Mansfield Town 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0


Rushden & Diamonds won a hard earned point against Mansfield Town with an impressive defensive display in a poor game at Field Mill. The Diamonds saw more of the possession during the first-half, but failed to capitalise, with a series of wasted corners and free kicks. The Stags had the better of the second half, with two efforts narrowly missing the goal, and an Aaron O’Connor shot blocked, but neither goalkeeper was really tested during the entire game.

Garry Hill had brought back Jake Beecroft in place of Justine Cochrane, and Rob Wolleaston started in place of the suspended Lee Tomlin. Neil Cousins was awarded his first league start alongside Michael Rankine. The back 4 was unchanged with Michael Corcoran having been passed fit. Gareth Jelleyman was able to take a place on the bench on his return from injury.

With so many changes in personnel for the home team, David Holdsworth gave a home debut to Paul Mayo as well as naming recent arrivals Anthony Howell and Curtis Shaw on the bench for the first time at Field Mill. Ex Diamonds Alan Marriott and Rob Duffy were in the starting XI, as was ex-Diamonds triallist Aaron O’Connor. Michael Blackwood returned to the side in place of Curtis Woodhouse.

The Diamonds formation was either 4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1, with Andy Burgess and Jake Beecroft playing behind Neil Cousins on the right, Marcus Kelly on the left, with Rob Wolleaston having a free role behind lone striker Michael Rankine.

In the first half Dale Roberts was the busier keeper as he had to field the better hit dead ball kicks from the home team, as well as shepherding a powerful attempt by Jonathan D’Laryea wide.

The Diamonds however had more of the play, and their best move of the half came when Marcus Kelly fed the ball to Rob Wolleaston in midfield who then threaded a ball through the home defence for Neil Cousins to run onto. The Diamonds striker was pulled down by Scott Garner on the edge of the box, but Andy Burgess wasted the free kick – although the Diamonds bench were appealing that a penalty kick should have been awarded – either way it was surprising that Garner did not see a yellow card, especially when Curtis Osano was punished for a lesser challenge a few minutes later..

Cousins had come close as early as the third minute when he latched on to a low Kelly cross, but Adie Moses managed to take the sting out of the shot allowing Marriott to gather. Marcus Kelly also made Marriott gather up a shot hit from the edge of the box as the visitors dominated the first half.

The other good chance of the half came when Chris Hope flicked on a long free kick to Michael Rankine, but he had his back to goal, and could only win a corner. Like the other two Diamonds corners, Marcus Kelly could not beat the first man and the position was wasted.

A further chance from a dead-ball situation came when Gary Silk handled on the edge of the box, but this time it was Kelly who wasted the free-kick.

Half-Time : Mansfield Town 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

The Diamonds attacking attempts in the second half were few and far between, with Rob Wolleaston doing well to get in a cross from the left of the box that eluded everyone, and Neil Cousins having a shot that was well wide. The only other attempt was when Marcus Kelly put in a cross with his right foot that was only cleared as far as Andy Burgess, but his attempt with his right foot was well wide.

After their poor showing from set pieces in the first half, the Diamonds failed to win a corner or a free kick in a dangerous position for the entire second half.

The impressive Kurt Robinson was booked for a challenge on Aaron O’connor despite clearly winning the ball – perhaps referee Halliday (who otherwise had a good game) thought the tackle could have been dangerous had he not connected with the ball.

The home side had a number of chances to open the scoring during the half, but none really tested Roberts as the Diamonds defence was looking very impressive. Curtis Osano made the most crucial block of an Aaron O’Connor shot after he had been set up by substitute Ameobi.

Michaal Blackwood was the home side’s most impressive player, and his free kick looked like it might be heading over the Diamonds defence towards Scott Garner at the far post, but Chris Hope did enough to thwart the attempt on goal.

The Diamonds will be happy with an away point, and with the clean sheet, although the lack of second-half firepower will be a concern, as will the failure to create any sort of danger from free-kicks and corners. Lee Tomlin will be available on Sunday when Cambridge United are the visitors to Nene Park.

