Kettering Town 0 Rushden & Diamonds 3

An immaculate performance saw Rushden & Diamonds preserve their proud record against their neighbours Kettering Town when they achieved a 3-0 victory thanks to goals from Craig Farrell and Mark Byrne in the first half, and Lee Tomlin in the second.. The first half performance was one of the best of the season from the Diamonds, perhaps topped only by the performance at Hayes, with only some wayward finishing preventing a much bigger half-time lead.

The victory was an excellent reward for the 700 travelling fans, most of whom had to stand out in pouring rain all evening, and the players showed their appreciation for this support as they celebrated on the pitch after the final whistle.

The one concern was the hamstring injury picked up by Michael Corcoran which saw him stretchered off in the first half. The Diamonds have now scored two successive away victories against their biggest threats for a play-off spot – Wimbledon and Kettering.

The victory preserves the Diamonds unbeaten record in league games against their local rivals on their home turf, and means the overall record in league games between the teams is now P14 W8 D5 L1.

The result also means that the play-off battle in East Northamptonshire took a big turn in the Diamonds favour, with the result helping to preserve their fourth place position in the Blue Square Premier, 10 points ahead of their local rivals with a game in hand.

Justin Edinburgh kept the side that defeated AFC Wimbledon at the weekend. After an impressive debut on Saturday, new signing Shane Luke retained his place on the bench, alongside Rob Wolleaston, with Wes Thomas replacing Cliff Akurang.

Poppies manager Lee Harper made two changes to the team that drew with Mansfield Town at the weekend, bringing in Darren Wrack and Pascal Ebigbo for Jean-Paul Marna and Greg Taylor.

The game kicked off with heavy rain making the pitch very soft, with a number of heavy bounces of the ball early on, and a number of players struggling to find their feet.

Within three minutes the Diamonds were ahead. A flowing move saw the ball chipped forwards by Lee Tomlin, well controlled by Craig Farrell who quickly laid it ball off to Mark Byrne, who found Aaron O’Connor on the right, and his low cross was swept home by Craig Farrell as he ran in at the far post.

The Diamonds then won a succession of corners, with good variation from Mark Byrne seeing each one present a threat on goal, and also highlight shortcomings in the home defence.

Darren Wrack had been brought in to play at right back and look after Lee Tomlin, but after 12 minutes Tomlin found space and time on the left control a long kick from Dale Roberts, then beat his marker and slot the ball to Aaron O’Connor who was running to the left byline, and the striker quickly laid the ball back for Mark Byrne to fire home from six yards.

The Diamonds fans celebrated the goals with gusto, but were temporarily silenced when they saw Michael Corcoran stretched off with a serious looking injury, meaning a second Diamonds appearance for Shane Huke, who filled in for Corcoran at right back.

The hosts did have one chance in the half, with James Dance failing to get a clean contact on a Jennings cross, but from then on it was Diamonds domination for the remainder of the half.

Aaron O’Connor was finding his way past his marker on a regular basis, and he turned past Ian Roper to lay a slide-rule pass to Craig Farrell who was clear on goal. The striker chose to shoot from outside the penalty area, and missed the target. O’Connor might have done better with a header in front of goal, and then had a similar chance to Farrell, created by Tomlin, but he too chose to shoot early and missed the target.

There were four minutes of added time in the half, with Lee Tomlin blazing a free kick wide from the edge of the area, and Aaron O’Connor shooting over after being set clear by Mark Byrne.

Referee Lewis brought the action to an end which had seen a Diamonds first half domination equalled only by the first period performance at Hayes, but with some reflection on how wayward finishing had prevented a more significant lead.

Half Time : Kettering Town 0 Rushden & Diamonds 2

The incessant rain continued into the second half, with those Diamonds fans out in the open continuing to get fully behind their team despite the weather

The O’Connor / Farrell partnership was continuing to create chances, with an O’Connor burst into the area finding his strike partner at the near post, but his attempted flick was edged wide by Dempster.

Although the Diamonds weren’t as dominant in the second period, their third goal was reward for earlier efforts, Craig Farrell had been back helping out his midfield after Shane Huke took a throw near his own corner flag, and he picked up the ball 10 yards or so inside his own half, before hitting a defence splitting pass for Lee Tomlin to run onto, evade a tackle from Wrack and slot home past Abbey.

With the game now decided, the Diamonds brought on Jefferson Louis for Tomlin, and the striker was quickly involved with the action, starting an excellent passing move after receiving the ball on the right from Shane Huke, beating his man and then feeding it to Aaron O’Connor who in turn found Max Porter who quickly played it back to Louis for a near-post shot that hit the angle of post and bar.

Mark Byrne came close to getting his second goal of the game, with Abbey forced to save his shot after he had been set up by Louis, and then Craig Farrell burst into the clear, but his well hit shot was saved by Abbey.

Dale Roberts was called upon to make his only sharp save of the evening with just four minutes left when he smothered a low shot from Jean-Paul Marna. The final Poppies attack saw Mark Byrne capping a tremendous performance as he headed away a deep cross from James Dance.

There was still time for the Diamonds to threaten a fourth goal, with the game moving into injury time, with Shane Huke getting forwards, but his shot cleared both the goal and the away end perimeter fence.

Full Time : Kettering Town 0 Rushden & Diamonds 3

This was a comprehensive victory for the Diamonds, getting off to the perfect start, and then completing the task in the second half. To have scored back-to-back away victories against their main playoff rivals represents an excellent four days for the club, but they are fully aware they need to focus on the challenge presented by the visit of Crawley Town to Nene Park on Friday.

The win was the Diamonds ninth away win of the season (not including the game at Chester), which is the most away wins the team have picked up in League games (either Conference or Football League) since the 2000-01 season.

