench. His captain Mark Creighton opted to change ends after winning the toss to make the Diamonds play into the setting sun in the first half.

The first controversial refereeing decision of the game came in the fifth minute, as a long ball through the defence saw Matthew Barnes-Homer crunch into Dale Roberts, but referee Brown saw nothing wrong, and Chris Hope did well to protect the unguarded goal as Dean Richards had the first of many excellent chances he was to have during the half.

At the other end the Diamonds created their first clear chance following a corner which was cleared back to Marcus Kelly, and his cross was headed over by Michael Corcoran.

Curtis Osano then delivered a great ball forward to the alert Michael Rankine who made ground before hitting a shot that was blocked at the near post for a corner.

Dean Richards was looking dangerous for the visitors, and he had a great chance on the right in the 12th minute, hitting a powerful shot that Roberts did really well to palm away for a corner.

The Diamonds midfield were scrapping well at close quarters, but were finding it difficult to link up with their forwards, Marcus Kelly having particular difficulty picking passes that were near a fellow player in white. He did manage to find Daryl Clare mid-way through the half from a diagonal cross wide on the left, but the striker could only direct his header straight at Bartlett who gathered easily.

At the other end a Brittain corner from the left almost brought the opening goal as Curtis Osano missed his header and the ball fell to Dean Richards only a few yards from goal, but he somehow managed to head wide.

The Diamonds had a shout for a penalty when Daryl Clare was held back by Martin Riley, but the appeals were fairly muted.

Just after the half-hour the Harrier should have made their possession pay with a goal, firstly when Russell Penn broke down the left and crossed to Matthew Barnes-Homer, who flicked to Justin Richards, but his shot was well saved by Roberts, then from the resultant corner the ball was worked between Creighton and Ferrell to find Richards, and again the striker wasted the chance.

The Diamonds continued to create chances though, as a ball forward from Michael Corcoran was flicked on by Daryl Clare to his strike partner, but Michael Rankine’s shot was just wide.

Just as thoughts were turning to half-time and what changes might be made, the whole game pivoted on a refereeing decision. Lee Baker and Brian Smikle combined on the right, and a deft flick over the defence gave Smikle a chance to get in a cross before Curtis Osano could challenge. The cross hit Osano at point blank range, and although none of the Kidderminster players appeared to appeal for a penalty, referee Brown pointed to the penalty spot. There did not appear to be any intent by Osano to handle the ball – indeed the time he would have had to do so would be measured in microseconds.

The spot kick was duly converted by Justin Richards, with a penalty hit hard into the right hand side of the goal – perhaps the only way Richards was going to find a way past Dale Roberts on the afternoon – and indeed the keeper did get a firm hand on the ball, but couldn’t keep it out.

The Diamonds had one chance to equalise before half-time, following a corner, that Chris Hope headed towards goal, but Daryl Clare intercepted and tried to redirect it into the opposite corner, but could only divert it wide.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Kidderminster Harriers 1

After such an entertaining first half, it was clear fairly early in the second that the visitors were intent on trying to protect their lead rather than trying to extend it, and as a result the half was largely a stalemate in midfield, with the Diamonds creating more chances, but failing to convert them.

Five minutes into the half Rob Wolleaston was able to get in a rare cross from the right, but it looped towards goal, forcing Bartlett to tip it over the bar.

The action was also punctuated by a number of substitutions, with Garry Hill making three positive changes to try to get the equaliser, The nearest the Diamonds came to this was in the 75th minute, when Andy Burgess hit a ball in from the right, which was squared back across the box by Lee Tomlin, but Michael Rankine could only blaze over from 12 yards.

Burgess and Tomlin were giving the Diamonds the width they needed, with Burgess producing a couple of his trademark 30 yard passes, and Tomlin trying a couple of long range shots that flashed wide.

At the other end the Harriers created very little all half, with perhaps their best move seeing substitute Darryl Knights go on a strong run that was let down by a weak finish.

