Rushden & Diamonds 5 Barrow 0

Rushden & Diamonds overwhelmed Barrow at Nene Park with a 5-0 win. The Diamonds took the lead after seven minutes when a Matt Johnson throw from the right was flicked home by Ryan Charles. O’Connor ran onto a Sills flick to slot home the second midway through the half, and on the stroke of half-time Charles got his second when a Max Porter shot was blocked and he slotted home the loose ball. Second half goals from Max Porter and Michael Corcoran completed the scoring in an emphatic victory.

The Diamonds managed to score 10 goals in the two fixtures between the sides last season, but having drawn a blank at Holker Street in August, they went some way to matching that statistic with their five goals in this game.

Justin Edinburgh made three changes to the same starting line-up that defeated local rivals Kettering Town in the FA last weekend, with Michael Corcoran returning to the side in place of suspended captain Jamie Stuart. Tim Sills returned to the side to replace the suspended Lewwis Spence, and Ryan Charles took the place of the injured Rene Howe. Curtis Osano was fit to start after an injury-hit week in training, and he started alongside Shane Huke in the centre of defence, with Corcoran playing right back. Aaron O’Connor was given the captain’s armband in Stuart’s absence.

Bluebirds managers Darren Sheridan and Dave Bayliss included loan signings Craig Clay and Tendayi Darikwa who had joined from Chesterfield (managed by Darren Sheridan’s brother John). James Owen returned from suspension, but Simon Wiles and Danny Forrest had not recovered from recent injuries.

The Diamonds kicked off towards the Peter De Banke terrace, although the autumn sun that might have affected Joe Day and his back four in the first half had been replaced by cloud and early in the game a rain shower made the pitch slippery underfoot.

After a quiet first five minutes the game burst into life when Tim Sills burst towards the right by-line and fired a cross into the six-yard box that was hastily cleared for a throw near the right corner flag. Matt Johnson went over and hurled a long throw into the box, with Ryan Charles finding space to flick the ball into the net with his head to give the Diamonds the lead with 7 minutes on the clock.

Matt Johnson linked up with Aaron O’Connor on the left, and showed composure in the penalty box to wrong-foot two defenders before sliding the ball to Ryan Charles whose shot was blocked.

The Diamonds were playing a free format formation at times, with Sills, O’Connor and Charles all prepared to help out in midfield, and Alan Power pushed well forwards in the role he had success with at Tamworth. A long kick from Joe Day was flicked on by Sills to Charles who in turn set up Power, but his effort was blocked.

The Diamonds defence had a couple of early scares as the visitors were prepared to push Clay alongside Walker, and a free kick from Spender saw the Diamonds defence allowing Clay too much space in the area, but Huke did well to block the danger. Clay was very fortunate to escape a yellow card on two occasions via challenges with studs showing, but the Diamonds players sportingly didn’t make a big issue of them.

After 23 minutes the Diamonds increased their lead. Tim Sills appeared to be fouled by Paul Jones on the edge of the area as they challenged for a long ball, but referee Barratt waved play on, and the ball was cleared, but won by Max Porter, who fed Jamie Day who in turn quickly laid the ball forwards to Sills, who flicked it for Aaron O’Connor to run onto, draw the keeper and coolly slot into the left-hand side of the net.

The Diamonds looked to have created another clear opening to break on goal shortly before the break, but referee Barratt stopped play for Phil Bolland to receive attention. The Diamonds had given Bolland and Jones a torrid time last season, and once again their strikeforce were winning the majority of the challenges. Despite the first goal having come from a long throw, the Diamonds appeared reluctant to use that tactic again, preferring to try to find space for a cross.

Two goals would have been a decent return for the Diamonds first-half domination, but they got a third during added time when a corner from the right was met by Tim Sills’ head, but was cleared off the line by Clay for another corner. This time the corner from the left was headed out to Max Porter in acres of space just outside the area, and although his shot hit a defender, it fell to Ryan Charles who coolly slotted home.

 

Half-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 3 Barrow 0

The Autumn sun had returned during the interval, so Barrow captain Paul Jones must have regretted his decision to change end, as he and his defenders had to cope with a low sun in their eyes for the first 20 minutes of the half.

Aaron O’Connor continued where he had left off as he tormented the visitors defence with his control, turns and runs, and in one of these he wrong-footed two defenders before hitting a sublime pass to Ryan Charles who was running into the left side of the area. Although Charles was “on a hat trick”, he was unselfish enough to take the ball to the by-line before squaring it low across the box for Max Porter to sidefoot home and make it 4-0 just before the hour mark.

Kurt Robinson replaced Matt Johnson before the Diamonds got their fifth goal on 65 minutes. A throw-in near the right corner flag allowed Michael Corcoran to pass to Ryan Charles in the right-hand side of the area, and he took a return pass from Charles before curling a perfectly placed shot from the right edge of the area into the left hand corner of the net.

The remainder of the game became rather scrappy, with both sides making their full quote of substitutions, including Curtis Osano being replaced for the first time this season by Justin Miller. Both sides had a goal disallowed due to offside – with Ryan Charles being denied his hat trick by a tight margin, when he tapped home a Craig Farrell shot that was going wide.

Shane Huke picked up the sole yellow card of the game with a challenge that looked rather tame compared to a couple seen in the first half, but the loud scream from Nick Chadwick may have influenced referee Barratt’s decision – although he did not require treatment.

