Rushden & Diamonds 3 Hinckley United 1

Rushden & Diamonds progressed to the second round of the FA Cup sponsored by eon, with a convincing 3-1 victory over Hinckley United at Nene Park. A poor quality first half saw the Diamonds go ahead on the half-hour when Aaron O’Connor latched onto a Farrell flick, running down the left before cutting inside, drawing the keeper and slotting it past him.

The visitors equalised after 64 minutes when Adam Webster headed home an Alex Taylor cross, but within a minute Aaron O’Connor had put the Diamonds ahead again, with another breakaway run and cool finish. Mark Byrne made the game safe with another neatly taken goal after 82 minutes. Hinckley saw Neil Cartwright get a red card during added time for his second yellow card offence.

With the enforced change due to Neil Cousins’ injury and Cliff Akurang being unavailable, Justin Edinburgh made a single change, with Mark Byrne starting on the right. Having a bench with seven substitutes allowed him to name new arrival Jack Ainsley on the bench as defensive cover. Craig Farrell and Aaron O’Connor started up front, despite both having missed training during the preceding week.

The visitors had the best of the early action, with their long ball game presenting the Diamonds defence some initial problems, with Adam Weston running onto a long ball past his marker, but he chose to shoot early allowing Abbey to save.

At the other end the Diamonds struggled to cope with the Knitters’ offside trap, with both strikers caught offside on several occasions.

As the game entered its second quarter the Diamonds started to get behind the defensive line, with both Farrell and O’Connor threatening, and Lee Tomlin made a run down the left and saw his cross fielded by Mackenzie.

On the half hour a ball forward from Abbey was flicked on in the centre circle by Craig Farrell, allowing Aaron O’Connor to break down the left. He cut inside past defender Lister, slotting the ball home with his right foot past the advancing keeper.

Paul Terry then set O’Connor free down the left, but his low cross towards Craig Farrell reached the striker at the same time as Mackenzie reached the ball. O’Connor made another run that was stopped by a good tackle from Franklin.

Craig Farrell also broke clear on the end of a Byrne through ball, cut past Lister, and looked to round Mackenzie, but the ex-Diamonds keeper was able to stretch and get the ball away.

Curtis Osano provided one of the highlights of a poor first half, running 60 yards to the edge of the area, setting Mark Byrne up for a shot which Mackenzie did well to save.

Hinckley continued with their long ball game, with the Diamonds defence continuing their recent good form with some excellent cover for each other, with Robinson and Stuart especially impressive.

The final action of the half saw Lee Tomlin win a corner, and then deliver it across the box for Michael Corcoran to hit a dipping shot which Mackenzie gathered relatively easily.

The Diamonds will have been pleased to go in at half-time with a narrow lead, as they had been given a creditable test by their lower league opponents, especially in the first 20 minutes.

Half Time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Hinckley United 0

The Diamonds started the second half very brightly, with a Farrell flick setting Aaron O’Connor free, but he was shepherded to the byline and was unable to get a cross in. Mark Byrne then broke free in a similar position, and he hit a great ball across the penalty area to Lee Tomlin, whose shot flashed across the goal.

Much of the Diamonds threat was coming via the ball clipped past the Knitter’s defence, as they were doing better against the offside trap, and Mark Byrne and Aaron O’Connor again on 54 minutes, with Byrne teeing up O’Connor for a powerful shot that was well saved. From the resultant corner Michael Corcoran found space to get in a free header, but the downward attempt bounced away to safety.

Kurt Robinson continued the good work shown in the first half with one excellent covering challenge as his fellow defenders allowed Alex Taylor to run in from the left and then into the area.

Craig Farrell was continuing to win more than his fair share of the ball played forwards, and his flick to Aaron O’Connor saw his fellow striker run towards the edge of the box, and then unselfishly laid the ball to Mark Byrne to his right, but Byrne’s shot was just over as the Diamonds pushed for the second goal.

As often happens, the team missing a good chance to seal the game is made to pay, and the Diamonds conceded the equalising goal inside a minute, as a long ball eluded Max Porter, and Alex Taylor ran down the left, finding space away from Michael Corcoran to get in an excellent cross that Adam Webster headed home.

It is an old footballing cliché that a team is most vulnerable just after they have scored, and so it proved in this case, as Jamie Stuart halted a run by Chukki Eribenne, quickly moving the ball forwards Aaron O’Connor, with the ball flicking off the head of Paul Lister allowing the striker to run forwards, head the ball on, and then slot the ball into the left hand side of the goal.

Danny Mills came on for the second cup game running, and should have done better when put clear, but miscued his shot badly with 10 minutes to go. Mark Byrne continued to adapt to his wide role, and Porter and Mills combined to set him up for a shot that was just wide.

On 82 minutes Mark Byrne got the goal that his performance deserved, as O’Connor and Mills worked the ball into his path, and he ran and shot home with similar composure to that he showed at Luton the previous weekend.

Danny Mills had his second clear chance as Matt Pattison crossed to present him with a free header than he could only direct at Mackenzie.

The final action of the game saw Neil Cartwright pull down James Reid as it looked like he was about to break clear and receive his second yellow card, and was thus dismissed deep into added time.

Full Time: Rushden & Diamonds 3 Hinckley United 1

The atmosphere in the Diamonds camp after the game reflected both the cup victory and the fact the team have won five games in a row. They will now by watching the draw for the second round of the cup on Sunday afternoon to see who their next opponents will be.

Note also that today’s results confirm that the Hillier Cup game against Kettering will now be played on the 17th November, so the next game at Nene Park will be the visit of Histon next weekend.

Note that round 2 of the FA Cup sponsored by eon takes place on the weekend of November 28th, so the scheduled game at home to Wrexham will need to be rearranged.

Teams

Rushden & Diamonds: Nathan Abbey, Michael Corcoran, Kurt Robinson, Curtis Osano, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Mark Byrne, Paul Terry, Max Porter (Matt Pattison 83), Lee Tomlin, Aaron O’Connor (James Reid 85), Craig Farrell (Danny Mills 75).

Subs Not Used: Dale Roberts (GK), Nicky McNamara, Jamie McGuinness, Jack Ainsley.

Hinckley United: Chris MacKenzie, Alex Taylor (Lee Collins 84), Stuart Giddings, Richard Lavery, Paul Lister, Connor Franklin, Andy Hall, Andy Gooding, Adam Webster, Chukki Eribenne (Matt West 67), Neil Cartwright

Subs Not Used: Denham Hinds (GK), Dan Dillon, Jack Roberts, Louis Hamilton, James Mace.

Goals: O’Connor (1-0, 30), Webster (1-1, 64), O’Connor (2-1, 65), Byrne (3-1, 82)

Yellow Cards: Andy Gooding (foul), Neil Cartwright (foul)

Red Card: Neil Cartwright (foul)

Referee: R Wigglesworth

Attendance: 1540 (away 528)

Diamonds Man of the Match chosen by the Manton Suite: Mark Byrne.

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