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

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