Possibly the best move of the game came in injury time with some slick passing between Sills, Power and Farrell seeing Farrell reach the left by-line and square a cross that looked a simple chance for Jamie Day or Max Porter to score the sixth goal, but they got in each other’s way and the chance was lost.

Full-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 5 Barrow 0

The margin of victory meant that the Diamonds moved ahead of Fleetwood into the playoff zone because they have scored one more goal. They now have a week to prepare for the visit of Yeovil Town in the FA Cup sponsored by eon.

Teams :

Rushden & Diamonds: Joe Day, Curtis Osano (Justin Miller 71), Jamie Day, Michael Corcoran, Shane Huke, Max Porter, Alan Power, Matt Johnson (Kurt Robinson 61), Ryan Charles, Tim Sills, Aaron O’Connor(Capt) (Craig Farrell 74).

Subs Not Used: Dale Roberts (GK), Joe Keehan

Barrow: Shaun Pearson, Simon Spender, Mike Pearson, Phil Bolland, Paul Jones (Capt), Tendayi Darikwa (Paul Rutherford 52), Ciaran Donnelly, James Owen, Neil Wainwright (Marc Goodfellow 77), Jason Walker, Craig Clay (Nick Chadwick 56)

Subs Not Used: Mark Boyd, Gregg Blundell.

Goals: Charles (7mins, 1-0), O’Connor (23, 2-0), Charles (45+1, 3-0), Porter (58, 4-0), Corcoran (65, 5-0)

Yellow Card: Huke

Referee: Wayne Barratt (Worcestershire)

Attendance: 1107 (away 54)

Diamonds Man of the Match chosen by Luke Suggs and Family: Aaron O’Connor

Click here for video highlights.

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Kettering Town 1 Rushden & Diamonds 2

Rushden & Diamonds knocked out their local rivals Kettering Town at Rockingham Road in the FA Cup sponsored by eon. Lewwis Spence gave the Diamonds the lead with a right foot volley in the 17th minute, and then Rene Howe made it 2-0 from the penalty spot after 24 minutes following a foul on Aaron O’Connor. Jamie Stuart was controversially sent off just before the hour mark, but once again the Diamonds won a game at Rockingham Road with 10 men, although a Paul Furlong goal made for a nervous last quarter.

This was a game of two distinct phases, with the Diamonds seemingly in complete control up until the point that Stuart received two yellow cards in quick succession, both of which appeared very harsh – and then the 10 men, aided by some shrewd substitutions, held on to win the place in the next round.

This was perhaps the most important victory for the Diamonds over their local rivals in the last decade – since the 2-0 victory achieved on their way to the Conference title – given the financial benefits that a cup run may bring.

Justin Edinburgh brought in Lewwis Spence to replace Tim Sills who had not been released by Stevenage Borough to play in the game. Kettering manager Marcus Law gave Marcus Kelly a place in the starting line-up.

The first 10 minutes were totally dominated by the Diamonds, with the Poppies struggling to get out of their own half, with Howe and O’Connor proving a real handful up front. The nearest the Diamonds came to opening the scoring in that period was when Matt Johnson beat Marcus Kelly to the ball and it was quickly worked forwards to Lewwis Spence who shot narrowly wide. Spence was then fouled by McKoy about 25 yards from goal, and the Jamie Day shot got past the Poppies wall, but was well saved by Jack.

It was thus no surprise when the Diamonds went ahead after 17 minutes, when Aaron O’Connor saw his effort from the edge of the box bounce off Greg Taylor, but it fell to Lewwis Spence 20 yards out, and he lashed the ball into the left hand side of the net with his right foot.

Five minutes later the Diamonds were awarded a penalty when Rene Howe made an excellent run down the left before squaring to Aaron O’Connor who powered into the area before being tripped by Luke Graham, leaving referee Hopkins no alternative but to point to the spot – although rather controversially he chose to take no further action with Graham for his trip. Rene Howe stepped up and confidently fired the ball home to make the score 2-0 to the Diamonds.

The home side had their first meaningful attack a minute later when Jean-Paul Marna forced Joe Day into a smart save from a free kick, but the Diamonds defence were confidently coping with any other attacking threat.

Joe Day did well to push away a Kelly corner when it looked like he was clearly being fouled, and he also saved another long range effort from a free kick before the interval.

The Diamonds almost got the third goal their domination deserved when Aaron O’Connor burst past the static home defence down the left, laying the ball off to Jamie Day whose shot from the left corner of the area flew across goal.

Half-Time: Kettering Town 0 Rushden & Diamonds 2

After such a lack-lustre first half showing from his side it was no surprise that Marcus Law made a change at half-time, with Serge Makofo replacing Marcus Kelly, and the change almost produced a dividend early in the half when Shane Huke blocked a goal-bound shot from James Dance, and the ball was not fully cleared, allowing Patrick Noubisse to get in an angled shot from the left side of the area that hit the inside of the left hand post before shooting across goal, before the danger was finally cleared,

The game changed after 57 minutes, when the Diamonds captain Jamie Stuart was shown two yellow cards in quick succession – both of which looked very harsh as the Diamonds captain clearly won the ball in the first of these challenges, and then made a routine tackle that a centre back makes many times during a game, but referee Hopkins deemed them both worthy of a yellow card – leaving the Diamonds down to 10 men. This is proving to be a familiar situation for the Diamonds at Rockingham Road, with Justin Miller shown red in the league game earlier this season – and Justin Jackson being sent off in the crucial game before the Diamonds reached the Football League. Both of those games were won, but it would still mean a nervy final half-hour for the Diamonds.