Full-Time : Mansfield Town 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0


Mansfield Town : Alan Marriott, Gary Silk, Paul Mayo (Tomi Ameobi 52), Jonathan D’Laryea (Capt), Adie Moses, Matt Somner, Michael Blackwood, Louis Briscoe (Anthony Howell 86), Scott Garner, Aaron O’Connor (Neil MacKenzie), Robert Duffy

Subs : Dan Whatsize, Curtis Shaw

Rushden & Diamonds : Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano, Kurt Robinson, Chris Hope, Michael Corcoran, Rob Wolleaston (Sam Smith 68), Andy Burgess (Capt), Jake Beecroft, Marcus Kelly, Michael Rankine, Neil Cousins (Jamie McGuinness 85)

Subs Not Used : Joe Day, Daniel Broadbent, Gareth Jelleyman

Yellow Cards : Curtis Osano (foul), Kurt Robinson (foul)

Diamonds Man of the Match : Michael Corcoran

Attendance 2028 (away 56)


Rushden & Diamonds 2 Forest Green Rovers 2


Rushden & Diamonds were held to a draw by Forest Green Rovers after they let a half-time lead slip at Nene Park in a game that saw four goals resulting from defensive errors. After quickly responding with goals from Lee Tomlin and Michael Corcoran after Alex Lawless had given the visitors the lead, the Diamonds failed to stretch their lead as they had the better of the first half. Following much concern over an injury to Michael Corcoran at the start of the second half the Diamonds never really got going again, and the visitors got a deserved equaliser from Lee Ayres.

Garry Hill had brought back Justine Cochrane in place of Jake Beecroft, and Michael Corcoran replaced the suspended Simon Downer. There was a Nene Park debut for loanees Karl Robinson at left back and Danny Broadbent up front.

With Rovers having fallen to defeat in midweek, Jim Harvey made a number of changes to his starting line up, with ex-Diamonds Conal Platt and David Brown earning places in the starting XI.

Lee Tomlin signalled his intentions to put his disappointing performance at Ebbsfleet behind him as he started the game as he had left off at Torquay with a number of surging runs on the right, combining with Danny Broadbent to fire a shot just wide. The visitors had an early chance when Conal Platt broke down the left and his dangerous cross was only just cut out by the Diamonds defence in front of Andy Mangan.

Rovers took the lead after nine minutes when a long shot from Paul Stonehouse was only parried by Dale Roberts out to Alex Lawless who slotted home the opening goal.

Rovers lead was short-lived however, as the Diamonds broke down the right and Danny Boradbent won a free kick right on the side-line as he was fouled by Lee Ayres. The foul was about 10 yards from the corner flag. Lee Tomlin took the kick, and although meant as a cross it flew over keeper Burton’s head into the far corner of the net for the equaliser.

Rovers had a claim for a penalty a minute later when Kurt Robinson challenged Andy Mangan but referee Handley waved play on.

On 26 minutes, Lee Tomlin had a shot tipped over by Burton mid-way through the half, after he moved inside and exchanged passes with Marcus Kelly, and from the resultant Kelly corner Michael Corcoran slipped away from his marker to head home unchallenged.

Marcus Kelly picked up a rare booking after a foul challenge on Lee Fowler.

As the game neared half-time the Diamonds had two further chances, with Lee Tomlin beating two men as he surged into the area, but his shot was blocked, and then Tomlin raced to the byline to cross for Michael Rankine to get in a header that Burton did well to save.

Marcus Kelly thought he might have won a free kick in a dangerous position, but although it appeared he had been fouled, his initial attempt to play on perhaps affected the referee’s decision.

Half-Time : Rushden & Diamonds 2 Forest Green Rovers 1

The second half started off with two lengthy stoppages. Inside the first minute Michael Rankine picked up a yellow card for a challenge that appeared to leave Lee Ayres groggy, and although he returned to the pitch the referee insisted he be checked over a second time. The Diamonds management decided to replace Rankine with Sam Smith in the meantime to protect him from the risk of a further caution.

The Diamonds then had one of their best chances of the half, as Justin Cochrane picked out Lee Tomlin with a through ball, and although Tomlin outpaced the chasing defenders he could only shoot into the side-netting at the near-post, when their appeared better options for his team-mates.

The second stoppage came after a dangerous looking break from the visitors which saw a powerful shot by Conal Platt hit Michael Corcoran full in the face from close range, poleaxing him. Bizarrely the referee did not see fit to stop the game, and the visitors retained possession and played on, so it took the intervention of Simon Parsell who ran onto the field of play having seen how serious the incident was to stop the game. Given how often referees choose to stop the game when a player has clearly only suffered an injury to the legs, it was concerning to all the Diamonds players that such an obvious head injury did not see an immediate stoppage in play. With the doctor having to be summoned, and then oxygen sent for, it was clear this could be a serious injury, and the defender was stretchered off to be replaced by Jamie McGuinness, making his debut in a league game.