There were a couple of refereeing decisions that did not please the home bench or crowd during the half, the first when he gave a foul on Adam Bartlett in the Harriers goal following a Clare challenge that looked minor in comparison to the one on Dale Roberts early in the first half that went unpunished. Brendan Moloney was booked for showing his dissent towards this decision. He then booked Andy Burgess after he was warned he was about to take a throw in for the wrong place, so threw the ball to Brendan Moloney, rather than move down the touchline himself. The booking is also Burgess’ fifth of the season, meaning he will face a ban.

Further chances fell to Daryl Clare, the first resulting from a Burgess cross that Rob Wolleaston flicked forward, but the striker put the ball wide. Clare also wasted a free kick in a dangerous position after a Michael Rankine run was halted by a foul on the edge of the area by blasting the kick into the wall. The final Diamonds chance then fell to Chris Hope as the ball was pumped back into the box but he could only head wide.

The Diamonds now have a blank midweek following the postponement of the Grays trip, so the next game will be the fourth home game in a row – with Eastbourne Borough being the visitors.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Kidderminster Harriers 1

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (White): Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano, Michael Corcoran (Lee Phillips 80), Chris Hope, Brendan Moloney, Luke Boden (Andy Burgess 62), Rob Wolleaston, Curtis Woodhouse (Capt), Marcus Kelly (Lee Tomlin 69), Michael Rankine , Daryl Clare .

Subs Not Used: Joe Day, Clayton Fortune

Kidderminster Harriers (Yellow / Blue): Adam Bartlett, Keith Lowe, Martin Riley, Mark Creighton (Capt), Lee Baker, Martin Brittain (Dean Bennett 70), Andy Ferrell, Russell Penn (Darryl Knights 83), Brian Smikle, Matthew Barnes-Homer (Luke Jones 90+1), Justin Richards

Subs Not Used: Stefan Moore, Dean Coleman

Goals :Richards (pen) 40

Yellow Cards: Bennett (foul), Moloney (dissent), Burgess (dissent)

Referee: Mr M Brown

Attendance: 1391 (away 235)

Man of the Match chosen by Dunton ‘Old Boys’ FC : Chris Hope

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Rothwell Corinthians 0

 

Rushden & Diamonds beat Rothwell Corinthians by a single Lee Phillips goal in the NFA Hillier Senior Cup Quarter Final.

Despite having much of the play, the Diamonds had only a single goal to show for their territorial domination in a game which featured the Diamonds debuts for Joe Wilcox and Nabil Shariff.

The Diamonds had many chances, but a combination of good goalkeeping from Man-of-the-Match Tom Cross, and poor finishing, kept the scoreline down to the single goal.

The Diamonds were led by a management team of Chris Hope and Justin Edinburgh, and the duo selected Joe Wilcox for his Diamonds debut, after the loanee missed out on Saturday’s game. Wilcox played at right back in a back four alongside erstwhile full backs Michael Corcoran and Clayton Fortune who were at Centre Back. Aynsley McDonald filled the left back role behind Lee Tomlin. In centre midfield were Jake Beecroft and Luke Boden, with Jake McGuinness on the right. Up front were Lee Phillips and Sam Smith.

 

The visitors lined up with a packed defence, and as a result the majority of the first half was played in their half.

The best chance of the half fell to Lee Phillips on 39 minutes, as a deft through-ball from the impressive Luke Boden saw him break into space with only keeper Cross to beat, but the striker hit his shot directly at the keeper, who was able to scramble the ball away with his legs. The loose ball fell to Lee Tomlin on the corner of the area, but he blazed a shot high into the Airwair stand.

Earlier opportunities had fallen to Boden, who headed wide from a McGuinnes corner, Tomlin who shot wide from a Boden pass, McGuinness whose cross / shot hit the top of the net, and Sam Smith, who was given time in the area to beat two men and then hit a shot too close to the keeper – although he almost prodded home the rebound. Phillips had a second excellent chance after McGuinness found Joe Wilcox from a short corner, and his cross found the head of Phillips, but the header was well saved low down by Tom Cross who was having an excellent evening.

