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

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