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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