Smith and Phillips also combined as Smith made a run at the defence, and as he was faced with five defenders he squared to Phillips whose shot from 25 yards was easily saved by Cross low to his right.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Rothwell Corinthians 0

After being untroubled in the first half, there was an early scare for the Diamonds defence early in the second half. The visitors won a corner as White forced Wilcox into an error, and Ben Johnson saw his corner strike the near post and away to safety.

Joe Wilcox was being given time to make runs down the right, and although much of the time the end product was lacking, he did find Lee Phillips at the near post with a low cross, and the striker’s flick was only narrowly wide of the post.

Much of the Diamonds threat was coming down the right, as McGuinness also hit a telling cross that Lee Phillips met perfectly and looked certain to score before Cross threw himself across goal to make an excellent save. It looked like Lee Tomlin might have a simple chance to slot in the rebound, but good defending also ensured his attempt was blocked.

The Diamonds made their first change by replacing Luke Boden with Lewis Hilliard, clearly a move with the weekend game against Kidderminster in mind. The pattern continued with a Smith shot also bringing out a great save from Cross, and then the Keeper did well to dive at the feet of Hilliard as he broke into the area.

 

Finally the pressure from the Diamonds told in the 75th minute, as good work from Sam Smith saw him square a ball back across the box onto the head of Lee Phillips who made no mistake with his header, and showed his relief in the goal celebration that the deadlock had been broken.

 

The second Diamonds substitution saw Nabil Shariff make his Diamonds debut as he replaced Lee Phillips, and the young striker made an immediate impression on the game, with two good runs, and then narrowly failing to connect with a dangerous diagonal ball into the box from Michael Corcoran, and then netting after an excellent shot from Sam Smith had hit the bar, but he was penalised for pushing.

There was still time for more excellent work by Cross in the visitors goal, saving after a Shariff run with several step-overs saw him hit a hard low cross into the box which spiralled off a defender as Smith challenged, and Cross was able to palm onto the bar.

Although the game wasn’t safe, the Diamonds approach had remained positive, with both Fortune and Corcoran getting forwards and being happy to leave McDonald and Wilcox to cover. There were a couple of scares for Joe Day towards the end, most notably when Jonny Bewers had a shot deflected for a corner, and when a tiring Tony Ielapi couldn’t quite get an outstretched leg to connect with a long through ball as he found space between the Diamonds central defenders.

With local rivals Kettering Town being soundly beaten by Daventry Town, there in no longer the prospect of a Diamonds v Poppies clash in the next round. Details of the draw and dates for the next round will be published on http://www.thediamondsfc.com as soon as they are available.

The next first team game is against Kidderminster Harriers on Saturday.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Rothwell Corinthians 0

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (White) : Joe Day, Joe Wilcox, Aynsley McDonald, Michael Corcoran (Capt), Luke Boden, Clayton Fortune, Jamie McGuinness, Jake Beecroft, Lee Phillips, Sam Smith, Lee Tomlin

Subs : Lewis Hilliard (for Boden 62), Nabil Shariff (for Phillips 77)

Subs Not Used : Jack Higgins, Lewis Hallford, George Cox

 

Rothwell Corinthians (Red) : Tom Cross, Chris Torrence, Byron Brown, Lee Deacon, Chris Dunn, Kevin Fox (Capt), Jonny Bewers, Ben Johnson, Mick Coles, Tony Ielapi, Andy White,

Subs : Neil Woolmer (for Dunn 23), Luke Bewers (for Fox 67), Dave Briffa  (for Coles 78)

Subs Not Used : Matty Coles, Joe Cossey

Goal : Lee Phillips (75)

Yellow Cards: Deacon

Referee: P Martin

Attendance: 160

Diamonds Man of the Match : Luke Boden

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Weymouth 0

 

Rushden & Diamonds beat Weymouth by a single Daryl Clare goal in a scrappy game of very little quality at Nene Park.

