Rushden & Diamonds 1 Oxford United 1

The Diamonds battled to a draw with Oxford United in the first leg of the play-off semi-final at Nene Park with the game ending 1-1. The visitors dominated the first quarter, and took the lead just before the half-hour mark when a cross from the right was not dealt with, and James Constable was able to turn and fire low into the right-hand side of the net. The Diamonds performance improved considerably after that goal, and they equalised shortly after the break when an incisive ball from Paul Terry found Mark Byrne who fired high into the net. The final result was a reasonable one given the Diamonds recovery from their slow start, and the team will start on level terms for the second leg, bringing back memories for Diamonds fans of their previous two-legged playoff semi-final against Rochdale.

Justin Edinburgh chose the team that was perhaps expected, with Farrell, O’Connor and Tomlin up front, and Simon Downer returning to the back four. Cliff Akurang and Jefferson Louis provided the striking options on the bench.

Oxford manager Chris Wilder also chose to play a 4-3-3 formation with Constable, Midson and Matt Green up front.

After a fairly quiet first ten minutes, with neither keeper called into action, the visitors began to dominate proceedings, and started to create chances. The best chance fell to Matt Green, who tried an overhead kick as the ball flew over Jamie Stuart’s head and toward the centre of the penalty area, but his effort was over the bar. Curtis Osano managed to get forwards on two occasions, and from one run down the right he hit a low square ball to Mark Byrne after collecting a pass from Tomlin, but Byrne’s shot was blocked.

A Mark Byrne cross from the left found the head of Craig Farrell, but his flicked effort was wide of Clarke’s left hand post.

The U’s took the lead their pressure deserved after 29 minutes when a Batt cross found James Constable and Simon Clist on the edge of the Diamonds box. Although there initially looked to be little danger, the Oxford striker took control of the situation to swivel and hit a powerful shot low into the right hand side of the net, giving Roberts no chance.

Given the domination of the visitors to that point, there was concern that the Diamonds might go down to their first defeat by two goals or more since the first game of the season, and given them a mountain to climb in the second leg, but the goal seemed to energise the home side, and they started to play the ball around the Oxford defence. One such attack saw good work from Craig Farrell to deceived Batt and set up Aaron O’Connor with a good shooting chance but his shot skewed off the recovering Batt for a corner.

A fine move involving Tomlin and Byrne saw O’Connor head over from just outside the six yard box, but at the other end Dannie Bulman fired a powerful shot just wide that would have tested Roberts. Farrell continued to create chances for others, and Lee Tomlin shot wide from one of them.

 

Half-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Oxford United 1

After such a disappointing start to the game, the half-time team talk was key to whether the Diamonds could build on their improved performance of the last 10 minutes of the half, and use their passing game to keep the visitors under pressure.

It was quickly clear the Diamonds had the determination necessary to get back in the game, with Aaron O’Connor finding space in the area but shooting wide, before the move that created the Diamonds equaliser. Oxford midfielder Adam Chapman went to ground under a solid challenge near the centre circle, but his team-mates seemed to have forgotten the old adage of playing to the whistle, as they once again directed their attention to the referee, but Mr Coote was not swayed and waved play on. Paul Terry took possession and hit a slide-rule pass into the path of Mark Byrne who took a touch before firing a powerful shot high into the net. The visitors continued their protests, but Mr Coote stood firm.

The Diamonds brought on ex-U’s forward Jefferson Louis to replace another – Craig Farrell – and he almost had an immediate impact when he burst towards the Diamonds fans on the Peter De Banke terrace and exchanged a 1-2 with Aaron O’Connor before seeing his shot blocked. Farrell had missed a number of games recently, so was beginning to tire, and similar changes were made during the half to replace Lee Tomlin and Simon Downer who had also missed games recently.

Paul Terry was rivalling Mark Byrne and Jamie Stuart in the man-of-the-match stakes, but he was guilty of a clumsy challenge on the edge of the box, but Adam Chapman fired the free kick over the bar.

Jack Midson had a chance to get on the scoresheet, but his shot on the turn was deflected wide.

Referee Coote was having to cope with many of his decisions being contested by the visitors, as well as being questioned by the U’s players about his degree of punishment meted out when he awarded yellow cards to three Diamonds players, but on the whole he remained in control of the game, and wasn’t intimidated by these actions. However his authority was called into question when he allowed the Oxford captain Constable to seemingly dictate where the Diamonds keeper Dale Roberts should take a free kick, moving the ball several yards to Roberts left, even though the referee was signalling for the kick to be taken.

There was a late chance for Aaron O’Connor as he found space on the edge of the area to get in a shot that was blocked by Batt, but perhaps that would have produced an unfair final scoreline.

Full-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Oxford United 1

The Diamonds now have to check on the fitness of those players who had to be substituted as they prepare for the return leg on Monday afternoon.

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano, Kurt Robinson, Max Porter, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Simon Downer (Shane Huke 89), Mark Byrne, Paul Terry, Aaron O’Connor, Craig Farrell (Jefferson Louis 60), Lee Tomlin (Cliff Akurang 74)

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

Oxford United: Ryan Clarke, Damian Batt, Mark Creighton, Jake Wright, Anthony Tonkin, Dannie Bulman, Simon Clist, Adam Chapman, Matt Green (Alfie Potter 67), James Constable (Capt), Jack Midson (Kevin Sandwith 90+4)

Subs Not Used: Billy Turley (GK), Sam Deering, Rhys Day

Goals : Constable (29mins), Byrne (51mins)

Yellow Cards: Downer, Tomlin, Terry

Referee: Mr D Coote (Notts)

Attendance: 4537 (Away 2333)

Diamonds Man of the Match sponsored by First Defence Solicitors: Mark Byrne

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Luton Town 1

Rushden & Diamonds shared the spoils with Luton Town at Nene Park in the final game of the regular season in a game that ended 1-1. The result means that the Diamonds will face Oxford United in the Blue Square Premier playoff games. The visitors took the lead after nine minutes when Adam Newton broke down the right, and the ball found Tom Craddock via Kevin Gallen, and he fired past Roberts. The Diamonds fought back after a slow start and equalised after 20 minutes when Sam Smith flicked a ball onto Mark Byrne who fired low into the net.

Justin Edinburgh made seven changes from the team that beat Wrexham last weekend with Lee Tomlin returning from injury alongside Jefferson Louis and Sam Smith up front. Max Porter moved to right-back, with Curtis Osano moving to left back to replace Kurt Robinson, who was absent due to illness. This allowed Shane Huke to partner Jamie Stuart in the centre of defence. Midfield regulars Paul Terry and Mark Byrne returned to midfield alongside Matt Pattison.

