Stevenage Borough 3 Rushden & Diamonds 1

 

Rushden & Diamonds were soundly beaten by Stevenage Borough in the Boxing Day game at Broadhall Way, as a series of defensive errors gifted the home side three goals, and only a series of excellent saves by Dale Roberts kept the scoreline within reason.

After the Diamonds had started well, Boro took the lead late in the first half as a mix-up between Leo Roget and Dale Roberts as they tried to deal with a long ball saw Steve Morison presented with an easy tap-in. The Diamonds then conceded a second right at the start of the second half when a mix-up between Osano and Roget allowed Lee Boylan to run on and chip the ball over Roberts. The third Boro goal came when Roget scuffed a clearance, then Curtis Woodhouse failed to deal with the loose ball in the area, allowing Steve Morison to score his second.

The Diamonds got a late consolation when debutant Neil Cousins squared the ball to Lee Tomlin who fired low into the net.

The Diamonds had brought in Leo Roget to replace the suspended Michael Corcoran, with Gareth Jelleyman returning at the expense of Justin Cochrane, and new signing Neil Cousins was named on the bench, as the sole striker in the absence of Lee Phillips and Daryl Clare, alongside the returning Jake Beecroft.

Ex-Diamonds Manager Graham Westley named ex-Diamonds Mark Albrighton and Michael Bostwick in his starting line-up, but there was only a place on the bench for Gary Mills on his return from suspension.

The Diamonds created the first real chance of the game, as Scott Laird fouled Lee Tomlin, and Tomlin took the kick himself, finding Michael Rankine about 12 yards from goal, but the striker’s header was well tipped over the bar by Chris Day.

As Boro cleared the subsequent corner, they had their first chance when Steve Morison was able to turn past Gareth Jelleyman as the two players had remained upfield, and he appeared to have a free run on goal, but rather surprisingly he squared the ball across the front of the box for his strike-partner Lee Boylan, but Dale Roberts was able to save the striker’s shot.

Tomlin was causing problems to the home defence, and he also found space on the left to cross to Curtis Woodhouse after 11 minutes, but the captain’s shot was wide of goal.

At the other end Steve Morison was finding holes in the Diamonds defence at will, and his shot almost produced a goal as Roberts had to move quickly to prevent Lee Boylan getting to the ball first as the shot looped off a defender.

Michael Rankine was winning his share of the high balls at this stage, although he was having to drop deeper to get involved with the play, leaving Sam Smith fairly detached from the game at times. One Rankine header in midfield was well directed to Rob Wolleaston as he raided down the left, but Day was able to cut out the low cross at the near post.

As the half-hour approached the Diamonds had their best chance of the half, when Lee Tomlin was denied by a great save by Day as he volleyed towards the top corner after latching on to a loose ball, following a Marcus Kelly cross being headed by Michael Rankine towards goal.

Stevenage were playing some good football, with sweeping moves seeing the ball go from one side of the pitch to another at pace, with Drury and Cole combining well and bypassing the struggling Diamonds central midfield partnership. Morison again set up a chance for Boylan as he "nutmegged" Osano, but again Roberts made a fine save.

David Bridges and Michael Bostwick were also winning the direct battles in central midfield, and Bridges presented Morison with a fine chance which he could only strike into the side netting, with a few Boro fans thinking the bal had gone into the net.

They didn’t have to wait long for the ball to hit the net in the right place though, as a long ball from defence looked to be any easy clearance for either Roberts or Roget, but as they both hesitated Steve Morison was able to nip in, toe-poke the ball past Roberts and then run on and knock the ball into an unguarded net, five minutes before half-time.

There was just time for Curtis Woodhouse to pick up a yellow card for a foul on Drury.

Half-Time : Stevenage Borough 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

After the Diamonds fans wondered whether their team might get back on level terms as they warmed themselves up with hot drinks, these hopes were dashed within two minutes of the restart. A long ball forward looked to be a routine clearance for either Osano or Roget, but Osano allowed the ball to bounce and as it went past him Lee Boylan ran on and challenged Leo Roget for the loose ball – and again the striker came out better, and as Roget floundered he was able to chip the ball neatly over the advancing Roberts, and it dropped into the net in front of the travelling Diamonds fans.

