Crawley Town 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Rushden & Diamonds dominated the first half of the game at Broadfield with a fluid passing game, but they had to put in a sound defensive performance to hold on to gain a creditable draw against Crawley Town, after the hosts long ball game gave them the better of the second half. The Diamonds almost snatched victory in injury time, as Lee Tomlin solo run was finished off with a shot which Simon Rayner did well to save, and both sides hit the woodwork during the second half.

Justin Edinburgh was able to continue the policy of keeping a settled side, with the starting 11 unchanged from Tuesday evening, but with Michael Corcoran and Neil Cousins earning places on the bench on their return from injury. Crawley brought in defender Adam Quinn, and ex-Diamond Jamie Cook returned to the bench after a long absence, but there was no place in the squad for Glenn Wilson, although Michael Malcolm started.

After a slow start in their previous away game at Torquay, the Diamonds quickly showed that they were prepared to attack their hosts in all areas of the pitch, with the midfield four dominating, with Wolleaston, Beecroft and Kelly making excellent runs to link up with Tomlin and Rankine.

A taste of things to come came in the fifth minute, with a superb passing move down the right, with Lee Tomlin making a pinpoint pass through a gap in the home defence for Jake Beecroft to run onto. Beecroft ran into the area and showing composure and vision he laid the ball back towards Tomlin who had made a run towards the penalty spot. Tomlin showed similar qualities to backflick the ball straight on to Rob Wolleaston who was making a run in the left channel, but the shot was narrowly wide to the left of goal.

There was also a threat down the Diamonds left, and a minute later Marcus Kelly was able to rob his Crawley counterpart, and flick the ball forwards to Michael Rankine who headed the ball into space for Kelly to run onto and hit a low shot which was well saved by Rayner.

After these close range attempts, Lee Tomlin tried his luck from 20 yards as he met a perfect flick on by Rankine, and although his shot squirmed past Rayner, the Red Devils keeper had managed to take enough pace off the shott and he was able to turn around and gather the ball before it went over the line.

The home side didn’t present a real threat on the Diamonds goal until midway through the half when Jon Shaw worked himself into space on the left at a narrow angle, hitting a shot that Dale Roberts could only parry, but Lewis Killeen could not latch onto the loose ball.

In a similar move to the one that saw the first Diamonds goal against Lewes, Marcus Kelly outstripped his marker and hit a powerful cross which saw Michael Rankine go close, and the striker also headed an Andy Burgess cross over the bar. Rankine was at the centre of one of the key decisions that referee Whitton had to make, as he chased down a loose ball that Jake Wright was hoping the shepherd out for a goal kick. The defender clearly pushed the striker, but the referee waved play on.

Tomlin turned provided on 35 minutes as he set up Marcus Kelly whose shot was well saved, low down, by Rayner.

The home side had one other good chance in the first half, as a Michael Malcolm cross from the right found Lewis Killeen, who turned and shot, but Roberts was able to save.

Although many of the bad habits of the Hill era are quickly becoming distant memories, the Diamonds are still struggling to find a reliable set-piece routine, with Andy Burgess being given the responsibility this game, but like Kelly and Tomlin had done in recent matches, he too presented easy catches to Simon Rayner too often.

Half-Time : Crawley Town 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

The hosts made two changes early in the second half, adopting a long ball approach that the Diamonds struggled to cope with. The first chance fell to the visitors though, as Lee Tomlin chased a loose ball, reaching it ahead of Rayner, and he rounded the keeper to square the ball towards Rob Wolleaston, but the midfielder’s shot was blocked.

Chances then started falling to the home side as they bypassed midfield with their long ball approach, but the Diamonds back four showed great understanding to provide the necessary cover to thwart the main threats, blocking a number of dangerous shots, and cutting out crosses before they could present a danger.

Crawley did come close on the hour mark when a Michael Malcolm freekick found Chris Giles who headed against the post.

The Diamonds brought on Sam Smith for Michael Rankine, then were forced into a further change as Simon Downer had to leave the field with a groin injury, at the same time as Curtis Osano was receiving treatment for a blow to the face, meaning he had to change to a blank shirt for the second game running. Michael Corcoran replaced Downer in central defence, and carried on the good work alongside the impressive Chris Hope.

At the other end the Diamonds came close to scoring when Lee Tomlin was fouled by Chris Giles (who was shown a yellow card) and the striker took the kick himself, and found Chris Hope just outside the far post, whose goal bound header was deflected by a defender to skim off the top of the crossbar for a corner.

Crawley were using their big defender Quinn to take a series of long throws, as they tried to rain in the long balls from all angles, but the Diamonds defence remained solid, although Lewis Killeen should have done better when he beat the offside trap to latch onto a through ball from Malcolm, but he dragged his shot well wide.

Neil Cousins had joined the action by this point, and he was on the end of a slick move involving Chris Hope, Lee Tomlin and Jake Beecroft, but saw his shot saved.

As the game neared it’s conclusion there was still a chance for both sides to win the game, the home side seeing a great block by Kurt Robinson thwart substitute Isaiah Rankine, and then Lee Tomlin ran at the home defence, and fired in a low shot that forced Rayner into his best save of the game.

The game thus ended with the Diamonds picking up their first point in the Conference at Broadfield. They now have a free midweek before another away trip next weekend – the twice-postponed trip to face Salisbury City.

Full-Time : Crawley Town 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

 

Teams

Crawley Town : Simon Rayner, Santos Gaia, Simon Weatherstone (Robbie Matthews 52), Jake Wright (Chris Giles HT), Danny Forrest, Dannie Bulman (Capt), Thomas Pinault, Lewis Killeen, Adam Quinn, Jon Shaw (Isaiah Rankin 79), Michael Malcolm

Subs Not Used Jamie Cook, Gavin Hurren

Rushden & Diamonds : Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano, Kurt Robinson, Chris Hope, Simon Downer (Michael Corcoran 79), Andy Burgess (Capt), Rob Wolleaston (Neil Cousins 84), Jake Beecroft, Marcus Kelly, Michael Rankine (Sam Smith 69), Lee Tomlin

Subs Not Used : Chris Arthur, Jamie McGuinness

Goals : None

Yellow Cards : Osano 68, Giles 70

Referee : R Whitton (Essex)

Attendance : 777 (Away 103)

Diamonds Man of the Match : Kurt Robinson

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