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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