Those changes meant both clubs fielded a strong side, as Luton manager Richard Money made three changes from the team that drew with Altrincham, with Kovacs, Gnakpa and Barnes-Homer joining the starting line-up. The game was played in front of 4870 fans, the biggest attendance at Nene Park since the visit of Northampton Town in the League 2 days.

With such an unfamiliar look to the Diamonds defence, the first 15 minutes belonged to the visitors as the Diamonds players adjusted to their new roles. After an early chance for Simon Heslop, the Diamonds had their first meaningful attack in the eighth minute when Lee Tomlin and Matt Pattison played a 1-2 towards the right corner of the Hatters area, before Tomlin appeared to be tripped just outside the box. In perhaps his only controversial decision of the day, referee Kinseley waved play on, allowing the visitors to break down the right with Adam Newton, and he hit a low ball to the edge of the Diamonds box to Kevin Gallen, who quickly flicked it into the path of Tom Craddock setting him up for an easy finish past Roberts.

The goal seemed to inspire the Diamonds more than the visitors, and after a chance for Jefferson Louis from a Tomlin pass they won a corner from which Louis shot wide. At the other end Heslop set up Gallen for a shot which was well saved by Dale Roberts.

Good work by Lee Tomlin set up Matt Pattison for a shot that was blocked before the Diamonds equalised after 20 minutes. Paul Terry knocked a ball into the box which was flicked on by Sam Smith standing in the "D" on the edge of the box to Mark Byrne who had slipped his marker, and the Diamonds midfielder finished clinically past Tyler.

Tom Craddock had a great chance to restore the visitors’ lead when he sprung the Diamonds offside trap, but shot wide when clear on goal.

Curtis Osano was relishing his new role, and he made three excellent breaks down the left, each one taking him to the edge of the Luton box, but one ended with a wayward shot, one with a blocked shot, and the other saw a left foot shot saved.

Craddock created another great chance for himself as he broke down the right and shot from an acute angle, but his shot rebounded off the post and away to safety, and then had his final chance of the half when his volley from a Heslop cross went just wide.

Half-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Luton Town 1

The second half started in a similar vein, with Matt Barnes-Homer having a low shot saved by Roberts, and then Max Porter made an excellent run down the right before setting up Sam Smith who forced a corner.

Craig Farrell replaced Lee Tomlin before this corner was taken after 55 minutes, and within 30 seconds had almost given the Diamonds the lead, as the corner wasn’t fully cleared, and Shane Huke chased down the loose ball toward the left corner and hit an accurate cross which Farrell almost converted.

Tom Craddock was having an excellent game, but his finishing let him down again shortly afterwards when once again Heslop set him up for a shot from a narrow angle.

The Diamonds weren’t creating as many chances as their hosts, but their finishing looked more dangerous, as seen on the hour mark, when the Diamonds were awarded a free kick in a dangerous position for a foul on Mark Byrne by Fred Murray, and Craig Farrell hit a blistering free-kick past the wall that Tyler showed fast reflexes to stretch up an arm and make a great save.

After this save and another good chance for the visitors that saw Asa Hall denied by a great save from Roberts, and the follow-up flagged offside it looked like the game was likely to end all-square, and so it proved, despite a poor miss from Hall with the game entering added time.

 

Final Score : Rushden & Diamonds 1 Luton Town 1

The post match presentations to Diamonds players for their fine achievement this season had to be slightly delayed due to a lack of respect shown by the visiting fans, but the Diamonds will reflect on a fourth place finish in the Blue Square Premier that puts them ahead of fellow ex-League teams such as York City, Cambridge United, Wrexham and Mansfield Town.

The focus can now switch to preparation for the first leg of the play-off semi-final against Oxford United on Thursday evening – details of ticket selling arrangement are here.

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano, Max Porter, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Shane Huke, Paul Terry, Mark Byrne (Rob Wolleaston 66), Matt Pattison (Cliff Akurang 77), Jefferson Louis, Sam Smith, Lee Tomlin (Craig Farrell 55)

Subs Not Used: Joe Day (GK), Aynsley McDonald

LutonTown: Mark Tyler, Janos Kovacs, George Pilkington (Capt), Adam Newton, Tom Craddock (Mark Nwokeji 88), Jake Howells, Rossi Jarvis, Kevin Gallen (Asa Hall 63), Fred Murray, Matt Barnes-Homer, Simon Heslop (Shane Blackett 70)

Subs Not Used: Shane Gore (GK), Ed Asafu-Adjaye

Referee: Nick Kinseley (Essex)

Goals: Craddock (9), Byrne (20)

Yellow Cards: None

Attendance: 4820 (Away 2797)

Diamonds Man of the Match sponsored by FirstDefence : Curtis Osano

Wrexham 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

A much-changed Rushden & Diamonds showed great spirit and determination to defeat Wrexham at the Racecourse Ground. The Diamonds goal came after 17 minutes when a Matt Pattison corner was flicked on to Aaron O’Connor at the far post, and his over the shoulder effort squeezed in from a very narrow angle. The main concern though, was the injury sustained by O’Connor in the second half, as he had to be stretchered from the field with a twisted ankle after being tripped by Aaron Brown. The Diamonds had to constantly reorganise in the second half, with Aynsley McDonald given his league debut as a substitute, after Joe Day was similarly given his first start, as the Diamonds held firm with a final back four of Porter, Huke, Osano and McDonald.

Justin Edinburgh made five changes from the team that lost to Mansfield Town in midweek, meaning a league debut for keeper Joe Day, a first appearance of the season for Jake Beecroft, and recalls for Nicky McNamara, Simon Downer and Sam Smith. Aaron O’Connor captained the side with regular skipper Jamie Stuart on the bench along with Mark Byrne, Max Porter, Aynsley McDonald and Dale Roberts. It meant there were only three players in the starting line up that also started against Wrexham at Nene Park in January.

Wrexham manager Dean Saunders made three changes, with Adrian Cielswicz, Christian Smith and Aaron Brown starting the game.

In front of a big crowd on a sunny afternoon in Wales the home side had the better of the early possession, but it was the Diamonds who created the first good chance, with a Matt Pattison cross being shielded back to Aaron O’Connor by Sam Smith, and the Diamonds skipper forced a good low save from keeper Maxwell.