Although the game did improve after a very disappointing first half, it was certainly a game where the result was more important than the performance, as it takes the Diamonds above their opponents in the league, and keeps them in touch with the play-off race.

Manager Hill selected Clayton Fortune at left back in place of Michael Corcoran, Luke Boden in midfield instead of Andy Burgess and Michael Rankine replacing Sam Smith up front. The other recent loan signing Joe Wilcox did not make the 16, with Lee Tomlin and Lee Phillips returning to the bench.

Terras manager John Hollins was constrained by illness, injuries and a very small squad, and could only select four substitutes. He played a 4-5-1 formation with Stuart Bevan playing as a lone striker.

The first half was a very poor affair, with the Diamonds failing to test Weymouth keeper Knowles until three minutes from the end of the half, when Michael Rankine and a defender flicked on a long free kick to newcomer Luke Boden, and although he appeared to use his hand to control the ball this wrongfooted his marker allowing him to hit a low shot that Knowles did well to capture.

At the other end the visitors had seen rather more chances during the half, but their best chance also fell towards the end of the half with a deflected shot by James Coutts hitting the bar and going for a corner.

The highlights of the first 30 minutes of the game was a number of corners for the Terras which resulted in headers from Scott Doe narrowly missing the target. Like the Diamonds their best chances came from deadball situations, with an Anton Robinson shot also well over the bar from one of them. Lone striker Stuart Bevan started very brightly, with a couple of wayward attempts on goal, but the Diamonds defence adjusted well to significantly reduce the threat he was posing.

Stephen Reed also shot wide from a Williams cross as the visitors presented the greater threat in that first third of the game, but as for most of the game their poor finishing was to let them down.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Weymouth 0

After such a disappointing first half there was a general feeling in the sparse crowd that the second half must be an improvement, and it immediately proved to be so.

Weymouth almost went ahead in the first minute of the half, with a mix-up between Hope and Woodhouse allowing Stuart Bevan to pick up the ball and fire a powerful shot that Dale Roberts saved well low to his right. The Diamonds then had their best spell of the game, with a Marcus Kelly run taking his past his marker and able to hit a shot that was well saved.

After almost giving his side the lead, Kelly made a mistake that almost resulted in the Diamonds conceding a goal, as a freekick that he took was knocked back out to him, but he dwelt on the ball, was robbed of possession, and with several defenders upfield for the free kick it allowed the Terra midfield to spread the ball wide to Williams, who easily beat Moloney and fired in a low cross that was scrambled clear.

With the Diamonds having significant momentum for the first time in the game it lead to Curtis Osano making one of his trademark runs down the right, cutting into the area, and hitting the best cross of the game which flashed across the box, being narrowly cut out by Cameron Mawer ahead of Marcus Kelly. This was the sort of run the Diamonds fans had been looking for all game, and to come from a Centre Back rather than a winger / full back will have asked a few questions about formation and positioning. The resultant corner from the left by Marcus Kelly was met by Chris Hope at the far post. Although his powerful header was well stopped by the visiting defence, the ball rebounded to Hope who was able to square the ball across the box for Daryl Clare to force home for the Diamonds first goal in four games.

Having gained the lead the Diamonds attacking focus dropped back to nearer the level of the first half as they tried to protect their lead, and a combination of good defending and poor finishing meant that the visitors were unable to make their domination of the midfield into the equalising goal.

The visitors came closest to an equaliser on 59 minutes, as a Mawer run down the right fed James Coutts, whose powerful shot was tipped over the bar by Dale Roberts who was having an excellent game.

Diminutive winger Ryan Williams was finding plenty of space wide on the left, so Manager Hill brought on Michael Corcoran in place of Brendan Moloney to try to plug that gap, but Williams on the left and Coutts on the right were still able to find space, as did Robinson in the middle, and Curtis Osano was called upon several times to clear the danger. On two occasions low crosses from the right by Coutts and Mawer went skimming across the box without a striker making the run needed to knock the ball home.