This incident seemed to upset the Diamonds as they allowed the visitors to dominate the remainder of the game. After a number of chances when Andy Mangan beat the offside trap they had a scare when Dale Roberts dwelt on a backpass and only narrowly managed to clear away from the charging Mangan, It was no surprise when the visitors forced an equaliser on 65 minutes when Mangan forced Karl Robinson to concede a corner. Dale Roberts failed to gather the resultant kick, allowing Lee Ayres to head home the equaliser.

The Diamonds did have a chance when Neil Cousins set Sam Smith clear, but he was forced wide as he reached the penalty box and could not find a team-mate.

Rovers had the best chances to get a winner, with Paul Stonehouse able to raid down the left at will. It appeared the Diamonds were focussing their play down the left hand side, with Lee Tomlin being moved across to that side of the pitch, but this meant that McGuinness had an especially difficult debut as he lacked any support on the right.

Veteran Jerry Gill was able to get in a dangerous cross as the game moved into the final 10 minutes, and David Brown spurned an excellent chance to earn his side an away victory as he put his header over the bar. Conal Platt continued to link with Paul Stonehouse to give the lone McGuinness problems, and Curtis Osano had to make a last gasp interception to prevent a late winner.

The Diamonds last chance fell to Justin Cochrane after Tomlin and Kelly combined down the left but his shot was wide.

Few in the ground were expecting as few as four minutes of added time to be signalled as the 90 minute mark was reached, with the Corcoran incident as well as two periods of treatment for Lee Ayres appearing to have used up at least 6 or 7 minutes, let alone the stoppages for substitutions etc. In the end six additional minutes were played as Karl Robinson needed some attention during that period, but both sides had to settle for the draw.

While the Diamonds will be disappointed with dropping two home points, they will have been relieved to hear that Michael Corcoran was recovering in the dressing room after his injury.

The Diamonds now have an extra day to prepare for the trip to Mansfield on Tuesday evening – which will give them extra time to review their defensive options should Michael Corcoran join Simon Downer in being unavailable.

Full-Time : Rushden & Diamonds 2 Forest Green Rovers 2

Teams :-

Rushden & Diamonds (White): Dale Roberts, Michael Corcoran (Jamie McGuinness 57), Curtis Osano, Chris Hope, Kurt Robinson, Lee Tomlin, Justin Cochrane, Andy Burgess (Capt), Marcus Kelly, Michael Rankine (Sam Smith 51), Danny Broadbent (Neil Cousins 71)

Subs Not Used : Joe Day, Rob Wolleaston

Forest Green Rovers : Terry Burton, Jerry Gill, Mark Preece, Lee Ayres, Paul Stonehouse, Alex Lawless, Jonathan Smith, Lee Fowler (Capt), Conal Platt, Dave Brown, Andy Mangan

Subs Not Used : Ryan Robinson, Adriano Rigoglioso, Les Afful, Curtis McDonald, Michael Symons

Goals : Alex Lawless (11), Lee Tomlin (12), Michael Corcoran (29), Lee Ayres (67)

Yellow Cards : Lee Ayres (foul), Marcus Kelly (foul), Michael Rankine (foul), Justin Cochrane (foul)

Referee : Mr D Handley

Attendance : 1066 (Away 78)

Man of the Match (nominated by the Press Box) : Lee Tomlin

Ebbsfleet United 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Neil Barrett struck the winning goal for Ebbsfleet United after 41 minutes to end a five game losing streak in the League for the Kent side. Diamonds failed to create much in the way of chances in the first 45 minutes, while the second half was marred by the dismissal of defender Simon Downer for a poor challenge on Luke Moore. The melee that followed saw both managers sent from their dugouts as tempers flared.

Since Diamonds exit from the FA Trophy at Torquay last weekend, Garry Hill had brought in loan signing Danny Broadbent from Huddersfield Town, and he started up front with Michael Rankine. In midfield, Justin Cochrane dropped down to the bench, while Rob Wolleaston had failed to recover from a hamstring injury. Yannick Bolasie was not named in the squad. This gave the opportunity for Andy Burgess to return to central midfield with a specially adapted face mask to protect his eye injury, while Jake Beecroft was recalled. At the back, Simon Downer replaced Michael Corcoran.

