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

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