Sam Smith had a run down the centre which forced another save from Maxwell before the Diamonds took the lead after 17 minutes. Manour Assoumani fouled Cliff Akurang just inside the Wrexham half, and the Matt Pattison free-kick was deflected away for a corner. Pattison also took the kick, and it was knocked down by Curtis Osano towards the far post, to where Aaron O’Connor had made a clever run, and the Diamonds stand-in skipper flicked the ball over his shoulder and into the net despite the efforts of Maxwell and two defenders. O’Connor pointed to his captain’s armband as he celebrated the opening goal, which took him level with Lee Tomlin at the top of the Diamonds scorers list in all games this season..

The Diamonds had a scare at the other end when a corner from Mark Jones was fired towards goal by Mansour Assoumani but it was scrambled clear by Simon Downer, and as half-time approached a low ball across the area from Adrian Cieslewicz eluded everyone and went away for a goal kick.

Half-Time: Wrexham 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

The second half started with the Diamonds still looking the most likely to convert the chances created, and Aaron O’Connor went close to scoring his 16th of the season when he showed excellent ball skills to bring an Akurang cross under control, but his shot was blocked.

With less than 10 minutes of the half gone, the Diamonds made their first change, with Aynsley McDonald making his league debut at right back, when Shane Huke moved to centre back to replace Simon Downer as the Diamonds management took the sensible step of bringing off Downer knowing that a second yellow card would mean a three match ban given his earlier dismissals this season. Huke was following up his impressive game at Mansfield with an assured performance at both right back and centre back. The Diamonds defence had several permutations during the half, as later on in the half Kurt Robinson was also replaced, he too having picked up an earlier yellow card. That meant McDonald moved to his more familiar position of left back, with Max Porter entering the action at right back.

After 56 minutes the Diamonds appeared to be denied what looked a certain penalty as he was clattered into by keeper Maxwell when about to "pull the trigger" on a shooting chance. Referee Bond was not able to make a decision in the face of the protests of the home crowd behind the goal that Smith had exaggerated what looked like solid contact.

Just after the hour mark the Red Dragons won a corner on their left, with Aaron Brown forcing debutant McDonald to concede the kick. As happened several times, a poor corner was easily cleared, and Aaron O’Connor set off on a run with only Brown preventing him getting clear on goal. A very poor challenge from Brown saw O’Connor brought down, and he had to be stretchered from the field with an ankle injury. It was a surprise that Brown was only shown a yellow card, especially as this meant that such a poor challenge was equated with some fairly innocuous challenges that had earned yellow earlier.

Following O’Connor’s injury Mark Byrne came on, and he was given a more forward role than usual, and his clever runs in the centre helped create more space on the flanks for Matt Pattison who was having one of his most impressive games for the club, after having started the game as the most experienced midfielder in the side. A Pattison cross from the left eluded the home defence, but Smith and Byrne appeared to get in each others way in their eagerness to finish what looked an excellent chance. Byrne also went very close with a well-hit shot that shaved the left-hand post with Maxwell beaten.

The one real scare for debutant Joe Day in the second half occurred when he came to the edge of the area to clear up a loose ball, and some confusion with Huke and McDonald meant he knocked the ball towards striker Gareth Taylor, whose attempted lob towards an empty net went just over the bar. Aaron Brown had a couple of attempts on goal from outside the box during the half, but Day was able to watch them fly to safety in the empty terrace behind his goal.

The game ended after six minutes of added time, with the home fans rather disgruntled, despite the fact they had gained admission for free.

Full-Time: Wrexham 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

The victory wrapped up an excellent season "on the road" for the Diamonds, with 10 victories (11 if the Chester game is included), and none of their 5 defeats being by more than a single goal.

With York City having dropped two points at home to Grays, the Diamonds are now back in fourth position in the table, but other results mean the race for second and third place is still open. Either way, the Diamonds know that if they match York’s result when they host Luton Town next weekend they will finish in fourth position.

Teams:

Wrexham: Chris Maxwell, Curtis Obeng, Mansour Assoumani, Ashley Westwood (Capt), Adrian Cieslewicz (Wes Baynes 77), Mark Jones (Silvio Spann 63), Kristian O’Leary, Christian Smith, Aaron Brown, Gareth Taylor (Matty Wolfenden 80), Andy Mangan.

Subs Not Used: Sam Russell (GK), Kai Edwards

Rushden & Diamonds: Joe Day, Shane Huke, Kurt Robinson (Max Porter 79), Simon Downer (Aynsley McDonald 54), Curtis Osano, Nicky McNamara, Jake Beecroft, Matt Pattison, Aaron O’Connor (Capt) (Mark Byrne 63), Sam Smith, Cliff Akurang

Subs Not Used: Dale Roberts (GK), Jamie Stuart

Goal: Aaron O’Connor (17mins)

Yellow Cards: Obeng, Downer, Robinson, McNamara, Brown

Referee: Darren Bond (Lancs)

Attendance: 5672 (Away approx 270)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Curtis Osano

Mansfield Town 3 Rushden & Diamonds 2

Rushden & Diamonds unbeaten run ended in controversial fashion at Field Mill after they had twice taken the lead. After seeing three solid penalty claims for the Diamonds turned down, the Stags were awarded what looked the weakest claim of the night as the game entered injury time, when Kyle Nix fell under a challenge from Mark Byrne, and Robert Duffy fired home to give the home team a 3-2 win. By that time the Diamonds were down to 10 men, with Jefferson Louis dismissed for a second yellow card, and they had seen the home side get into the game twice courtesy of defensive errors. The Diamonds took the lead after 16 minutes when Jefferson Louis threaded the ball through the centre of the Stags defence to Aaron O’Connor whose excellent first touch allowed him to run on and strike the ball past Alan Marriott. The Diamonds had dominated the early play, especially in midfield, but a mistake by Jamie Stuart allowed the Stags to equalise early in the second half. Sam Smith had restored the Diamonds lead with a well-taken goal before another defensive error allowed a long ball from Marriott to reach Speight who netted his second goal of the night. The late drama then followed, with the penalty giving the Stags an undeserved victory.

The dismissal of Louis for a second yellow card for a foul in midfield was made more disappointing by the fact that home player Steven Istead was only shown a yellow card for a very poor two footed lunge at Paul Terry shorly after the Diamonds had gone 2-1 ahead. Cliff Akurang was also shown a controversial yellow card for diving by referee Simpson in one of the penalty incidents, despite the fact there was clear contact from Alan Marriott after the keeper had spilled an Aaron O’Connor shot.

