Rushden & Diamonds 3 Woking 1

Rushden & Diamonds defeated long-time rivals Woking with a 3-1 victory at Nene Park, in what might be the last appearance of the Surrey Club in the Blue Square Premier for a while. After 22 previous home games at Nene Park this season, the Diamonds finally scored three goals in a home game, with goals from Wolleaston, Rankine and a debut goal from Jake Beecroft.

The Diamonds fielded a side with a familiar look, with Jake Beecroft returning in right midfield in place of Nicky McNamara, with Lee Tomlin and Michael Rankine starting up-front. Any thoughts of the sort of the 4-5-1 formation that had proved so disappointing at Forest Green had disappeared, as the Diamonds lined up to attack the Peter De Banke end in a 4-4-2 formation in the first half. Chris Hope was confirming his ever-present status as he started in his 46th league game of the season – having completed the full 90 minutes in all bar one of them.

The visitors started brightly, with a shot from Joe Anderson deflecting off Michael Corcoran for a corner, and then Simon Downer had to block a goal bound Danny Bunce shot as the ball was only partially cleared from the Ledgister corner.

It was from the first real attacking move from the Diamonds, on six minutes, that they took the lead, as a ball through central midfield found Rob Wolleaston running through the centre of the visitors defence, lobbing the ball over the head and to the left of the advancing keeper Knowles, and then squeezing the ball towards goal from a narrow angle, and, despite the despairing attempts of Knowles and a Woking defender to clear the ball away, the ball ended up in the net, with Wolleaston being awarded the goal.

Wolleaston and Tomlin combined down the left shortly afterwards with a low cross well fielded by Knowles in front of Rankine.

There was some concern that the Diamonds defence might not be totally in unison, when a tame situation saw Chris Hope lay the ball off to Michael Corcoran, but Corcoran decided he needed to pass back to Hope with his left foot, and the ball went astray and out for a throw near the corner flag. The throw was quickly taken, and Michael Kamara picked up a free kick as he tried to find space. The kick was taken by Oliver Bozanic, and it was flighted across the central defenders to Michael Kamara, who was unmarked just beyond the far post, and he was able to head the ball back over Roberts for the equalising goal.

The visitors briefly dominated the game, with Ledgister making dangerous runs down the right, and Domoraud heading wide, and then the striker had a claim for a free kick on the edge of the area, under a challenge from Simon Downer, as he ran on to a low cross from Ledgister after Kurt Robinson had made a rare mistake to give the ball away.

Lee Tomlin came close for the Diamonds as he attempted a back-heel when Chris Hope headed down an Andy Burgess free-kick, whilst Ledgister and Vernazza both went close for the visitors.

By the half-hour mark the Diamonds were dominating the game, and Andy Burgess came close as he hit the underside of the bar following an interchange with Lee Tomlin and a side-step past a defender. The rebound was then worked back to Burgess, but this time his shot narrowly cleared the bar.

It was Michael Rankine who headed the Diamonds back in front on 35 minutes, after Chris Hope had chipped an Andy Burgess corner back across the penalty area.

Half-Time : Rushden & Diamonds 2 Woking 1

Jake Beecroft was having an impressive game on the right of midfield, and this continued into the second half, with a strong run down the right resulting in a low cross that appeared to be heading towards Marcus Kelly before keeper Knowles intercepted.

The game was ended as a spectacle afterin the second half when Jake Beecroft shot from the edge of the penalty area, and his shot took a deflection off Paul Lorraine to beat the Woking keeper.

A well-taken Burgess free-kick seemed to find Marcus Kelly in plenty of space in the penalty area, but he dwelt rather too long and Joe McNerney was able to clear for a corner. Jake Beecroft almost got his second goal as he got in a decent header from a Michael Rankine cross, but it was too close to Knowles.

The Diamonds were showing a great range of passing skills, something that wouldn’t have been on the agenda at the start of the season, with lovely interchanges between Kelly, Robinson, Burgess and Wolleaston on the left, one of which saw Wolleaston fire over. Kelly also showed the vision to slot a ball through the visitors defence to Sam Smith, and although he sold an excellent dummy to Paul Lorraine, his shot was straight at Knowles. Smith also narrowly failed to put away a chance that resulted from a long throw by Michael Rankine.

Chris Hope also came close to getting the goal his performances have merited, but his header from a Burgess free-kick was just wide. Michael Corcoran also came close with a downward header from a Burgess corner. The Diamonds defence continued to hold firm, with Simon Downer getting in a couple of last ditch challenges on Domoraud.

The visitors had two final chances for a consolation, firstly with Wilfred Domoraud hitting a deflected shot that Dale Roberts was unable to gather first time, but he was quick enough to grab at the second attempt before the onrushing Sam-Yorke could reach it. Oliver Bozanic then hit the Diamonds bar from a free kick just as the game entered injury time.

Sam Smith had a final chance to add to his tally of eight league goals for the season towards the end of injury time, after he was put clear by Neil Cousins,but he was unable to take the opportunity, but still finishes the season as the Diamonds top scorer in senior games (League, FA Cup and FA Trophy) with nine goals in total.

Full-Time : Rushden & Diamonds 3 Woking 1

Justin Edinburgh was pleased with the application of his team, particularly after the performance at Forest Green, and pleased his first game in permanent charge of the team had resulted in three goals being scored by the Diamonds at Nene Park for the first time this season. He will now be working hard to sort out his squad for next season, ready for the start of the pre-season friendlies in early July.

Teams

Rushden & Diamonds (White): Dale Roberts, Michael Corcoran, Kurt Robinson, Chris Hope, Simon Downer, Jake Beecroft (Jamie McGuinness 78), Andy Burgess (Capt), Rob Wolleaston, Marcus Kelly, Lee Tomlin (Sam Smith 61), Michael Rankine (Neil Cousins 69)

Subs Not Used: Nicky McNamara, Joe Day

Woking (Amber): Danny Knowles, Paul Lorraine (Capt), Danny Bunce, Bradley Quamina (Delano Sam-Yorke 56), Patrice Konan, Paolo Vernazza, Joel Ledgister, Wilfred Domoraud, Oliver Bozanic, Joe Anderson (Charlie Moore 77), Michael Kamara (Joe McNerney HT)

Subs Not Used: Ross Worner, Goma Lambu

Goals : Rob Wolleaston (6), Michael Camara (10), Michael Rankine (35), Jake Beecroft (50).

Yellow Cards : None

Referee : Mr I Smedley

Attendance : 1676 (Away 207)

Diamonds Man of the Match sponsored by Jade of Wollaston : Jake Beecroft

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