With Lee Tomlin replacing Marcus Kelly he was responsible for taking a corner won by good linkup play between Clare and Rankine, and the powerful low corner found Chris Hope in space in the penalty area but his header was cleared off the line by Cameron Mawer.

The Diamonds did have a good shout for a penalty on 82 minutes as Michael Rankine and Rob Wolleaston combined, with a Wolleaston run returning the ball towards Rankine who appeared to be pushed in the back by Scott Doe, but the appeals were fairly muted from both the players and crowd.

Chris McPhee almost set up the equaliser as the match neared full time as he latched onto a loose ball on the edge of the box and looped a clever pass forwards to James Coutts who appeared unmarked near the penalty spot, but he was unable to control the ball as required and the danger passed as the ball went through to a grateful Dale Roberts.

There was still time for one last chance for the Diamonds, as Lee Tomlin was able to win a corner, and then able to get in a good corner with his shiny red boots (that looked similar to a child’s red plastic sandals), and as the ball ricocheted around in the box it deflected off a Terras defender towards the goal, forcing Knowles to make one of his best saves of the game.

Referee Khatib brought the game to a close after rather more than the originally allotted three minutes, but it is to his credit that this was one of the few times his whistle was noted, as he allowed the game to flow as best he could, without needing to report to waving yellow cards or lecturing players on how he wanted the game played.

The Diamonds now have a midweek Hillier Cup game against Rothwell Corinthians before the visit of old rivals Kidderminster Harriers next weekend.

With the attendance of 1002 being the lowest for Conference game at Nene Park, and the lowest for a Saturday league game since the Southern League Midland Division days in 1994, it will be important to maintain the winning ways, as well as creating more chances from open play.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Weymouth 0

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (White) Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano, Clayton Fortune, Chris Hope, Brendan Moloney (Michael Corcoran 63), Luke Boden, Rob Wolleaston, Curtis Woodhouse (Capt), Marcus Kelly (Lee Tomlin 69), Michael Rankine, Daryl Clare (Lee Phillips 84)

Subs Not Used: Joe Day, Sam Smith

Weymouth (Yellow / Black) Danny Knowles, Cameron Mawer, Kevin Sandwith, Adam Bygrave, James Coutts, Chris McPhee, Anton Robinson, Stuart Bevan, Ryan Williams, Scott Doe, Stephen Reed

Subs Not Used: Richard Barnard, Jamie Frampton, Jordan Vincent, Josh Webb

Goal : Daryl Clare (53)

Yellow Cards: None

Referee: Mr R Khatib

Attendance: 1002 (Away 61)

Man of the Match chosen by A&J Sectional Buildings : Luke Boden

Rushden & Diamonds 0 Stevenage Borough 3

(Setanta Shield – 3rd Round)

Diamonds failed to emulate last season’s Setanta Shield campaign as they suffered defeat in their third round tie against Stevenage Borough at Nene Park. In a poor match, the visitors took advantage as Diamonds went down to ten men after Curtis Woodhouse went off injured having already made all three substitutions. Goals from Andy Drury, Lawrie Wilson and Anthony Thomas in the final six minutes secured Borough’s place in the last sixteen.

Diamonds kept almost the same side that draw at Cambridge United on Saturday with just two changes. 16 year old Aynsley McDonald was given a place in the starting line-up at left back, with Michael Corcoran moving inside to replace Chris Hope. Jake Beecroft replaced Curtis Woodhouse in midfield.

Borough boss Graham Westley announced eight changes from the side which beat Woking at the weekend, giving an outing to some of his fringe players. Only Callum Willock, Lawrie Wilson and former Diamond Michael Bostwick remained in the starting eleven. Lee Boylan and David Bridges remained on the injury list, while there was no place in the squad for former Diamonds Gary Mills and Mark Albrighton. Willock and Anthony Thomas led the attack as both sides went for a 4-4-2 formation.