The three goals take the Diamonds to 69 goals for the season, and they now share the lead in the Conference top-scorers race with Stevenage and Luton – but are several goals better off with their away goals total of 33.

Teams:

Kettering Town: Nathan Abbey, Darren Wrack (Kwesi Appiah 72), John Dempster, Ian Roper(Capt), James Jennings, Patrick Noubissie, Jordan Hadfield, André Boucaud, Pascal Ebigbo (Elliott Charles 80), James Dance, Danny Thomas (Jean-Paul Marna 63)

Subs Not Used: Alton Thelwell, Greg Taylor

Rushden & Diamonds; Dale Roberts, Michael Corcoran (Shane Huke 17), Kurt Robinson, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Curtis Osano, Mark Byrne, Max Porter, Nicky McNamara (Rob Wolleaston 82), Craig Farrell, Aaron O’Connor, Lee Tomlin (Jefferson Louis 67)

Subs Not Used: Joe Day (GK), Wes Thomas

Goals: Farrell (3mins, 0-1), Byrne (12mins, 0-2), Tomlin (64mins, 0-3)

Yellow Cards: Farrell (dissent)

Referee: Rob Lewis (Shropshire)

Attendance: 2031 (Away 712)

Diamonds (Joint) Man of the Match: Mark Byrne / Craig Farrell

For Video Highlights of the game see here or here

Images courtesy of Mal Swinden ©2012 Malcolm Swinden Photography

AFC Wimbledon 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

The Diamonds clinched a vital victory in their push for the playoff places, with a 1-0 victory at Kingsmeadow. A Craig Farrell goal after 55 minutes settled the game after he broke clear and latched onto a shrewd pass from Aaron O’Connor, giving the Diamonds a deserved three points. This was the Diamonds first victory over their opponents who had been having a fine season, and are still pushing towards the play-offs themselves.

Justin Edinburgh made two changes from the side that drew with Oxford United on Wednesday, with Aaron O’Connor starting in place of Jefferson Louis, and Nicky McNamara replacing the injured Paul Terry for just his third start of the season. New signing Shane Luke took a place on the bench, with Simon Downer also unavailable due to injury.

Dons manager Terry Brown had to replace the injured Jon Main, and also made further changes following his side’s midweek defeat at home to Barrow.

It was the Diamonds first visit to Kingsmeadow in almost 10 years, and the work that the Dons had done on the stadium was impressive, as were their efforts in making their visitors welcome, with the 225 or so travelling fans being housed behind the goal that used to be the home end in previous visits.

The first half was shaded by the Diamonds, as they came closest to taking the lead. Lee Tomlin forced a flying save from keeper Pullen after 5 minutes, after a mazy run on the left that had turned two home defenders inside out. Michael Corcoran found space to get a header on goal from the resultant corner, but it was scrambled away. Tomlin was giving stand-in right-back Sam Hatton a torrid time, and he also created opportunities for Farrell and O’Connor, but last ditch defending denied both of them. At the other end Dale Roberts had to make saves from Danny Kedwell and Luke Moore following breaks by Moore broke down the left.

Farrell and O’Connor were combining well, and the partnership saw a reverse pass from Farrell find O’Connor towards the right edge of the area, and he held off a challenge before hitting a shot that was well saved by Pullen. The partnership also came close when Farrell flicked on a Corcoran throw, and O’Connor saw his shot blocked by Pullen.

Kurt Robinson had a rare chance in front of goal after good work by Michael Corcoran saw him get to the byline, and his cross was headed to Robinson just outside the area, but his shot was into the crowd.

The Diamonds performance was a true team performance, with every man willing to chase and close down, giving the Dons little time to get a flowing game together. After some initial threat from set pieces, the Diamonds failed to take advantage of two corners in quick succession, taken by Mark Byrne.

Lee Tomlin produced a repeat of the run and low cross seen in recent games, but this time it was Aaron O’Connor who narrowly managed to slide the ball into goal.

Half-Time: AFC Wimbledon 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

The Diamonds continued to create the better chances in the second half, although the Dons had a rare chance for a strike on goal five minutes into the half when a move involving Ricky Wellard and Danny Kedwell saw Kedwell’s cross reach Will Hendry with space for a shot towards the left-hand side of the area, but Dale Roberts continued his impressive recent performances by getting across quickly to block the shot.

At the other end Lee Tomlin was continuing to torment Hatton, and he turned the defender “inside-out” before curling a ball across the area which Max Porter narrowly failed to connect with what would have been a certain goal-scoring strike.

The deserved Diamonds goal was soon to follow, as more excellent work in the Diamonds defence to thwart the Dons threat saw the ball headed forwards from Jamie Stuart via Mark Byrne to Aaron O’Connor about 10 yards inside the home half, and he turned and hit a reverse ball into the path of Craig Farrell, who held off two defenders before he coolly rolled a shot into the net past an advancing James Pullen.

The Diamonds kept the pressure up, with a run from Tomlin down the left seeing Hatton forced to haul him down and earn a yellow card for the challenge. Craig Farrell was unable to repeat the free-kick he scored against Oxford from a similar position, with the ball flying over the bar.

The Diamonds lost the impressive Nicky McNamara after he suffered a deep cut to his knee, possibly picked up as he and Jamie Stuart both tried to clear a high ball, giving Shane Huke his Diamonds debut. The Diamonds kept their rhythm, and one excellent move down the left saw great hold-up play from Craig Farrell and a flick across field to Mark Byrne who flicked the ball on to Aaron O’Connor without it touching the ground, but the striker shot wide.

Dale Roberts made a save from an angled shot by Luke Moore, low down in front of the right hand post, although the shot looked to be going marginally wide. At the other end Jefferson Louis was causing a different kind of threat to the home defence, winning his side a free kick in a dangerous position when fouled by Judge, but again Farrell wasn’t able to produce the quality free kick he has proven he is capable of.

