Rushden & Diamonds 0 Altrincham 1

 

Rushden & Diamonds lost to Altrincham by a single goal at a windy Nene Park. In a poor game the visitors scored after 81 minutes when a Tom Kearney free-kick penetrated the Diamonds wall and deflected low into the net. That free kick had been given when Simon Downer had fouled Nicky Clee, who was running in on goal after a mistake by Curtis Osano, and as a result had been shown a red card. The Diamonds had a number of chances after going behind, but a combination of poor finishing and a good save by Stuart Coburn meant they failed to take advantage. Although they had a penalty claim when Sam Smith went down in the box late on, the lacklustre performance meant that there were few arguments about the decision from the Diamonds’ management, and Altrincham were able to secure their first win at Nene Park.

Following the two defeats in recent games, Manager Justin Edinburgh made one change with Aaron O’Connor playing on the right of midfield, meaning that Matt Pattison switched to the left. For the Robins, Graham Heathcote kept an unchanged starting X!, with Greg Young and Colin Little returning to take places on the bench.

The first-half was the worst half of football seen at Nene Park this season, with only two decent attempts on goal from the Diamonds, both from Matt Pattison, whose dipping shot from the left angle of the penalty box was well caught by Stuart Coburn low at his near post. Pattison made his second chance himself as he beat two men in a mazy run in from the left, but his shot was over the bar.

At the other end the visitors created little, as they played into the strong wind for the first half, but did have two good chances just before half time, the first falling to Chris Senior from a long throw by Clee, but his attempt didn’t trouble Abbey, and then Nicky Clee failed to take advantage of a skewed clearance by Jamie Stuart from a Matt Doughty shot.

The visitors picked up two yellow cards during the half, Chris Senior for obstructing a free kick, and Chris Denham for a foul on Matt Pattison. Pattison was also on the receiving end of a sliding challenge from Anthony Danylyk that might also have been worthy of a caution.

Half-Time : Rushden & Diamonds 0 Altrincham 0

The second half had to provide more entertainment than the first, and although it managed this, there was still something lacking compared to the games seen at NenePark during August and September.

Playing against the wind should have given the Diamonds midfield the play the ball into space for the strikers to run onto, and the wide players to hit outswinging crosses, but neither was forthcoming to any degree until Curtis Osano started to get forwards more. Osano linked up with Matt Pattison on 52 minutes and hit an angled cross onto the head of Paul Terry, but his attempt on goal was headed wide.

The visitors main threat was continuing to come from the Clee long throws, one of which early in the half saw the ball flicked across the box forcing Curtis Osano to head out for a corner.

Matt Pattison won a free kick wide on the left for the Diamonds, which Craig Farrell took, and Aaron O’Connor flashed a header across the goal.

On of the best Diamonds moves of the game saw Paul Terry play a precise pass forwards to Craig Farrell, who flicked it on to Pattison, and the winger squared it back to Farrell, who turned well, but could only hit a shot straight at Coburn, and there was a similar outcome to a move involving the three players 10 minutes later, although this time it was a combination of a good Coburn save and solid covering by Matt Doughty that denied the Diamonds striker.

After an initial substitution for each team, the Robins should have taken the lead, as a Diamonds attack down the left broke down, leaving Kurt Robinson stranded, and allowing Chris Denham a clear run down the right. He squared it for Chris Senior to run onto, with the Diamonds defence once more relying on their offside trap, but on this occasion it was clearly breached. As Curtis Osano trailed behind him, Senior appeared to have as much time as he wanted to strike on goal, but he hit it early and Nathan Abbey saved well with his legs.

Mark Byrne was still at the centre of many of the Diamonds best moves, and a defence splitting pass found Aaron O’Connor, who beat his man but could only hit the side netting. The first of the Diamonds two penalty shouts came shortly afterwards, as Craig Farrell’s shot hit James Smith’s arm, but referee Barratt clearly thought the contact was accidental.

Further substitutions saw the tall Robins defender Robbie Williams pushed up front, and he quickly showed what made Graham Heathcote take that decision as the Diamonds defence struggled to cope with his aerial threat. Substitute Max Porter tried to spread the ball wide to Curtis Osano, but rather overhit the pass (possibly as he had yet to adjust to the windy conditions), and it arrived at head height. Rather than heading the ball out of play, Osano tried to get the ball under control, but only succeeded in laying the ball into the path of Nicky Clee. The pacy winger knocked the ball past Simon Downer, and appeared to be accelerating past him before colliding with the Diamonds defender, a challenge which referee Barratt had little alternative to punish with a redcard.

The Diamonds were doubly punished, as Robins’ captain Tom Kearney hit a free kick into a defensive wall built on rocky foundations, and saw it deflect low into the right hand corner of the net.

James Reid seemed to have energised things up front for the Diamonds, and he almost converted a Farrell flick-on, with Coburn pulling off a great save that proved unnecessary as the Diamonds player was offside. In added time Reid latched onto an Aaron O’Connor flick on and hit an instinctive shot that forced Coburn to pull off an even better save.

The Diamonds had one final dangerous attack, deep into added time, as Sam Smith picked up a Farrell flick in the area and fell under a challenge from Greg Young. On some days a penalty would have been given, but it would have perhaps have been more than the Diamonds performance merited.

 

Full-Time : Rushden & Diamonds 0 Altrincham 1

In his post match interview Justin Edinburgh made his disappointment with the Diamonds performance very clear, and with a week to prepare for the game at Chester next weekend, commented that "a lot of players have lost their place in this team".

 

Rushden & Diamonds: Nathan Abbey, Curtis Osano, Kurt Robinson, Paul Terry (Max Porter 68), Jamie Stuart (Capt),Simon Downer, Matt Pattison (Sam Smith 83), Mark Byrne, Craig Farrell, Cliff Akurang (James Reid 60), Aaron O’Connor

Subs Not Used : Neil Cousins, Dale Roberts (Gk)

Altrincham: Stuart Coburn, Shaun Densmore, James Smith, Robbie Williams, Matt Doughty, Chris Denham, Tom Kearney (Capt), Anthony Danylyk (Robbie Lawton 79), Sam Sheridan (Greg Young 61), Nicky Clee, Chris Senior (Colin Little 73)

Subs: Russell Saunders (Gk), Michael Welch

Goal : Kearney (81)

Yellow Cards: Denham, Senior

Red Card: Downer (80)

Referee: W Barratt

Attendance: 1168 (away 103)

Diamonds Man of the Match Sponsored by Shire Foods: Jamie Stuart

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