Crawley Town 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

 

The Diamonds slipped to defeat at Crawley, with a Calum Willock goal in the second half separating the two sides in an even game, after the Diamonds had taken the lead. The first period ended 1-1 with both sides scoring from well-placed headers that defied rather suspect marking. After the hosts saw a Sam Rents penalty saved by Nathan Abbey in the second minute, Craig Farrell gave the Diamonds the lead, with a clean header on the end of a Curtis Osano cross. However on 27 minutes, Jefferson Louis found plenty of space to put a looping header past Abbey, from a Rusk cross. Willock netted the winner in the second half, after a Louis flick on into the area, saw him get to the ball ahead of a hesitant Jamie Stuart, and poke the ball past Abbey.

The home side had Karl Broadhurst sent off in stoppage time after he made a desperate tackle to stop a Matt Pattison run, in a game that also saw eight bookings.

Diamonds Manager Justin Edinburgh made two changes from the team that drew with Gateshead, with Paul Terry returning from injury at the expense of Matt Porter, and James Reid starting in place of the suspended Lee Tomlin. Sam Smith took a place on the bench ahead of Aaron O’Connor following his problem at Gateshead. The pre-match routine was disrupted when traffic problems meant the team were late arriving at the ground, as were a number of the travelling fans.

The Red Devils included ex-Diamonds Glen Wilson and Simon Rusk in their starting line-up, with Michael Malcolm on the bench. They brought back Lewis Killeen and Barry Cogan.

The game started with a bang, as a long ball from defence found Calum Willock on the wrong side of Jamie Stuart, and the Diamonds captain was adjudged to have fouled the striker. A penalty was awarded, as well as a yellow card for Stuart, but Sam Rents saw his left footed penalty well saved by Nathan Abbey. Once referee McLaughlin deemed the challenge a foul, there was an expectation he might show a red card, but he must have felt one of the other defenders was sufficiently close that they may have still been able to challenge Willock. Nevertheless, the early card meant that Stuart had to be especially careful for the remainder of the game.

The home side had the best of the first 10 minutes, and it was effectively the Diamonds first attack that saw them go ahead. Good work by Byrne and Pattison on the right saw them lay the ball back to Curtis Osano, whose pinpoint cross was headed home by Craig Farrell.

The game was then fairly even until Paul Terry made two mistakes just outside his own area, seeing the ball spread out to the overlapping Simon Rusk on the right, and his cross was met by Jefferson Louis in plenty of space in the area to put a looping header past Abbey.

The home side threatened against a hesitant Diamonds defence at times, but it was the visitors who might have felt they could have been ahead at half time, as they squandered a succession of chances just before the break. Cliff Akurang was set clear by a Farrell flick-on, but he hesitated enough to allow Karl Broadhurst to challenge. Matt Pattison then laid a great ball to Mark Byrne in space in the corner of the area, but his shot was deflected wide. Further good work by Pattison saw him get past two men and reach the by-line, but his low cross was slightly behind Farrell, who could only hook it towards goal, and see it cleared for a corner. The resultant Reid corner saw the ball go over Jamie Stuart for Craig Farrell to direct a downward header towards goal, but as it bounced towards the top of the net Simon Rayner pulled off a great save to keep the scores level at half-time.

The Diamonds had to play with 10 men for a while during the half, as Jamie Stuart picked up a knock just above an eye, and had to go off for treatment and bandaging.

Half-Time : Crawley Town 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Referee McLaughlin had been waving yellow cards for challenges that would have gone unpunished in the first half, booking four home players in quick succession, when normally only the challenge of Broadhurst might have been punished in that way – and then felt the need to show reciprocal cards to Akurang and Cousins for innocuous looking challenges.

Craig Farrell was continuing to create chances, and he set up James Reid with a great chance, with plenty of time to compose himself, but the loanee could only fire wide. Farrell was also having the majority of the Diamonds attempts on target, although Simon Rayner caught his headed effort easily as he was set up by an Akurang flick. Matt Pattison was continuing to threaten, but one of several good runs ended with a well hit shot being blocked.

