Rushden & Diamonds 1 Billericay Town 0

 

The Diamonds progressed to round 2 of the FA Carlsberg Trophy with a 1-0 win over Billericay Town. The goal came after 74 minutes when Aaron O’Connor fired a free kick from 25 yards over the wall and into the left hand corner of the net.

The game saw the return of Craig Farrell up front for the Diamonds as Justin Edinburgh made just the single change from the team that lost at Forest Green. The Blues manager Brian Statham included Ian Cousins in his side, son of the Diamonds chairman, and gave a place on the bench to the Orient loanee Matt Hall.

The match quickly took shape, with the Diamonds dominating possession, as the visitors put 10 or 11 men behind the ball for much of the half. The Diamonds were playing a tight midfield formation, with Tomlin playing mostly in the centre behind Farrell and O’Connor and in front of a midfield three. This meant the Diamonds threat down the left flank was coming from Kurt Robinson, although the midfielders, especially Max Porter did their best to provide support. From one such attack down the left a Robinson cross was headed over the bar by Lee Tomlin for the Diamonds best effort of the first quarter.

Curtis Osano made one of his characteristic surging runs after 16 minutes, leaving three defenders in his wake before unleashing a powerful shot that was just over the bar. Mark Byrne followed suit shortly afterwards, and again his shot was wayward, as was a Craig Farrell free kick.

The sole threats from the visitors in the first half came from complacent Diamonds defending, with Billy Bricknell taking advantage of an Osano slip before firing wide, and then Dave Wareham did the same after a Stuart error to break clear, before colliding with Dale Roberts who received treatment.

The Diamonds best chance of the first half fell to Aaron O’Connor after 35 minutes, with good work by Porter and Farrell finding his in space on the edge of the penalty area. The striker’s shot deflected off keeper Walker and ran agonisingly slowly towards goal, before being cleared off the line by Ian Cousins.

Just before the break the Diamonds forced a number of corners on the left in quick succession, each of which was hit hard into the six yard box, with Jamie Stuart unlucky with an attempt which deflected off Walker’s gloves.

 

Half Time Rushden & Diamonds 0 Billericay Town 0

The Diamonds started the second half brightly, with an early O’Connor effort being palmed wide with some desperation by keeper Walker, and then a second O’Connor effort was saved with more confidence.

At the other end a Russell Pond shot went out for a throw, and two crosses from the left from Wareham went behind the goal, before a better cross from Wareham almost saw an otherwise impressive Jamie Stuart head into his own goal, but Roberts continued his good recent form to keep the scores level.

The original 4-3-1-2 Diamonds formation had now been changed to a more convential 4-4-2, with Lee Tomlin starting to torment Greg Oates, with the defender looking to have hauled Tomlin down, only to see the Diamonds player receive the yellow card. With Matt Pattison now playing on the right flank the Diamonds were creating more and more chances, with the winger setting up Farrell for a run on goal that saw a good save from Walker, and then a leaping Tomlin header setting up Farrell for a second chance inside two minutes, with this attempt being blocked by a combination of keeper and defender.

Tomlin was now causing plenty of problems, and Michael Shinn deserved his yellow card for a foul on the Diamonds player, setting up a free kick for the Diamonds. Although Tomlin and Farrell had taken the earlier kicks, it was Aaron O’Connor that stepped up to take this one, and he hit a precision shot that went over the defensive wall before dipping inside the left-hand post to give the Diamonds the lead after 74 minutes.

Shinn showed his frustration after conceding the free kick that led to the goal by kicking the ball at Tomlin after he was felled by a challenge in front of the press-box – but missed. He was thus very fortunate to escape a second yellow card when he repeated the offence two minutes later, this time hitting Tomlin with the ball as he lay on the ground after being felled by Oates. Although Oates picked up a yellow card for the original challenge, referee Fielding did not take further action.

There were a couple of last minute concerns for the Diamonds when Danny Green shot wide, and then Curtis Osano cut out a Matt Hall cross to ensure the Diamonds progress to the next round of the competition in early January.

Full Time Rushden & Diamonds 1 Billericay Town 0

Having avoided a potential replay, the Diamonds now have one final game before Christmas with the visit of Chester City next weekend.

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano, Kurt Robinson, Max Porter, Jamie Stuart(capt), Aaron O’Connor (Jefferson Louis 90+4), Craig Farrell, (Cliff Akurang 70), Lee Tomlin, Michael Corcoran, Mark Byrne (Matt Pattison 59), Paul Terry.

Subs not used: Joe Day, Jack Ainsley.

Billericay Town: Andy Walker, Greg Oates (Harrison Chatting 86), Ashley Dumas, Michael Shinn, Lee Kersey, Ian Cousins(capt), Danny Green, Russell Pond, Dave Wareham (Matt Hall 72), Billy Bricknell, Danny Slatter.

Subs not used: Luca Frankis, Ryan O’Rawe, Lewis Lockyer.

Goals: Aaron O’Connor 74 (1-0).

Yellow Cards: 32mins – Russell Pond for foul on Lee Tomlin, 45+2mins – Paul Terry for foul on Billy Bricknell, 58mins – Lee Tomlin for diving, 73mins – Michael Shinn for foul on Tomlin, 84mins – Greg Oates – for foul on Tomlin, 85mins – Danny Slatter – not ten yards

Referee: Mr A.Fielding (Oxford)

Attendance: 696 (157 away)

Diamonds Man of the Match sponsored by Jordan Freeman: Jamie Stuart

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