This was the 1000th game in the Diamonds history, and their performance deserved more from the game, which also ended their unbeaten record at Field Mill. Those looking at the result might suspect it was as a result of the Diamonds throttling back their performance after they had won a place in the play-offs – yet in fact they had performed really well until they gifted the Stags their opening goal, which seemed to wake up the home side and their fans.

O’Connor’s goal was his fourteenth in all competitions for the Diamonds this season, leaving him just one behind Lee Tomlin in the race to be top scorer for the club this season – and one ahead of Craig Farrell.

Justin Edinburgh made several changes from the team that beat Ebbsfleet United in order to reach the playoffs with Shane Huke filling in at right back, Matt Pattison replacing the rested Max Porter, and Jefferson Louis starting up-front with Cliff Akurang in place of Craig Farrell and Lee Tomlin.

Mansfield manager David Holdsworth included ex-Diamonds Alan Marriott, Gary Mills and Andy Burgess in his starting XI, with Rob Duffy on the bench.

The first half belonged almost entirely to the Diamonds, as they completely dominated midfield, with ex-Diamonds Mills and Burgess looking well off the pace. Up front Jefferson Louis was working the right channel, O’Connor on the left, with Cliff Akurang in the centre.

Louis found his way past Andy Nicholas to get a low cross that Aaron O’Connor couldn’t quite reach, and then a Diamonds corner saw Curtis Osano find plenty of room for an unchallenged header that Alan Marriott pushed around the post. Another Louis cross went over Marriott, but dropped narrowly over the bar. All three Diamonds strikers threatened to break through the shaky looking home defence, and it was no surprise to see the Diamonds take the lead after 16 minutes when Jefferson Louis picked up the ball in the centre circle and threaded a ball that dissected the home defence for Aaron O’Connor to run onto and fire home a well-hit low shot from just outside the area for his fourteenth goal of the season.

Matt Pattison was playing in the centre of midfield for much of the half, but he did have a couple of opportunities to run at the Stags defence down the flanks, including one breakaway that was created by Mark Byrne that resulted in the Diamonds having three against two, but Pattison chose a long ball to O’Connor when a better option might have been a return pass to the breaking Byrne, or to take on the final covering defender in front of him. The ball flicked off O’Connor’s head and out for a throw.

Pattison also set up O’Connor for a chance on the half-hour mark that forced ex-Diamonds keeper Alan Marriott to make a fine save, and then Louis blazed over before a rare Stags attack saw Louis Briscoe tackled by the impressive Curtis Osano. The one time Osano did look troubled in the half was when Andy Nicholas put the ball past him towards the left corner flag, but somehow decided to try to beat him a second time and the Diamonds defender got the ball away to safety.

Further chances fell to Mark Byrne and Matt Pattison before half-time as the Diamonds pushed for the second goal their first half performance clearly merited. As half-time approached it looked like that chance was to be from the penalty spot, as cross from Mark Byrne was clearly handled on the edge of the six yard box by Gary Silk, but neither referee Simpson or his assistant could have seen the incident otherwise a penalty would have been awarded.

Half-Time: Mansfield Town 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

After the Diamonds had dominated the first half, silencing the home crowd other than their criticism of their own players, it was important that they continued in that vein in the second half. Unfortunately it was a Diamonds mistake that gave the Stags the opening that their performance looked unlikely to generate. A routine long ball towards the left hand corner of the Diamonds half saw Jamie Stuart lay the ball back to Dale Roberts. Roberts wasn’t in a position to kick upfield, so passed it back to Stuart, but the skipper chose to take two touches, the second of which was intercepted by Kyle Perry, and he quickly worked the ball across to Jake Speight who fired past Roberts for the equaliser.

This changed the hosts’ approach to the game for a while, and they had a good chance for a second goal when a long cross from the left from Nix which went over several players to Kyle Perry but his header from a narrow angle clipped the bar and away to safety.

The Diamonds were still finding holes in the home defence, and one of the major controversies of the night came on the hour mark when Aaron O’Connor tricked his way past two defenders on the Diamonds left before hitting a shot that Marriott could only parry. As Cliff Akurang went after the loose ball there was clear contact with Marriott, but, rather than awarding what looked a clear penalty, referee Simpson booked Akurang for an alleged dive.

Shortly afterwards Sam Smith was brought on for Akurang, and within three minutes he had restored the Diamonds lead. Jefferson Louis had an “assist” for the first Diamonds goal, and he had a part in the second when he worked a Mark Byrne headed pass into the path of Sam Smith whose first touch took him past his marker, and his second fired the ball high into the net past Alan Marriott.

Once again the home crowd were silenced, but shortly after the goal substitute Steven Istead was extremely lucky to only receive a yellow card for a two footed challenge on Paul Terry, but after his initial anger at the danger of the challenge Terry sportingly offer his hand to Istead, helping to keep him on the pitch.

The Diamonds had their third solid penalty claim of the night waved away by the referee, when another run by livewire Aaron O’Connor was slowed by an attempted trip and flailing foot of a defender, after he ran past his marker and into the penalty area, but the striker’s attempt to keep on his feet allowed referee Simpson to wave away the claims. Jamie Stuart then sliced a clearance which flew across goal, but otherwise the Diamonds defence were being rarely threatened at this stage of the game.

The Diamonds were continuing to close down the ineffective Stags midfield, and they did this to such an effect they were forced to retreat all the way back to Marriott after an attack broke down midway into the Diamonds half. Marriott’s long ball deceived Jamie Stuart, who could only deflect the ball into the path of the breaking Jake Speight who ran forwards and lobbed the advancing Roberts for the second equaliser.

Jefferson Louis had been supporting the Diamonds midfield all evening, but a challenge on Luke Foster in front of the dugout earned him a yellow card, and then a challenge on Briscoe saw referee Simpson decide to give him a second yellow card.

The Stags and their fans had now come to life, and with the numerical advantage they had their only period of domination of the game, as their midfield finally started to get some time on the ball. and the run of Louis Briscoe down the Stags right saw him evade the challenges of Stuart and Robinson and knock the ball low across the area that seemed to give Speight a simple tap-in for his hat-trick, but somehow he got the ball tangled beneath his feet and it squirmed wide. There were also claims for a penalty when Nix brushed past Byrne but nothing was given.