Within seven minutes the Poppies had pulled a goal back. Nick McKoy made a run down the right and got in a good cross that was right on the head of veteran Paul Furlong, who easily beat Joe Day as he headed into the right-hand corner of the net.

The expected onslaught from the Poppies did not materialise however, with Max Porter helping out at right back before returning into his commanding midfield role when Justin Miller replaced Lewwis Spence.

Rene Howe had a chance to make the game safe when he outmuscled John Dempster and ran clear on goal, but his angled shot rolled wide of goal. The Diamonds made further changes when Kurt Robinson replaced Matt Johnson, and all ten men were helping out in defence, with Aaron O’Connor making one vital challenge as the game entered stoppage time. Rene Howe was replaced by Ryan Charles, and there was one final scare for the Diamonds when Joe Day was forced into an excellent stop at the end of a Poppies move which saw a shot deflect off Ryan Charles, and Day scrambled it away on the line.

The final whistle signalled a celebration from Diamonds players and staff – in front of their travelling fans, some of whom had endured another wet afternoon at Rockingham Road.

Full-Time: Kettering Town 1 Rushden & Diamonds 2

The Diamonds will now watch the FA Cup draw on Sunday lunchtime, when their ball will be number 71. With it being the second red card of the season for Jamie Stuart he faces a two game ban, which will mean he misses the first round game – but this is still to be confirmed.

Teams:

Kettering Town: Kelvin Jack, Luke Graham, Sol Davis, John Dempster, Andre Boucaud (Capt), Marcus Kelly (Serge Makofo H/T), Jean-Paul Marna, Greg Taylor, James Dance, Nick McKoy (Brett Solkhon 77), Patrick Noubissie (Paul Furlong 60)

Subs Not Used: Ian Roper, Niall Cooper

Rushden & Diamonds: Joe Day (GK), Curtis Osano, Jamie Day, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Shane Huke, Max Porter, Alan Power, Matt Johnson (Kurt Robinson 82), Lewwis Spence (Justin Miller 69), Rene Howe (Ryan Charles 87), Aaron O’Connor.

Subs Not Used: Dale Roberts (GK), Joe Keehan, Craig Farrell, Michael Corcoran.

Goals: Spence (0-1, 17 mins), Howe (pen) (0-2, 23 mins), Furlong (1-2, 64 mins)

Yellow Cards: Spence, Stuart, Power, Robinson, Davis.

Red Card: Stuart (57)

Referee: J D A Hopkins (Essex)

Attendance: 2792 (away 670)

Images courtesy of Mal Swinden ©2012 Malcolm Swinden Photography

Tamworth 1 Rushden & Diamonds 2

Rushden & Diamonds snatched a last gasp winner to defeat Tamworth 2-1 in Staffordshire on Saturday. The Diamonds took the lead after 10 minutes when a Matt Johnson corner from the right found Jamie Stuart, and although the Diamonds captain shot was blocked it fell to Rene Howe who blasted into the roof of the net. The Diamonds lead only lasted 75 seconds, as a Tamworth throw on the right was fed by Richard Tait to Seb Lake-Gastin, and his cross was headed home by an unmarked Kyle Perry at the far post. The Diamonds winner came when Michael Corcoran picked out a great run by Ryan Charles down the right in the second minute of added time. Charles ran 40 yards and then cut inside and laid the ball across the box to find Alan Power who fired home his debut Diamonds goal with a powerful shot into the far corner of the net.

The game saw plenty of goalmouth action at both ends, especially in the first half, and both sides looked to win the game for the entire 90 minutes.

Justin Edinburgh kept the same team that defeated Mansfield Town last weekend, with Dale Roberts returning to take a place on the bench.

Tamworth Caretaker Manager Des Lyttle resisted the temptation to name himself in the squad, and included Kyle Perry in his first starting XI.

The Diamonds quickly got their close passing game into gear, with Alan Power pushed further forwards than in recent games, and it was his excellent turn on the edge of the box that saw his find Aaron O’Connor with a precise pass. The Diamonds striker turned and shot from 10 yards out, but keeper Severn got his body behind the shot.

Jamie Day was showing both his vision and precision passing ability down the left as he firstly found O’Connor and then Howe on the edge of the box. Curtis Osano was revelling in the right back role, linking well with Howe, and Tim Sills was winning much of the ball in the air whenever the Diamonds chose to play the ball it there. This domination won the Diamonds several corners, and it was from one of these that the Diamonds took the lead after 10 minutes. Matt Johnson took the kick on the right, and rather mishit it, presenting Jamie Stuart with a shooting chance on the turn. His shot was well blocked, but Rene Howe showed a striker’s instinct to lash the rebound into the roof of the net.

The hosts had threatened little prior to this point, but within 75 second they were level. A Tamworth throw on the right was fed by Richard Tait to Seb Lake-Gastin, who waltzed into the right side of the area unchecked, and his cross was headed home by an unmarked Kyle Perry at the far post.

For a short while the balance of the match tilted towards the Lambs, with Daniel Bradley shooting narrowly wide, but the Diamonds quickly resumed their raids into the Tamworth box. Aaron O’Connor was getting similar joy with his runs into the box as Simeon Jackson had done in the 4-1 victory shortly after the Diamonds return to the Conference, and from one of these he reached the left by-line and hit a low cross that was cut out just in front of Tim Sills, who would otherwise have had a “tap-in”.

