Oxford United 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Diamonds unbeaten run of seven League games came to an end after Adam Chapman converted a late penalty – the second awarded during the game in favour of Oxford United. James Constable missed a spot kick awarded in first half stoppage time, but both penalties appeared to be controversial, the referee seemingly letting the home players and crowd influence his decisions.

Justin Edinburgh made two changes, with Lee Tomlin returning after suspension in place of Craig Farrell and Rob Wolleaston being favoured in place of Max Porter in midfield. There was still no place in the team for Curtis Osano and Cliff Akurang, who remained on the bench, together with Porter and Farrell.

U’s manager Chris Wilder named just one change – Alfie Potter (on loan from Peterborough) was out with a hamstring injury, and was replaced by leading scorer James Constable returning after suspension. Captain Adam Murray was still missing with a back injury so Constable took the armband.

Diamonds kicked off attempting to close the gap on the League leaders, but it was the home side who looked more comfortable early on. Simon Downer’s foul on Constable just outside the area saw Sam Deering tap the free kick to Anthony Tonkin – his shot being deflected away from goal. Constable also had an early chance smothered by keeper Dale Roberts. At the other end, Ryan Clarke’s fumble nearly gifted a Diamonds a chance, but the home side looked to be in charge during the opening period.

Constable and Jack Midson looked lively in attack for the U’s, but Diamonds were quick to close down at every opportunity and despite possession, Oxford had little in the way of clear cut chances. In fact it was Diamonds who had a glorious chance to take the lead on 29 minutes after Rhys Day’s header back to the keeper was intercepted by Tomlin. With the keeper stranded off his line, Tomlin fired a weak shot straight at Clarke.

Diamonds continued to defend well, but suffered the loss of central defender Simon Downer when he was shoved off the ball during another U’s attack. He was clearly suffering and Curtis Osano came on to replace him on 37 minutes.

Another great chance fell to Diamonds on 43 minutes when another defensive error left the keeper stranded on the right side of his area. The ball was swept in to the centre where Paul Terry hurried his shot towards the undefended goal, but the ball went wide of the post. Moments later, Tomlin robbed Batt deep in the Oxford half and sent Aaron O’Connor clear down the left but like Tomlin’s effort, his shot also went straight into the keepers arms.

As the first half entered stoppage time, a poor decision from the referee saw Wolleaston’s challenge on Jake Wright deemed unfair. Deering’s free-kick into the area went through to Roberts, but Jefferson Louis was adjudged to have blocked Wright’s challenge and the referee awarded a penalty, booking Louis for dissent as he protested the award. As the game entered the third minute of added time, James Constable stepped up and blasted the spot kick over the bar.

Half-time: Oxford United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0


Craig Farrell replaced Louis at the start of the second half as Diamonds tried to bring more bite to the attack. It looked like the home side would continue where they left off in the first half as Midson fired an early shot over the bar, and then forced Roberts into a save at the near post, but Diamonds gradually started to look more dangerous and take advantage of some wayward defending from the home side.

Tomlin was set clear again by Wolleaston, but his attempted chip was easy for Clarke and then on 61 minutes, it was Tomlin again who caught Batt in possession and raced towards goal. He was brought down just outside the area by Jake Wright, who received a caution for his actions. Farrell fired the free kick over the bar.

U’s made a couple of changes midway through the second half as they tried to regain the initiative, Matt Green and Adam Chapman replacing Midson and Dannie Bulman. Diamonds continued to look in control as the second half progressed.

Oxford’s best attack of the game came on 77 minutes when some flowing passing between Chapman, Tonkin and Simon Clist led to Tonkin being fouled just outside the area. Chapman’s free-kick however went straight into the wall. Paul Terry went off shortly afterwards, with Max Porter replacing him in midfield.

On 84 minutes, there was another strong penalty appeal after Kurt Robinson made an excellent tackle to deny Constable, the U’s captain berating the official. As the ball was cleared away, Matt Green made a run back into the area only to be denied this time by Jamie Stuart. To Diamonds disgust, the referee pointed to the penalty spot. During the confusion which followed, referee Creighton booked Jamie Stuart and Michael Corcoran for dissent. Adam Chapman stepped up and this time made no mistake, firing the spot kick down the middle and past Roberts.

As Diamonds pushed forward, Matt Green latched on to a long ball forward but skyed his effort high over the bar. In the final three of five minutes added time, Mark Byrne tried his luck twice from just outside the area, but his shot was saved by Clarke on both occasions.

