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

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