Fleet’s poor run in the League had only been interrupted with a couple of wins in the FA Trophy, and manager Liam Daish made four changes to the side which beat Stalybridge Celtic on Tuesday evening. Having made two loan signings from Wycombe Wanderers on Friday, and both Leon Crooks and Derek Duncan were brought in to bolster the back four. Neil Barrett returned to midfield, while Luke Moore partnered Michael Gash up front. Darius Charles (ankle) and Paul McCarthy (back) remain sidelined.

Ebbsfleet kicked off towards the Diamond supporters as both sides looked to improve on recent form. In the opening ten minutes, Jamie Hand came close to getting a shot away on goal after a quickly taken free kick by keeper Lance Cronin, but Chris Hope blocked the danger. At the other end, Hope’s header from a Marcus Kelly free kick lacked any power to cause the home defence problems.

Fleet looked more dangerous as the half progressed with Diamonds unable to create any openings for the front two. On 19 minutes, Michael Gash headed wide from Luke Moore’s cross, while Stacy Long’s fierce 25 yard shot went inches wide of the upright. Although under pressure, Diamonds defence did look solid as Gash sent another long range effort wide and just before the half hour point, Purcell went wide again from another Moore cross. Diamonds tried to break out on a couple of occasions but each time, the counter attack fizzled out. On 31 minutes, Purcell was fouled on the edge of the Diamonds penalty area, but Stacy Long sent the free kick over the bar without troubling keeper Dale Roberts.

It always seemed more likely that it would be the home side that went in front and on 41 minutes, they did just that as Luke Moore sent the ball in from the left. After a touch from Stacy Long, Dale Roberts was left wrong footed as Neil Barrett slotted the ball home from 6 yards. Just before the half time whistle, Barrett’s header forced a fine save from Roberts, although the lineman’s flag was already raised for offside.


Half time: Ebbsfleet United 1 – 0 Rushden & Diamonds


Diamonds tried to get back into the game as the second half commenced but they were penalised for some strong challenges, with Lee Tomlin, Curtis Osano and Michael Rankine all receiving cautions. Rankine almost got a decent run on goal early on, but Fleet captain James Smith did well to get back and divert the ball away for a corner. Simon Downer went just wide from the corner in Diamonds best chance of the game. Fleet were still stronger coming forward with Roberts clearing from Gash on the hour.

Lee Tomlin’s corner on 64 minutes was touched on by Chris Hope – Curtis Osano being unable to turn the ball towards goal. Garry Hill made all three substitutions on 69 minutes in a bid to liven things up. Neil Cousins, Sam Smith and Michael Corcoran replaced Rankine, Beecroft and Broadbent, but it was still the home side making the running with Michael Gash attempting to lob Roberts, then sending a header over the bar.

Diamonds chances of taking a point away from the game got that little bit harder on 81 minutes, when Simon Downer went in hard on Luke Moore close to the home dugout. While the referee debated whether the challenge was worthy of a yellow or a red card, there was a mass melee involving the Ebbsfleet substitutes, the management and a couple of the Diamonds players nearby. Garry Hill also got involved as the fourth official tried to calm things down. In the end, Downer was shown a red card, while Liam Daish, his assistant Alan Kimble and Garry Hill were all sent to the stands.    

With seven minutes of time added on, it was Ebbsfleet who looked more dangerous in the closing moments. Ricky Shakes, on for Stacy Long, shot just wide while Barrett came close to nipping in at the near post, but the ball stuck under his feet. Jamie Hand also fired over from the edge of the area.

Full time: Ebbsfleet United 1 – 0 Rushden & Diamonds


So Fleet’s poor run of results in the League came to an end as Diamonds never really got out of first gear. The home keeper Lance Cronin was never troubled with Lee Tomlin and Marcus Kelly unable to make use of the left and right flanks to allow the new strike partnership to flourish. On the plus side, Andy Burgess came through the 90 minutes well and was Diamonds man of the match. Still without a win since Christmas, Garry Hill will be hoping for a better performance next Friday evening (23rd) when they take on Forest Green Rovers at Nene Park.