Although the action was punctuated by a number of substitutions following the McNamara injury, and a leg injury for Aaron O’Connor, the Diamonds midfield continued to chase and harry their opponents, with Byrne and Porter covering every blade of grass over and over.

The injuries meant that referee Bull awarded a full 6 minutes of added time, and in the first of these the Diamonds could have made the game safe, when debutant Huke won the ball in midfield, found Jefferson Louis with a clever pass, and then ran on to receive the return ball clear of the Dons defence. He decided to hit the ball first time, rather than take a touch that his pace had probably allowed him to have, but his shot was off target. Mark Byrne then had his chance to score the goal his performance deserved when he latched onto a loose ball after poor defensive work from the Dons, but Pullen reacted quickly and smothered the shot.

The Dons had a final corner and a shot from Ricky Wellard was caught by Roberts to preserve his clean sheet before referee Bull blew the final whistle to confirm a fine Diamonds victory.

Full-Time: AFC Wimbledon 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

The Diamonds travelling fans have now seen nine away wins in the league this season (including the “non-game” against Chester City) – the most away wins in the league since the club won the Conference in 2001.

The Diamonds now look forward to the trip to local rivals Kettering Town on Tuesday, with a number of knocks collected in the game to be assessed alongside the injuries to Paul Terry and Simon Downer. Although the season is nearing its final weeks, there is still a lot more football to be played before the league positions are confirmed, and that will continue at Nene Park on Good Friday evening when Crawley Town are the visitors.

Teams

AFC Wimbledon : James Pullen, Samuel Hatton, Steven Gregory, Ricky Wellard, Paul Lorraine (Capt), Ben Judge, Glenn Poole (Nathan Elder 63), Brett Johnson, Will Hendry (Kennedy Adjei 54), Danny Kedwell, Luke Moore

Subs Not Used: Derek Duncan, Seb Brown (GK), Jay Conroy

Rushden & Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Michael Corcoran, Kurt Robinson, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Curtis Osano, Mark Byrne, Max Porter, Nicky McNamara (Shane Huke 70), Craig Farrell, Aaron O’Connor (Cliff Akurang 85), Lee Tomlin (Jefferson Louis 74)

Subs Not Used: Joe Day (GK), Rob Wolleaston

Goal: Farrell (55)

Yellow Cards: Hatton, Johnson, Byrne, Judge

Referee: Michael Bull

Attendance: 3640 (Away approx 225)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Nicky McNamara

For video highlights see here.

Match Gallery Pictures courtesy of Mal Swinden

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Oxford United 1

The Diamonds battled to a draw with high-flying Oxford United at Nene Park. A Craig Farrell free-kick had given the Diamonds the lead just before the hour mark, with a deflection helping the ball into the net. The lead lasted less than 10 minutes before a defensive mix-up allowed substitute Sam Deering to chip the ball into an empty net. Neither goalkeeper was called upon to make more than one significant save, so the draw seemed a fair result, and takes the Diamonds back to fourth in the league on goal difference.

Justin Edinburgh kept faith with the team that started at Altrincham on Saturday, with Simon Downer returning to take a place on the bench.

Oxford manager Chris Wilder brought in veteran Chris Hargreaves and ex-Diamond John Grant in his starting line-up.

The first half-hour was very even, with the Diamonds playing the ball through midfield, and also making use of the flanks, with Craig Farrell constantly putting the U’s defenders under pressure. The visitors adopted a long ball approach, and twice threaten the Diamonds defence with a long ball over the top, with Curtis Osano using his pace to quash one threat, and the other proving to be a break by from an offside position. John Grant was also caught narrowly offside when running onto a pass from James Constable.  Dale Roberts was forced into his one meaningful save of the game after 11 minutes when he caught a shot by Francis Green.

The Diamonds best chance in this period came when Francis Green hauled down Jefferson Louis towards the left-hand corner of the penalty box, and the resulting Tomlin free kick curled just away from a charging Paul Terry as he beat a static U’s defence into the six-yard box. Michael Corcoran also went close when Craig Farrell beat Anthony Tonkin a challenge before backheeling the ball into the path of the Diamonds defender, but Corcoran’s shot was just over the bar.

Referee Naylor played a good advantage when he allowed Lee Tomlin to continue a run despite having his arm pulled back, but the Diamonds player delayed a split-second too long and it was blocked.

The last fifteen minutes of the half saw the U’s best period of the game, with the Diamonds forced back in their own half for a long period, but Jamie Stuart marshalled the defence and prevented a real threat on Dale Roberts’ goal. The closest they came was when Michael Corcoran deflected away a Simon Clist cross for a corner.

As half-time approach the Diamonds produced one of the best moves of the half, with Craig Farrell winning the ball in midfield and working it out to Lee Tomlin on the left. Tomlin’s curling ball across the area looked to be an ideal ball for Jefferson Louis to get on the end of – but the striker was a fraction too late to get the touch on the ball that would have surely beaten keeper Clarke.

Half-Time : Rushden & Diamonds 0 Oxford United 0

The second half started with the Diamonds looking the more threatening team, and a clever ball from Lee Tomlin on the half-way line saw Mark Byrne break free on the left, but his cross was cut out just in front of Craig Farrell.

As the hour mark approached, Lee Tomlin made a break down the Diamonds left, and was hauled down by Damian Batt towards the left-hand side of the Oxford penalty area, which earned the U’s player a booking. Craig Farrell took only his second free-kick of the game, and his powerful shot was knocked into the roof of the net by Rhys Day just as it was crossing the goal-line, with the Diamonds management confirming they expected the goal to be awarded to Farrell, as the shot was curling into the net and beating keeper Clarke anyway.

With the visiting fans silenced, the Diamonds brought on Aaron O’Connor for Jefferson Louis, and this almost brought an immediate return when O’Connor and Farrell burst past the U’s defence, with Farrell appearing to be clear on goal before being pulled back for offside. Michael Corcoran then set up Lee Tomlin for a shot that was blocked as the Diamonds looked to increase their lead.

The Diamonds only remained in front for ten minutes, and as at Altrincham they conceded an equaliser that owed more to a defensive mix-up that saw Simon Clist put Dale Roberts and Kurt Robinson under pressure, and as Robinson mishit his attempted clearance under pressure from Deering, Clist got to the ball ahead of Roberts and it fell to Sam Deering who was able to chip the ball into an undefended net.

The goal was an unjustified return for a Diamonds defence that had silenced the threat of Constable and Grant so comprehensively all evening, and once again the sight of a clipped shot dropping into an unguarded Diamonds net will have disappointed both the team and those fans who were at Altrincham on Saturday.

Chances for the remainder of the game were fairly sparse, with Max Porter emulating James Constable in firing a shot over the roof of the Peter De Banke terrace as he failed to make it four games in a row where he has been on the scoresheet.

Full-Time : Rushden & Diamonds 1 Oxford United 1

The Diamonds now have one less day to prepare for the vital game in Kingston on Saturday when they face AFC Wimbledon. Ex-Diamonds Billy Turley, Ray Warburton and Jon Brady were able to discuss "old times" after the game, with Brady perhaps recalling one of his free-kick goals at Kingsmeadow. With Chris Hope also in attendance along with a number of Conference managers the Wednesday fixture had allowed a larger than normal number of scouting missions.

Teams: Rushden & Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Michael Corcoran, Kurt Robinson, Max Porter, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Curtis Osano, Mark Byrne, Paul Terry, Jefferson Louis (Aaron O’Connor 62), Craig Farrell (Cliff Akurang 90), Lee Tomlin

Subs Not Used: Joe Day (GK), Simon Downer, Matt Pattison

Oxford United: Ryan Clarke, Damian Batt, Rhys Day, Jake Wright, Anthony Tonkin, Dannie Bulman, Simon Clist, Chris Hargreaves, John Grant, James Constable, Francis Green (Sam Deering 63)

Subs Not Used: Billy Turley (GK), Matthew Green, Mark Creighton, Lewis Chalmers

Goals: Farrell (58, 1-0), Deering (67, 1-1)

Yellow Cards: Robinson, Batt, Corcoran

Referee: M Naylor (S Yorks)

Attendance: 2970 (Away 1353)

Diamonds Man of the Match sponsored by Paul Lewcock: Paul Terry

Altrincham 2 Rushden & Diamonds 2

The Diamonds conceded an injury time equaliser in a game they should have won comfortably, drawing 2-2 at Moss Lane.

The Robins took the lead against the run of play after 34 minutes when the ball was swept across the Diamonds area, and Peter Doran found Shaun Densmore in space on the right hand side, and his attempt on goal deflected off Kurt Robinson to give Dale Roberts no chance. The Diamonds had created many chances during the first half, with Jefferson Louis hitting the bar, and Coburn saving well from Louis and Lee Tomlin (twice), so the equalising goal was well deserved. A Tomlin corner was cleared out to Max Porter, and his cross back into the area deflected off John McAlister (not Greg Young as originally thought) for what was initially credited as an own goal, but later reviews suggested the goal should be credited to Max Porter himself. The Diamonds had many chances to take the lead in the second half before Paul Terry scored the goal his performance deserve, scoring with a deflected left-foot shot. The Diamonds then allowed a late equaliser as Curtis Osano failed to deal with a bouncing ball, and Chris Denham chipped the stranded Dale Roberts.

Justin Edinburgh made two changes to the starting XI that achieved the 8-0 victory at Nene Park last weekend, with Craig Farrell starting in place of Aaron O’Connor, and Curtis Osano replacing Simon Downer who was not risked due to a knee problem. Cliff Akurang returned as the one other change on the bench

Altrincham manager Graham Heathcote welcomed back captain Robbie Lawton as one of his two changes to the side that defeated Kettering Town on Tuesday evening.

The pattern of the game was quickly established, with the Diamonds winning the majority of the challenges, even in the final third, but their finishing lacked the killer touch, with efforts fired wide or at Stuart Coburn. A Kurt Robinson cross from the left flicked off the head of Michael Welch which was just enough to stop Jefferson Louis heading home. Craig Farrell was causing the home defence real problems, and his turn left a marker in his wake before an accurate pass to the feet of Lee Tomlin saw a turn and shot saved by Coburn.

After 12 minutes the home side had their first dangerous attack of the game, with Chris Senior setting up Peter Doran for a shot that was deflected for a corner, and from the resulting kick there was a scramble in front of goal before Paul Terry forced the ball clear.

At the other end Jefferson Louis fired against the angle of post and bar after forcing his way past two defenders and into the left-hand side of the area, and he then turned provider when he received the ball from a tenacious Max Porter and fired a low cross across the face of goal which Lee Tomlin was unable to stretch or dive to reach.

A sweeping Diamonds move involving Corcoran and Farrell saw Mark Byrne hit a dangerous cross that was cleared for a corner, and then Louis forced a save from Coburn after a great turn in the area. Tomlin then brought an even better save out of Coburn when he received a flick from Louis, burst past two defenders and fired a shot that looked destined for the top corner. Louis then fired into the side netting as it looked a matter of time before the Diamonds took the lead.

As often happens, it was the hosts who took the lead, against the run of play, as a break down the left saw the ball fed into the centre, where Peter Doran kept the ball moving out to the unmarked Shaun Densmore on the right. His shot took a big deflection off Kurt Robinson to give the Robins the lead after 34 minutes – it looked like the shot was going wide without that deflection, and may have been intended as a pass to a teammate.

Curtis Osano and Dale Roberts then had a moment of indecision in dealing with a long ball, and Osano had to make a last ditch clearance for a corner.

The Diamonds got a deserved equaliser after 40 minutes. Craig Farrell hit a cross into the path of Lee Tomln, but it was intercepted by Robbie Williams for a corner. The result corner found the head of Jamie Stuart, but a challenge forced the ball out of the box to Max Porter, who hit a curling ball back into the box, and it found its way into the net, with a deflection off John McAlister (not Greg Young as originally thought) for what was initially credited as an own goal, but later reviews suggested the goal should be credited to Max Porter himself.

There was still time for Lee Tomlin to threaten to give the Diamonds a half-time lead, as his sublime ball control saw him control a long ball from Paul Terry with an excellent touch, beat two defenders and hit a low cross which once again there was nobody to slot home.

Half-Time: Altrincham 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

The Diamonds started the second half with a bang, and had three great chances inside the first five minutes of the half. Corcoran, Byrne and Farrell combined with the striker hitting a shot just wide of the left-hand post, and then Byrne fired a chance over the bar, and then another low ball across the box saw Jefferson Louis fail to force the ball home at the left-hand post.

Greg Young was then rather lucky to only receive a yellow card when he pushed Lee Tomlin over as he tried to recover the ball after Louis was fouled.

The Diamonds hit the woodwork for the second time in the game when Craig Farrell headed a Tomlin cross onto the bar, and it was no surprise when the Diamonds took the lead shortly after bringing on Aaron O’Connor as a substitute. He played a 1-2 with to Paul Terry who was running in towards the right-hand side of goal, and Terry’s left-foot shot also took a deflection, but it looked goal bound anyway.

The Diamonds then had further chances to make the game safe, as once again an excellent Diamonds break ended up with a dangerous ball fired low across the area, this time by Aaron O’Connor, but again there was nobody to bundle the ball home. At the other end Chris Denham turned and fired onto the Diamonds crossbar, but another good break by the visitors saw O’Connor and Terry combine, with latter dissecting the home defence for Matt Pattison to hit a shot that was scrambled wide.

After referee Wigglesworth signalled four minutes of added time, it was in the fourth of these that the Robins forced an equaliser, as a long ball forwards saw Osano and Roberts uncertain who should deal with it, with the centre back failing to control a ball which fell to Chris Denham who hit a shot that flew over the retreating Roberts head and into the net to make the final score 2-2.

Full-Time: Altrincham 2 Rushden & Diamonds 2

The Diamonds were much the better side in this game, and could have had the game wrapped up well before the late equaliser. Having lost to Altrincham earlier in the season, this game showed the level of improvement at the club, and although disappointing, there were still many positives from the game. It was a better performance than at Histon or Tamworth, both of which ended up with the three points heading back to Northants.

The Diamonds now face Oxford United on Wednesday evening, with the U’s playing on Sunday afternoon to try to regain second spot in the table.

Teams :

Altrincham: Stuart Coburn, Shaun Densmore, Greg Young, Robbie Williams, Ryan Brown, Peter Doran (Colin Little 69), Anthony Danylyk (Adam Carden 21), Robbie Lawton (capt), Michael Welch, John McAliskey (Chris Denham 54), Chris Senior

Subs Not Used: Russell Saunders (GK), Nicky Clee

Rushden & Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Michael Corcoran, Kurt Robinson, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Curtis Osano, Mark Byrne, Max Porter, Paul Terry, Craig Farrell (Aaron O’Connor 72), Jefferson Louis, Lee Tomlin (Matt Pattison 84)

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

Goals: Densmore (34, 1-0), Porter (40, 1-1), Terry (73, 1-2), Denham (90+4, 2-2)

Yellow Cards: Young, Robinson, Byrne, Terry, Denham

Referee: R Wigglesworth

Attendance: 1035 (Away approx 125)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Paul Terry

Rushden & Diamonds 8 Gateshead 0

The Diamonds maintained their excellent recent run of results with a record-breaking victory over Gateshead by eight goals to nil at Nene Park – their best ever league victory at home. The Diamonds took the lead after 6 minutes when a Mark Byrne corner was headed home by Jamie Stuart. After chances for both sides the Diamonds got a second goal on the stroke of half-time when a Jefferson Louis cross was flicked through a gap in the defence by Lee Tomlin for Max Porter to run onto and slot home his second goal in successive games. The Diamonds went on to score six goals in the second half, with goals from Jefferson Louis (2), Mark Byrne, Lee Tomlin, Craig Farrell and Simon Downer.

Justin Edinburgh brought back captain Jamie Stuart and Paul Terry after suspension, meaning that Matt Pattison and Curtis Osano started on the bench. Gateshead manager Ian Bogie was without suspended Andy Ferrell in midfield, as well as captain Kris Gate, and ex-Diamond Daryl Clare was a surprise absentee.

A late change of referee saw James Adcock take charge of a Diamonds game for the fifth time.

The game started brightly, and for the second game running there was an excellent early chance for Aaron O’Connor, who did really well to take a Max Porter pass in his stride, but his shot was palmed into the air by keeper Farman, and then cleared away from danger by a covering defender.

Mark Byrne then saw a shot saved, but the first Diamonds goal wasn’t too long coming. Craig Baxter fouled Lee Tomlin on the half-way line in front of the North Stand, but referee Adcock played an excellent advantage, allowing to Jefferson Louis to break forwards and win a corner. Adcock was then able to show Baxter a yellow card as Tomlin received treatment. With Tomlin off the pitch, the corner was taken hard and low by Mark Byrne, and Jamie Stuart had made a clever run to find space and head home the opening goal, with a defender on the line only able to head the ball up into the top of the net.

There was an immediate chance for the Diamonds to increase their lead, as Lee Tomlin led a break down the Diamonds right, with the visiting defence pushed forwards, and he squared the ball to the equally unmarked Mark Byrne who was running down the left channel. Unfortunately the midfielder took the ball early and thus brought the ball towards the centre of the field, allowing a challenge to come in and quash the goal-threat.

The visitors first chance came following a cross from Peter Winn, with the ball flicked into the area, where it was headed on by Graeme Armstrong towards Carl Jones, but Dale Roberts was alert enough to gather at his feet.

As the half-hour approached the second Diamonds goal was proving elusive. Jefferson Louis worked a 1-2 with Kurt Robinson, before firing a shot that Farman saved well.

The Diamonds won their second corner of the game, and this time Tomlin took it, and he picked out Michael Corcoran on the far post, who perhaps could have done better than heading over the bar.

Aaron O’Connor and Mark Byrne both had sight of goal, but chose to shoot from long range allowing Farman to gather, and Roberts was called into action at the other end to stop a powerful shot by Peter Winn.

As the end of the half was approaching there was a general feeling that the Diamonds had failed to capitalise on their early goal, with a tendency to overplay at times – and indeed this had led to several Gateshead breaks that might have seen them sneak an equaliser.

The turning point in the game was thus perhaps on the stroke of half-time, as Jefferson Louis received the ball from Mark Byrne out on the right flank and hit an accurance low cross to Lee Tomlin who was running in towards the Tynesiders defence. Tomlin threaded a pass first-time through the defence for Max Porter to run onto and slot home his second goal in two games, after opening his account for the club last weekend.

Half-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 2 Gateshead 0

After the Diamonds had finished the first half with a vital second goal, it was important they didn’t concede a goal back at the start of the second, and after an early chance for Max Porter the visitors had their best chance of the game, with an effort from Graeme Armstrong well saved by Dale Roberts after a Parkinson corner.

After that early scare the Diamonds broke down the left, with Mark Byrne winning the ball and setting Lee Tomlin free down the left wing. His cross found Jefferson Louis on the right hand side of the box, and he hit a shot on the half-volley across the keeper for the Diamonds third goal.

Jefferson Louis was having an excellent game, showing control with both head and feet, and his flick-on of a Robinson throw found Mark Byrne, who allowed the ball across his body before stroking home the fourth goal.

The Diamonds fifth goal came after 65 minutes, and this time it was Lee Tomlin who profited from some good play and an unselfish pass from Max Porter in the centre of the area after Craig Farrell, Mark Byrne and Jefferson Louis had combined down the Diamonds left channel. Tomlin received the ball on the right hand side of the area, and dinked it over the onrushing Farman and into the net.

Any thoughts that the Diamonds might settle for the five goals were dispelled by the actions of captain Jamie Stuart as he cajoled his players to keep focussed during a break in play. Craig Farrell had joined the action after the fourth goal, and he was clearly hungry to get his name on the scoresheet, as well as assisting his team-mates improve upon their goal difference.

It was Farrell who provided a pinpoint delivery for the sixth goal, as he broke down the right to latch onto a pass from Sam Smith, before hitting a cross for Jefferson Louis to head home his second goal of the game

Although the Diamonds finishing during the second half had been clinical (in contrast to the first), there was still time for keeper Farman to make a tremendous save from a Craig Farrell volley on the turn, tipping it over the bar for a corner, from which Curtis Osano headed over from a good position in front of goal.

Jefferson Louis returned the compliment from his earlier goal when he received the ball in the centre circle, holding off one defender before setting off on a run towards goal before he laid the ball to Craig Farrell who was just outside the right-hand corner of the box. Farrell took a touch to take the ball just inside the box and then hit a powerful right foot shot across the keeper and inside the far post to make it seven-nil. This was possibly the best goal of the afternoon – although perhaps Max Porter’s goal to make it 2-0 was the most important.

Visiting keeper Farman had not been at fault for any of the first seven goals, but he picked up a yellow card for continually protesting the decisions of the impressive Mr Adcock.

The goalscoring was not over though, and after 7 good goals there was a comic hint to the eighth. Simon Downer moved into the opposition half to close down a visiting midfielder, and then continued to chase an inconclusive pass into defence, before continuing to chase down the back-pass to Farman. The keeper’s afternoon went from bad to worse as he tried to hack clear forwards rather than sideways, and the mishit clearance span back to Downer, allowing the Diamonds defender to collect the loose ball and slot home his first goal for the club.

Apart from a late chance for Jefferson Louis to seal a deserved hat-trick which he fired wide, the game ended 8-0 without further incident, with credit also due to the travelling fans who had stayed until the end of the game before their long trip home.

Full-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 8 Gateshead 0

The 8-0 victory is the record home victory in league games, equalled only by a similar scoreline in a County Cup game. The previous record was a 7-0 victory over Redditch United in 1994. It means that Justin Edinburgh has been in charge for both the Diamonds record away victory (9-0 at Weymouth), and the record home league victory.

The team now have a free week to prepare for the trip to Altrincham next weekend, with their hosts facing Kettering in midweek, giving the Diamonds management team a chance to plot an approach to what will be the first of a tough run-in for the team, with all their remaining opponents in the top 12 in the table apart from Ebbsfleet,

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Michael Corcoran (Curtis Osano 66), Kurt Robinson, Max Porter, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Simon Downer, Mark Byrne, Paul Terry, Jefferson Louis, Aaron O’Connor (Craig Farrell 61), Lee Tomlin (Sam Smith 76).

Subs Not Used: Joe Day (GK), Matt Pattison

Gateshead: Paul Farman, Craig Baxter, Carl Jones, Phil Turnbull, Andy Parkinson (James Sinclair 53), Chris Swailes, Brian Wake (Steven Richardson 53), Graeme Armstrong, Peter Winn (Wayne Phillips 68), Paul Heckingbottom (Capt), Alex Francis,

Subs Not Used: Jim Provett (GK), Wayne Buchanan

Goals: Jamie Stuart (6mins, 1-0), Max Porter (45mins, 2-0), Jefferson Louis (50mins, 3-0), Mark Byrne (54mins, 4-0), Lee Tomlin (65mins, 5-0), Jefferson Louis (78mins, 6-0), Craig Farrell (81mins, 7-0), Simon Downer (85mins, 8-0)

Yellow Cards: Baxter (Foul), Armstrong (Foul), Farman (Dissent)

Referee: James Adcock (Notts)

Attendance: 1414 (Away 31)

Diamonds Man of the Match: A team performance

For video highlights see here.

Images courtesy of Mal Swinden ©2012 Malcolm Swinden Photography

Tamworth 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Diamonds were delighted to come away from the Lamb Ground with all three points as they moved into the top three in the League table. It looked like Diamonds might regret a number of missed chances in the first half as Tamworth came back strongly during the second period, but Max Porter’s first goal for Diamonds on 83 minutes secured the win as the defence held out for the remaining time. 

 

Justin Edinburgh was forced to make one change with Nicky McNamara being suspended after his red card against Histon in midweek – Matt Pattison coming into the starting line-up. Rob Wolleaston was still suffering from his hamstring injury, so with only fifteen first team players available, youngster Aynsley McDonald came onto the bench.

 

Tamworth boss Gary Mills kept the same side which beat Gateshead on Tuesday evening, with just one change to the bench which saw reserve keeper Chamberlin Fankem replaced by striker Jay Smith. Both sides played a 4-3-3 formation.

 

Diamonds started well and within the opening two minutes, had carved out a great opportunity as Jefferson Louis, Lee Tomlin and Aaron O’Connor combined well allowing Louis to cross in from the right. O’Connor shot on the turn, but keeper Danny Alcock did well to initially block the shot, before gathering the loose ball before the Diamonds No.7 could follow up his effort.

 

The home side’s first chance came on 10 minutes when former Diamond Tom Shaw was fouled some ten yards outside the area, but Michael Blackwood free kick failed to trouble Dale Roberts.

 

Tomlin was the main instigator as Diamonds tried to push forward. He shot over the bar before sending a free kick straight at the keeper, but on 31 minutes, another free kick found Louis unmarked with a free header, but the on loan striker nodded wide of the post.

 

As the half came to a close, Tomlin, suffering from a foot injury, went down too easily on successive challenges and was consequently booked for diving, but he continued to cause problems for the home side as moments before the break, he set up Matt Pattison on the right flank. Pattison’s cross was inch perfect for Louis, but he was just unable to steer the ball past Alcock.     

 

Half-time: Tamworth 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

 

Tamworth came out some five minutes early for the second half, and when play resumed, they certainly started with more urgency than they had shown during the first period. On 49 minutes, they came close to going in front as Bradley Pritchard played a through ball for Iyseden Christie. The Lambs striker shot towards the far post, but Roberts made a superb one handed blocked, the ball being parried across the goal line. As Seb Lake-Gaskin tried to follow up, Kurt Robinson – making his 50th League appearance for Diamonds – threw himself at the lose ball to clear away the danger. The ball came straight back into the area however, with Christie squandering another great chance, striking the ball over the bar.

 

Captain Michael Corcoran received a yellow card for a challenge on Blackwood on 58 minutes, before another Tomlin free kick found Louis again – his header comfortably saved by the keeper. Tamworth continued to push forward, and Michael Wylde came close, heading wide from a Tom Shaw corner. Diamonds had another scare on 67 minutes when a long ball forward from Blackwood just held up short of the penalty area. Roberts hesitated allowing Christie to steal the ball, but this time, it was Curtis Osano to the rescue as he booted the ball away.

 

Diamonds were lacking any sort of rhythm, and Edinburgh made a couple of changes with Sam Smith replacing Tomlin, and Craig Farrell coming on for Louis as the game entered the final fifteen minutes. The change seemed to do the trick and on 83 minutes, Mark Byrne went down the left flank and pulled the ball back into the middle where Max Porter, some 20 yards out, struck the ball low past the keeper and into the corner of the net.

 

As the clock ticked down, Cliff Akurang replaced Matt Pattison leaving Diamonds with four strikers on the field! In the five minutes of added time, they played the ball towards the corner flag wherever possible, and apart from a Christie effort that was comfortably held by Roberts, held out for the three points.

 

Full Time: Tamworth 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1     

 

Two successive 1-0 away wins has given Diamonds a real chance of a top five finish. The next game should have been against Chester City on Tuesday evening, but with their expulsion from the Conference, the game has been cancelled. Diamonds next game is now at Nene Park against Gateshead next Saturday (13 March), and with both Jamie Stuart and Paul Terry available for selection, Justin Edinburgh will have a headache over which eleven will start the game.

 

Teams:

Tamworth: Danny Alcock, Richard Tait, Michael Blackwood, Chris Smith (c), Michael Wylde, Neil MacKenzie (Jerome Murdock 86), Alex Rodman (Jake Sheridan 74), Bradley Pritchard, Tom Shaw, Seb Lake-Gaskin, Iyseden Christie.

Subs not used: Des Lyttle, Michael Briscoe, Jay Smith.

 

Rushden & Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano, Kurt Robinson, Max Porter, Simon Downer, Aaron O’Connor, Lee Tomlin (Sam Smith 71), Michael Corcoran (c), Matt Pattison (Cliff Akurang 88), Mark Byrne, Jefferson Louis (Craig Farrell 78).

Subs not used: Joe Day, Aynsley McDonald.