The Day / Howe / Power combination almost got the end result their play deserved when Day cut inside and found Howe inside the area with a precision pass, and the striker executed a neat backflick into the path of Power, but the alert Severn smothered his attempt on goal.

Rene Howe then bundled his way past Tait and Marshall but shot over as it looked a matter of time before the Diamonds restored their lead, and he then repeated this when proving too strong for Wylde, but again his effort missed the target.

Joe Day was a spectator for a long period, but he was alert to pull off a great save from a Smith shot that looked goal bound.

Jamie Day and Alan Power were continuing to provide their strikeforce with excellent service, with Tim Sills shooting wide shortly before the break.

Half-Time: Tamworth 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Although the second half started at a lower tempo than the first, there were still a number of incidents at either end, with Tamworth creating more than they had in the first. Rene Howe shot across goal after a powerful run before setting up Aaron O’Connor to break free into the left side of the area, but his effort was blocked.

Curtis Osano was getting even more freedom to push forward than he had in the first half, and each of his runs were producing an end product in the form of a cross or a corner.

Mid-way through the half the Diamonds had Max Porter to thank for keeping the scores level, when he headed off the line when Tait crossed to Perry, and the strikers headed looped over Joe Day. The best save of the game was to come at the other end, when a Diamonds free-kick by Joe Day was flicked on by Tim Sills into the path of Max Porter who in turn found Rene Howe, who took a touch before blasting the ball towards goal, only to see home keeper Severn tip the ball onto the angle of post and bar and away for a corner.

Joe Day made another good save diving low to his left to deny Daniel Bradley as both sides looked for a winner – even the Lambs centre-half Michael Wylde made a charging run forward that was only spoilt by a wayward shot, but Shane Huke and Jamie Stuart were both equal to the tasks that faced them.

Referee Jeremy Simpson had last officiated in a Diamonds game in the controversial 3-2 defeat at Mansfield last season, but he was always willing to let the game flow, and his performance complemented the action throughout.

The Diamonds had brought on Ryan Charles and Lewwis Spence who both had efforts on goal in the last quarter, but it was a surprise third substitution that proved vital. In order to protect Rene Howe against a fifth booking he was taken off with two minutes to go, with Michael Corcoran coming on to support the midfield. It was Corcoran who picked up the ball when a Lambs attack broke down as the game moved into added time. Corcoran picked up a run from Ryan Charles down the right touchline, and Charles quickly showed his pace with a surging burst to the edge of the area before getting his head up to spot the run of Alan Power, one of four Diamonds players who had made the lung-bursting run at least half the length of the pitch in the 92nd minute. Power struck the ball on the volley and it rifled into the far corner of the net for his debut goal for the club – and a memorable late winner for the Diamonds

Full-Time: Tamworth 1 Rushden & Diamonds 2

The Diamonds focus for the next seven days will be on the FA Cup tie against their local rivals next weekend.

Teams:

Tamworth: James Severn, Richard Tait (Neil MacKenzie 77), Tom Marshall, Alex Rodman (Ben Wilkinson 37), Daniel Bradley, Michael Wylde, Jay Smith (Capt), Danny Thomas, Sebastian Lake-Gaskin, Scott Barrow, Kyle Perry.

Subs Not Used: Aaron Mitchell, Stefan Oakes, Louis Connor (GK)

Rushden & Diamonds:Joe Day, Curtis Osano, Jamie Day, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Shane Huke, Max Porter, Matt Johnson (Lewwis Spence 71), Alan Power, Aaron O’Connor, Rene Howe (Michael Corcoran 89), Tim Sills (Ryan Charles 82).

Subs Not Used: Dale Roberts (GK),Kurt Robinson.

Goals: Howe (10mins, 0-1), Perry (11, 1-1), Power (90+2, 1-2)

Yellow Card: Shane Huke

Referee: Mr J Simpson (Lancs)

Attendance:1002 (Away 190)

Images courtesy of Mal Swinden ©2012 Malcolm Swinden Photography

Rushden & Diamonds 8 Daventry United 0

Northants FA Hillier Senior Cup Round 2

Four goals in the opening 21 minutes put this Hillier Senior Cup tie beyond the reach of visiting UCL side Daventry United. Max York opened the scoring with a blistering 30 yard drive after just 7 minutes. Three goals in a six minute period thanks to an own goal, Ryan Charles and Lewwis Spence put Diamonds in the driving seat as the Motormen struggled to stem the onslaught. Spence added a further two goals in the second half to secure his hat-trick, with another own goal and a second for Ryan Charles adding to the tally.

Paul Driver named five debutants in the starting eleven, with first appearances for Lance Key in goal, Joe Keehan and Max York in midfield, plus youth team players Jake Gillingwater and Liam Read. The 4-4-2 formation saw a back four of Kurt Robinson, Michael Corcoran (in his first game back after injury), Gillingwater and Justin Miller. Read partnered Ryan Charles up front.

The opening chance of the first half fell to the visitors, but Darran Frost’s first touch let him down and the ball ran away into veteran keeper Lance Key’s hands. However, it wasn’t long before Diamonds stamped their authority on the game. After just 7 minutes, Liam Read crossed from the right into Ryan Charles. Although Charles was unable to direct a shot on goal, the ball came back out to Max York who fired home a 30 yard drive.