Ebbsfleet United: Cronin, Crooks, Smith(c), Long (Shakes 87), Gash, Stone, Barrett, Purcell, Moore, Hand, Duncan.

Subs not used: Mott, Pooley, Slatter, Ibe.

Rushden & Diamonds: Roberts, Osano, Hope, Downer, Robinson, Broadbent (Corcoran 69), Burgess(c), Rankine (Cousins 69), Tomlin, Beecroft (Smith 69), Kelly.

Subs not used: Day, Cochrane.

Goals: Barrett 41 (1-0).

Booked: Tomlin 52 (foul); Osano 60 (foul); Rankine 62 (persistant fouls); Hand 76 (foul), Duncan 90+5 (foul).

Sent off: Downer 83 (serious foul play).

Referee: Mr G.Jerden (Essex)

Attendance: 1121 (95 away).

By Dave Mason

Torquay United 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0


Rushden & Diamonds were desparately unlucky to go out of the FA Carlsberg Trophy at Plainmoor to a scrambled goal by Chris Hargreaves after 70 minutes. In a very entertaining game the Diamonds had dominated play for much of the game, and had come close to taking the lead on several occasions, but allowed the home side to score in one of the few periods they had significant possession. Late chances fell to Lee Tomlin and Michael Rankine but the Diamonds could not get a deserved equaliser.

It was thus even more disappointing to concede in the second half as they did – and there was doubt about whether either the referee or linesman had been able to see that the ball had crossed the line as the equivalent of a Rugby Union maul formed on the goalline, with the ball buried under several players.

The Diamonds brought in new signing Kurt Robinson at left-back in place of the injured Gareth Jelleyman, and included youngsters Joe Day (18), Jamie McGuinness (18), Lewis Hilliard (18) and George Cox (17) on the bench alongside Sam Smith (18). Lee Tomlin was playing up front with Michael Rankine, and Curtis Osano returned to his centre-back role. Tristan Plummer was making his debut for the Gulls in place of the suspended Tim Sills.

The pitch conditions were remarkably good, with a light overnight frost having thawed in good time, and the temperature remaining above freezing for the whole game.

The Diamonds dominance of the first half began almost immediately, with Marcus Kelly looking sharp, and debutant Karl Robinson impressing as he combined with Kelly down the left. Running onto a long ball from Marcus Kelly from an onside position, Yannick Bolasie ran past Michael Rankine who appeared to be offside, and ran unchallenged towards goal, but could only hit a rather tame shot that Bevan saved.

Lee Tomlin then produced a cross / shot from the right which Bevan had to tip over, and Chris Hope came close from the resultant corner as Bevan failed to gather, but the captain’s shot was deflected over. An excellent Diamonds move down the right involving Wolleaston and Bolasie saw Lee Tomlin hit a long cross that appeared easy to deal with, but Lee Mansell misjudged his chest-pass back to Bevan, and Marcus Kelly nipped in, but could only shoot at Bevan.

Dale Roberts was called into action for one of the few times in the first half on the quarter-hour mark when Justin Cochrane was rather harshly adjudged to have handled just outside the area, and from the resultant free kick by Lee Hodges, Roberts dived acrobatically to tip the shot around the post. The Diamonds keeper did have one scare when trying to mop up a long ball, seeing his clearance hit the onrushing Green, but Chris Hope was on hand to dispatch the ball into the stand.

Lee Tomlin was looking really dangerous up front for the Diamonds, as he created a chance for himself after picking up a loose pass from Wayne Carlisle and hit a powerful shot than Bevan did well to gather to his right, albeit needing two attempts. He also saw a lob over Bevan go aver the bar as he continued to harry the home defence into mistakes.

Roscoe d’Sane was lucky to escape a yellow card on 24 minutes as he tumbled to the ground in the area under a Corcoran challenge. This was followed by Rob Wolleaston winning a free kick in the centre circle, and the kick from Curtis Osano was flicked on by Chris Hope allowing Lee Tomlin to turn and shoot, but he will perhaps be disappointed that the shot only found the side-netting. Tomlin also had a shot just wide and Marcus Kelly put another shot over the bar as the Diamonds dominated.

The half thus ended with the scores even, but with the Diamonds the most disappointed not to be ahead – and possibly by more than one goal.

