Salisbury City 1 Rushden & Diamonds 3

The Diamonds winning streak continued as they battled difficult conditions on their way to victory over Salisbury City on a wet afternoon in Wiltshire. A fairly uneventful game burst into life in the last 15 minutes, as Paul Terry gave the Diamonds the lead, rifling home from the edge of the box after good work by Kurt Robinson.. Substitute Aaron O’Connor made it 2-0 when he flicked home a Byrne freekick with his first touch of the game. The hosts got a goal back in controversial fashion when Darrell Clarke fired home after a clear handball by Danny Webb. Any thoughts of a Salisbury comeback quickly disappeared when O’Connor fired home after breaking clear.

Matt Pattison was brought into the side to play in left midfield, replacing the suspended Lee Tomlin, with James Reid having returned to Nottingham Forest by mutual consent in order to find first team football elsewhere. Otherwise the Diamonds were unchanged, with Simon Downer and Aaron O’Connor returning to the bench, with Danny Mills loan having ended.

The hosts had kindly allowed the Diamonds fans to take shelter by sharing part of the home terrace, with the rain increasing as the first half went on, with the Diamonds attacking that end with the wind behind them. The weather dictated that the first half was a scrappy affair, with a number of players struggling to keep their feet. The hosts had an early chance when Nathan Abbey palmed away a Matt Tubbs header on the end of a Brown cross.

The Diamonds then dominated play for the next 30 minutes, with an Akurang shot well saved by Bittner, and a Pattison shot going wide left of goal. Max Porter made a couple of good runs through the centre, but couldn’t provide the finish needed. Craig Farrell was making good flick-ons for Akurang or one of the midfield players, and he had a good chance himself when he outwitted the offside trap to break clear, but the slippery surface meant he had to check back and was tackled.

Towards the end of the half Tubbs had a further couple of chances, but just before the break Mark Byrne had the best chance of the period as he broke clear, but he shot wide from the corner of the area.

Half Time: Salisbury City 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

The Diamonds had an early chance in the second half, as Paul Terry hit a great ball that set Cliff Akurang free, but the striker was stopped by Jamie Turley. The home side then had their best period of the game for the next 15 minutes, with Abbey saving well from a Clohessy shot and a Tubbs freekick that he juggled slightly.

Matt Pattison had played for 120 minutes in midweek, and on such a strength sapping pitch it was no surprise he was the first to be replaced by the Diamonds, with Neil Cousins taking his place on the left.

Referee Martin was making sensible adjustments to allow for the conditions, but he had little alternative but to show a yellow card to Cliff Akurang after he slid into James Bittner, taking his legs, for the second time in the game. Michael Corcoran was rather unfortunate to pick up a yellow for “accumulated fouls” when the tackle in question looked clean. This made the Diamonds management team make the sensible decision to bring on Simon Downer in place of Corcoran, with Downer taking the right back role.

Mark Byrne was once again impressing with his runs, his tackling and his general commitment, and it was this commitment that led to him working the ball past Ruddick and getting in the best cross of the game that was scrambled clear. He followed this with another good run and cross that Cliff Akurang couldn’t quite reach.

Kurt Robinson was getting forward well, despite the conditions, and he linked with Neil Cousins before getting in an excellent cross that Darrell Clarke could only get clear to Paul Terry who fired home high into the net for his debut goal for the club, running over to celebrate with his team-mates with a slide on the ground in front of their management team.

The Whites made an immediate change, bringing on ex-Diamond Danny Webb, but it was the Diamonds who continued to dominate. Referee Martin then had to show a card to Bittner when he took Akurang’s legs when he broke clear, but as the offence was towards the touch-line, the referee decided Akurang wasn’t clear on goal, so a yellow card would suffice. That was a signal for the Diamonds to replace the hard working Craig Farrell by Aaron O’Connor, and from the resultant free kick taken by Mark Byrne, O’Connor got a subtle flick to send the ball past Bittner with his first touch.