There was still time for the final controversy of the night, when Mark Byrne challenged Kyle Nix in the Diamonds box and the Stags forward threw himself to the ground. Although the penalty claim looked far less clear-cut than the three earlier claims for the Diamonds, referee Simpson pointed to the spot. After a delay Rob Duffy hit a penalty just to the left of centre of the goal that Roberts came close to stopping, but the Diamonds had seen their unbeaten run come to an end.

Full-Time: Mansfield Town 3 Rushden & Diamonds 2

Although it was disappointing to see the unbeaten run come to an end in the way it did, the quality and energy of the Diamonds performance, especially in the first 60 minutes, meant that they could look back with some satisfaction on the 1000th game in their history.

They are on the road again at the weekend as they travel to Wrexham for their final away trip of the season.

Teams: Mansfield Town: Alan Marriott, Gary Mills, Scott Garner, Louis Briscoe, Luke Foster (Capt), Gary Silk (Stevie Istead 66), Jake Speight, Andy Nicholas, Kyle Perry (Rob Duffy 54), Kyle Nix, Andy Burgess

Subs Not Used: Neil Collett (GK), Matt Somner, Jon Shaw

 

Rushden & Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Shane Huke, Kurt Robinson, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Curtis Osano, Mark Byrne, Paul Terry, Matt Pattison (Max Porter 73), Aaron O’Connor, Jefferson Louis, Cliff Akurang (Sam Smith 68)

Subs Not Used: Joe Day (GK), Nicky McNamara, Jake Beecroft

Goals: O’Connor (0-1, 16mins ), Speight (1-1, 48mins), Smith (1-2, 72mins), Speight (2-2 78mins), Duffy (pen, 3-2, 90mins)

Yellow Cards: Silk, Akurang, Istead, Louis, Duffy, Speight

Red Card: Louis (84 – second yellow)

Referee: Jeremy Simpson

Attendance: 2031 (Away 178)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Mark Byrne

Mansfield Town 3 Rushden & Diamonds 2

Mansfield Town 3 Rushden & Diamonds 2

Rushden & Diamonds unbeaten run ended in controversial fashion at Field Mill after they had twice taken the lead. After seeing three solid penalty claims for the Diamonds turned down, the Stags were awarded what looked the weakest claim of the night as the game entered injury time, when Kyle Nix fell under a challenge from Mark Byrne, and Robert Duffy fired home to give the home team a 3-2 win. By that time the Diamonds were down to 10 men, with Jefferson Louis dismissed for a second yellow card, and they had seen the home side get into the game twice courtesy of defensive errors. The Diamonds took the lead after 16 minutes when Jefferson Louis threaded the ball through the centre of the Stags defence to Aaron O’Connor whose excellent first touch allowed him to run on and strike the ball past Alan Marriott. The Diamonds had dominated the early play, especially in midfield, but a mistake by Jamie Stuart allowed the Stags to equalise early in the second half. Sam Smith had restored the Diamonds lead with a well-taken goal before another defensive error allowed a long ball from Marriott to reach Speight who netted his second goal of the night. The late drama then followed, with the penalty giving the Stags an undeserved victory.

The dismissal of Louis for a second yellow card for a foul in midfield was made more disappointing by the fact that home player Steven Istead was only shown a yellow card for a very poor two footed lunge at Paul Terry shorly after the Diamonds had gone 2-1 ahead. Cliff Akurang was also shown a controversial yellow card for diving by referee Simpson in one of the penalty incidents, despite the fact there was clear contact from Alan Marriott after the keeper had spilled an Aaron O’Connor shot.

This was the 1000th game in the Diamonds history, and their performance deserved more from the game, which also ended their unbeaten record at Field Mill. Those looking at the result might suspect it was as a result of the Diamonds throttling back their performance after they had won a place in the play-offs – yet in fact they had performed really well until they gifted the Stags their opening goal, which seemed to wake up the home side and their fans.

O’Connor’s goal was his fourteenth in all competitions for the Diamonds this season, leaving him just one behind Lee Tomlin in the race to be top scorer for the club this season – and one ahead of Craig Farrell.

Justin Edinburgh made several changes from the team that beat Ebbsfleet United in order to reach the playoffs with Shane Huke filling in at right back, Matt Pattison replacing the rested Max Porter, and Jefferson Louis starting up-front with Cliff Akurang in place of Craig Farrell and Lee Tomlin.

Mansfield manager David Holdsworth included ex-Diamonds Alan Marriott, Gary Mills and Andy Burgess in his starting XI, with Rob Duffy on the bench.

The first half belonged almost entirely to the Diamonds, as they completely dominated midfield, with ex-Diamonds Mills and Burgess looking well off the pace. Up front Jefferson Louis was working the right channel, O’Connor on the left, with Cliff Akurang in the centre.

Louis found his way past Andy Nicholas to get a low cross that Aaron O’Connor couldn’t quite reach, and then a Diamonds corner saw Curtis Osano find plenty of room for an unchallenged header that Alan Marriott pushed around the post. Another Louis cross went over Marriott, but dropped narrowly over the bar. All three Diamonds strikers threatened to break through the shaky looking home defence, and it was no surprise to see the Diamonds take the lead after 16 minutes when Jefferson Louis picked up the ball in the centre circle and threaded a ball that dissected the home defence for Aaron O’Connor to run onto and fire home a well-hit low shot from just outside the area for his fourteenth goal of the season.

Matt Pattison was playing in the centre of midfield for much of the half, but he did have a couple of opportunities to run at the Stags defence down the flanks, including one breakaway that was created by Mark Byrne that resulted in the Diamonds having three against two, but Pattison chose a long ball to O’Connor when a better option might have been a return pass to the breaking Byrne, or to take on the final covering defender in front of him. The ball flicked off O’Connor’s head and out for a throw.

Pattison also set up O’Connor for a chance on the half-hour mark that forced ex-Diamonds keeper Alan Marriott to make a fine save, and then Louis blazed over before a rare Stags attack saw Louis Briscoe tackled by the impressive Curtis Osano. The one time Osano did look troubled in the half was when Andy Nicholas put the ball past him towards the left corner flag, but somehow decided to try to beat him a second time and the Diamonds defender got the ball away to safety.

Further chances fell to Mark Byrne and Matt Pattison before half-time as the Diamonds pushed for the second goal their first half performance clearly merited. As half-time approached it looked like that chance was to be from the penalty spot, as cross from Mark Byrne was clearly handled on the edge of the six yard box by Gary Silk, but neither referee Simpson or his assistant could have seen the incident otherwise a penalty would have been awarded.

