Rushden & Diamonds 2 Northwich Victoria 1


Rushden & Diamonds received an early Christmas present as they gained a fortunate victory over an unlucky Northwich Victoria at Nene Park in the last game before Christmas.

Goals from Sam Smith and Lee Tomlin earned the win during a brief five minute period during the second half where the Diamonds were able to match their opponents. Tomlin was able to celebrate being taken off the Transfer list in the week with his third goal in recent games, and Smith was able to move up to become the clubs top scorer courtesy of only his second start in the league this season.

New signing Justin Cochrane was given a place in the starting line-up, with Curtis Woodhouse moving to left back at the expense of Gareth Jelleyman. Sam Smith started up front with Simon Brown relegated to the bench.

Vics manager Steve King brought back ex-Diamond Scott Tynan in goal, and preferred Darryn Stamp and Dean Lodge up front.

The scene was set for the first half inside the first two minutes, as Darren Stamp set up Rashid Yussuf who ran at the Diamonds defence, working the ball to the right of them before squaring to Matt Crowell whose shot was just wide to the left of the goal.

Surprisingly the Diamonds fans seemed to get frustrated with their team very early on, as debutant Justin Cochrane struggled to adjust to the pace of the game.

The first showing from the Diamonds when Lee Tomlin picked out Chris Hope on the left of the area as part of a free kick move, but the header across the area was not anticipated by the strikers. They then had their best chance of the half on 8 minutes, when Marcus Kelly raided down the left, and hit a long ball across to the right of the area, where Lee Tomlin hit a low cross which Sam Smith diverted narrowly wide of Tynan’s near post.

Peter Winn was finding space on the left for the Vics, and he met a cross from the right by Aspin, but could only head over the bar.

Northwich were having by far the better of the half, and deservedly took the lead after 13 minutes when Matt Crowell picked up the ball in just outside the centre circle and was allowed to run towards the goal unchallenged, and hit a 30 yard shot that went into the centre of the goal with Roberts diving to his left. Although there was a clear hand-ball by Yussuf before he laid the ball to Crowell, the goal was deserved on the balance of play.

The Diamonds only threat was coming from their free kick opportunities, and Chris Hope set up Marcus Kelly for one of the few Diamonds shots on target during the half, but it was easily gathered by Tynan.

The visitors had a good claim for a penalty on 20 minutes when Michael Corcoran appeared to handle the ball as a corner was cleared – and Matt Crowell picked up a yellow card for dissent as he contested the decision.

Despite Kelly and Tomlin switching wings for the latter portion of the half, the home team rarely threatened, whereas the visitors pace and movement saw further chances for Lodge and Stamp.

Even the Diamonds use of the dead-ball situations was deteriorating, with two poor free kicks being wasted with one straight into the wall by Tomlin, and another the bar by Hope.

The half ended with the Diamonds relieved they were only facing a one goal deficit.

Half Time : Rushden & Diamonds 0 Northwich Victoria 1

The second half started in similar fashion with the Vics on top, with Peter Winn seeming able to beat Michael Corcoran and find space for a cross from the Vics left at will, resulting in a series of corners which the Diamonds defence was able to deal with.

The Diamonds midfield was struggling to find each other with a direct pass, with several stray passes going straight into touch, to the frustration of the home fans.

As the game reached an hour old the change to 3-4-3 was made by the Diamonds management, with the introduction of Yannick Bolasie for debutant Cochrane. This suddenly gave the Diamonds some cohesion, and a corner move saw a Chris Hope header falling to Michael Rankine inside the six-yard box, and his attempt was scrambled back to Sam Smith to slot home his sixth goal of the season, making him the Diamonds top scorer.

The Diamonds management stuck to this more attacking formation following the equaliser, and within a few minutes this paid dividends as a Lee Tomlin run through the centre saw him lay the ball to Smith, collect the return and slot into the left hand corner of the net.

Initially it looked as though the Diamonds might continue in the same attacking vein. A series of good opportunities were then wasted, the first when Smith won the ball and laid it off to Rankine, expecting a return ball, but the misdirected pass was straight into touch. The revised formation was giving Corcoran some respite from trying to handle Winn, and he was able to get forward to support Lee Tomlin, whose cross resulted in a disappointing outcome as Michael Rankine failed to hit the target with his header, the attempt going out for a throw.

The remaining substitutions were a sign of the desire to close the game down, but rather bizarrely, a section of the Diamonds crowd were upset when the Diamonds attempted to see out the 90 minutes at 2-1, rather than going for a third goal – most notably during added time when Rob Wolleaston did as required during a quick break, winning a freekick near the corner flag. Those Diamonds fans who witnessed last minute disappointments at Barrow this season, Stevenage last season, and many other examples during the Football League days would have realised the potential for something similar occurring.

The Diamonds now have the festive "double-header" against Stevenage Borough, starting with the visit to Broadhall Way on Boxing Day, and will be well aware of the need for an improved performance there,

Full Time : Rushden & Diamonds 2 Northwich Victoria 1

Teams :

Rushden & Diamonds : Dale Roberts, Michael Corcoran , Curtis Woodhouse (Capt), Chris Hope, Curtis Osano, Lee Tomlin, Rob Wolleaston, Marcus Kelly (Gareth Jelleyman 72), Justin Cochrane (Yannick Bolasie 61), Michael Rankine, Sam Smith (Simon Brown 87)

Subs Not Used : Alan Marriott, Leo Roget

Northwich Victoria : Scott Tynan, Ryan Brown, Matt Crowell, Mike Aspin, Owen Price (Jonny Allan 71), Peter Minn, Dean Lodge, Darryn Stamp (Lee Steele 79), Simon Grand (Capt), Will Antwi, Rashid Yussuf

Subs Not Used : Michael Jones, Michael Welch, Aaron Burns

Goals : Matt Crowell (15), Sam Smith (67), Lee Tomlin (70)

Yellow Cards : Crowell, Hope, Antwi, Brown

Attendance : 1134 (Away 34)

Referee : P Varley

Man of the Match chosen by Julian Swales : Dale Roberts


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