Neither side was able to assert their authority as the game commenced with play from both sides breaking down before being putting any pressure on the opposing goalkeeper. Stevenage had the first couple of attempts, with Anthony Thomas firing into the side-netting early on and Callum Willock being unable to get on the end of a cross from Lawrie Wilson.

Diamonds first real effort came after 15 minutes when Andy Burgess whipped in a cross from the right. The Borough defence cleared but Brendan Moloney sent a dangerous ball back in which was blocked and cleared. Diamonds were having their best spell of the half but the poor end product meant Ashley Bayes in the Stevenage goal had little to do.

 

At the other end, Thomas and Willock looked dangerous, but the Diamonds back four of McDonald, Corcoran, Osano and Moloney looked confident and were working well together. Diamonds suffered a blow on 29 minutes went Andy Burgess had to be stretchered off following a blow to the head after a late challenge. Lee Phillips came on as a replacement, but there was little change in the pattern of play with both sides struggling with recent poor form. Diamonds best chance of the half came in first half injury time following good movement from Brendan Moloney, but his effort went straight at the keeper,

 

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 – 0 Stevenage Borough

 

The second half saw a bit more urgency, but again both sides lacked the cutting edge to create goal-scoring chances. Daryl Clare and Jake Beecroft doubled Diamonds efforts on goal early on, but both shots were easy for keeper Ashley Bayes. Callum Willock put the ball in the net for Stevenage on 53 minutes, but was well offside. Moments later, they had probably their best chance of the game when Scott Laird cross from the left found Thomas free at the far post, but he fluffed his header, nodding the ball down and bouncing over the bar.

 

Stevenage were looking more dangerous as they started to dominate the midfield, and Curtis Woodhouse was introduced just before the hour, replacing Daryl Clare – Lee Phillips moving up alongside Sam Smith.  Jamie McGuiness also came on for Aynsley McDonald and he moved alongside Woodhouse, with Marcus Kelly dropping to left back.

 

On 60 minutes, the visitors had another golden opportunity as Thomas got clear on the right and took the ball towards goal before unleashing a fierce drive. His shot struck the underside of the bar and bounced away from from danger. Former Diamond Michael Bostwick received a yellow card on 68 minutes for a poor challenge on McGuiness, and it was McGuiness who had a good chance at the far post on 74 minutes, after a strong surge forward by Smith, but he failed to connect cleanly.

 

Curtis Woodhouse had to go off with 10 minutes remaining after a thigh injury, and Diamonds played out the remaining time with ten men. Stevenage took advantage of their extra man as they pushed forward in the final period. They got the breakthrough on 84 minutes when Thomas sent a cross field ball out to Andy Drury on the right and he drilled in from 20 yards past the helpless Dale Roberts.

 

The goal seemed to fire up the visitors and it took only two minutes to add a second as they tore Diamonds apart. Drury set Lawrie Wilson on a run into the penalty area, and he sidefooted the ball past Roberts to double their advantage. Then on 88 minutes, it was Drury again who done the damage as his cross in to Anthony Thomas was stabbed home from close range.

 

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 – 3 Stevenage Borough

 

The final whistle couldn’t come soon enough for Diamonds as they failed to improve on their recent poor form. The lack of any sort of creativity resulted in a quiet evening for Ashley Bayes in the Stevenage goal. Diamonds will be hoping for an improved performance when they take on Weymouth at Nene Park this coming Saturday, while the Youth Team are in action tomorrow evening when they take on Northampton Town in the FA Youth Cup 1st Round (7.45pm kick-off).

 

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds – Roberts, Osano, Clare (Woodhouse 58), Burgess (Phillips 33), Moloney, Wolleaston, Beecroft, Kelly, Corcoran, Smith, A.McDonald (McGuiness 64).

Subs not used: Day, Hilliard.

