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


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