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

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