Rushden & Diamonds 2 Kidderminster Harriers 1

The Diamonds returned to league action for the first time since early December with a 2-1 win over Kidderminster Harriers, with two goals from Lee Tomlin and a single reply from Robbie Matthews. Tomlin’s first goal came on 15 minutes after an error by Harriers keeper Coleman on the edge of his area allowed Lee Tomlin past him to score in an undefended net. Tomlin’s second goal was one of the best goals seen at Nene Park, as it came on the end of a superb Diamonds move which saw the ball moved from left to right and then back to Tomlin in the centre, who took the ball on his right foot, flicked it onto his left and hit it into the top left hand corner of the net. The Harriers pushed forwards and got a goal back when Robbie Matthews netted after being fed by Martin Riley who had beaten Curtis Osano.

The game saw the return of Simon Downer for the absent Michael Corcoran (due to illness), as Justin Edinburgh made just the single change from the team that beat Billericay in the FA Trophy. There was a welcome return to the bench for Rob Wolleaston after a long period out through injury. The Harriers caretaker manager John Finnigan was able to name an unchanged squad of 16, which meant Dean Bennett and Aaron Farrell remained in the starting line-up after they had been doubtful before the game. He also named Damian Spencer on the bench, who is on loan from Kettering Town, but there was no place in his squad for Ryan Charles, on loan from Luton Town.

The first Tomlin goal was the Diamonds first against the Harriers at Nene Park for over four seasons, since the FA Cup game back in November 2002.

The Diamonds played a similar formation in the first half to the one used in the first period against Billericay, with Byrne and Terry in central midfield behind Lee Tomlin in a roving role. Simon Downer was at centre back, with Curtis Osano restored to his right back role.

Lee Tomlin had an early shot that was saved by Coleman, and Dale Roberts was called into action to save from Aaron Farrell at the other end. The Diamonds were creating a number of good chances, with Kurt Robinson finding a lot of space on the left, squaring to Craig Farrell when he burst into the area, but the strikers attempt was blocked.

The Diamonds took the lead in unusual circumstances after 15 minutes. A looped backpass to Coleman saw the Harriers keeper clearly come outside of his area to attempt to catch the ball. Realising this he quickly released the ball, allowing Lee Tomlin to flick it past him and run on and knock the ball into an unguarded net. Referee Adcock saw his linesman flagging, so went over to check before awarding the goal – he had not blown his whistle for Coleman’s offence, which did at least allow Coleman to remain on the pitch, as he would surely have been dismissed if the free kick had been awarded.

Dale Roberts was called upon to make a headed clearance after a weak header back from Jamie Stuart, but he avoided getting into the same trouble as his Harriers counterpart.

Craig Farrell came close to increasing the Diamonds lead as he broke past Riley to run onto a long ball from Curtis Osano, but his well-hit shot was well saved by Coleman. Gavin Caines presented Tomlin with another chance to run on goal when he miskicked the ball near the half-way line, but his fellow defender Riley got a block in to deflect the shot away, with Tomlin choosing to shoot rather than squaring the ball to the unmarked Craig Farrell.

Other Diamonds chances in the first half fell to Kurt Robinson and Mark Byrne as the Diamonds would have felt they should have been leading by more than the single goal at the interval.

Half-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Kidderminster Harriers 0

The Harriers brought on Kettering loanee Damian Spencer at half-time, and he provided a greater threat to the Diamonds defence, with Simon Downer slotting back alongside Jamie Stuart to ensure that little threat came through the centre.

The Diamonds domination continued, with Craig Farrell dropping back to support the midfielders, executing an excellent sliding tackle on Knights that set up Tomlin for a run towards goal. He then chipped the ball across the area to Aaron O’Connor running in on the right, and his powerful shot was blocked.

The Diamonds second goal came after 57 minutes on the end of a superb move which saw Byrne and Farrell move the ball down the left, moving the ball to O’Connor and Wolleaston who combined on the right to get the ball to Lee Tomlin in the centre, who took the ball on his right foot, flicked it onto his left and hit it into the top left hand corner of the net. The finish was perhaps the best of many good goals the Diamonds have scored this season.

The impressive Mark Byrne saw a shot saved by Coleman as he was given more freedom by the arrival of Wolleaston, and then O’Connor shot narrowly over when set up by Farrell.

For the first 65 minutes of the game the Diamonds appeared to have been in total control, but the visitors began to push forwards and force the Diamonds very deep. This pressure paid off after 68 minutes when they won a free kick in midfield, and although the ball was initially half cleared, it fell to defender Martin Riley just outside the area. Riley switched the ball inside, beating Curtis Osano as he found Robbie Matthews just inside the left hand corner of the penalty area, and the striker struck the ball into the bottom left hand corner of the net.

Osano was almost responsible for allowing the visitors to get an equaliser a minute later, as he headed back towards his own goal, but straight to Damian Spencer, who was promptly brought down by one of the Diamonds Centre Backs on the edge of the area. Fortunately Knights’ free kick was well blocked by Aaron O’Connor in the Diamonds defensive wall.

Dale Roberts was also called into action to tip a McPhee cross from a narrow angle over the bar, and also had to make a number of important catches from Harriers crosses and corners. Paul Terry also helped out in the Diamonds defence as the visitors threatened an equaliser, and they might have done better when Brian Smikle fed Spencer on the right, and he set up Matthews who squared the ball to McPhee whose powerful shot was fortunately straight at Roberts, who gathered at the second attempt.

After dominating the first hour of the game, the Diamonds would have some concern about how they allowed the Harriers back into the game, but overall it was a well deserved three points, with the Diamonds fans wondering if they will see a better goal from Lee Tomlin.

Full-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 2 Kidderminster Harriers 1

The Diamonds now have to prepare for their first game in 2010 with the visit of Oxford United to Nene Park on Friday (New Year’s Day 3pm).

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano, Kurt Robinson, Max Porter (Rob Wolleaston 55), Jamie Stuart(capt), Aaron O’Connor, Craig Farrell, Lee Tomlin (Jefferson Louis 83), Simon Downer, Mark Byrne, Paul Terry.

Subs Not Used: Joe Day, Nicky McNamara, Cliff Akurang.

Kidderminster Harriers: Dean Coleman, Duane Courtney, Gavin Caines, Martin Riley, Danny Andrew, Chris McPhee, Dean Bennett, Brian Smikle, Darryl Knights, Aaron Farrell (Damian Spencer 45) Robbie Matthews.

Subs Not Used: Nathan Hayward, Jasbir Singh (GK), Lee Baker, Liam Dolman,

Goals : Tomlin (15, 1-0), Tomlin (57, 2-0), Matthews (68, 2-1)

Yellow Cards: Tomlin, Terry

Referee: J Adcock

Attendance: 1425 (205)

Diamonds Man of the Match sponsored by Pizzeria Venezia: Kurt Robinson

See here for video highlights.

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