Rushden & Diamonds 5 Grays Athletic 4

Rushden & Diamonds won a pulsating game with Grays Athletic 5-4 at Nene Park. The Diamonds dominated the first half, but only had a superb goal from Matt Pattison to show for their efforts before Glenn Poole scored the equaliser in first half injury time with a deflected free kick. A crazy second half saw the Diamonds go behind three times, getting level via Lee Tomlin, James Reid and a Tomlin penalty before Cliff Akurang scored the winner in injury time, heading home a Tomlin cross. Tomlin had assisted in the three goals he didn’t score, and was rightly man of the match

With Simon Downer still unavailable, Max Porter continued at right-back to allow Curtis Osano to play Centre-Back. Paul Terry made his home debut, and Aaron O’Connor replaced Cliff Akurang up front. Michael Corcoran returned from his suspension to take a place on the bench.

Grays were looked after on a temporary basis by Peter Shreeves, and he named two ex-Diamonds triallists Gavin Hoyte and Jamie Slabber in his starting eleven.

After dominating the early exchanges, the Diamonds took the lead after 10 minutes when a magnificent 35 yard crossfield ball from Lee Tomlin on the left found Matt Pattison on the right, and he controlled the ball superbly with his first touch, then cut inside before firing a shot that was deflected into the net.

Kurt Robinson had forced Grays keeper Lee Butcher into a fine save after 3 minutes, and O’Connor and Tomlin also came close before the Diamonds took the lead.

The Diamonds then had many chances to increase their lead during the first half, with Craig Farrell turning his marker on two occasions, with one resulting in a shot gathered by Lee Butcher, and the other hitting the right hand post. Jamie Stuart had two headers in quick succession, one that was deflected wide, and one that was blocked on the line. Matt Pattison also set up Lee Tomlin for a chance that saw a dipping shot end up on the top of the net.

Curtis Osano was also able to raid forwards, with referee Ross playing an excellent advantage, allowing him to find Lee Tomlin, whose shot was well saved.

At the other end, there was perhaps a sign of things to come, as twice Gavin Hoyte was given time and space as he went forwards for Grays dead ball opportunities, and could have done better with his headers on goal.

Paul Terry almost scored his debut goal for the Diamonds as a double attempt was cleared by a combination of Butcher and his defence.

Just after referee Ross had signalled one minute of added time, Jamie Stuart was adjudged to have fouled Jack Jeffrey as he tried to clear a looping ball, and from the kick Glenn Poole saw his shot deflect off Kurt Robinson and over Dale Roberts head for the equaliser.

Half-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Grays Athletic 1

The visitors made what proved to be a telling change at half-time, with the Jack Jeffrey replaced by the lively Charlie Taylor. The Diamonds also made a change, with Max Porter, having been carrying a foot injury since early in the first half, being replaced by Michael Corcoran.

The Diamonds looked like they wanted to make up for their failure to make their pressure pay, as they came close within the first minutes of the second half, as Mark Byrne and Matt Pattison outwitted two Grays defenders near the corner flag, and the Pattison cross was cleverly stepped over by Craig Farrell, but Aaron O’Connor could only shoot wide.

Pattison was continuing his impressive work from the first half, and he found Lee Tomlin with an excellent crossfield ball, with Tomlin forcing Cameron Mawer to concede a corner. Once again Lee Tomlin fired in a dangerous corner, but Michael Corcoran could only head over the bar,

The visitors then won a free kick on the right when Jamie Stuart nudged Charlie Taylor in front of the Assistant Referee. The Poole free kick floated over a static Diamonds defence in a similar manner to the goals conceded to Cambridge and Barrow, and Jack Obersteller ghosted in at the far post to slot home.

Aaron O’Connor’s best work was coming outside of the penalty box, and his run down the left past two defenders saw him feed Lee Tomlin, who cut back inside and fire just inside the left post, just eluding Butcher’s right hand.

Jamie Slabber thought he had restored Grays’ lead a few minutes later, as he slotted home on the end of a Poole freekick, but the whistle had already gone for offside, but the Diamonds defence were clearly struggling to cope with these opportunities.

The best strike of the game saw Grays’ lead restored as the game neared the hour mark, with a Kenny Davis strike on the turn leaving Dale Roberts little chance.

The Diamonds were still getting forwards well, with Kurt Robinson able to support the attack, and his pass to Matt Pattison saw keeper Butcher have to pull out another good save. That was to be Pattison’s last contribution, as he left the game to a well deserved ovation. He was replaced by James Reid, and within a minute the Forest loanee had scored with his first touch of the ball. Once again it was Lee Tomlin who provided the “assist” for the goal, as he picked up a quick Robinson throw, beat his man, then squared to James Reid who netted from near the penalty spot to make it 3-3.