 

Stevenage Borough – Bayes, Wilson, Laird, Oliver (c), Thomas, Martin, Willock, Burke (Cazaubon 79), Drury, Bostwick, McDevitt.

Subs not used: Gibson, Brinkman, Atkins, Swaine.

 

Goals: Drury 84 (0-1), Wilson 86 (0-2), Thomas 88 (0-3).

 

Booked: Bostwick 68 (foul).

 

Referee: Mr Ian Smedley (Derbyshire).

 

Attendance: 430 (41 away).

 

 

By Dave Mason

Cambridge United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

 

Rushden & Diamonds earned a creditable draw with Cambridge United at the Trade Recruitment Stadium on a very wet Saturday afternoon. Good defending throughout the game was combined with a late attacking surge which saw Daryl Clare and Andy Burgess threaten a late winner.

Garry Hill made only three changes from the side that lost to Evesham United, with Rob Wolleaston replacing Gareth Jelleyman (with Michael Corcoran moving to left back), Marcus Kelly starting in place of Lee Tomlin (switching sides with Andy Burgess) and Sam Smith starting up front in place of Lee Phillips.

The Diamonds bench had a very youthful look, being made up of teenagers – with Jamie McGuinness earning a rare place as well as two of the four new recruits to the first team squad from the youth setup – Lewis Hilliard and Aynsley McDonald.

Cambridge were still without the suspended Lee McEvilly so started up front with Mark Beesley and Danny Crow.

After the disappointment of the Evesham game the eleven that took to the field showed a distinct togetherness, starting with a pre-match huddle and followed by strong communication on the pitch linked to the instructions from the sideline by Hill and Edinburgh.

The first ten minutes set the scene for the first half, with the home side relying on an expansive game, with Robbie Willmott looking especially threatening on the left wing. On the right was the pacy Felino Jardim, and although he did not live up to the promise suggested in the first few minutes, he too caused problems, especially after left-back Michael Corcoran was give an early booking for a sliding challenge on Paul Carden.

Brendan Moloney was looking impressive in the right back role, and Curtis Osano was providing pace to the central defence. The threat down the left saw Beesley set up Willmott to hit a dangerous cross on 9 minutes, but Danny Crow didn’t manage to get far enough in front of his man to produce a telling strike, with his flick deflecting for a corner.

The Diamonds countered the threats by applying a wide game of their own, although early crosses from Burgess and Kelly failed to find a striker in a good position to threaten Potter’s goal, although a cross with his right foot by Kelly found Burgess whose volley was deflected to force the Diamonds first corner of the game. Although Kelly’s corner was cleared, it fell to Curtis Osano as he made his way back to defence, and he showed he is still willing to run at a defence, even when he is playing centre-back himself.

On 18 minutes Willmott did manage to get past Moloney right on the goalline and hit a powerful cross towards Mark Beesley, but as Chris Hope managed to intercept the cross, he and Beesley clashed heads, and the striker had to leave with blood streaming from his head.

Wayne Hatswell was having a good game against his old club, but he was guilty of conceding possession to Daryl Clare before making amends by clearing an Andy Burgess attempt on goal, albeit to Curtis Woodhouse whose strike was well wide. Woodhouse then showed great commitment by chasing back to support his defence, making a last ditch clearance as Robbie Wilmott cut into the centre. Sam Smith too showed the all around commitment to the cause as he was able to help out his defence on a couple of occasions.

On the half-hour mark ex-Diamond Jon Challinor made his mark on the game for the first time, having been kept quiet by Woodhouse and Wolleaston prior to that. First he hit a long shot that didn’t trouble Roberts, but a minute or so later he hit a much better shot that was well saved by Roberts.

Danny Crow was starting to show his frustration as he was going to ground more and more often under very innocuous challenges, although this tactic did result in a number of free kicks in dangerous positions. This approach spread to Robbie Willmott as the Diamonds defence were starting to negate his threat, and he went down after the slightest of touches from Curtis Osano.