A poor clearance by Chris Hope gave Boylan another chance to run unchallenged towards goal, but this time Roberts had been able to close down the angle and the shot struck him and away to safety.

Worse was to come as the game neared the hour mark. A ball into the Diamonds box looked to give Leo Roget a chance for a routine clearance, but he could only scuff his attempt towards the edge of the box. Curtis Woodhouse then tried to take control, but could only carry the ball back towards his own goal line, and as he miscontrolled the ball Steve Morison was able to latch onto it and fire the ball home.

Almost immediately Andy Drury set up Lee Boylan for yet another chance as the Diamonds defence was in disarray, but again Roberts was able to save.

The goal was a signal for the Diamonds bench to make changes, with Leo Roget replaced by Jake Beecroft, who made a rare appearance at right back (with Curtis Osano moving to centre back). Rob Wolleaston was also replaced, with Yannick Bolasie taking the right midfield role, meaning Lee Tomlin moved to the left and Marcus Kelly to centre midfield alongside Woodhouse.

The game then entered a failed quiet stage on the pitch, as both set of fans adjusted to the differing qualities of their team’s performance, although Steve Morison skied a chance to get his hat-trick

The Diamonds management made their final change on 70 minutes, with new signing Neil Cousins replacing Sam Smith. This change was able to give the Diamonds some hope, as Bolasie found space down the right, to find Cousins, and he showed the vision and accuracy to find Lee Tomlin running into space, and Tomlin fired the ball low into the left hand corner of the net.

The Diamonds defence was now looking rather more stable, although David Bridges headed against their crossbar from a Drury corner.

With five minutes to go the Diamonds missed a chance to stage a late comeback, as Marcus Kelly moved across to the left to slide the ball through to Lee Tomlin, but this time the youngster’s shot was across goal and wide of the far post. The final Diamonds chance fell to debutant Cousins, who had a chance to divert an attempt from Curtis Woodhouse into the net, but could only divert it wide of the left-hand post.

Referee Kinseley was one of the factors that made this such an entertaining game, as he allowed the game to flow, and didn’t resort to yellow cards without justification. The Diamonds fans were rather upset that several Stevenage players chose to stay down after challenges, with sufficient signs of agony that the referee stopped the game, and yet in one case the player then decided the trainer was not even needed. When this was coupled with Stevenage giving possession back to the Diamonds via a throw in near their own corner flag it increased the frustration of the travelling fans, who already had plenty to question regarding their own team’s defensive performance.

Although referee Kinseley allowed four minutes of added time there was little further action, and as the Diamonds players trooped off after one of the worst defensive displays that most fans could remember they would be able to consider what response they will produce to this mauling when they face the same opponents in six days time.

Full-Time : Stevenage Borough 3 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Teams

Stevenage Borough (White / Red) : Chris Day, Scott Laird, Mark Albrighton, Lee Boylan (Calum Willock 82), Mark Roberts, David Bridges, Steve Morison, Mitchell Cole (Jerome Anderson 77), Andy Drury (Gary Mills 90+1), Michael Bostwick, Ronnie Henry

Subs Not Used : Ashley Bayes, Luke Oliver

Rushden & Diamonds (Yellow) : Dale Roberts , Curtis Osano , Gareth Jelleyman , Chris Hope , Leo Roget (Jake Beecroft 60), Lee Tomlin , Rob Wolleaston (Yannick Bolasie 60), Curtis Woodhouse (Capt) , Marcus Kelly , Michael Rankine , Sam Smith (Neil Cousins 70)

Subs Not Used : Alan Marriott , Justin Cochrane

Goals : Morison (41, 59), Boylan (47), Tomlin (77)

Yellow Cards : Woodhouse

Referee : N Kinseley

Attendance : 1,012 (Away Approx 250)

Diamonds Man of the Match : Lee Tomlin

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