Full Time: Oxford United 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0


Diamonds could feel aggrieved at having been denied a well earned draw by some weak refereeing. Justin Edinburgh conceded that the first penalty decision was probably correct, but the second clearly was not. Diamonds must put the defeat out of their minds as they face another tough away fixture next Saturday when they visit fellow play-off hopefuls, Mansfield Town.



Oxford United: Ryan Clarke, Damian Batt, Dannie Bulman (Adam Chapman 69), Chris Hargreaves, James Constable (c), Jack Midson (Matt Green 63), Simon Clist, Jake Wright, Rhys Day, Anthony Tonkin, Sam Deering (Francis Green 90+3).

Subs not used: Billy Turley, Mark Creighton.


Rushden & Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Kurt Robinson, Jamie Stuart (c), Simon Downer, (Curtis Osano 37) Aaron O’Connor, Rob Wolleaston, Lee Tomlin, Michael Corcoran, Mark Byrne, Paul Terry (Max Porter 82), Jefferson Louis (Craig Farrell HT).

Subs not used: Joe Day, Cliff Akurang.

Goals: Adam Chapman 86pen (1-0).

Booked: Jefferson Louis 45+2 (dissent), Jake Wright 61 (foul), Jamie Stuart 85 (dissent), Michael Corcoran 85 (dissent), Damian Batt 90+1 (foul).

Sent off: Nil

Referee: Mr Steve Creighton (Berks)


Attendance: 7625 (382 away)


Rushden & Diamonds 1 Stevenage Borough 0

The Diamonds recorded a magnificent victory over table-topping Stevenage Borough with a sensational strike from Rob Wolleaston settling the game with three minutes left at Nene Park. In the Diamonds biggest game since their return to the Conference, there was little action in the first half, with neither keeper required to make a save in anger, but the game livened up in the second half, with Dale Roberts keeping the Diamonds in the game with a great save from Bridges, before the Diamonds scored the winning goal when Rob Wolleaston lashed home from 25 yards as he latched onto a clearance from a corner.

Justin Edinburgh was able to name an unchanged line-up, with Curtis Osano and Cliff Akurang returning to a place on the bench at the expense of Matt Pattison and Nicky McNamara.

The Stevenage Borough manager Graham Westley made just a single change, with David Bridges replacing Yemi Odubade.

The first half was a fairly uneventful affair. The visitors had the lions share of possession, but most of their threat came from the long throws from Laird or Ashton, and neither goalkeeper was significantly tested during the half. The Diamonds came the closest to a clear-cut chance when Mark Byrne robbed Michael Bostwick near the left touchline, running into the area but his cross was cut out by Mark Roberts. Ex-Diamond Chris Beardsley ought to have tested Dale Roberts with two headers that went tamely wide.

At the other end a challenge in midfield saw the ball knocked towards Dale Roberts, and he gathered it in front of the on-rushing Mitchell Cole. Referee West deemed that Roberts had picked up a backpass, and awarded an indirect free-kick just inside the penalty box that the visitors wasted.

Max Porter had a chance to get in a rare shot on goal after good work from Byrne and Farrell created an opening on the edge of the area, but his shot was well wide.

As half-time approached Jefferson Louis made himself a good chance when he turned past his marker towards the right hand side of the penalty box, but his shot was angled across the goal, evading both the far post and the onrushing Craig Farrell.

Half-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Stevenage Borough 0

Although the second half was a more open game than the first, it stuttered to a halt with a series of yellow cards for poor challenges, followed by a number of substitutions.

The best chance during the period came when Jefferson Louis did really well to control a high ball, beat his man and put the ball into space on the right for Craig Farrell to run onto, but his low cross was well cut out by Day. Stevenage were able to cause problems for the Diamonds defence with a cross that nobody could get clear until Simon Downer took appropriate action. The visitors created a further chance when Andy Drury made space for a cross, which Beardsley could only hit into a group of players, and once again Simon Downer was able to clear the danger by robbing Stacy Long just before he could take a close range shot. At the other end Paul Terry did well to set up Aaron O’Connor for a shot which went over the bar.

Jefferson Louis had won far more than his fair share of the aerial challenges, as well has setting up Farrell and O’Connor on several occasions, but such efforts meant that he was replaced by Cliff Akurang after 77 minutes. A minute later it looked like the visitors were going to snatch a lead, when a break down their left saw Scott Laird hit a dangerous cross into the area that was flicked on by Yemi Obubade to David Bridges, but his effort was tipped away by Dale Roberts with one of the saves of the season. It had initially looked like the ball may still creep inside the post, or at least hit the post, but the spin imparted on the ball by Roberts fingertips helped the ball to screw past the post.