The Diamonds intention to try to go on and win the game was made clear with Cliff Akurang joining the action to replace Craig Farrell, who once again had impressed with his link-up play. Akurang’s first touch was to Lee Tomlin, and he set up Mark Byrne for an effort that was just wide, as the Diamonds “attempts on goal” tally continued to mount.

Despite that, it was the visitors who took the lead again a few minutes later, and once again it was as a result of poor defensive organisation from a dead-ball situation. Curtis Osano was forced to concede a corner by the impressive Taylor, and from the kick Anwar Uddin found a lot of space in order to make the score 3-4.

Both sides then had a chance to score the next goal, with few in the ground thinking the scoring had finished, as Mark Byrne hit a great shot that zipped narrowly wide, and then the visitors had a chance to wrap the game up when Taylor forced Jamie Stuart to turn and chase a long ball from Butcher, getting ahead of him to try to lob an advancing Dale Roberts, but chipped the ball over the bar.

Lee Tomlin showed sublime ball control as he brought a 30 yard crossfield ball under control, but his attempt on goal was just wide. He got his reward a few moments later though, as he beat his man running down the left, getting to the byline to fire towards Aaron O’Connor. Before the striker could put the ball in the net referee Ross had clearly blown his whistle, and after some confusion it was clear he had awarded the Diamonds a penalty, rather than the goal, although it was not too clear what offence he had seen. The referee had played some excellent advantages earlier in the game, but as he had blown before the ball reached O’Connor, the goal could not stand. The issue was resolved when Lee Tomlin fired home the penalty to make it 4-4.

The Diamonds then had 10 minutes plus added time to try to win the game, and it began to look like their efforts would not be good enough, as a Tomlin freekick was headed towards goal by Jamie Stuart, but deflected for a corner. The corner went straight to Michael Corcoran, who had done well to find space in the area, but his first touch allowed a defender to get in a challenge.

Tomlin then beat his man yet again to set up Aaron O’Connor, but the striker pulled his shot past the left post, and this was repeated a couple of minutes later, with the striker again missing at the left-hand post.

Just as the referee announced there would be four minutes of added time, Jack Obersteller skewed a clearance that gave the Diamonds a corner on the right, and the Lee Tomlin kick found the head of Cliff Akurang, who soared above the visiting defence to head home the winner. Tomlin then tried to get his hattrick with an attempt from a Kurt Robinson pass, but the shot was straight to Butcher, allowing him to start a final Grays attack.

The final action of the game saw Akurang pick up a yellow card for time wasting, as he clearly inhibited a Grays defender retrieving the ball in front of the Airwair stand,

Referee Ross blew the final whistle shortly afterwards to bring the pulsating game to an end.

Full Time: Rushden & Diamonds 5 Grays Athletic 4

The level of entertainment at Nene Park this season is back to that seen when the Diamonds were on their rise through the Football Leagues, with a much higher goal-per-game ratio than that seen since those days.

After the early season games were dominated with questions about whether the Diamonds could produce the same level of performance in both halves, the questions now surround the yo-yo levels of performance from defence and attack, with the attack scoring 11 goals on successive Saturdays, yet looking blunt at Ebbsfleet in midweek, and the solid defensive performances since the Salisbury and Forest Green games not suggesting that four goals would be conceded to a Grays team who were averaging less than one goal per game prior to this fixture.

The Diamonds now have a week break for only the second time this season, before the visit of Mansfield Town next weekend.

Rushden & Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Max Porter (Michael Corcoran HT), Kurt Robinson, Paul Terry, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Curtis Osano, Lee Tomlin, Mark Byrne, Craig Farrell (Cliff Akurang 69), Aaron O’Connor, Matt Pattison (James Reid 62)

Subs Not Used: Sam Smith, Neil Cousins

Grays: Lee Butcher, Anwar Uddin (Capt), Gavin Hoyte, Cameron Mawer, Jamie Slabber, Richard Graham, Sam Cutler (Billy Crowther 82), Thomas Harvey (Jack Obersteller 37), Kenny Davis, Glenn Poole. Jack Jeffrey (Charlie Taylor HT)

Subs Not Used: Preston Edwards, Getro Kilapi

Goals: Pattison (10, 1-0), Poole (45+1, 1-1), Obersteller (52, 1-2), Tomlin (56, 2-2), Davis (58, 2-3), Reid (63, 3-3), Uddin (70, 3-4), Tomlin (pen 80 4-4), Akurang (90+1, 5-4)

Yellow Cards: Pattison (foul), Terry (dissent), Mawer (persistent fouls), Graham (foul), Akurang (time wasting)

Referee: Mr S J Ross

Attendance: 1192 (away 39)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Lee Tomlin

For Video highlights see here.

Images courtesy of Mal Swinden ©2012 Malcolm Swinden Photography

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