Half-Time: Mansfield Town 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

After the Diamonds had dominated the first half, silencing the home crowd other than their criticism of their own players, it was important that they continued in that vein in the second half. Unfortunately it was a Diamonds mistake that gave the Stags the opening that their performance looked unlikely to generate. A routine long ball towards the left hand corner of the Diamonds half saw Jamie Stuart lay the ball back to Dale Roberts. Roberts wasn’t in a position to kick upfield, so passed it back to Stuart, but the skipper chose to take two touches, the second of which was intercepted by Kyle Perry, and he quickly worked the ball across to Jake Speight who fired past Roberts for the equaliser.

This changed the hosts’ approach to the game for a while, and they had a good chance for a second goal when a long cross from the left from Nix which went over several players to Kyle Perry but his header from a narrow angle clipped the bar and away to safety.

The Diamonds were still finding holes in the home defence, and one of the major controversies of the night came on the hour mark when Aaron O’Connor tricked his way past two defenders on the Diamonds left before hitting a shot that Marriott could only parry. As Cliff Akurang went after the loose ball there was clear contact with Marriott, but, rather than awarding what looked a clear penalty, referee Simpson booked Akurang for an alleged dive.

Shortly afterwards Sam Smith was brought on for Akurang, and within three minutes he had restored the Diamonds lead. Jefferson Louis had an “assist” for the first Diamonds goal, and he had a part in the second when he worked a Mark Byrne headed pass into the path of Sam Smith whose first touch took him past his marker, and his second fired the ball high into the net past Alan Marriott.

Once again the home crowd were silenced, but shortly after the goal substitute Steven Istead was extremely lucky to only receive a yellow card for a two footed challenge on Paul Terry, but after his initial anger at the danger of the challenge Terry sportingly offer his hand to Istead, helping to keep him on the pitch.

The Diamonds had their third solid penalty claim of the night waved away by the referee, when another run by livewire Aaron O’Connor was slowed by an attempted trip and flailing foot of a defender, after he ran past his marker and into the penalty area, but the striker’s attempt to keep on his feet allowed referee Simpson to wave away the claims. Jamie Stuart then sliced a clearance which flew across goal, but otherwise the Diamonds defence were being rarely threatened at this stage of the game.

The Diamonds were continuing to close down the ineffective Stags midfield, and they did this to such an effect they were forced to retreat all the way back to Marriott after an attack broke down midway into the Diamonds half. Marriott’s long ball deceived Jamie Stuart, who could only deflect the ball into the path of the breaking Jake Speight who ran forwards and lobbed the advancing Roberts for the second equaliser.

Jefferson Louis had been supporting the Diamonds midfield all evening, but a challenge on Luke Foster in front of the dugout earned him a yellow card, and then a challenge on Briscoe saw referee Simpson decide to give him a second yellow card.

The Stags and their fans had now come to life, and with the numerical advantage they had their only period of domination of the game, as their midfield finally started to get some time on the ball. and the run of Louis Briscoe down the Stags right saw him evade the challenges of Stuart and Robinson and knock the ball low across the area that seemed to give Speight a simple tap-in for his hat-trick, but somehow he got the ball tangled beneath his feet and it squirmed wide. There were also claims for a penalty when Nix brushed past Byrne but nothing was given.

There was still time for the final controversy of the night, when Mark Byrne challenged Kyle Nix in the Diamonds box and the Stags forward threw himself to the ground. Although the penalty claim looked far less clear-cut than the three earlier claims for the Diamonds, referee Simpson pointed to the spot. After a delay Rob Duffy hit a penalty just to the left of centre of the goal that Roberts came close to stopping, but the Diamonds had seen their unbeaten run come to an end.

Full-Time: Mansfield Town 3 Rushden & Diamonds 2

Although it was disappointing to see the unbeaten run come to an end in the way it did, the quality and energy of the Diamonds performance, especially in the first 60 minutes, meant that they could look back with some satisfaction on the 1000th game in their history.

They are on the road again at the weekend as they travel to Wrexham for their final away trip of the season.

Teams: Mansfield Town: Alan Marriott, Gary Mills, Scott Garner, Louis Briscoe, Luke Foster (Capt), Gary Silk (Stevie Istead 66), Jake Speight, Andy Nicholas, Kyle Perry (Rob Duffy 54), Kyle Nix, Andy Burgess

Subs Not Used: Neil Collett (GK), Matt Somner, Jon Shaw

Rushden & Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Shane Huke, Kurt Robinson, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Curtis Osano, Mark Byrne, Paul Terry, Matt Pattison (Max Porter 73), Aaron O’Connor, Jefferson Louis, Cliff Akurang (Sam Smith 68)

Subs Not Used: Joe Day (GK), Nicky McNamara, Jake Beecroft

Goals: O’Connor (0-1, 16mins ), Speight (1-1, 48mins), Smith (1-2, 72mins), Speight (2-2 78mins), Duffy (pen, 3-2, 90mins)

Yellow Cards: Silk, Akurang, Istead, Louis, Duffy, Speight

Red Card: Louis (84 – second yellow)

Referee: Jeremy Simpson

Attendance: 2031 (Away 178)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Mark Byrne

Rushden & Diamonds 2 Ebbsfleet United 0

Rushden & Diamonds confirmed their place in the end-of-season playoff games in the Blue Square Premier with a 2-0 win over relegation threatened Ebbsfleet United at NenePark. The Diamonds took the lead after 27 minutes when a deft flick from Craig Farrell set Aaron O’Connor free down the right, and he coolly slotted past Cronin. The Diamonds had a chance to increase their lead in first half injury time, when Craig Farrell was felled by Darius Charles, but Paul Terry hit a poor penalty that Cronin easily saved, and then Terry looped the rebound over the bar. The Diamonds sealed the game with one of the goals of the season from Aaron O’Connor, as he broke down the left from the half-way line, turned three defenders inside out before slotting into the corner of the net. The victory stretches the Diamonds unbeaten run to 11 games, with this being game 999 of the Diamonds history.

Justin Edinburgh made several changes from the team that drew with Kidderminster Harriers on Easter Monday, with Simon Downer replacing Shane Huke, and Mark Byrne, Paul Terry, Craig Farrell and Lee Tomlin restored to the starting line-up.

Ebbsfleet manager Liam Daish made a single change with Gavin Heeroo replacing the suspended Dean Pooley.

