Rushden & Diamonds 1 Kettering Town 0

Rushden & Diamonds preserved their proud record against local rivals Kettering Town with a 1-0 victory at Nene Park  A goal in the second half from super-sub Sam Smith separated the sides as the Diamonds presented the greater attacking threat in that period. The result also has a significant impact upon the Poppies chances of making the end of season playoffs.

An impressive home crowd of almost 2000 was augmented to a total of 3406 by the travelling fans in the Airwair Stand. This gate represented the highest crowd at Nene Park since the final game of the 2005-06 season when the Diamonds were in the Football League.

Justin Edinburgh was able to name an unchanged 16, with the Poppies only making one change as ex-Diamond Chris Beardsley made a return to Nene Park, demoting Gareth Seddon to the bench.

The first half was a fairly even affair, with few clearcut chances to either side. The Poppies has perhaps the best chance of the half when Andy Burgess gave the ball away near his own goal, flicking the ball to Craig Westcarr, and his cross was met by Jean-Paul Marna, but he could only divert the ball wide.

The Diamonds chances came when they speeded up play, such as on the 7 minute mark when Andy Burgess had a one-two with Lee Burgess and then with Rob Wolleaston, but Wolleaston was unable to get the ball from under his feet to get a strike on goal. Marcus Kelly was struggling to get in the game in his wide-left position, and moved inside to pick up the ball and hit a shot from 35 yards that Lee Harper could not hold, with the ball squirming wide for Lee Tomlin to have a shot which bounced off Harper for a corner.

The Poppies also saw a chance fall to Chris Beardsley as he got on the end of an Alfie Potter cross, but he could only turn and hit the ball into the side netting, and the striker missed a further chance a couple of minutes later when the Diamonds defence dwelt on a Craig Westcarr cross, but he hit his shot over the bar.

The Diamonds had a number of opportunities from free-kicks and corners which were largely wasted, apart from one near the interval when Michael Rankine flicked on and an attempt by Chris Hope was scrambled clear.

The Diamonds defence were having a great afternoon, with Downer and Hope dominant in the centre, Kurt Robinson keeping Alfie Potter very quiet, and Jake Beecroft again impressing in his makeshift role.

There were three yellow cards given out by referee Waugh in the first half, with Michael Rankine picking up a yellow card in a clash with Guy Branston, with the Kettering Physio being called to a writhing Branston, who quickly recovered after the “magic sponge” was applied. Surprisingly a similar foul by Branston on Rankine, in which Rankine’s shirt was almost torn from his back did not see a reciprocal card. Lee Tomlin picked up a deserved yellow card as he helped out his defence with a lunging tackle on Potter, and ex-Diamond John Dempster also picked up a booking just before half-time.

Half-Time : Rushden & Diamonds 0 Kettering Town 0

The second half was similarly tense, but the Diamonds started to dominate play, inspired by the backing of the home fans.

Lee Tomlin had the best chance early in the half, as Andy Burgess improved on what was a poor sequence of dead ball deliveries, seeing his corner flicked on by Cousins to Lee Tomlin, but his volley blazed into the Peter De Banke terrace. Tomlin had earlier robbed Geohaghon but saw his cross well cut-out by Harper, and a Rankine flick had given Neil Cousins a chance on goal.

Justin Edinburgh brought on Sam Smith and Nicky McNamara, and this gave the Diamonds an extra dimension, with Lee Tomlin moving wide. A neat backflick on the left corner of the box on 72 minutes found Sam Smith but the striker saw his shot comfortably saved by Harper.

The Poppies were getting little joy from a solid Diamonds defence, with the only scare being a low diagonal ball from Westcarr that neither Wright or Seddon were able to anticipate and get a shot on goal.

As in the first half, the Diamonds maintained their policy of battling for the ball in the spirit of a local derby, but getting up quickly when brought down – in fact Simon Parsell was only called on late in the half when Kurt Robinson suffered cramp, whereas his counterpart was kept busy, especially with Craig Westcarr, who was momentarily incapacitated after a couple of challenges, requiring the Physio to work his magic on a couple of occasions. This allowed Westcarr to continue, although he had to switch to the right flank, as he had been getting little joy from Jake Beecroft all afternoon.

With ten minutes left, Justin Edinburgh made a final change by bringing on Lewis Hilliard for his league debut. Within a minute the Diamonds had scored the winner, as Sam Smith pounced as Exodus Geohaghon dwelt on the ball near his own goal and slotted the ball past Harper to start the celebrations by the Diamonds fans as the visiting fans started to melt away.

Geohaghon had a couple of late opportunities to make amends for his error via his long throws, but the Diamonds defence held firm until referee Waugh called the game to an end after four minutes of added time.

Full-Time : Rushden & Diamonds 1 Kettering Town 0

Although it was Sam Smith who got the most applause from the Diamonds fans who stayed behind to celebrate at the end, along with Andy Burgess as he was presented with his man of the match award, the Diamonds back four deserve special mention as they so comprehensively quashed any attacking threat from the visitors – and although Dale Roberts had little to do in terms of saves, he provided a solid foundation to the defence.

The victory means the Diamonds record is W7 D4 L1 in the 12 games between the clubs in the league, with 20 goals scored and only 6 conceded – with the sole defeat being in the “dead rubber” at the end of the 1998/99 season after Cheltenham Town had clinched the league title.

After such a tension-filled encounter the Diamonds have to quickly refocus on the next game on Easter Monday, trying to win their first point against a Histon side who will be desperate for a win to maintain their position in the play-off places.


Rushden & Diamonds (White): Dale Roberts, Jake Beecroft, Simon Downer, Chris Hope, Kurt Robinson (Lewis Hilliard 82), Neil Cousins (Sam Smith 64), Andy Burgess (Capt), Rob Wolleaston (Nicky McNamara 67), Marcus Kelly, Lee Tomlin, Michael Rankine

Subs Not Used : Jamie McGuinness, Josh Ford

Kettering Town (Red): Lee Harper, Nicky Eaden, Guy Branston (Capt), John Dempster, Alfie Potter (Ryan Charles 78), Chris Beardsley (Ben Wright 62), Jean-Paul Marna (Gareth Seddon 60), André Boucaid, Exodus Geohaghon, Craig Westcarr

Subs Not Used: Brett Solkhon, Dale Bennett

Goal : Sam Smith (82)

Yellow Cards : Michael Rankine, Lee Tomlin, John Dempster, Jake Beecroft, Nicky McNamara

Referee : Mr J Waugh

Attendance : 3406 (Away 1530)

Diamonds Man of the Match sponsored by Pizzeria Venezia : Andy Burgess

Images courtesy of Mal Swinden ©2012 Malcolm Swinden Photography


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