Forest Green Rovers 4 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Rushden & Diamonds produced their worst away performance of the season as they completed their programme on the road with a 4-0 defeat that included a hat-trick from Andy Mangan. Mangan and Adriano Rigoglioso made it 2-0 at half-time, and Mangan completed his hattrick in the second half. Manager Justin Edinburgh made his disappointment clear after the game, stating he felt the 14 players on show had cheated the travelling fans with their performance.

Although Rovers had more to play for, it was no excuse for the Diamonds players to capitulate so easily and readily. It was the worst performance seen since the defeat in the FA Cup against Evesham, with a lot of similarities in terms of player performance, but perhaps it is a tribute to recent improvements that this came as such a surprise – whereas big defeats in previous seasons at places such as Woking, Crawley, Northwich and St Albans were not totally unexpected.

The Diamonds made two changes to the line-up that started at Histon, with Rob Wolleaston and Marcus Kelly restored to the starting line-up, with Lee Tomlin and Michael Rankine taking a place on the bench. This meant a 4-5-1 formation, with Sam Smith ploughing a lone furrow up front in the first half, with rotating support from Cousins, Wolleaston and McNamara. Rovers had been struggling to find a full squad, only naming four subs in the previous game, and they only had 12 fit regular professionals for this game – the starting XI plus Jonathan Smith.

With Sam Smith having scored the winner against Kettering, and the Easter Monday game being goalless, the question of who would end up as the leading scorer for the season remains, but, of the four contenders, only Smith and Wolleaston started the game.

After the Diamonds had more of the possession in the first five minutes, the home team took the lead after six minutes, as a pass through centre midfield by Rigoglioso found Andy Mangan in plenty of space down the right channel, and he ran into the area and slotted the ball low into the left corner of the net.

Rovers dominated the remainder of the first quarter, but as the mid-point of the half was reached the Diamonds did come to life, as first Andy Burgess made a run at the home defence and hit a right foot shot that Burton saved, and the Rovers keeper also did well to save from Rob Wolleaston as he was put in by Nicky McNamara, and it was McNamara who also combined with Sam Smith to set up the striker for a shot that was well blocked by Preece.

The hosts were always looking dangerous, with a powerful 35 yard shot from Lawless going narrowly wide, and Conal Platt seeing a powerful shot blocked by Downer and then seeing the rebound saved. Michael Corcoran executed a similar block, and needed treatment as a result.

The second Rovers goal came in a similar fashion to the first, with Paul Lloyd being given time in midfield to pick out a pass that bisected the Diamonds defence, and Adriano Rigoglioso was able to run on and strike the ball low into the left hand corner of the net.

The Diamonds had a claim for a penalty when Sam Smith was pushed off the ball in the area, but their frustration was shown when Captain Andy Burgess was booked for a blatant trip on Alex Lawless.

There was a feeling at the end of the half that the 4-5-1 had failed because the midfield five had seen the extra man in their domain as an excuse to put in 25% less effort individually – and surely a more conventional approach would be adopted in the second half.

Half-Time : Forest Green Rovers 2 Rushden & Diamonds 0

The second half started with the 4-5-1 still in place, and little sign of a fightback from the Diamonds. Within three minutes they should have been three down, as Dale Roberts misjudged a ball forwards from Curtis McDonald, with Conal Platt beating him to the ball, but the ex-Diamond failed to execute what looked a relatively simple chip over the keeper. The Diamonds were then fortunate to see a Rigoglioso corner scrambled away, shortly after a move between Rigoglioso and Mangan saw a Jones shot fended out for a corner, and Roberts also had to tip over a Conal Platt shot.

It then went from bad to worse for the Diamonds on 70 minutes, with Andy Mangan making it 3-0 after Andy Burgess twice gave the ball away to Rigoglioso, once in the centre, and then again on the touchline as he tried to recover from his error. Rigoglioso was having an excellent game, and his low cross was not gathered by Dale Roberts and Mangan fired home.

A sign of the problems in the team was that only Chris Hope held his head up and tried to encourage the team to fight back as they trooped back to the half-way line, with Burgess, perhaps understandably, upset with his part in the goal.

The Rovers midfield was now totally dominant, with Conal Platt finding plenty of room on the right, linking up with Lawless and McDonald, with Simon Downer picking up a yellow card as he tried to stop McDonald. Sam Smith did threaten for the second time in the game when he broke down the left, but his shot was half-blocked and presented Burton with an easy save. The nearest the Diamonds came in the game was from a Rankine long throw, which Chris Hope headed powerfully towards goal, forcing Burton into his best save of the game, and he was helped by a fellow defender from the resultant corner, heading it off the line via the crossbar.

Although Lee Tomlin breathed some life into the Diamonds when he came on as the final Diamonds substitute, it was he that conceded a penalty when a smart free kick move found Andy Mangan in the box, and Tomlin eased him over for a clear penalty, that Mangan converted easily for his hat-trick – his third of the season. Tomlin also picked up yet another booking as he ignored repeated warnings about retreating at free kicks – and from that kick Rovers almost had their fifth as a sleeping defence was again caught out as Alex Lawless found space on the left corner of the six yard box, squaring for Mangan, whose shot was blocked.

Things were really falling apart for the Diamonds, as an Andy Burgess free kick from near the centre circle seemed to be taken before his team mates were ready, going straight to the opposition, who broke forwards while the defenders were trying to get into position, and Mangan saw his shot blocked to deny him a fourth goal.

The game ended in perhaps a fitting fashion for the Diamonds, as Dale Roberts made a routine throw out to Michael Corcoran, but for some reason the ball went straight into touch. As little time had been added on despite various stoppages during the half there was a sense that referee Raynor had "stopped the fight to save the Diamonds further punishment"

This was the heaviest Diamonds defeat of the season, and the players have one game left to show their commitment to the club and its fans to avoid a bitter ending to a season which had been showing some green shoots of a recovery.

 

Full Time : Forest Green Rovers 4 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Forest Green Rovers: Terry Burton, Alex Lawless, Darren Jones (Capt) (James Baldwin 85), Mark Preece, Lee Fowler, Curtis McDonald, Lee Ayres, Paul Lloyd (John Else 78), Conal Platt, Adriano Rigoglioso (Jonathan Smith 76), Andy Mangan

Subs Not Used : Ryan Robinson, Marcus Palmer

 

Rushden & Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Michael Corcoran, Kurt Robinson, Simon Downer, Chris Hope, Marcus Kelly (Michael Rankine 54), Rob Wolleaston (Jake Beecroft 61), Neil Cousins (Lee Tomlin 64), Nicky McNamara, Andy Burgess (Capt), Sam Smith.

Subs Not Used: Lewis Hilliard, Jamie McGuinness

Goals: Mangan (6), Rigoglioso (37), Mangan (71), Mangan (84 Pen)

Yellow Cards : Burgess (foul), Downer (foul), Tomlin (failure to retreat at free kicks despite repeated warnings)

Referee : Amy Raynor

Attendance 1185 (away 88)

Reporters Man of the Match: N/A

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