The first half started rather slowly, with both sides appearing to show some nerves. The early chances fell to Lee Tomlin, as twice he had a chance to run into the left-hand side of the box, but one attempt was stopped by Cronin, and one by the Fleet defence. At the other end Roberts deal easily with an Ashikodi shot, but saw a Holmes free kick squirm from his grasp, but away to safety.

The Diamonds took the lead after 27 minutes after moving the ball quickly from defence to attack. Craig Farrell reverse-flicked the ball into the path of Aaron O’Connor just in front of the Fleet dugout, and his strike partner took the ball on before firing past Cronin for the opening goal.

Mark Byrne was able to run through a gap in the visitors defence, but saw Cronin saw his shot. A slick Diamonds move just after the half-hour mark saw Farrell and O’Connor combine to set up Max Porter for a shot that was narrowly wide.

Dale Roberts was rarely called into action, but got his body behind an Ashikodi freekick after the Diamonds wall failed to do its job, and then behind a Magno Viera shot.

Shortly before half-time Lee Tomlin was replaced by Cliff Akurang, having picked up a twisted ankle.

As the game moved into injury time at the end of the half, the Diamonds won a penalty. Referee Merchant had already signalled his intent to penalise suspect challenges, having given the visitors three freekicks in dangerous positions earlier, so it was not a surprise to see him point to the spot when Craig Farrell ran into the area and was tackled by Darius Charles. This followed a Diamonds corner, won by Curtis Osano, which was partially cleared, and Farrell was alert to beat the offside trap, running past two team-mates who were further forwards. Just as it looked like the Diamonds might get a two goal cushion before the break, their penalty woes continued, with Paul Terry added to the long list of Diamonds players who have missed from the spot this season. His initial kick was sidefooted to Cronin’s left, allowing a comfortable save, but the ball rebounded to Terry, who could only balloon a shot into the AirWair seats.

Half-Time : Rushden & Diamonds 1 Ebbsfleet United 0

With Craig Farrell being replaced by Sam Smith at half-time, as he was continuing to feel the effects of the injury that had kept him out at Kidderminster, the reshaped Diamonds front line quickly clicked into a rhythm that was causing the visitors defence problems – perhaps showing the benefit of them playing together at Kidderminster.

Sam Smith pressurised Leon Crooks into a mistake which allowed him to get in a dangerous cross that Mark Byrne fired at goal, but the pace was taken off the shot before it reached Cronin. Byrne had a second chance minutes later when Smith laid the ball off to Akurang down the right, and his cross from a narrow angle saw the Diamonds midfielder just failing to get a good contact on his header and it flew wide. Moments earlier Curtis Osano had a chance to get a header on goal after Aaron O’Connor had forced a corner.

Mark Byrne almost created a chance for Sam Smith after a run down the left saw Cronin reach his cross just ahead of Smith. Aaron O’Connor was continuing to give the Fleet defence problems, and another run down the left saw him create a chance for Sam Smith at the far post.

It looked just a matter of time before the Diamonds increased their lead, and so it proved – but it turned out to be a goal created and scored out of nothing. Aaron O’Connor picked up the ball on the half-way line, just in front of the Ebbsfleet dugout, and after beating the Fleet midfield he turned Leon Crooks inside out on the edge of the area before firing a shot in the far corner for one of the goals of the season at Nene Park.

The Diamonds had been having much the better of the second half, and looked more likely to get their third that the Fleet were to score. Simon Downer had been having a very impressive game at the back, but made his one mistake of the game after 77 minutes, as he tried to overplay whilst under pressure, and conceded the ball to substitute Scott Ginty. Ginty’s effort on goal was fended away with the quick reflexes of Dale Roberts, but the Fleet player looked favourite to tuck away the rebound, only to see if strike the outside of the post and away for a goal kick.

Downer almost had a part in creating the Diamonds third when he gained possession and hit a long ball to Cliff Akurang, who had been impressing with his aerial presence, and he flicked the ball to Aaron O’Connor whose attempted volley was over the bar. O’Connor had a further chance for his hattrick shortly afterwards, with another volleying opportunity following a Diamonds throw, but again narrowly missed the target. O’Connor’s effort and workrate as well as his two well-taken goals earned him a deserved man-of-the-match award.

There was still time for Sam Smith to go close as he tried to flick a Curtis Osano cross towards goal, and Cliff Akurang shot from a narrow angle towards an empty goal go narrowly wide, after Lance Cronin had slipped when trying to clear outside his area.

The final whistle sounded to confirm the Diamonds place in the playoffs, with the players saluting the fans who had got behind the team so well, paying particular attention to those in the North Stand who will be relocated for the Diamonds final home game of the regular season.

 

Full-Time : Rushden & Diamonds 2 Ebbsfleet United 0

The Diamonds now have three games to complete the regular season, starting with the trip to Mansfield on Tuesday evening, which will be a historic occasion, being the 1000th game for the club.

Details of the playoff dates are here.

The penalty miss was the Diamonds sixth miss of the season, with Terry joining Tomlin, Farrell, Louis, O’Connor and Corcoran on that unfortunate list. Michael Corcoran scored one at Workington in the FA Cup, and Lee Tomlin converted the two others this season.

 

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano, Kurt Robinson, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Simon Downer, Paul Terry, Mark Byrne (Rob Wolleaston 79), Max Porter, Aaron O’Connor, Craig Farrell (Sam Smith H/T), Lee Tomlin (Cliff Akurang 43)

Subs Not Used: Joe Day (GK), Shane Huke

Ebbsfleet United: Lance Cronin, Will Salmon, Gavin Heeroo (Scott Ginty 75), Leon Crooks, Darius Charles, Peter Holmes (Capt), Stefan Bailey, Kane Wills (Ishmael Welsh 52), Ricky Shakes (Alexander Stavrinou 52), Magno Vieira, Moses Ashikodi

Subs Not Used: Charlie Read, Matthew Lamprell (GK)

Goals: O’Connor (1-0, 27mins; 2-0, 70mins)

Yellow Cards: Porter, Stuart, Heeroo, Byrne

 

Referee: Rob Merchant (Staffordshire)

Attendance: 1440 (Away 70)

Diamonds Man of the Match chosen by Ken Ambridge: Aaron O’Connor

Kidderminster Harriers 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

The Diamonds recent unbeaten record was preserved when Dale Roberts saved a late McPhee penalty to earn the Diamonds a 1-1 draw at Aggborough on Easter Monday. The Diamonds took the lead after 28 minutes when Max Porter won a challenge just outside the Harriers area and fired home from 20 yards. The Harriers equalised after 54 minutes when Darryl Knights fired home after a long kick was not dealt with. Roberts gave away the penalty in injury time when he brought down Smikle, but then saved the penalty.