Daventry were unable to deal with the threat of Lewwis Spence and Dominic Green as they caused all sorts of problems on the wings. Green laid on another chance for Max York, his shot being blocked, before Justin Miller headed over from Green’s corner. Will Briscoe did manage to get the ball in the net for the visitors, but the goal was ruled out for offside.

Diamonds second goal came on 15 minutes as Green’s corner was diverted in at the near post by Duncan Harris as Corcoran and Charles both challenged for the ball.

There was no let up as Diamonds stayed focused and added a further two goals in quick succession. After Liam Read had gone narrowly wide with a volley, Spence crossed for Ryan Charles to shoot past keeper Lee Farrow, before a long throw-in from Miller was headed home by Lewwis Spence.

Lance Key was largely a spectator, although he made an excellent save on 28 minutes, saving Will Briscoe’s shot from the edge of the area. The 42 year old keeper had become the second oldest player to make an appearance for Diamonds, with only Brian Talbot beating him for age. Daventry tried to launch further attacks, but failed to beat the offside trap on the few occasions they got forward.

On 40 minutes, Diamonds brought on 17 year old Aaron King – returning after some 16 months with Liverpool’s Academy. He replaced the injured Jake Gillingwater, with Diamonds going to three at the back and King going into central/right midfield. As the half drew to a close, Spence had two chances to increase the lead, firing over the bar, before a failed attempt to lob the keeper.

Half-time: Diamonds 4 Daventry United 0

Diamonds went further ahead with a fifth goal just 40 seconds after the restart. Max York brought ball forward and appeared to be fouled, but the ball broke to Green. After his shot was initially blocked, it was left to Lewwis Spence to fire in his second from the edge of the area.

Charles and Green both came close before a rare chance for United saw Jon Crockett head just wide. Spence was looking dangerous every time he went forward and he just failed to beat the keeper with a delicate chip. Diamonds made a couple of changes, with debuts for youth team members Callum Earls and Lewis Wilson, replacing Robinson and Read. It looked only a matter of time before Diamonds went further ahead, and on 79 minutes, Callum Earls cross from the left was deflected past the hapless keeper by Andy McKinley.

Just four minutes later, Lewwis Spence finally got his deserved hat-trick, heading in Miller’s cross for number seven. Diamonds biggest win in this competition was 16 years ago when they beat Desborough 8-0 and right on the stroke of full time, the fiesta was completed when Lewis Wilson centred the ball from the left to find Ryan Charles in space to fire home from the edge of the area.

Full-time: Diamonds 8 Daventry United 0

The comprehensive win puts Diamonds into the Quarter Finals of the competition, although the draw is not expected to be made until early November, when the remaining Round 2 ties have been resolved.

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds: Lance Key, Justin Miller, Kurt Robinson (Callum Earls 67), Joe Keehan, Jake Gillingwater (Aaron King 40), Michael Corcoran (c), Dominic Green, Max York, Ryan Charles, Liam Read (Lewis Wilson 75), Lewwis Spence.

Subs not used: Kyle Swailes, Elliot Dent.

Daventry United: Lee Farrow, Ross Irvine, Timmy Orford (Henry Spears 67), Andy McKinlay, Duncan Harris, Nick Bailee, Johnathan Crockett (Ben James 58), Ian Waldock (c), Darran Frost, Will Briscoe (Lee Vince 58), Jamie Coleman.

Subs not used: Tommy Waldock

Goals: Max York 7 (1-0), Duncan Harris og 15 (2-0), Ryan Charles 17 (3-0), Lewwis Spence 21 (4-0), Lewwis Spence 46 (5-0), Andy McKinley og 79 (6-0), Lewwis Spence 83 (7-0), Ryan Charles 90 (8-0).

Referee: Mr Sean Feerick (Peterborough)

Attendance: 101.

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Mansfield Town 0

Rushden & Diamonds defeated Mansfield Town at Nene Park courtesy of an early Tim Sills goal. Two excellent saves by Joe Day and a rearguard action by the Diamonds defence preserved the win.

Justin Edinburgh made one change to the starting line-up that defeated Darlington in midweek with Alan Power replacing Justin Miller, with Curtis Osano starting at right back, allowing Shane Huke to drop back into a centre back role, and a midfield trio of Power, Porter and Johnson.

Stags manager David Holdsworth replaced the injured Alan Marriott and Kyle Nix, but ex-Diamonds Robert Duffy had to be content with a place on the bench – although Gary Mills started the game in midfield.

The Diamonds started very brightly, with Tim Sills at the heart of the action. Jamie Stuart pumped a high ball into the box which saw Sills run clear of his marker, but keeper Aksalu was able to deal with his first challenge at this level. Less than a minute later the Diamonds won a throw on the right, with Curtis Osano and Rene Howe interchanging passes before Osano hit a dangerous cross that Sills won in the air, but he headed narrowly wide of the right-hand upright. He had a similar opportunity after 7 minutes, when Howe and Osano again linked well, and this time it was a Howe cross that he headed wide.

With the clock ticking past the eight minute mark Sills got the goal his bright start deserved. Alan Power hit a 30 yard crossfield ball, to Rene Howe who was finding plenty of space on the right. His low cross looked to be headed for Max Porter who had made a good run in the area, but Porter was unable to connect, and the ball ran on to Tim Sills whose shot deflected high into the net.

After such an impressive start, there were thoughts that the Diamonds might control much of the game, but the Stags quickly got their passing game going, with Ashley Cain and Louis Briscoe giving them width, helped by the wide runs of Luke Medley.