This was to prove the turning point in the game, as Boro appeared deflated, and the Diamonds started to push forwards looking for a winner. A raid down the right by Michael Corcoran saw him win a corner under a challenge from Laird. Mark Byrne took the kick in the absence of Farrell, and it was headed away by the impressive Jon Ashton, falling to Rob Wolleaston just outside the penalty box. The Diamonds substitute lashed a left foot shot low into the left hand corner of the net for a sensational winner.

The visitors managed one more attack in the five minutes of added time, but a Mark Roberts header did not trouble his namesake. In fact it was the Diamonds who came closest to scoring, with Sam Smith making a fine run down the right, and his cross saw Mark Byrne head the ball into the ground, bouncing up and flicking off the top of the crossbar.

The sponsors Man of the Match went to Simon Downer, and few would argue with that decision as he had a commanding game at the back, but keeper Dale Roberts and the entire back four all had a memorable afternoon.

Full-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Stevenage Borough 0

The Diamonds goal takes them ahead of Stevenage in terms of goals scored this season, and they are now on 53 goals, the same as Tuesday’s opponents Oxford United, and next weekend’s opponents Mansfield Town. With Oxford having resumed their place at the top of the league, it means that Tuesday’s game will be the second time in four days that the Diamonds have faced the league leaders.

Teams: Rushden & Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Michael Corcoran, Kurt Robinson, Max Porter (Rob Wolleaston 65), Jamie Stuart (Capt), Simon Downer, Mark Byrne, Paul Terry, Jefferson Louis (Cliff Akurang 77), Craig Farrell (Sam Smith 85), Aaron O’Connor

Subs Not Used : Joe Day (GK), Curtis Osano

Stevenage Borough: Chris Day, Jon Ashton, Michael Bostwick, Mark Roberts (Capt), Scott Laird, Mitchell Cole (Andy Drury 66), Joel Byrom, David Bridges, Stacey Long, Tim Sills (Yemi Odubade 66), Chris Beardsley (Lee Boylan 82)

Subs Not Used: Ashley Bayes (GK), Mark Albrighton

Goal: Wolleaston (87)

Yellow Cards: Bridges, Bostwick, Terry, Robinson.

Referee: Richard West (Beverley)

Attendance: 1923 (Away 419)

Diamonds Man of the Match sponsored by H Squared: Simon Downer

See here for a video of Rob Wolleaston’s goal thanks to Gary Mabee Productions.

Images courtesy of Mal Swinden ©2012 Malcolm Swinden Photography

Rushden & Diamonds 2 Eastbourne Borough 0

Diamonds crept up into the play-off positions, with a 2 – 0 win over Eastbourne Borough on a cold wintry February evening. Jefferson Louis put Diamonds ahead in first half added time when he headed home a Craig Farrell free kick. Michael Corcoran added a second six minutes into the second half and again it was Farrell’s precise corner kick which found him unmarked at the far post. Diamonds looked comfortable for the remainder of the game with the visitors rarely threatening.

Manager Justin Edinburgh was forced into one change following Lee Tomlin’s 10th booking at Grays on Saturday. Craig Farrell moved up from the bench to join Aaron O’Connor and Jefferson Louis in the forward line.

Eastbourne manager Garry Wilson was without Neil Jenkins following his dismissal on Saturday in their impressive 2-1 against Wrexham. Former Ebbsfleet defender Sacha Opinel had joined on loan from Farnborough on Monday, and went straight into the starting eleven at left back.

Diamonds started strongly, forcing several corners in the opening ten minutes. On each occasion though, Farrell’s ball into the danger area was cleared by the Eastbourne defence. From the fourth effort, the ball came out to Jamie Stuart, who shot wide from the edge of the area.

On 19 minutes, Diamonds had probably one of their best chances when the ball was turned into the area by Mark Byrne. Farrell appeared to hurry his shot however, and cleared the bar with his effort. Moments later, Aaron O’Connor was off target with a shot from the edge of the area. It looked only a matter of time before they went in front as Louis’ shot was deflected to the keeper and a poor first touch from O’Connor saw the ball drift out of his control.

Eastbourne made little impact on the Diamonds goalmouth, with Roberts having little to do in the opening half hour. They played with four at the back and five in midfield leaving just Jamie Taylor up front – supported by Liam Enver-Marum and Joe Benjamin attacking from the midfield. It wasn’t until 31 minutes that there was some concern in the Diamonds defence as the ball bounced around the area after Farrell deflected a cross from the right.