 

Justin Edinburgh made four changes from the side that drew with Crawley Town on Friday evening, with Aaron O’Connor, Sam Smith and Cliff Akurang starting up-front with Rob Wolleaston in midfield. Tomlin and Farrell were rested, with Louis and Byrne taking a place on the bench alongside Paul Terry, Simon Downer and Matt Pattison. Substitute keeper Joe Day was absent due to illness.

 

Harriers’ manager Steve Burr brought in Jasbir Singh in goal, and Lee Baker replaced Tom Sharpe following their defeat at Altrincham on Saturday.

 

This was game 998 in the Diamonds history, with the 1000th game expected in a week when the Diamonds travel to Mansfield.

 

The game started with the Diamonds creating four good chances inside the first few minutes. The returning Rob Wolleaston hit a pass between two defenders that put Sam Smith in the clear, but keeper Singh was alert and gathered at his feet. A Max Porter cross from the right touchline found Aaron O’Connor on the left hand side of the area, but his shot was wayward. Wolleaston was then just wide with a shot, and Sam Smith almost charged down a Singh clearance as the slow-starting hosts adjusted to the Diamonds 4-3-3 formation.

 

The hosts then had the better of the next 20 minutes or so, with Brian Smile guilty of missing a couple of excellent chances, and set-pieces from Darryl Knights causing concern in the Diamonds defence.

 

It was thus somewhat against the run-of-play when the Diamonds took the lead. Max Porter closed down home captain Chris McPhee on the edge of the Harriers box, and his tackle allowed his to take a pace forwards and hit a powerful dipping shot into the left corner of the net, giving Singh no chance.

 

Recent signing Shane Huke came to the Diamonds rescue shortly afterwards, when he covered across the back and cleared away a Knights free-kick that was eluding his fellow defenders.

 

After 32 minutes Nicky McNamara picked up a yellow card for a rash challenge on Jack Byrne, and that was to prove to be his last action of the game, as within four minutes he was replaced by Paul Terry, as Justin Edinburgh made a similar change to the switch he made at half-time on Friday evening.

 

The last chance of the half fell to Cliff Akurang, when he broke clear on a one-on-one with Luke Prosser, but the Harriers defender was able to outmuscle the Diamonds striker and shield away the danger.

 

Half-Time: Kidderminster Harriers 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

 

Paul Terry earned himself a yellow card early in the second half when he tried to overplay in midfield, and was robbed by Darryl Knights, and he was forced to pull back the Harriers midfielder to prevent him breaking forwards.

 

After 53 minutes the Diamonds might have increased their lead when Aaron O’Connor picked up an Akurang flick and hit a powerful shot that was just over the bar. From the resultant goal-kick the Harriers got their equaliser, as the long wind-assisted kick from Singh dissected the Diamonds defence, allowing Darryl Knights to run past them and slot home past Roberts.

 

The Diamonds best opportunity of the second half came when Rob Wolleaston won the Diamonds sole corner of the game. He took the kick himself only to see it cleared for a throw, but a quickly taken throw-in saw him deliver a cross which Cliff Akurang headed goal-wards, and it took an excellent save from Jasbir Singh to prevent the Diamonds retaking the lead.

 

At the other end the hosts threatened to get in front on several occasions, with Roberts again saving well from Smikle, and Jamie Stuart covering when Robbie Matthews turned past Osano and Huke. Poor finishing by Bennett and another save from Roberts from a Matthews header followed. The Diamonds did threaten to score on the break on a couple of occasions, but when Akurang and Porter combined their break was thwarted by good covering defending, and Aaron O’Connor saw another effort blocked by McPhee, although there were several similar chances at the other end.

 

With four minutes of added time signalled, it looked like the match was settled, but a long ball found Brian Smikle chasing a ball towards the byline about five yards wide of the goal. Dale Roberts was shadowing his run in order to force him wide, and possibly to allow the ball to go out of play, when there was contact between the two players and Smikle fell to the ground. Referee Johnson signalled a spot-kick, and it looked like once again the excellent Harriers hospitality wouldn’t extend to allowing the Diamonds to take any points home. Dale Roberts was shown a yellow card – there was little chance of a red card being shown given the fact that Smikle would not have been able to have an attempt on goal if the challenge had not been made. Dale Roberts had done his homework however, and he stood up to the spot-kick from McPhee, and was able to force the ball away with his legs.

 

There was still time for manager Justin Edinburgh to be asked to leave the dugout after a disagreement with the match officials – and in fact they insisted he could not even sit out the remaining minute in the stand, and was escorted down the tunnel.

 

Full-Time: Kidderminster Harriers 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

 

The 300 or so Diamonds fans backed their team for the full 90 minutes, and were picked out for special praise by Justin Edinburgh in his post-match interview. The result had been gained in the context of a number of regular first team regulars being rested. Some Diamonds fans will remember Garry Hill doing the same at Aggborough two seasons previously, and a hapless Diamonds side being well beaten. In this case they earned their draw, and at the same time were able to give game time to a number of players, with Rob Wolleaston impressing for much of the game.

 

The players will now have a two day break before resuming training on Thursday to prepare for the visit of Ebbsfleet United to Nene Park, knowing that a win will possibly confirm their place in the play-off places.

 

Teams

Kidderminster Harriers: Jasbir Singh, Duane Courtney, Martin Riley, Luke Prosser, Lee Baker, Chris McPhee, Dean Bennett, Jack Byrne, Darryl Knights, Robbie Matthews, Brian Smikle

Subs Not Used: Ross Atkins (GK), Tom Sharpe, David McDermott, James Lawrie, Lloyd Kerry

 

Rushden & Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Shane Huke (Simon Downer 78), Kurt Robinson, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Curtis Osano, Nicky McNamara (Paul Terry 36), Rob Wolleaston, Max Porter, Aaron O’Connor, Sam Smith (Jefferson Louis 66), Cliff Akurang

Subs Not Used: Matt Pattison, Mark Byrne,

 

Goals: Porter (26), Knights (54)

 

Yellow Cards: McNamara. Terry, Baker, Roberts

 

Referee: Kevin Johnson (Somerset)

 

Attendance: 1463 (Away 311)

 

Diamonds Man of the Match: Rob Wolleaston

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