After 19 minutes Joe Day was called upon to make a good save from a shot by Adam Murray on the edge of the area, which may have taken a slight deflection before Day parried it low to his right.

Seven minutes later Curtis Osano made one of several good runs he made in the half, and showed he was happy to cut inside and hit a cross with his left-foot, but Matt Johnson could not get a good connection with his head, when perhaps Tim Sills behind him was in a better position.

Apart from a couple of promising attacks that were thwarted by a player running offside, much of the rest of the half save the Diamonds focussing on defence, with the Stags impressing with their pace and width.

Gary Mills made a good run through the centre of the Diamonds defence that was pushed away by Joe Day, and while the Diamonds fans were reflecting that was a feature of Mills game they rarely saw during his time at Nene Park, there was more to come from Mills just before the end of the half. As the interval approached Mills picked up the ball on the edge of the box and he hit a powerful shot that bent away from Joe Day and towards the top corner of the goal – but Day leapt high to his left to tip the ball around the angle of post and bar. It was the sort of save that will surely be an entrant in Premium Sports TV’s save of the season competition, should they have one.

Half-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Mansfield Town 0

The Diamonds were forced to make a change at Half-Time with Jamie Day picking up a similar knock to the one on his ankle that affected him earlier in the season.

After early chances for O’Connor and Power, the second half was largely a repeat of the second quarter of the game, with the Stags pushing forwards and the Diamonds attacks limited to breakaway moves.

The best chance fell to Luke Medley eight minutes into the half, when he timed his run to beat the Diamonds offside trap, and was one-on-one with Joe Day. The Diamonds keeper should get credit for the way he spread his body in front of the striker, but Medley will be disappointed his effort only shaved the outside of the right-hand post.

With his team "under the cosh" Justin Edinburgh changed to 4-4-2 with Lewwis Spence joining the action in left-midfield, and Matt Johnson pushed to the right. This was amended when Ryan Charles came on to play on the right, allowing Johnson to drop back into central midfield at the expense of Alan Power.

The Stags had brought on Robert Duffy, who headed over from a Briscoe cross on the hour mark, but with 15 minutes left his powerful shot rebounded back off the crossbar when he latched onto a clearance from a corner. As with Gary Mills shot at the end of the first half, the ex-Diamonds player came close to scoring a better goal than in his time at Nene Park.

Lewwis Spence picked up a yellow card after a tussle with Chris Smith – his fourth of the season – with Smith appearing very fortunate to escape a similar punishment.

Referee Berry signalled five minutes of added time, which came as a big surprise as the trainers had not been used in the second half. There had been five substitutions during the half (although two of them were made at the same time), and to that point only the Spence yellow card had been shown. As it happened he showed the yellow card twice more during the added time, so it was reasonable that the added time was extended by a further minute.

The final whistle ended with the Stags fans continuing their verbal criticisms of their performance – although most neutral observers would agree that they deserved something from the game.

Full-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Mansfield Town 0

The Diamonds now have a free week before their next league game – the trip to Tamworth next Saturday – but some of the squad will be used in the Hillier Cup game when Daventry United visit Nene Park on Tuesday evening.

Teams :

Rushden & Diamonds: Joe Day (GK), Curtis Osano, Jamie Day (Kurt Robinson HT), Jamie Stuart (Capt), Shane Huke, Alan Power (Ryan Charles 83), Max Porter, Matt Johnson, Aaron O’Connor, Rene Howe, Tim Sills (Lewwis Spence 65).

Subs Not Used: Lance Key (GK), Michael Corcoran

Mansfield Town: Mihkel Aksalu (GK), Gary Silk, Kevin Sandwith, Steve Foster, Chris Smith, Gary Mills, Louis Briscoe (Stephen Istead 79), Ashley Cain (Keighan Parker 57), Adam Murray, Luke Medley, Paul Connor (Robert Duffy 57).

Subs Not Used, Neil Collett (GK), Paul Stonehouse.

Goal: Tim Sills (9mins, 1-0)

Yellow Cards: Spence, Smith, Robinson

Referee: Carl Berry (Surrey)

Attendance: 1480 (away 351)

Diamonds Man of the Match chosen by Bradshaw Financial Solutions: Joe Day

Rushden & Diamonds 2 Darlington 1

Rushden & Diamonds came from behind to defeat Darlington at Nene Park. The Quakers took the lead after 14 minutes when a rebound on an Armison cross took the ball to Michael Smith whose shot was parried to Danny Powell for a simple tap-in for the opening goal. The Diamonds equalised through Rene Howe who shrugged off a defender before hitting a 20 yard shot that keeper Russell could not hold, and the ball appeared to have crossed the line before Ryan Charles made sure. The winner came after 72 minutes when a shot from Aaron O’Connor deflected off Kevin Austin and into the right hand side of the net. The Diamonds had to survive a late scare to hold out for their win as both sides were denied penalty claims.

The win ends Darlington’s unbeaten away record in the league this season, and takes the Diamonds up to eighth place in the table.

Justin Edinburgh kept the same starting line-up that drew with Altrincham at the weekend with the same five substitutes.

Darlington manager Mark Cooper made three changes to his starting line-up following their defeat at home by Wrexham at the weekend, with Paul Arnison, Jamie Chandler and Michael Smith starting the game.

The Diamonds lined up with their now familiar 4-3-3 formation, with the visitors using a flexible formation that saw right back Armison push into midfield, as did striker Chris Senior.