As the half neared its end, Jon Challinor found himself in far too much space towards the corner of the box, as a corner was headed out in his direction, with the defence slow to close him down, hitting a powerful shot that brought a great save out of Roberts.

Half-time: Cambridge United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

The second half started in similar fashion, with the home side dominating play, with the rain now lashing down, as it did for the remainder of the half.

Chris Hope was now playing with a bandaged head and he and Osano continued to build an impressive partnership.

Up front Daryl Clare was starting to make an impression with a long shot over his shoulder, and then going narrowly wide when set up by Sam Smith.

Both Woodhouse and Burgess were making significant contributions to the Diamonds midfield, with Burgess picking up a yellow card for his tackle on substitute Chris Holroyd. Burgess won a free kick in a dangerous position that saw old team-mates Chris Hope and Wayne Hatswell challenge for a header that they both made contact but the ball squirmed wide for a corner.

At this stage the Diamonds had been struggling to give Danny Potter very much to do, but this all changed in the last quarter. An Andy Burgess free kick deceived the home defence to reach Marcus Kelly at the far post but his header was into the side netting.

Brendan Moloney was continuing to impress in all areas of the park, and he combined with Andy Burgess on the right to allow Burgess to reach the byline and square the ball to Daryl Clare for one of the Diamonds best chances of the game, but he could only poke the ball wide under a last ditch challenge.

The U’s threat was now significantly diminished with some reliance on long throws from Jon Challinor

Andy Burgess then almost surprised the home defence on two occasions, firstly with a quickly taken free kick that nearly found Rob Wolleaston, and then from a powerfully hit shot from inside the centre circle which had Potter scrambling and the keeper had to concede a corner.

Michael Corcoran was also earning praise for his performance after the early booking, not only in defence, as he quashed the threat of Jardim, but also with his distribution as he hit several crossfield balls towards Andy Burgess. From one of these Burgess switched the ball inside to Curtis Woodhouse and his shot was saved low down by Potter who was now by far the busier of the two keepers.

As full time approached both sides had a chance to clinch the game, firstly as Daryl Clare broke into the box, but slipped under a challenge from Bolland, shortly before being replaced by Jake Beecroft, and then for the U’s as Holroyd latched onto a loose ball whilst in an offside position. Despite the assistant referee having put up her flag well before the ball was netted there were still some in the crowd who thought a goal had been scored.

The game thus ended goalless, perhaps a fair result over the 90 minutes, and certainly an appropriate reward from a fighting team performance from the Diamonds.

Garry Hill must now review the performance, deciding on his line-ups for both the Setanta Shield on Tuesday at home to Stevenage and the Blue Square Premier game versus Weymouth on Saturday. Given the youthful nature of the Diamonds bench he must also take into account the fact that the youth team have a key FA Youth Cup game on Wednesday at home to NorthamptonTown.

Full-time: Cambridge United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Teams:

Cambridge United (Amber / Black): Danny Potter, Dan Gleeson, Anthony Tonkin, Philip Bolland, Wayne Hatswell, Mark Beesley (Chris Holroyd 19), Jon Challinor, Paul Carden, Robbie Willmott, Felino Jardim, Danny Crow

Subs Not Used : Josh Coulson, Mark Convery, Ben Farrell, Stephen Drench

Rushden & Diamonds (White) : Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano, Michael Corcoran, Chris Hope, Brendan Moloney, Rob Wolleaston, Curtis Woodhouse, Andy Burgess, Marcus Kelly, Daryl Clare (Jake Beecroft 90), Sam Smith.

Subs Not Used: Joe Day, Jamie McGuinness, Lewis Hilliard, Aynsley McDonald.

Goals : None

Yellow Cards : Corcoran (4), Burgess (54)

Referee: Mr G Sutton (Lincs)

Attendance: 3547 (Away 227)

Diamonds Man of the Match: The Diamonds Back Five

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