Referee Martin once again did well to calm things down after a flash-point between Downer and Ruddick near the touchline, with opinions divided on who fouled whom.

Suddenly the game had gone from the rather stale affair seen in the first 70 minutes to one where both sides were threatening to score, but the next goal came in controversial fashion. Sean Clohessy had deservedly won the man of the match award for the home team, and he fired in a cross from the right which saw a scramble and Danny Webb clearly raise his arm and control the ball – but referee Martin waved play on, allowing Darrell Clarke to fire home. Unsurprisingly several Diamonds players appealed to the referee given how blatant an offence it was, with Nathan Abbey picking up a yellow card for his protests, as a deserved clean sheet had been lost.

The Diamonds made amends for such a clear injustice in the best possible way though, as from the kick-off they worked the ball forwards on the left for Aaron O’Connor to take the ball confidently forwards and fire home.

The game ended with the water starting to show in puddles on the pitch, but once again the Salisbury groundstaff must take credit for their efforts – in fact the whole club had gone out of their way to accommodate their visitors on a difficult afternoon weatherwise. Some of the Diamonds fans had chosen to “break cover” in the second half, to support their team behind the goal they were attacking – and although they would have been soaked, they were rewarded with the three goals and another away victory.

Full Time: Salisbury City 1 Rushden & Diamonds 3

The debate about the Webb hand-ball continued after the game – and it was certainly as blatant (if not more so) than the Thierry Henry incident in midweek, although less deliberate. It is assumed that the three match officials must have missed seeing it, so the debate in this instance is not about “video evidence” but whether the fourth official should be able to advise the referee in these circumstances – he would clearly have seen the incident, having the same angle as the management teams and the press-box, but was not allowed to inform the referee.

The seven game winning run is tremendous credit to everyone at the club, especially when it came on the back of three successive defeats, but the four away wins in a row are also a reward for those travelling Diamonds fans who have stuck with the team on the road, despite a poor return on their travels for the past five seasons. The four away wins in a row is the best winning run in major cup and league games since the team won four at the start of their push to the Conference title in early 2001. Prior to that the team won seven away games in a row at the start of that 2000-01 season.

Once again the team have coped with a game in difficult weather conditions – with the away wins at Barrow, Chester and Workington also showing how well the team is able to adapt to the conditions.

The team now have a short break before the challenging trip to Cambridge on Tuesday evening, which is another venue that the Diamonds have struggled at over the seasons. The seven game winning streak is the best since the start of the 1998-99 season, when the team added victory in the first seven games of that season to the victory in the final game of the previous season – making it eight in a row as the record for major cup and league games for the club. Hopefully there will be a good turnout on Tuesday to see the team try to equal that record.

Salisbury City: James Bittner, Sean Clohessy, Luke Ruddick, Stuart Anderson, Jamie Turley, Darrell Clarke (Capt), Matt Tubbs, Ryan O’Hara (Rob Sinclair 70), Bradley Gray (Daniel Webb 79), Lee Brown (Chris Flood 58), Ryan Tafazolli

Subs Not Used: Patrick Cox, Toby Osman

Rushden & Diamonds: Nathan Abbey, Michael Corcoran (Simon Downer 70), Jamie Stuart (Capt), Curtis Osano, Kurt Robinson, Mark Byrne, Max Porter, Paul Terry, Matt Pattison (Neil Cousins 66), Craig Farrell (Aaron O’Connor 80), Cliff Akurang.

Subs Not Used: Nicky McNamara, Dale Roberts.

Goals: Terry (0-1,79mins), O’Connor (0-2,81mins), Clarke (1-2, 89mins), O’Connor (1-3, 90+2)

Yellow Cards: Akurang (foul), Corcoran (repeated fouls), Bittner (foul), Abbey (dissent)

Referee : Richard Martin

Attendance : 840 (away approx 75)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Mark Byrne

For video highlights click here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: