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.


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


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