Rushden & Diamonds 4 Forest Green Rovers 2

The Diamonds fought back to beat Forest Green Rovers after going behind to an early goal. A slick move down the right saw debutant Sean Rigg net for the visitors, but the Diamonds had regained the lead before half time, as firstly Craig Farrell headed home after a corner, and then Mark Byrne headed home to give the Diamonds the lead. In the second half Cliff Akurang increased the Diamonds lead after a good move down the Diamonds left found him free in the area. Rovers pulled a goal back via a solo effort from substitute Ross Stearn, but the Diamonds quickly restored their two goal margin when Aaron O’Connor beat off a challenge on the left and cut inside to score his first goal for the club.

The match ended on a note of concern with Nick McNamara stretchered off with a knee injury.

The Diamonds started with Mark Byrne replacing the injured Rob Wolleaston, with Craig Farrell up-front and Aaron O’Connor on the bench. Jake Beecroft was the addition to the squad with a place on the bench.

Rovers caretaker manager David Brown included new loan signing Sean Rigg as well as ex-Diamonds Jon Challinor and Conal Platt. With Brown in the line-up ex-York City Manager Colin Walker was looking after things from the side of the pitch. The two loan signings from Torquay Steve Adams and Mark Ellis also started.

The Diamonds had an early chance to take the lead when good work from Lee Tomlin found Craig Farrell in the box, but his good turn was followed by a shot straight at keeper Burton.

The visitors took the lead, against the run of play, after five minutes, following a break down the right, with debutant Sean Rigg playing a one-two with Steve Davies to beat the Diamonds offside trap and run unchallenged into the area and slot home.

The action was then mostly in the Rovers half for the remainder of the period. With Lee Tomlin hitting a powerful left foot shot just wide after a receiving a defence splitting pass from Max Porter. After 11 minutes Cliff Akurang won the Diamonds a corner on the right, and Lee Tomlin’s kick was headed back across the area by Simon Downer, and then back across goal by Jamie Stuart, with Craig Farrell nipping in to head home.

Farrell then went close with an overhead kick, and saw Burton pull off a good save when he headed an Akurang shot towards goal, as an alert Diamonds midfield quickly got the ball back into play after Terry Burton had to rush out of his area to head clear. Akurang too was unlucky when his powerful shot was saved, and Michael Corcoran also saw a header saved. Dale Roberts did well at the other end to save from Conal Platt, but the Diamonds pressure told when Osano and Pattison combined on the right to get in a cross that was headed home by Mark Byrne on the edge of the six yard box.

Cliff Akurang and Craig Farrell were linking well and the latter saw a shot skew wide before good work by the impressive Pattison and Byrne found Akurang on the edge of the area, and two good touches fashioned a shooting chance which Burton saved.

After a quiet period, where the visitors created a great chance with a free header for David Brown, and a shooting opportunity for Jon Challinor, the Diamonds almost increased their lead when Matt Pattison did really well to bring down a long ball to the right wing, beat his man, and then hit a powerful shot against the post.

Half-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 2 Forest Green Rovers 1

The second half again saw the Diamonds threatening to score in a manner not seen at Nene Park since the return to the Conference, but continuing to cause concern at the back, with the visitors switching to 4-3-3 to try to get something from the game.

At the start of the half Sean Rigg showed what a good acquisition he is for the Gloucestershire team, forcing an excellent save from Roberts, and he had to repeat the feat when Rigg broke clear down the left.

Aaron O’Connor replaced Craig Farrell, who received a well deserved ovation from the Diamonds fans. Just after the hour mark the Diamonds appeared to have wrapped the game up, as Tomlin and Byrne combined down the left, and found Cliff Akurang in the proverbial "acres of space" in the area – so much so that some fans were expecting a flag to be raised, but the striker coolly slotted the ball home to make the score 3-1.

Curtis Osano was starting to combine well with Matt Pattison on the right, and he was able to get in a good cross which Lee Tomlin narrowly failed to convert.

Lee Tomlin was continuing to cause the Rovers defence problems, and after winning a corner on the left and delivering it himself, Matt Pattison picked up the loose ball on the right, and his cross was headed towards goal by Cliff Akurang only to see David Brown head off the line.

Simon Else finally picked up a yellow card for repeated fouls on Tomlin, although two of these in quick succession might have seen a card in their own right.

After the Diamonds narrowly survived a goalmouth scramble with several player unable to get the ball clear, the did concede a goal on 82 minutes. The Diamonds offside trap had looked shaky all half, and both Downer and Stuart were playing Ross Stearn onside, and he then weaved his way past Curtis Osano to engineer a shooting position in front of goal, firing into the top corner, leaving Dale Roberts with little chance.

Once again, however, the Diamonds did not let their heads drop, or show any signs of panic, as Aaron O’Connor took the ball on a run down the left, beating Jon Challinor in a tackle then cutting inside and firing home his debut goal for the Diamonds to secure the game at 4-2.

James Reid replaced Lee Tomlin, and he too was able to deliver a dangerous corner which Cliff Akurang headed wide as the Diamonds threatened a fifth goal.

On the stroke of 90 minutes Nick McNamara picked up a bad knock in midfield, having to be stretched off the field with a knee injury.

Full-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 4 Forest Green Rovers 2

Given the Diamonds went 22 home league games last season without scoring more than two goals, and in the two previous seasons goals have been few and far between at NenePark there is a really different feel to the proceedings at NenePark these days. There is still some concern about the goals being conceded, but in addition to the goals being scored there have been many attempts on goal that have been saved or cleared off the line in the past two games.

There is now a clear week before the potentially sterner tests over the Bank Holiday weekend, with the visit to Stevenage on Saturday followed by the fixture against Cambridge United at Nene Park on Bank Holiday Monday.

Diamonds (white) : Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano, Michael Corcoran, Max Porter, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Simon Downer, Lee Tomlin, Mark Byrne, Craig Farrell, Cliff Akurang, Matt Pattison

Subs : Aaron O’Connor (for Farrell 62), Nicky McNamara (for Porter 68), James Reid (for Tomlin 84). Not Used : Jake Beecroft. Neil Cousins

 

Forest Green Rovers (Green): Terry Burton, Jon Else, Mark Preece, Mark Ellis, Paul Stonehouse (capt), Jon Challinor, Steve Davies, Steve Adams, Conal Platt, David Brown, Sean Rigg

Subs : Ross Stearn (for Platt 38), Paul Lloyd (for Davies 70). Not Used :Callum Henry, Ben Pugh, TomPass (GK)

Goals : Rigg (5), Farrell (13), Byrne (27), Akurang (65), Stearn (82), O’Connor (84)

Yellow Cards : Stuart, Else

Referee : R Madley

Diamonds Man of the Match: Simon Downer

Attendance : 1056 (away 55)

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