Rushden & Diamonds 1 Crawley Town 1

The Diamonds battled to a draw with playoff rivals Crawley Town at Nene Park on Good Friday evening. After the two excellent results on the road the result might have disappointed some people, but the overall points tally of seven in three games against playoff rivals keeps the Diamonds in a good position to push for a playoff place. The Diamonds took the lead on the stroke of half-time when Lee Tomlin found space in the middle and hit a sweet left-footed shot into the net. Crawley got a deserved equaliser two minutes inside the second half when Michael Malcolm had a simple tap in from a low ball across the area from Barry Cogan.

Justin Edinburgh made two changes from the team that beat local rivals Kettering on Tuesday evening, with Shane Huke replacing the injured Michael Corcoran, and Jefferson Louis facing his parent club as Aaron O’Connor was rested. Paul Terry made a surprise return to take a place on the bench.

Crawley manager Steve Evans made several changes, including recalling ex-Diamond Michael Malcolm at the expense of another Charles Ademeno.

The first half began as a very scrappy affair, with a lot of high balls, and very little passing in midfield. At least 10 minutes went by before a Diamonds player was able to pass to a team-mate in the opposition half. The sole Diamonds threat in the first quarter came when Jefferson Louis outpaced Sam Rents down the right, but the defender managed to chase back and tackle the striker as he tried to cut in on goal.

At the other end the visitors threatened with a long shot from Pinault and from a Sam Rents freekick, both of which were dealt with by Roberts.

A clever chip from Lee Tomlin over the Red Devil’s defence saw Craig Farrell beat the offside trap and get a toe to the ball, but he could not quite stretch enough to get the ball under control.

Crawley were earning a number of soft free kicks, with referee Fletcher reluctant to play advantage, and blowing his whistle for what looked innocuous challenges (from both sides).

In the 35th minute there was almost a freak goal, when a Farrell pass was at a difficult angle for Jefferson Louis, and his backheeled flick flew up in the air and almost dropped over keeper Jordan’s head. Louis and Farrell then executed a neat 1-2 moments later, but Farrell’s shot went just wide.

Just as the 45 minute mark was reached the Diamonds took the lead. For the first time in the half Craig Farrell moved over to the left, and with options left and right the Crawley defence were unable to clear a loose ball which fell to Lee Tomlin in a central area about 25 yards out. He took the ball forwards before hitting a left foot shot into the net.

Half-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Crawley Town 0

The Diamonds made a change at half-time. Justin Edinburgh had reflected on the fact that Nicky McNamara had been booked for what looked a much less significant challenge than some others seen during the half, and fearing the possibility he was being targeted he decided to bring on Paul Terry.

Within 3 minutes the visitors were level. Barry Cogan made a run to collect a pass from Eddie Hutchinson and continued to the byline on the Crawley right, from where he hit a low cross just in front of Roberts that evaded Forrest and his marker, but presented a simple tap-in to the unmarked Michael Malcolm.

The Diamonds best chance of the half came shortly afterwards. A Louis flick found Lee Tomlin, and he ran into space towards the right hand side of the area, but his attempt with his right foot was not as effective as the one with his left foot earlier, and it passed to the left of the goal.

After 71 minutes Jamie Stuart picked up a yellow card for a challenge on Forrest, and from the resultant free kick Adam Quinn could have done better from an unchallenged header.

Craig Farrell was keeping up his impressive workrate, and he forced a corner after picking up the ball from a Porter throw-in, and hitting a shot that was deflected wide. Farrell took the corner himself, and Paul Terry met it on the volley just outside the edge of the area, but his shot was just over the bar.

Farrell and Porter linked up again minutes later, when a long Roberts kick was headed to Porter at the near post, but a desperate challenge saw the ball cleared for a throw-in

Several Diamonds players were starting to look really tired, with Shane Huke having his second long stint on the pitch in just a few days, after little match action in the past months. With both Rob Wolleaston and Aaron O’Connor brought into the action, the Diamonds were the team that looked like they were trying to win the game. Crawley were taking advantage of their substitutions to waste time during the changeover, which was a surprise, as they really needed the three points to boost their play-off hopes .

The Diamonds last chance came with a Louis break down the right, running onto a long ball. Keeper Jordan came well outside of his area to clear the ball into touch, and then went down holding his head, which prevented the Diamonds taking a quick free kick as the trainer was called onto the pitch for the first time in the game.

The Diamonds did almost overplay things in midfield, and substitute Charles Ademeno looked to have been freed by a ball forwards, but Jamie Stuart rounded off a fine performance with a saving challenge.

Final Score: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Crawley Town 1

It was perhaps to be expected that, after the drama and emotion of the two vital away victories, the next game might see a rather tired performance from the team. Justin Edinburgh praised the efforts over the three games, and was concerned that some of the crowd had expressed frustration that the team could not repeat the performance and result of Tuesday evening.

The Diamonds have two clear days before the trip to Kidderminster, and Edinburgh indicated he will rotate his squad to freshen things.

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Shane Huke, Kurt Robinson, Max Porter, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Curtis Osano, Mark Byrne (Rob Wolleaston 66), Nicky McNamara (Paul Terry H/T), Jefferson Louis, Craig Farrell, Lee Tomlin ( Aaron O’Connor 75)

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

Crawley Town: Nick Jordan, Eddie Hutchinson (Karl Broadhurst 84), Sam Rents, Matt Langston, Danny Forrest, Thomas Pinault, Lewis Killeen (Charles Ademeno 80), Michael Malcolm (Ben Smith 87), Glenn Wilson, Barry Cogan, Adam Quinn (Capt)

Subs Not Used: Simon Rayner (GK), Simon Rusk

Goals: Tomlin (45), Malcolm (48).

Yellow Cards: McNamara, Osano, Stuart.

Referee: R Fletcher (Derbyshire)

Attendance: 1703 (Away 87)

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