Half-Time : Torquay United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

The home side did manage to move up a gear at the start of the second period. Michael Corcoran continued to face the challenge of Roscoe D’Sane down the left for the Gulls, but as in the first half he tried to make a meal of what was an excellent and clean challenge from the Diamonds defender. In doing so he landed heavily on his shoulder, and although a stretcher was called for, he managed to make his own way off the pitch, but could take no further part in the action, being replaced by Eliot Benyon.

Eight minutes into the half there was a further sign that this might not be the Diamonds afternoon, as Steve Woods failed to deal with a bouncing ball, and Michael Rankine appeared to have a gilt edged chance, but he blazed well wide of the target in what was his first real chance on goal of the afternoon.

The home side then had a reasonable looking penalty claim turned down as Kurt Robinson tussled with Eliot Benyon. Perhaps it was a legacy of the earlier antics from Roscoe D’Sane in making a meal of well timed challenges in both halves that led referee Melin to also turn down this claim.

Sam Smith was brought into the action in place of Yannick Bolasie just before the hour mark. He initially stepped into a wide right role, and created a chance for Lee Tomlin as a result, but Tomlin was unable to convert the chance.

Justin Cochrane was having his best game for the Diamonds so far, but he picked up a yellow card for a foul on Wroe, when perhaps other players had escape yellows for lesser challenges.

The Diamonds had a scare on 59 minutes when Michael Corcoran lost his alignment in the Diamonds offside trap and played Green onside, but he was able to get back and make an excellent challenge on Plummer to save the day.

On the hour mark Rob Wolleaston pulled up with what looked like a hamstring injury, and he had to be replaced by Lewis Hilliard, making his debut in a senior game.

As the Diamonds were adjusting to the substitutions, the home side took the lead. The ball was worked to Tristan Plummer on the left corner of the penalty box, and after a number of impressive challenges earlier, this was the occasion where the attacker got the better of his marker Michael Corcoran, with the defender looking to ensure he didn’t cut inside, so instead he took the ball to the byline and hit a powerful cross along the ground across the area. A scrambled ensued, with four or five players all falling in a heap on the goalline, with the ball somewhere underneath them, but not visible from the main stand side. It was also not visible to the Assistant Referee on the far side of the pitch as he was unable to give a decision, and so when referee Melin blew his whistle the expectation was that it would be for a drop-ball – which could have been difficult to execute – but instead he signalled a goal. The home players then signalled that their captain Chris Hargreaves had been nearest to the ball, so he was credited with the goal. Had this been a Rugby Union game it would clearly have been a situation where the Video Referee would decide whether the ball had been carried over the line for a try, but in this case referee Melin decided to give the benefit of the doubt to the home side.

Shortly afterwards the hosts came close to extending their lead, but again Dale Roberts came to the rescue as he tipped over a 30 yard shot from Lee Mansell.

At the other end Lee Tomlin was continuing to create space for himself, on one occasion hitting a low cross which Michael Rankine could not convert, and then controlling a long ball from Kurt Robinson and running past his man and into the area and blasting the ball towards goal, bringing out a great save from Bevan.

Tristan Plummer was then replaced by Danny Stevens, giving Michael Corcoran his third opponent of the afternoon, and Stevens almost got an immediate return, as he beat the defender on the outside and hit a similar cross to the one that brought the goal, but this time Chris Hope was able to scramble the ball away.

Lee Tomlin was now back to his more normal role as a wide player, on the left, with Hope, Rankine and Smith in the centre, and he found Rankine with a precise pass, but the striker was able to have three attempts, on goal, the first two blocked and the third saved by Bevan.

The Diamonds weren’t finished, and with Chris Hope moving to play up front in what had become a 3-3-4 formation, he was the catalyst for one of the best moves of the game, with a volleyed 35 yard pass across the pitch to Sam Smith on the right, who showed great ball control to bring it under control, then beat his man to run into the area, and then hit a pinpoint cross into the area, but Michael Rankine could only direct his near-post header wide of goal. Hope also set up a chance directly for Rankine, but again the striker could not get his shot away, and had to settle for another Diamonds corner.