Visiting keeper Sam Russell was forced to make the first of several good saves after just two minutes as Justin Miller raided forwards into midfield, crossing from right to left, and his ball to Rene Howe saw the Diamonds striker race to the dead ball line and cross for Aaron O’Connor whose effort from the edge of the six yard box was well saved.

The visitors had an early chance when Curtis Osano allowed the ball to run to Danny Powell, and his cross was cleared just before Michael Smith could get a shot on goal. As the first 15 minutes looked like ending goalless the visitors took the lead. Paul Armison was finding space on the right, and he found Michael Smith with a deflected cross that allowed Smith to run into space in the area. Although his effort on goal was half blocked it allowed Danny Powell a simple tap-in.

After scoring the goal the visitors had one more chance when an Armison cross flicked off Jamie Stuart’s foot and had to be saved by Joe Day. They then started to employ tactics that indicated they would settle for a 1-0 win, with the threat of Armison’s runs on the right ended as he focussed on supporting his defence. This allowed the Diamonds to control the remainder of the half, creating many chances but failing to get the equaliser.

Keeper Russell pulled off saves to deny Sills and Howe, and other opportunities were blazed over the bar, whilst Howe also saw an effort hit the post. Perhaps the Diamonds best move of the half saw a Jamie Day freekick on the left worked out to Matt Johnson who flicked it wide right to Justin Miller, and his first time cross was met by the head of Tim Sills, forcing an excellent save from Russell.

As the half ended Joe Day pulled off a fine save from Jamie Chandler to deny the visitors a second goal that they had rarely threatened, before Justin Miller tried a shot from 25 yards that flew narrowly wide.

Half-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Darlington 1

After the amount of possession and number of chances they had created in the first half, the Diamonds struggled to re-establish their dominance in the first part of the second half, and survived a couple of scares as first a Paul Terry free kick appeared to have deceived Joe Day as it flicked off his finger tips towards goal. The ball was cleared to safety by Jamie Stuart just as referee Madley awarded the Diamonds keeper a free kick. He had a further scare when a long kick from Russell bounced over his head but dropped onto the top of the net/

The game changed on the hour mark when Justin Edinburgh switched to 4-4-2 after bringing on Kurt Robinson for Justin Miller. Curtis Osano moved to right back in the back four alongside Stuart, Huke and Robinson. Jamie Day pushed forwards into left midfield, and then Ryan Charles replaced Tim Sills and played in the right midfield role. Charles first involvement was to help out his defence, conceding a corner, before Curtis Osano made a powerful run down the right and his pass to Howe saw the striker shrug off his marker, but referee Madley deemed he had done this unfairly. That was a precursor to Rene Howe receiving a similar pass two minutes later, and this time he shrugged off his marker fairly before hitting a powerful shot that Russell got both hands to, but the power of the shot took the ball past him and over the goal-line – with Ryan Charles following the ball into the goal.

The width of new formation was causing the visitors all kinds of problems, and this width allowed the ball to be worked to Aaron O’Connor on the right hand side of the area, and his well hit shot took a deflection off Kevin Austin as past Russell inside the right-hand post to give the Diamonds the lead.

The Diamonds then had several chances to make the game safe with a third goal. The most notable of these was a clear penalty claim when Aaron O’Connor ran into the penalty area, pushed the ball past the advancing Russell and was brought down by clear contact from Russell. Referee Madley waved away claims for what looked like a clear penalty, awarding a consolation corner.

O’Connor and Charles both had good chances to make the game safe as the visitors pushed forwards, and the Diamonds needed an excellent tackle from Jamie Stuart to stop a good run from Danny Powell, before the Quakers won a corner that saw Gareth Waite have a shot on goal unchallenged, but he fired wide. O’Connor and Charles spurned one more chance to make the game safe before the game entered four minutes of added time, and, with keeper Russell joining the attack, Powell saw a great chance denied when his header hit Shane Huke in the face – with referee Madley waving away claims for a penalty.

Full-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 2 Darlington 1

The Diamonds next fixture is also at home, when Mansfield Town visit Nene Park on Saturday – note that this game kicks off at 5:15pm.

Teams :

Rushden & Diamonds: Joe Day (GK), Justin Miller (Kurt Robinson 57), Jamie Day, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Curtis Osano, Max Porter, Matt Johnson, Shane Huke, Aaron O’Connor, Rene Howe, Tim Sills (Ryan Charles 61).

Subs Not Used: Lance Key (GK), Lewwis Spence, Alan Power.

Darlington: Sam Russell, Paul Arnison, Jamie Chandler (Tommy Wright 68), Ian Miller (Capt), Danny Hone, Kevin Austin, Aaron Brown, Paul Terry, Daniel Powell, Michael Smith, Chris Senior (Gareth Waite 68).

Subs Not Used: Daniel Lowson (GK), Joe Clarke, Phil Gray

Goals: Powell (14, 0-1), Howe (65, 1-1), O’Connor (72, 2-1)

Yellow Card: Senior

Referee: Andy Madley (West Yorkshire)

Attendance: 1034 (away 98)

Diamonds Man of the Match chosen by Moore Stephens Chartered Accountants: Rene Howe

Altrincham 2 Rushden & Diamonds 2

A late goal from Rob Williams meant Diamonds had to settle for a draw with bottom of the table Altrincham at Moss Lane.

