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

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