After five minutes of added time referee Melin blew for full-time, and the home side were greeted with cheers of relief from their fans. They had given their Man-of-the-Match to keeper Scott Bevan which helped to illustrate the depth of the Diamonds dominance, and although Tomlin and Rankine were guilty of missing many chances, the overall performance was one of the best of the season, and with better finishing they could have been travelling back to Northamptonshire safely in the next round, let alone having to face a replay. Some fans will think back to Season 2000-01 where the Diamonds went out of both the FA Cup and FA Trophy in their early stages, after success in the previous seasons – but did achieve their main aim that season.

There is now a week’s break before the trip to Northfleet to face Ebbsfleet United, but all of those 25 or so travelling Diamonds fans will be greatly encouraged by the performance, if frustrated by the failure to convert the possession and chances into goals.

Full-Time : Torquay United 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Teams :

Torquay United : Scott Bevan, Lee Mansell, Kevin Nicholson, Steve Woods, Lee Hodges, Roscoe d’Sane (Elliot Benyon 49), Nicky Wroe, Chris Hargreaves (Capt), Wayne Carlisle, Matt Green (Tyrone Thompson 90+1), Tristan Plummer (Danny Stevens 79)

Subs Not Used : Chris Robertson, Steve Adams

Rushden & Diamonds : Dale Roberts, Michael Corcoran, Kurt Robinson, Curtis Osano, Chris Hope (Capt), Yannick Bolasie (Sam Smith 56), Rob Wolleaston (Lewis Hilliard 61), Justin Cochrane, Marcus Kelly, Lee Tomlin, Michael Rankine

Subs Not Used : Joe Day, Jamie McGuinness, George Cox

Goal: Chris Hargreaves (70)

Yellow Cards : Justin Cochrane (foul 57),

Referee : P Melin

Attendance : 1728 (Away approx 25)

Diamonds Man of the Match : Lee Tomlin

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Stevenage Borough 1


Super-sub Sam Smith once again scored a late goal to help Rushden & Diamonds to a 1-1 draw with Stevenage Borough in the New Year’s Day game at Nene Park. As in the game at Broadhall Way on Boxing Day it was a defensive error that helped Boro to take the lead as Steve Morison was allowed to run through the Diamonds defence on a breakaway move after a Diamonds corner, a third of the way through the game.

Garry Hill had made six changes to the side that lost to Stevenage on Boxing Day – with Simon Downer making his debut in central defence, Neil Cousins making his first start up front at Nene Park, and returns to the side for Justin Cochrane, Yannick Bolasie, Michael Corcoran and Jake Beecroft. Stevenage fielded the same 16 as in the Boxing Day game. Corcoran played left back, with Curtis Osano at right back.

The Diamonds started brightly, with Simon Downer slotting in well at the back, and he had the first goalscoring opportunity of the game after four minutes when Lee Tomlin was fouled by Mark Albrighton on the right, and he delivered a free kick that Downer rose and headed back towards the right-hand post but it was cleared inside the six yard box. Lee Tomlin then had a run and shot that went wide, before Mark Roberts conceded a free kick by fouling Michael Rankine. Although the kick was cleared by Mark Albrighton for a corner, Chris Hope was able to get a clean header onto the corner, but Michael Bostwick was able to clear off the line.

The visitors first real chance came on 13 minutes as a Mitchell Cole cross from the left went across the area to Ronnie Henry running in on the right, and his powerful low shot was well saved by Roberts.

Incisive work down the right saw Cochrane, Osano, Tomlin and Rankine combine for the striker to turn and shoot, but his effort was blocked by Mark Roberts.

As the game neared the half-hour mark there was a sense that the new personnel were starting to weld into a team, with Osano starting to get forwards to support Tomlin giving the Diamonds their greatest threat down the right.

As in the game at Broadhall Way on Boxing Day it was a defensive error that helped Boro to take the lead. On 32 minutes Steve Morison was allowed to run through the Diamonds defence on a breakaway move after a Diamonds corner, and with central defenders Hope and Downer upfield it was Michael Corcoran who allowed Morison to run past him, and Curtis Osano was unable to catch the striker before he slotted home.

Morison also hit the bar shortly afterwards as he got on the end of a Drury corner, and then Mark Roberts missed a great chance to extend the lead as he saw his header well saved by Roberts, and then he could only spoon the rebound over the bar.

The Diamonds looked to have a decent chance denied when Yannick Bolasie was flagged offside in what looked a very marginal decision. At the other end a Drury shot looked goal bound but hit Lee Boylan.

