Rushden & Diamonds 2 Histon 1

Rushden & Diamonds saw their winning run continue, making it six wins in a row as they recorded their first ever victory over Histon 2-1 at Nene Park. The first half saw the Diamonds go ahead on 36 minutes when Lee Tomlin challenged a panicked pass-back to keeper Naisbitt, who could only get the ball as far as Cliff Akurang who stroked it home. Akurang then scored his second goal, against his former teammates, midway through the second half, when he was the most alert person in a crowded penalty box to knock home a loose ball. Histon got a late consolation from substitute Andrew Tidswell.

With the team having won six in a row for the first time since the start of the 1998-99 season, as well as achieving their first victories over Histon and Luton Town in recent weeks, the only gloomy spot over Nene Park was due to the fact that one of the floodlights failed and the game was completed using the remaining three.

With one enforced change due to Aaron O’Connor’s injury, meaning that Jefferson Louis made his first start for the club shortly after signing on loan, Justin Edinburgh was able to change an otherwise unchanged side, with Cliff Akurang and Simon Downer returning to take places on the bench.

Histon were without Lanre Oyebanjo who was away on international duty for the Irish U21 team. Danny Wright was unavailable due to injury, and Josh Simpson is now on loan at Peterborough United. Sam Cox went straight into the team after joining on loan from Tottenham Hotspur the day before the game.

The first half was affected by the swirling wind and rain, although the excuse that the swirling wind was spoiling the game was only partially true, especially when considering that the Diamonds had won twice by big scores in windy Cumbria in recent weeks.

The only noteworthy happenings in the first 30 minutes were the injuries to Nat Knight-Percival and Jefferson Louis, both of whom had to leave the field. Louis’ Diamonds’ debut only lasted 23 minutes before a knee injury meant he had to be replaced by Cliff Akurang. The only threat on goal during that period was when Lee Tomlin outwitted Adam Tann and saw his shot rebound off Bygrave and away for a corner.

After 33 minutes Tann deliberately blocked Tomlin as he broke down the left, and was lucky to escape the yellow cards for such a "professional foul". Craig Farrell took the free kick from just inside the touch-line, and saw it curl in the wind to hit the angle of post and bar.

On 36 minutes the Diamonds went ahead, as Kennedy played the ball back to Naisbitt under pressure from Terry, and Lee Tomlin was able to challenge the keeper as he tried to deal with it, and the ball went to Cliff Akurang about 10 yards out, and he stroked home with his weaker left foot. As an ex-Histon player his celebrations for the goal were respectful.

Both sides managed just a single corner in what was one of the worst halves of football seen at NenePark for some time.

Half-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Histon 0

During the half-time interval the referee discussed the issue with the floodlights with Justin Edinburgh and Alan Lewer (the Histon assistant manager), and advised that if conditions were still playable after an hour he would allow the match to finish.

The second half showed an immediate improvement over the first, with the Diamonds going close within the first few seconds with a raid down the right that forced a corner, and then seven minutes into the half when Mark Byrne played an excellent ball to Cliff Akurang, whose delicate first touch set himself up for a shot that Naisbitt did well to save. The resultant corner saw a goalmouth scramble that finished with a Paul Terry shot being deflected wide.

Histon rarely troubled the Diamonds defence, with all four of the back four impressing, and Nathan Abbey made the one decent save he was called upon to perform when a curling Gwillim corner threatened his near post.

Mark Byrne found Lee Tomlin in space on the left on the hour, with Tomlin going past Tann in a flash, and hitting a shot that was well saved by Naisbitt.

Byrne then failed to direct a header on goal after finding space to meet a Robinson cross, although the action was called back for a late tackle on the Diamonds defender. Shortly afterwards, on 64 minutes, the Diamonds won a corner on the left, which deflected across to Mark Byrne. His shot was blocked by Bygrave, but fell to Cliff Akurang in a crowded area, and he was alert enough to strike the ball home before a challenge came in.

Paul Terry then saw a long shot deflect for a corner, and Mark Byrne headed just wide after a break by Akurang and Terry down the right channel brought cries for a penalty for the challenge on Terry.

Histon hadn’t shown any increased urgency after the second goal, and thus it was a surprise when they scored a goal their attacking play didn’t really merit. The Diamonds cleared the ball well outside the area, but Histon worked the ball to the left flank where Gareth Gwillim hit in an excellent cross which the ex-Diamonds youth-teamer Andrew Tidswell headed home.

In many games this might have meant a nervy last few minutes for the Diamonds, especially as Histon had scored late goals in several recent games, but there remained little threat from the visitors, as the Diamonds continued to look the side most likely to score.

The final action of the game saw another Tomlin break down the left being halted by a desperate tackle, but Tomlin’s reaction to not getting either a free-kick or a corner was to kick the ball away, thus earning a yellow card – his fifth of the season, resulting in a suspension for the game at Salisbury next weekend.

Full-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 2 Histon 1

Justin Edinburgh praised the efforts of his entire squad for the way they had come back to win six games in a row on the back of three defeats in early Autumn. He also advised that Lee Tomlin may be a doubt for the forthcoming England C game due to the knock he picked up in the first half, when challenging Naisbitt in the move that led to the Diamonds first goal.

Cliff Akurang’s two goals take him to eight league goals for the Diamonds – the same total reached by the leading goalscorers for the whole of last season.

The Diamonds have a midweek Hillier Senior Cup game when they host managerless Kettering Town on Tuesday evening. Next weekend the Diamonds travel to Wiltshire, looking to get their first victory at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium, when they face Salisbury City.

Rushden & Diamonds: Nathan Abbey, Michael Corcoran, Kurt Robinson, Curtis Osano, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Mark Byrne, Paul Terry, Max Porter (Matt Pattison 75), Lee Tomlin, Jefferson Louis (Cliff Akurang 23), Craig Farrell (Danny Mills 90+1)

Subs Not Used: Dale Roberts (GK), Simon Downer

Histon: Danny Naisbitt, Adam Tann, Gareth Gwillim, Matt Langston (Capt), Adam Bygrave, John Kennedy, Michael Frew, Nat Knight-Percival (Craig Hammond 15, (Andrew Tidswell 72)), Billy Crook, Jamie Barker, Sam Cox ( Sam Long 67)

Subs Not Used: Joe Welch (GK), Neil Andrews

Goals: Akurang (1-0,36mins), Akurang (2-0, 66mins), Tidswell (2-1, 85 mins)

Yellow Cards: Farrell, Terry, Langston, Tomlin

Referee: S Duncan

Attendance: 1126 (away 138)

Diamonds Man of the Match chosen by Adam Davies: Cliff Akurang

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