Barrow 2 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Rushden & Diamonds paid the price for some poor finishing as they saw Jason Walker score two second half goals to give Barrow victory at Holker Street on a breezy summer afternoon in Cumbria. The second Walker goal was a penalty after he fell under a challenge from Jamie Stuart that saw the Diamonds skipper shown a red card. The first Walker goal was a quality goal, as he received the ball on the edge of the box from Simon Spender, jinked both ways in front of Curtis Osano before lobbing a shot over Dale Roberts that went in-off the underside of the bar.

The Diamonds had numerous chances in either half, but struggled to force the Bluebirds keeper into significant action, other than when a Rene Howe effort hit the angle of post and bar early in the second half, and a long range shot from Lewwis Spence. The game also saw seven yellow cards – with Osano, Robinson and Corcoran picking up those cards for the Diamonds

Justin Edinburgh made three changes in personnel from the team that lost at Bath City, with Kurt Robinson returning to left back in place of Justin Miller (allowing Michael Corcoran to switch to right back). Matt Johnson replaced Lewwis Spence to play in right midfield, and Ryan Charles started up front in place of the injured Craig Farrell as the Diamonds switched to a 4-4-2 formation. Both Johnson and Charles were making their full debuts for the club in the game where Jamie Stuart reached 50 appearances for the club.

Barrow joint managers Darren Sheridan and Dave Bayliss made several changes, with 42-years old Sheridan starting the game himself in midfield, and there was a place for the returning Paul Edwards as they changed to a 4-5-1 formation with Jason Walker their lone striker.

The first half started with the Diamonds playing into the wind, and as early as the third minute the hosts used the elements to their advantage when Mark Boyd played a free kick forward to Jason Walker who jinked his way into the area and hit a shot that Dale Roberts did well to palm away, but it fell to Paul Jones who squared to Marc Goodfellow whose left foot shot hit the right hand post before referee Bristow called play to a half as the linesman was flagging for an infringement.

The Diamonds started to use the conditions to their advantage with a number of through balls that were held up by the wind, and they were awarded a number of free kicks in good positions just outside the area, but Green (twice) and Porter could only find the roof of the net with each chance.

The Diamonds also created two chances in the first half for Matt Johnson in the right hand side of the area. For the first one a well judged ball from Howe put the ball into space ahead of Ryan Charles, and his cross from the left byline went over the keeper and defender Edwards to Johnson, but the defender was able to turn and block Johnson’s effort. The second chance came in first half injury time, when Simon Spender tried to shield a ball that appeared to be running for a goal-kick, but Ryan Charles was able to rob him and Dominic Green’s cross found Johnson in space. Johnson quickly squared to Rene Howe, but he was closed down on the edge of the six yard box.

The hosts created a number of chances for lone striker Jason Walker on the break during the half, but the Diamonds defence dealt well with Walker and supporting runs from Goodfellow and Boyd. Play was halted for a short period in the half as referee Bristow realised his oversight in allowing Bluebirds keeper Martin to wear the same yellow shorts and socks as the Diamonds, so he had to make a quick shorts swap.

The home side saw three players booked in the first half, but Curtis Osano was clearly being targeted by the home side, and after he had picked up a yellow card the home side were looking for a second in first half injury time, after he won the ball from Mark Boyd, but his follow through caught Boyd rather high. Boyd went gingerly off the pitch looking like he might not be able to return – but quickly recovered and returned to the action.

Half-Time: Barrow 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

The second half saw the Diamonds with the advantage of the wind at their backs, but they almost went behind within seconds of the restart, when Marc Goodfellow took a pass from Simon Spender on the right and hit a powerful low cross that Jamie Stuart tried to head behind, but only succeeded in directing it at goal, with Dale Roberts pulling off a good save. The Diamonds then had a chance at the other end when Ryan Charles laid the ball into the box but Rene Howe fired wide.

Good chasing down by Howe and Charles caused Paul Jones to hit a poor pass to Paul Edwards, who in turn hit a poor ball across his own area that Phil Bolland did well to clear away as Rene Howe closed on a clear chance.

Ten minutes into the half the Diamonds could have taken the lead when good work by Green and Howe on the left saw Howe lay the ball into space just outside the "D" for Max Porter, but he hit his shot over the bar. A minute later saw Howe outmuscling Bolland to latch onto a long ball, but his effort hit the crossbar. It was then Ryan Charles turn for an effort on goal as he squeezed between Bolland and Jones to get his head onto a long kick from Dale Roberts, but his header was easily fielded by Martin.

Darren Sheridan was extremely lucky to escape a red card as he committed the worst foul of the game on Kurt Robinson, right in front of his own fans – and the unfortunate Robinson then picked up a yellow for an innocuous foul on substitute Wiles.

With all the Diamonds pressure it was important they converted it into a goal, but as often happens, the home side took the lead against the run of play with a fine finish from Jason Walker. Receiving the ball from Spender on the right, he shielded it from Curtis Osano with his back to goal, jinked both ways and then turned and hit a shot from 20 yards that dipped in-off the crossbar to open the scoring.

To their credit, the Diamonds could have equalised within a minute as good vision from Rene Howe found Matt Johnson in space on the right, but his shot from a narrow angle flew over. After Goodfellow had fired wide at the other end, Howe then had a chance himself as he collected a long ball from Jamie Stuart, turning in front of Jones to create room for a shot, but this was pulled wide. A long range shot from Lewwis Spence then forced Martin to pull off his best save of the afternoon.

Once again the Diamonds pressure needed to deliver an end product, and when this wasn’t forthcoming it was the home side who got on the scoresheet – for a second time. A good ball forwards from Goodfellow was cushioned by the wind and found Walker rnnning into the penalty box challenged by Jamie Stuart. As often happens with such a 50-50 race, the first contact results in a penalty when the striker anticipates the challenge, and referee Bristow pointed to the spot, and brandished a red card to Stuart.

Jason Walker fired home the spotkick with 75 minutes on the clock, with the Diamonds bringing on Shane Huke to play in the back four. The final 15 minutes saw the 10 men Diamonds fail to create many opportunities to reduce the arrears, and the Bluebirds held on for their win.

Full-Time: Barrow 0 Rushden & Diamonds 2

With the defeat meaning the Diamonds slipped to the bottom of the Blue Square Bet Premier they have an ideal opportunity to kick-start their season on Tuesday evening when high-flying AFC Wimbledon visit Nene Park.

Teams :

Barrow: Alan Martin, Simon Spender, Paul Edwards, Phil Bolland, Paul Jones (Capt), Paul Rutherford, Marc Goodfellow (Danny Forrest 87), James Owen, Mark Boyd (Simon Wiles 51), Jason Walker (Andy Cook 84), Darren Sheridan

Subs Not Used: Mike Pearson, Andy Milne

Rushden & Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Michael Corcoran, Kurt Robinson, Max Porter, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Curtis Osano, Alan Power (Lewwis Spence 71), Matt Johnson, Ryan Charles (Donovan Simmonds 83), Rene Howe, Dominic Green (Shane Huke 76)

Subs Not Used: Joe Day (GK), Justin Miller

Goals: Walker (69, 76(pen))

Yellow Cards: Goodfellow, Osano, Sheridan, Rutherford, Robinson, Owen, Corcoran

Red Card: Jamie Stuart (75)

Referee: Matt Bristow (Manchester)

Attendance: 1145

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