The half ended with the visitors on top, but given so many changes in personnel the Diamonds had hope that the second half would deliver some return for their efforts.

Half-Time : Rushden & Diamonds 0 Stevenage Borough 1

The second half started fairly cautiously, with both sides struggling to create chances from open play, although Yannick Bolasie saw a dangerous looking shot blocked as he picked up a Chris Hope knock-down from a free-kick after Curtis Osano had been fouled by Bostwick. Hope had also seen a header go just wide as he got on the end of a Corcoran cross

On the hour mark the Diamonds began a series of changes, with firstly Kelly and Wolleaston replacing Bolasie and Cochrane, and then three minutes later Sam Smith replaced the limping Osano.

Simon Downer made perhaps his only mistake of the game, as he allowed David Bridges to close down his clearance, but Dale Roberts was alert and quickly closed the situation down and made a reflex save from the midfield player’s attempt on goal.

With the changes Lee Tomlin was back on the right side, and again he was finding space to get in dangerous crosses, one of which Mark Roberts did well to knock behind for a corner.

On 70 minutes Roberts was called into action to save again from Bridges as a Morison cross from the right found Bridges’ head.

Tomlin continued to find space, helped by impressive ball control, but his left foot let him down as he cut inside for a shot. On 75 minutes the Diamonds domination stepped up a gear, with a corner seeing Chris Hope head the ball down to Rob Wolleaston, and his effort was chested towards goal by Sam Smith, but Chris Day was able to smother the attempt on the line.

The following corner saw Day make his only mistake of the afternoon as he failed to gather a routine ball, and in the scramble Sam Smith saw his shot hit the bar and away to safety, giving the visitors one of their last attacking opportunities of the afternoon as Mitchell Cole broke clear, but the saving tackle by Lee Tomlin picked up a yellow card, and the resultant Drury freekick saw Callum Willock finding space for a free header which he could only direct wide.

Marcus Kelly was finding space on the left, and his shot was only half blocked, cannoning out to Sam Smith, but again the shot came back off the bar.

The Diamonds were having all of the play at this stage, and Lee Tomlin found space in the right channel to latch onto a ball hooked forwards by Simon Downer, and hit a dipping shot that went just over Day’s bar, and ended up behind the goal-net making some think the ball had gone in.

Tomlin then skill and technique to control a long crossfield ball from Wolleaston, and he took the ball to the by-line, but although Neil Cousins did well to get to the cross he could not convert it for his debut goal.

Still the Diamonds pressed, and keeper Day was forced to save from Rob Wolleaston as the game entered three minutes of injury time. It was in the last of those minutes that the Diamonds won a free kick wide on the left flank, as Michael Rankine was pushed by Michael Bostwick, awarded by referee Sutton capping a fine game and unfussy display. Lee Tomlin ensured that the wall was sufficiently far back, and then delivered into the box and into a group of players, with the ball falling loose for Sam Smith to prod home a late equaliser for the second time in three games at Nene Park.

The draw was certainly a deserved one, especially based on the performance in the last quarter, and particularly pleasing given it was against the same team that had beaten the Diamonds on Boxing Day. Simon Downer had an impressive debut, and neither Cousins nor Cochrane looked out of place, so the team will be looking forwards to the trip to Salisbury on Saturday.

Full Time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Stevenage Borough 1

Teams :-

Rushden & Diamonds (White): Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano (Sam Smith 64), Simon Downer, Chris Hope (Capt), Michael Corcoran, Lee Tomlin, Jake Beecroft, Justin Cochrane (Rob Wolleaston 61), Yannick Bolasie (Marcus Kelly 61), Michael Rankine, Neil Cousins.

Subs Not Used : Alan Marriott, Gareth Jelleyman

Stevenage Borough (Blue): Chris Day, Scott Laird, Mark Albrighton, Lee Boylan (Callum Willock 58), Mark Roberts, David Bridges, Steve Morison (Capt), Mitchell Cole (Gary Mills 86), Andy Drury, Michael Bostwick, Ronnie Henry

Subs Not Used: Ashley Bayes, Luke Oliver, Jerome Anderson

Goals : Morison 32, Smith 90+2

Yellow Cards : Rankine, Bostwick, Tomlin

Referee : Mr G Sutton

Attendance : 1853 (Away 386)

Diamonds Man of The Match (chosen by Lewis Britchford and Family) : Michael Rankine

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