Diamonds continued to press forward, O’Connor’s shot being deflected, Louis forcing keeper Danny Knowles to save at the near post, then Farrell sending another shot wide. As the 4th official indicated just a single minute of added time, O’Connor was upended some 20 yards into the Borough half. Farrell sent the free kick high into the area, and Jefferson Louis rose to nod the ball into the top corner

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Eastbourne Borough 0


It took just six minutes of the second half for Diamonds to increase their lead. Some good movement down the left flank between O’Connor, Louis and Byrne saw the ball blocked for a corner. Farrell picked out Michael Corcoran, unmarked at the far post and his header left Knowles helpless.

Corcoran nearly set up another chance on the hour, O’Connor just being unable to touch the ball past the advancing keeper.

Rob Wolleaston came on in place of the exhausted Mark Byrne on 63 minutes as the visitors continued to pose little threat. Farrell’s set pieces continued to cause problems for the Borough defence and midway through the half, another free-kick found Jamie Stuart who headed just inches wide.

Borough had a brief good spell which culminated on 70 minutes with Gary Elphick heading wide as they tried to get a goal back, but they never really looked like getting back into the game.

In the final fifteen minutes, O’Connor had a shot on target which appeared to hit a defenders hand. Paul Terry, Craig Farrell and substitute Sam Smith (who had replaced O’Connor) all came close to increasing the winning margin, but the two goals were enough to secure the points.

Full Time: Rushden & Diamonds 2 Eastbourne Borough 0


Diamonds can expect a much tougher test on Saturday when Stevenage Borough visit Nene Park. This result will however further increase their confidence and Mansfield’s loss at Stevenage means they are now in 4th place in the League table.


Rushden & Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Kurt Robinson, Max Porter (Nicky McNamara 84), Jamie Stuart, Simon Downer, Aaron O’Connor (Sam Smith 76), Craig Farrell, Michael Corcoran, Mark Byrne (Rob Wolleaston 63), Paul Terry, Jefferson Louis.

Subs not used: Joe Day, Matt Pattison.

Eastbourne Borough: Danny Knowles, Darren Baker, Marc Pullen, Paul Armstrong, Liam Enver-Marum, Matt Crabb, Simon Johnson (Matt Smart 62), Jamie Taylor, Sacha Opinel, Joe Benjamin (Nathan Crabb 74), Gary Elphick.

Subs not used: Dean Lightwood, Simon Weatherstone, Ollie Rowe.

Goals: Jefferson Louis 45+1 (1-0), Michael Corcoran 51 (2-0).

Booked: Nil

Sent off: Nil

Referee: Mr Rob Lewis (Shropshire)

Attendance: 1038 (14 away)

Man of the Match sponsored by Pestfree: Jefferson Louis

Grays Athletic 0 Rushden & Diamonds 3

The Diamonds followed up their impressive victory at Hayes last weekend with another comfortable victory on the road, this time in Essex over Grays Athletic. Aaron O’Connor opened the scoring after 39 minutes after latching onto a reverse pass from Lee Tomlin. The Diamonds added two further goals in the second half, both coming in the aftermath of a missed penalty, Michael Corcoran missed the first, but headed home from the resultant corner. Jefferson Louis missed the second (after also missing an initial attempt that had to be retaken), but was able to knock home the rebound.

The Diamonds first victory at Grays also meant that they now have scored the most goals away from home in the Division, and join Oxford Utd as the first teams to score 50 goals in the season.

The one negative of the afternoon was that Lee Tomlin picked up his tenth yellow card of the season, and will miss the next two games as a result.

Justin Edinburgh made a single change to the team that started at Hayes and Yeading, with the injured Curtis Osano being replaced by Michael Corcoran. Matt Pattison was restored to the bench as a result.

Grays manager Julian Dicks was still integrating a number of new signings into his side, and he gave a start to Andrea Zola, son of West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola. He included a further loan signing Jonathan Glowacki from Colchester United in a total of 3 changes.

On a sunny afternoon, Jamie Stuart used his knowledge of the New Rec to choose to switch ends and force the home side to face the sun in the first half.

The Diamonds started in a similar manner to their recent game at Hayes, denying their opponents possession, and forcing them to rely on long balls for their attacking threat.

The first chance for the Diamonds fell to Michael Corcoran who saw a shot saved following a Diamonds free kick that Martin failed to gather.

Jefferson Louis showed a side of his game not previously seen by Diamonds fans, as twice he made good runs in a wide right position and hit powerful low crosses that narrowly evaded onrushing Diamonds players.

At the other end Harlee Dean was allowed a free header from a Zola free kick that could have threatened Roberts’ goal, but flew wide.

After 20 minutes the Diamonds should have opened the scoring, as Jefferson Louis found himself space in the area from a Tomlin corner, but his shot appeared to hit Aaron O’Connor, who then turned quickly in the six yard box, but could only fire wide.