Jamie Stuart’s challenging afternoon had one further twist, as he managed to find a lot of space in the penalty area at a Reid free kick, but was well off target with his "free-header" that should have put the Diamonds ahead again.

Thing went from bad to worse for the Diamonds captain shortly afterwards, as a long ball was flicked on by Jefferson Louis, and although he initially looked favourite to reach the ball first, Stuart allowed Calum Willock to stretch out and poke the ball past Abbey for the second goal.

The Diamonds’ offside trap had been their main defensive weapon all afternoon, but they were caught out when Calum Willock bent his run, and was clearly onside as he ran clear, but as with Akurang in the first half, he appeared to hesitate when finding himself in this space, and ended up running wide and making a poor pass as the defence chased him down. Willock and Louis were almost expecting the flag and associated whistle with every break, but they managed to breach the Diamonds offside trap twice more, and had they not been so hesitant they might have made the Diamonds pay the price.

Another side effect of referee McLaughlin’s whistle-happy approach was his failure to play advantage, notably when Craig Farrell did well to set up Neil Cousins, being fouled in the process, but the whistle went before Cousins could take on his defender on the edge of the area.

As full time approached the Diamonds threw Curtis Osano and Simon Downer further forwards, with their threat on the right balanced by Byrne and Cousins on the left, and a Byrne cross almost fell for Sam Smith in the area. One Osano run saw a last ditch tackle concede a corner, and then he saw a header go wide as his performances this season continue to improve.

Referee McLaughlin rightly added on a minimum of six minutes added time to recognise the six bookings and five substitutions in the half up until that point, as well as the 90 second stoppage in play for an injury to Thomas Pinault, and a similar stoppage for injuries to Rayner and Akurang,

The hosts had a great chance to wrap things up, as Willock outpaced Stuart and ran clear, but Nathan Abbey produced a great save to keep the game alive. At the other end an excellent run by Neil Cousins saw him set up Mark Byrne, but once again the midfielder missed the target.

The added time period was in keeping with the remainder of the game, with Simon Rusk picking up a deserved booking for a foul on Neil Cousins, and then the Diamonds threatened an equaliser as Matt Pattison ran through the heart of midfield, and was only stopped on the edge of the area by a foul challenge by Karl Broadhurst, who picked up a second yellow, and hence a red card.

The referee failed to acknowledge these additional stoppages during the added time period (which also included a further substitution), only adding a further 22 seconds as the Diamonds pushed for the equaliser/

Full-Time : Crawley Town 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

After some of the disappointments the Diamonds have suffered at the Broadfield Stadium, the fact that they perhaps did enough to take a point, and the performances of Farrell, Pattison and Osano certainly meant they didn’t deserve to be on the losing side, meant that the long trip home wasn’t as depressing as on previous trips south.

The Diamonds have a few days to regroup before the visit of newly promoted AFC Wimbledon to Nene Park on Tuesday evening for the first game between the two teams.

Teams

Crawley Town (Red): Simon Rayner, Simon Rusk, Sam Rents, Glenn Wilson, Barry Cogan, Karl Broadhurst, Calum Willock, Adam Quinn (Capt), Jefferson Louis (Danny Forrest 90+3), Thomas Pinault (Eddie Hutchinson 87), Lewis Killeen (Michael Malcolm 89)

Subs Not Used: Nick Jordan, Ben Smith

Rushden & Diamonds (Yellow): Nathan Abbey, Curtis Osano, Kurt Robinson, Paul Terry (Max Porter 83), Jamie Stuart (Capt), Simon Downer, Mark Byrne, Matt Pattison, Craig Farrell, Cliff Akurang (Sam Smith 62), James Reid (Neil Cousins 70)

Subs Not Used: Michael Corcoran, Dale Roberts

Goals : Farrell (0-1, 10), Louis (1-1, 26), Willock (2-1, 57)

Yellow Cards : Stuart, Louis, Pinault, Quinn, Broadhurst, Akurang, Cousins, Rusk

Red Card : Broadhurst

Referee: Mr M McLaughlin (Luton)

Attendance:925 (135 away)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Curtis Osano

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