Histon 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0


The Diamonds picked up another away draw, and their first point against Histon, in what was a truly awful spectacle in Cambridgeshire. The Diamonds adopted the tactics necessary to match the game played by their hosts, and so the ball was in the air for much of the game, with neither side having it under close control. The Diamonds can take credit for holding a team challenging for a playoff position to a goalless draw, but few would have been entertained by such a contradiction to the philosophy of the "beautiful game".

It also meant that for the second game running the Diamonds dented the promotion hopes of their rivals, although Histon are still in with a good chance of reaching the playoffs, whereas the victory on Saturday effectively ended Kettering Town’s attempt to reach the playoffs.

After the drama of the victory over the Poppies, there was a concern that the players might struggle to match that level of performance two days later, but it was tribute to Justin Edinburgh and his coaching staff that the players gave the effort that an impressive away following demanded.

With Sam Smith having scored the winner against Kettering, there was some debate about whether he might start, and thus continue his battle with Lee Tomlin for the top goalscorer crown for the season, and indeed that was one of three changes made to the starting line-up as he replaced Marcus Kelly. The Diamonds did make two further changes, with Rob Wolleaston rested, allowing Nicky McNamara to make his first full start for the club, and Michael Corcoran returned from suspension to replace Jake Beecroft who had proved such a capable replacement during the suspension and while Curtis Osano recovers from injury. The Diamonds bench was Lewis Hilliard alongside Jamie McGuinness, Josh Ford, Marcus Kelly and Rob Wolleaston.

As with the game last season, there was a lower than anticipated home following, although last season that was explained by the fact the game had been rearranged for when Cambridge United were also playing at home. Perhaps this time more of the local Cambridgeshire support had preferred the short trip up the A14 to Rockingham Road, meaning the home crowd was under 1000 for a team challenging for the playoffs.

The first half was one of the worst advertisements for football at any level. The "highlights" were reduced to a bad miss by Danny Wright when one of the many Gwillim long throws bounced off a group of players to the striker in plenty of space, but he blazed over the bar. The Diamonds were reduced to playing a similar style of play, with Lee Tomlin trying to work the left channel to feed Smith and Rankine. Michael Rankine had a good half, but mostly in terms of helping out his defence with the aerial bombardment, and also taking the retaliatory Diamonds long throws.

Perhaps the action was summed up by two incidents involving home keeper Naisbitt – the first when he was called upon to take a free kick 10 yards inside the Diamonds half to allow the other 21 players to occupy the Diamonds penalty box, and then when he took his sweeper role so seriously he ended up playing in a midfield role in the centre circle during open play.

The Diamonds did resort to long clearances themselves, and, with Smith and Rankine providing valuable support in defence there were several times when a Diamonds clearance to the half-way line came at a time when no yellow shirt was more than 25 yards from their own goal. On the other hand, two of the best Diamonds chances of the half came when they counter attacked from defence when the Stutes pushed up their big men for the Gwillim long throws, looping corners or lofted free kicks – and in one of these Lee Tomlin held off Lanre Oyebanjo to break clear but Antonio Murray was able to come across and cover. Another such break saw Smith and McNamara provide Neil Cousins with an opening on the right, but his low cross was blocked.

As well as helping out in defence, Michael Rankine had adapted to the style of play by taking more balls on his chest rather than trying to outjump Mitchel-King, and he also showed a flash of creativity in attempting an overhead kick when set up by a Michael Corcoran header at a corner.

As the half ended the hosts did carve out a good chance when Danny Wright collected a loose ball as the Diamonds midfield failed to pick up a Downer clearance, but Jack Midson fired his shot wide.

Half-Time : Histon 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

After what had been seem in the first half there were few who thought things might improve in the second – and indeed that was the case, although there was an early scare when Andy Burgess tried to embellish a pass in midfield, and instead gave the ball to Danny Wright, who set up Antonio Murray for a shot from the edge of the penalty box that Roberts did well to save.

The rest of the second period was an equally poor spectacle, with neither side looking like breaking the deadlock, although the Diamonds had a couple of corners as the game moved into injury time, and from one of them Nicky McNamara hit a shot which bounced up in front of the Stutes keeper Naisbitt, but he did well to tip it over the bar.

Dale Roberts was also called upon to save a header from Mitchel-King following a Gwillim free kick, and Lee Tomlin shot over from just outside the area, and then almost set up Sam Smith with a low cross from the left after good work from Chris Hope on the left touchline had kept the ball alive. A Tomlin flick was then marginally too far ahead of Neil Cousins as the Diamonds were starting to create openings without forcing Naisbitt to make a save prior to his save from McNamara in injury time.

Nicky McNamara did what was required of him in his full debut – clearly a challenging game to reach such a landmark, although he did pick up another yellow card when he jumped into Gwillim. Although the card was justified, and referee Ford was having a good game, resisting temptation to be swayed by the calls from the touchline and home stand that every decision should go the way of the home team, there was perhaps a suggestion that the McNamara challenge was no worse than a Murray challenge on Burgess earlier that brought back memories of his challenge on Andy Gooding on the same ground last season.

The impressive Chris Hope and Simon Downer deserve a special mention, given the way they dealt so well with their increased workload during the afternoon. With Hope only having two games to go before claiming an ever-present record this season one hopes that he is not suffering from any neck-related problem after the afternoon’s exertions that might keep him out of the Forest Green game next weekend – but he proved he was still capable of the "Row Z" clearance, where required, when he managed to clear the barrier of a row of 80 foot pine trees that dwarfed the stand that ran the far side of the pitch. He would have hoped for a better spectacle for his 150th appearance for the club, but was still able to put in the kind of performance seen so often during those 149 previous games.

Full-Time : Histon 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

As the final whistle sounded, news came through that Histon’s local rivals Cambridge United had beaten Kettering, and with Kidderminster and Stevenage both winning the Stutes playoff hopes had taken a serious dent.


Histon : Danny Naisbitt, Lanre Oyebanjo, Gareth Gwillim, Mat Mitchel-King (Capt), Matthew Langston, Josh Simpson (Neil Andrews 70), Patrick Ada, Nathaniel Knight-Percival, Jack Midson (Jamie Barker 84), Antonio Murray, Danny Wright.

Subs Not Used :Lee Roache, Joe Welch, Craig Pope

Rushden & Diamonds (Yellow): Dale Roberts, Michael Corcoran, Kurt Robinson, Simon Downer, Chris Hope, Neil Cousins, Nicky McNamara, Andy Burgess (Capt), Sam Smith, Lee Tomlin (Marcus Kelly 83), Michael Rankine.

Subs Not Used: Lewis Hilliard, Jamie McGuinness, Josh Ford, Rob Wolleaston.

Goals : None

Yellow Cards : Nicky McNamara (foul)

Referee : Mr D Ford

Attendance 1263 (away approx 300)

Reporter’s (joint) Man of the Match: Simon Downer / Chris Hope .


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