Tomlin was giving Andrea Zola a torrid time, and his interchange with Jefferson Louis saw him with time and space in the Grays area, but his shot grazed the outside of the post when he really should have hit the target.

It began to look like the first goal was never going to arrive, and the Diamonds domination wouldn’t be reflected on the scoresheet, but in an instant the Diamonds were ahead. A clearance from Roberts was brought under control by Tomlin and his reverse pass into the area set Aaron O’Connor clear, and the ex-Grays striker made no mistake as he opened the scoring with 34 minutes on the clock.

The hosts threatened an immediate reply, as a long ball from Martin was allowed to go over the Diamonds defence for Richard Graham to run onto, but he fired wide.

The impressive Mark Byrne went close with a header that passed keeper Martin, but was headed off the line just before the break, and then in added time a Tomlin free kick from just inside the left touchline was headed over the bar from close range by Jefferson Louis.

Half-Time: Grays Athletic 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

The second half lacked quite as much incisive Diamonds attacking as the first, but they dominated the play throughout the period, with Kurt Robinson linking well with Lee Tomlin, and it was Tomlin who produced the best effort in the third quarter, as his run across the area from left to right saw a shot that went narrowly wide. Tomlin then picked up his tenth booking of the season, as he was frustrated when Jack Hunt was able to dispossess him and run clear with the ball before Tomlin brought him down.

With fewer clearcut chances in the second half, there was a thought that the Diamonds might regret not making more of their first half chances, but after the 70 minute mark was reached the Diamonds were awarded a penalty, as Tomlin ran down the left leaving two defenders in his wake, and was brought down in the box by Jonathan Glowacki, who received a yellow card. After recent failures from the spot, it was Michael Corcoran who stepped up to take it, following his success at Workington. Unfortunately his penalty was too close to Martin, who made a comfortable save, and saw the rebound cleared for a corner. Corcoran was quickly able to make amends though, as the well hit corner from the left by Tomlin went over the Grays defence, and Corcoran was able to stoop and head home at the far post.

Craig Farrell came on to replace Aaron O’Connor, and as in the Hayes game he immediately looked dangerous, and after 79 minutes was able to break into the penalty box on the end of a Byrne pass, and was brought down by keeper Martin. This time it was Jefferson Louis who stepped up to take the kick, but his penalty to Martin’s right was well saved, but referee Davies signalled there had been an offence by the defending team, and that the kick should be retaken. There was some debate involving Louis, Stuart and Downer about who should take this third penalty, but Louis stepped up again, this time hitting the penalty to Martin’s left – but again it lacked power and placement, and Martin pulled off another save, and was thus unfortunate to see Louis bundle the rebound home.

Matt Pattison replaced Tomlin, and should have done better with his first touch – a shot on goal when he found acres of space on the left side of the area.

Although Dale Roberts had very little to do in the second half, with the Diamonds back four in control throughout, his distribution was spot on, and it was reassuring to see that he had not been affected by recent transfer speculation, as he fully deserved his clean sheet.

Full-Time: Grays Athletic 0 Rushden & Diamonds 3

With nine goals in the two recent away games, the Diamonds are treating their travelling fans to excellent entertainment this season. The question of who will be the next Diamonds penalty taker was the subject of some debate amongst Diamonds fans, and those that have seen so many missed this season were reflecting that the best penalty they had seen from a Diamonds player this season was from goalkeeper Dale Roberts in the pre-season tournament in Devon.

The Diamonds now have to prepare to face Eastbourne Borough on Tuesday evening at Nene Park, a team who will be buoyed by a victory over in-form Wrexham on Saturday.


Grays Athletic: Richard Martin, Jack Hunt, Andrea Zola, Jonathon Glowacki, Gavin Hoyte, Harry Baker (Alex Rhodes 57), Harlee Dean, Paolo Vernazza (Jordan Wilson 78), Wayne Gray, Richard Graham, Jamie Guy.

Subs Not Used: Danny Bunce, Kenny Davis, Preston Edwards

Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Michael Corcoran, Kurt Robinson, Paul Terry (Rob Wolleaston 78), Jamie Stuart (Capt), Simon Downer, Mark Byrne, Max Porter, Aaron O’Connor (Craig Farrell 74), Jefferson Louis, Lee Tomlin (Matt Pattison 84)

Subs Not Used: Joe Day (GK), Sam Smith

Goals: O’Connor (39), Corcoran (70), Louis (79)

Yellow Cards: Zola, Hunt, Tomlin, Glowacki

Referee: A Davies

Attendance: 476 (Away approx 150)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Lee Tomlin

See here for video highlights

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