 

Goals:  Max Porter 83 (0-1).

 

Booked: Lee Tomlin 40 (dive), Michael Corcoran 58 (foul)

 

Sent off: Nil.

 

Referee: Mr Wayne Barratt (Worcs)

 

Attendance: 1016 (approx 200 away).

Histon 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

The Diamonds returned to winning ways with a hard fought victory on the road, this time in Cambridgeshire over Histon FC. The win was courtesy of a 10th minute penalty from Lee Tomlin after Aaron O’Connor was felled in the box. The Diamonds played over 50 minutes with 10 men after Nicky McNamara was shown a red card for a high challenge.

Justin Edinburgh brought in Michael Corcoran as captain to replace Jamie Stuart, moving Curtis Osano to centre back. Nicky McNamara replaced Paul Terry with Rob Wolleaston still unavailable due to injury. The ex-Stutes striker Cliff Akurang had to be content with a place on the bench.

Stutes manager Alan Lewer left out keeper Danny Naisbitt after he failed to agree contract terms. Striker Andy Pugh had joined on loan from Gillingham in the past week, and he was given a place on the bench. Referee David Coote was officiating at his third Diamonds game this season, having previously been in charge for the games against York and Tamworth at Nene Park.

The half started with a wave of Histon attacking in the first five minutes as the Diamonds struggled to adjust to their new formation and personnel, but the next five minutes firmly belonged to the visitors, as several dangerous attacks on the home goal narrowly failed to gain any return, with Nicky McNamara heading wide from a good position. A great move was started by Mark Byrne winning the ball in midfield, with the ball zipping between Jefferson Louis and Aaron O’Connor back to Byrne who passed to Lee Tomlin, but his return pass was cut out. Nine minutes were on the clock when a ball in from the left found Aaron O’Connor, who flicked the ball to the side of his marker before being clearly tripped by Adam Tann, and referee Coote had no option but to point to the spot. Lee Tomlin was the chosen penalty taker despite recent misses, and he hit the ball high to the keeper’s left, although Knight did get a hand to the ball.

Although it had initially looked like the home side were planning to play more football than in previous games, going a goal behind meant that they started to rely on the long ball, long throw and long free-kick game again. The Diamonds defence held firm, and although Histon had more of the possession, it was the Diamonds attacks that had the greater thrust. Max Porter went close on the end of an excellent Diamonds passing move after 17 minutes, with captain Corcoran providing the key pass.

As the game approached half-time, Nicky McNamara went in for a challenge on Lee Smith, and although he won the ball, his follow through was rather high, sparking loud protests from the home bench and the sparse home crowd who were gathered in that area. Referee Coote produced a red card, and the unfortunate McNamara had to leave the pitch on his return to action.

The Diamonds defence had to redouble their efforts to maintain a clean sheet up until half-time, with the home side winning a number of corners, and referee Coote offering little protection for the back five as they were held down, pushed or obstructed during the set piece moves.

Half Time: Histon 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Justin Edinburgh made a tactical change at half-time, replacing Aaron O’Connor with Matt Pattison, allowing a switch to a 4-4-1 formation for the 10 men, with Tomlin and Pattison playing on the left and right midfield respectively.

The half saw the home side have much of the territorial advantage, as the Diamonds were content to play the ball up to Jefferson Louis, who was winning most of the aerial challenges against Langston and Tann, despite their reputation for aerial dominance.

Despite this advantage the Stutes struggled to create clear-cut chances, with Charlie Sheringham failing to take advantage of a couple of half-chances, and late substitute .

Lee Tomlin made a couple of runs that threatened, with one pass narrowly failing to find Mark Byrne, and another seeing a shot curl just wide of the right hand post, but his class came to the fore when he brought a long clearance from Dale Roberts under control with a deft touch, flicking it inside his marker before shooting just wide of the right hand post.

Matt Pattison joined Jefferson Louis in picking up yellow cards during the second half, with both committing fouls just in front of the home bench and the concentration of the small number of home fans – the same area that McNamara made his challenge in the first half.

From the resultant free kick the Stutes had perhaps their best chance of the game, as a Gwillim free kick found its way to Matt Langston, but their captain capped a disappointing evening on a personal level by hitting a shot that was gathered by Dale Roberts.

Referee Coote signalled 5 additional minutes despite the fact neither trainer had entered the field of play during the second half, but the Diamonds held firm, with Craig Farrell showing his maturity by keeping the ball in the home side half for an extended period.

Full Time: Histon 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Trips to Histon are never associated with attractive flowing football, and this game was no exception, but the 200 or so Diamonds fans will have gone home happy with the three points and the solid rearguard action with 10 men, despite the lion’s-share of the 50/50 decisions seeming to go to the home side.

They now have two days to prepare for the trip to Tamworth on Saturday.

Teams:

Histon: David Knight, Erkan Okay (Andrew Tidswell 84), Matt Langston (Capt), Adam Tann, Gareth Gwillim, Bradley Hudson-Odoi, Glen Southam, Lee Smith, Nathaniel Knight-Percival, Danny Wright, Charlie Sheringham (Andy Pugh 68)

Subs Not Used: Joe Welsh (GK), Callum Stewart, Max York

Rushden & Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Michael Corcoran (Capt), Kurt Robinson, Curtis Osano, Simon Downer, Mark Byrne, Max Porter, Nicky McNamara, Aaron O’Connor (Matt Pattison H/T), Jefferson Louis (Cliff Akurang 81), Lee Tomlin (Craig Farrell 84)

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

Goal: Lee Tomlin (Pen, 10)

Red Card : McNamara

Yellow Cards : Louis, Hudson-Odoi, Robinson, Pattison

Referee: David Coote (Newark)

Attendance: 583 (away 190)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Michael Corcoran

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