Burton Albion 3 Rushden & Diamonds 0

 

Rushden & Diamonds went down by three goals to nil against table-topping Burton Albion on a wintry evening at the Pirelli Stadium.

The Diamonds conceded a goal to John McGrath shortly before half-time after Andy Burgess gave the ball away in midfield, and then conceded again right at the start of the second half as a Ryan Austin shot was deflected home by Shaun Harrad. The game was ended as a contest just after the hour mark as Marc Goodfellow found an unmarked Shaun Harrad who slotted home.

On a bitterly cold February’s evening, Burton Albion and Rushden & Diamonds kicked off to a light drizzle, with little evidence of the snow that has covered Northamptonshire except for a few melting piles along the side of the pitch, a pitch which is a testament to the ground staff at Burton Albion for being playable, despite the fact the rain was leading to an increasingly erratic bounce off the surface.

Garry Hill had brought back Andy Burgess in place of Jake Beecroft and Simon Downer returned into defence. Rushden played four at the back, five in midfield, with Corcoran and Burgess often dropping back, pushing Wolleaston forward into a more attacking midfield role, with Smith up front on his own, albeit aided by Tomlin and Kelly down the wings.

Around 30 hardy souls travelled from Northamptonshire as The Diamonds started kicking towards the Burton Albion end. The first half was one of large periods of Rushden possession, punctuated with incisive attacks from Burton as both sides struggled to adapt to the dreary conditions.

The game started off with both sides sharing possession evenly, Burton proved physical in defence as both sides tried to put the ball on the floor and play the ball around the pitch, Robinson and Kelly combined well for the Diamonds whilst Burton enjoyed attacks down either wing.

The first clear-cut chance fell to Greg Pearson on the seventh minute, Burgess was caught dithering on the ball and punished as Pearson took it off him striding towards the keeper, however Pearson had a moment of dithering too, at one-on-one with Dale Roberts. A combination of Dale Roberts rushing off his line and Simon Downer rushing back was enough to see off the threat. As the half progressed The Diamonds enjoyed possession inside the Burton half, more than matching their top of the table opponents.

Burton’s physicality in defence showed as Kelly was barged off the ball and Tomlin pushed off to deny good attacking moves. Rushden were determined not to lose the first half battle however, as the rain drove down the first half gradually became scrappier, both teams cancelling each other out. Downer committed a foul on the edge of the box on the twentieth minute, with the resulting cross blocked, and the snap shot that followed also blocked by a crowd of Rushden bodies.

The 24th minute saw a good run by Robinson picked out with a cross field ball from Burgess, which under normal conditions would have sat up nicely, but with the wet weather, zipped off the surface and out of harms way. Moments later Marc Goodfellow dispossessed Burgess in the centre of the park, seeing Dale Roberts off his line, Goodfellow went for a spectacular shot from around 35 yards out, which sailed onto the roof of the net, much to the relief of the backtracking Roberts.

The 31st minute saw another Burton chance, Kurt Robinson heading a Burton cross out of play, denying the clear goalscoring opportunity, but coming scarily close to heading the ball into his own net in the process. As the half wore on Rushden had chances, with Kelly denied and Corcoran’s header from the resulting corner saved by veteran goalkeeper Kevin Poole.

Burton took the lead on the 41st minute, as the driving rain turned into snow. Some stray passing from Rushden meant Michael Corcoran and Andy Burgess were dispossessed by Marc Goodfellow, who’s neat ball with Pearson led to John McGrath getting the chance to coolly slot it through Dale Roberts legs to make it 1-0 Burton.

Half Time: Burton Albion 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

The yellow ball was brought into action for the second half, as Rushden switched to a more conventional 4-4-2 formation, with Michael Corcoran dropping back to become right back, Curtis Osano becoming right winger and Lee Tomlin pushing up front.

It didn’t take long for Burton to increase their lead, Burgess fouled Shaun Harrad leading to a free kick in a dangerous position. Ryan Austin hit the free kick into the defensive wall, but Austin reacted first on the rebound to hit a powerful shot which took a deflection off Shaun Harrad on its way to beat Roberts.