The home side had gone in front on 8 minutes when Damian Reeves headed in a Nicky Clee cross from close range. Rene Howe pulled a goal back from the penalty spot after 15 minutes after Jamie Day had been brought down by Robins captain Robbie Lawton. Aaron O’Connor then headed Diamonds in front on 73 minutes after a defensive error, but they were unable to hold on for the victory with Williams goal on 89 minutes resulting in the points being shared.

Diamonds manager Justin Edinburgh named an unchanged starting eleven after the midweek victory at Eastbourne. Alan Power returned to the bench in place of Dominic Green.

Altrincham caretaker manager Ken McKenna made one change from the side which drew against Kettering on Tuesday evening, with Matty Crowell replacing Andrai Jones in midfield.

Diamonds kicked off towards the visiting fans, but it was the home side that had a couple of early chances. Damian Reeves miss-hit Chris Denham’s cross before Denham fired in a long range shot wide of the target. For Diamonds, Rene Howe set up a chance for Matt Johnson, who shot just wide of the post. Johnson was playing further forward than normal, with Howe dropping back and going forward in support.

After just 8 minutes though, Diamonds fell behind. Nicky Clee took the ball down the left flank, wrong footing Max Porter. His cross in from the by-line found Damian Reeves unmarked in the centre, and he headed home from close range past Joe Day.

Despite the early set-back, Diamonds were back on level terms after 15 minutes, when Jamie Day made a strong run forward into the penalty area. As he ran past Robbie Lawton, the Robins captain made a clumsy challenge bringing Day to the ground. With Diamonds record from the penalty spot not being particularly good as of late, it was left to loanee Rene Howe to blast the ball past keeper James Coates to put things all square.

The game was fairly even as the half progressed. Jamie Day was causing problems for the home defence down the left side, and on 18 minutes, his cross saw Tim Sills go just wide. But the home side had chances to go back in front on the half hour point as they had their best period of the game. Reeves tried to curl in a shot from the edge of the area, but was closed down just in time. Altrincham were then awarded a free kick after Clee was fouled by Curtis Osano. Marc Joseph’s free kick was saved low down by Joe Day.

Almost immediately, Diamonds had another chance at the other end, this time from a Jamie Day free-kick. Jamie Stuart headed onto the post, before the offside flag was raised as there was a scramble to get on the end of the rebound.

Osano went into the referee’s note-book on 38 minutes, after bringing down Chris Denham, but Diamonds finished strongly, with Porter firing over, Howe heading wide, before Jamie Day had a 25 yard drive deflected over the bar.

Half-time: Altrincham 1 Diamonds 1

Diamonds started to play the ball around more in the second half but despite having the better possession, they were unable to create good openings or threaten the Altrincham goal. Some hesitation by keeper James Coates on 58 minutes, saw him stranded as Howe gained possession close to the by-line, but as the ball was played back to Sills, his hurried shot went wide.

Jamie Day looked Diamonds most dangerous player but after some good interaction between himself and Aaron O’Connor, his shot was once again off target. Howe nearly created a chance for Sills and O’Connor, but Anthony Danylyk was back to block the danger.

Diamonds went in front on 73 minutes when Osano made a strong run forward. After the ball was played out to the left, Jamie Stuarts’ header towards goal looked to be heading for the keeper, but Marc Joseph appeared to head the ball out of his grasp and as the ball dropped in front of the goal, Aaron O’Connor was on hand to head the ball in.

The lead was nothing more than Diamonds deserved, but they failed to press home their advantage with Howe firing over the bar from the edge of the area. With just two minutes remaining, hesitation between keeper Joe Day and Justin Miller brought back memories of Diamonds last visit to Moss Lane, when a mix up allowed Chris Denham to equalise deep into injury time. This time, the ball was cleared away, but they continued to defend deep and Jamie Day conceded a free kick for a foul on Shaun Densmore some ten yards from the edge of the penalty area. The defence seemed to switch off as Nicky Clee’s free kick came into the area, and defender Rob Williams’ header at the far post found the corner of the goal to give Altrincham a share of the points.

The home side could have taken all three points in added time, but Day did well to save from substitute Kevin Holsgrove.

Full time: Altrincham 2 Diamonds 2

The late goal made the result feel more like a defeat rather than a draw, especially in view of the similar result to last season. Diamonds now have two home games next week, starting with Darlington, who visit Nene Park on Tuesday evening (7:45pm kick-off).

Altrincham: James Coates, James Smith, Marc Joseph, Rob Williams, Shaun Densmore, Robbie Lawton (c), Damian Reeves (James McCarthy 74), Chris Denham (Kevin Holsgrove 62), Nicky Clee, Anthony Danylyk, Matty Crowell (Sam Hewson 74).

Subs not used: Stuart Coburn, Andrai Jones.

Rushden & Diamonds: Joe Day, Justin Miller, Max Porter, Jamie Stuart (c), Curtis Osano, Tim Sills (Ryan Charles 69), Aaron O’Connor, Rene Howe, Jamie Day, Matt Johnson (Lewwis Spence 83), Shane Huke.

Subs not used: Lance Key, Kurt Robinson, Alan Power.

Goals: Damian Reeves 8 (1-0), Howe 15pen (1-1), Aaron O’Connor 73 (1-2), Rob Williams 89 (2-2).

Booked: Curtis Osano 38 (foul), Anthony Danylyk 55 (foul), Rene Howe 85 (foul).

Referee: Mr Lee Metcalfe (Lancs)

Attendance: 897 (84 away)

Reporters Man of the Match: Jamie Day

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