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

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