The second goal so early in the second half seemed to knock the wind out of Rushden’s sails, after having spells of possession in the first half, The Diamonds momentum seemed deflated. Sam Smith had an opportunity, shooting low and hard which was easily saved by Poole at his near post.

An exquisite through ball by Goodfellow on the 55th minute found Simpson in the box, who turned and shot, seeing it rebound off the post. A scramble ensued, with Simpson fluffing a shot, Goodfellow and Harrod both having efforts until the ball was eventually collected by Roberts.

A Tomlin corner moments later saw a chance with a header from Chris Hope going just wide. Despite the Rushden efforts, the hosts always looked more likely to get the next goal.

Garry Hill brought on Neil Cousins just after the hour mark, but the third goal came after 64 minutes when Marc Goodfellow broke from the half-way line, ran to the edge of the box and knocked the ball across to Shaun Harrad at the far post who netted a simple tap-in.

Simon Downer brought down Keith Gilroy for the first yellow card of the game on his return from suspension, with a rash tackle, although in his defence the slippery surface appeared to carry the momentum of the slide tackle, making it seem worse than it probably was, the home crowd definitely felt it deserved more than a yellow from referee Coote.

Andy Burgess won a free kick after being fouled by Andy Corbett, but Lee Tomlin fired it well over the bar, summing up the Diamonds evening. Rushden replaced Rob Wolleaston with Jake Beecroft and Burton made their first sub, bringing on Lee Morris for former Diamond Greg Pearson, who had been quiet all evening. Tomlin was then replaced by Michael Rankine as the Diamonds pushed more men forwards in an attempt to salvage something from the game.

Neil Cousins won another free kick off Corbett, just outside the box, and Chris Hope did force Kevin Poole to tip the ball over the bar. The resulting corner headed out for another, which was headed wide. Rankine was denied by a great tackle by Jake Buxton and minutes later burst through the Burton defence, getting to the byline and releasing a cross-cum-shot which bounced along the bar, only for the linesman to decide his cross had swung off the field and back on, so a goal kick was given.

A Hope interception right in front of Roberts (who could have claimed it) led to a Burton corner, which looped inwards, threatening to curl into the goal, forcing a near post punch from Roberts.

Jake Beecroft picked up a late yellow card for a foul on Andy Corbett, before Danny Holmes almost made it four, with the deflection off Simon Downer going over the bar, as the game moved into the three minutes of added time.

Full Time : Burton Albion 3 Rushden & Diamonds 0

A 3-0 defeat against a Burton side who are running away at the top of the table isn’t such a negative. The Diamonds matched their hosts for much of the first half, however failed to capitalise on the mistakes caused by a cold and wet evening. Burton managed to capitalise on the Diamonds mistakes, and took their chances well. The Rushden faithful fans were left with a long slow journey back through the snow, and a Valentines day encounter with Lewes to look forward to.

Teams and Stats

Burton Albion

1 Kevin Poole, 4 Michael Simpson (Captain), 5 Tony James, 6 John McGrath (Danny Holmes 79), 8 Andy Corbett, 9 Shaun Harrad, 11 Keith Gilroy, 14 Marc Goodfellow, 15 Ryan Austin, 16 Jake Buxton, 18 Greg Pearson (Lee Morris 74)

Subs Not Used: Saul Deeney, Darren Stride, Jamie Yates

Rushden & Diamonds

19 Dale Roberts, 2 Curtis Osano, 5 Chris Hope, 6 Simon Downer, 8 Kurt Robinson, 11 Andy Burgess (Captain), 15 Lee Tomlin (Michael Rankine 75), 17 Rob Wolleaston (Jake Beecroft 72), 23 Marcus Kelly(Neil Cousins 63), 24 Michael Corcoran, 25 Sam Smith

Subs Not Used: 26 Joe Day, 20 Jamie McGuinness

Goals: John McGrath, Ryan Austin, Shaun Harrad

Yellow Cards: Simon Downer (foul), Jake Beecroft (foul)

Referee: D Coote

Assistant Referees: D Meeson, M Thorley

Fourth Official: E Smart

Attendance: 1291 (Away Approx 35)

Diamonds Man Of the Match: Dale Roberts – without whom the Burton goal tally could have been higher

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