Forest Green Rovers 2 Rushden & Diamonds 2


Rushden & Diamonds snatched a last gasp equaliser to draw 2-2 with Forest Green in Gloucestershire Two first half goals by Curtis Mcdonald gave the hosts a convincing lead at the break, but the Diamonds dominated the second half, getting an early penalty converted by Alan Power, then Aaron O’Connor got the equaliser with 10 seconds of the four minutes of added time left when he fired home after a long throw from Justin Miller wasn’t cleared.

Justin Edinburgh made four enforced changes to the team that lost at home to York City the previous weekend, with Kurt Robinson, Justin Miller, Lewwis Spence and Tim Sills joining the starting line-up in place of the suspended Jamie Day, Curtis Osano and Rene Howe, and the injured Michael Corcoran. A further change was that Craig Farrell started ahead of Ryan Charles.

Forest Green Manager David Hockaday gave new loan signing Steve Guinan a place on the bench, with Liam Enver-Marum restored to the starting line-up.

The match referee Amy Fearn had passed the pitch fit shortly before 1pm, with the conditions a credit to the efforts made by the host club to ensure the game went ahead.

The Diamonds played 4-3-3 with Lewwis Spence joining Porter and Power in midfield, but it was the home side who quickly established complete domination of the half. Early chances for Enver-Marum and Klukowski were followed by a dangerous low ball across the area from Enver-Marum that only needed a touch from Klukowski to open the scoring.

As the end of the first quarter approached Lewwis Spence fouled Wayne Turk in midfield. The Diamonds lined up a five man wall that was positioned just outside the area, but Mike Fowler rolled the freekick diagonally to Curtis McDonald who fired his shot across Joe Day an into the far corner from 20 yards to open the scoring.

Worse was to come five minutes later, as Rovers sliced through the Diamonds defence down the right channel, via a neat 1-2 between Jared Hodgkiss and Yan Klukowski, not helped by a slip from Kurt Robinson, and Klukowski hit a low ball along the edge of the six yard box that was slid home by Curtis McDonald.

It looked like the home side might get the third goal their domination deserved when McDonald broke down the right, and although Justin Miller tried to lean on him to shepherd him away from goal he was too strong and continued his run, only to see Shane Huke slip to the floor, suffering a hamstring strain. This allowed McDonald to run unchallenged along the byline and hit a ball that one of the Rovers strikers should have fired home. The injury to Huke was made more challenging by the fact the Diamonds didn’t have a defender on the bench, but he was replaced by Matt Johnson, which allowed Max Porter to drop to right-back, and Justin Miller moved into the centre of defence.

Other chances fell to Dyer and Quinn, with Joe Day pulling off a couple of smart saves to keep the Diamonds in with a chance of retrieving something from the game.

The half ended with four players colliding with each other going for a loose ball, leaving Max Porter needed attention off the pitch as the whistle went for the break.

Half-Time: Forest Green Rovers 2 Rushden & Diamonds 0

After such a poor showing in the first half, no changes were made at the break, but it was quickly clear that the Diamonds players had significantly increased their level of performance, with Rovers struggling to get out of their own half for much of the second period.

Matt Johnson created an early chance for Craig Farrell via his long throw, and then made a run down the right wing before hitting a cross that wasn’t dealt with, and as Craig Farrell went to pick up the loose ball towards the right corner of the penalty area he was tripped by Curtis McDonald, and referee Fearn signalled a spot kick.

With Rene Howe the preferred penalty taker suspended, the responsibility was given to Alan Power, and he made no mistake firing the ball low into the left hand side of goal.

Lewwis Spence was finding space on the left, and had the beating of his marker after a fine ball from Alan Power, producing a cross that Aaron O’Connor narrowly failed to poke home. Spence produced a similar cross moments later, and this one caused a pile-up of bodies on the edge of the six-yard box, with the Forest Green defenders appearing to tumble on top of keeper Bittner, but referee Fearn signalled a Rovers free kick rather than possibly declaring the game should be restarted with a drop-ball so close to goal.

The space down the Diamonds left was also exploited by Sills and O’Connor, and following a Sills flick O’Connor raced into the area and appeared to be knocked off the ball by Luke Jones, but referee Fearn waved away Diamonds claims for a second penalty.

A Miller long throw produced a shooting chance for Craig Farrell, but his powerful goal bound shot hit a number of players and went out for a goal kick. Alan Power then went close with an attempted chip, as the Diamonds brought on Sam Smith and Ryan Charles to try to force the equaliser.

Joe Day was almost a spectator in the second half, although his distribution from free kicks was also causing the home defence some concerns.

Referee Fearn was causing both benches some upset as first she penalised Aaron O’Connor for a challenge that saw his shirt almost pulled off his back, and then allowed a very poor tackle on Max Porter to go unpunished. She then appeared to play advantage after a Rovers player had been fouled, but just as the Rovers forwards seemed to be threatening the Diamonds backline she stopped play to award them the free kick.

The Diamonds pressure continued right until the end of the game, with referee Fearn indicating a minimum of four added minutes, which seemed the minimum for a half with four substitutions and a number of instances where the home side took 30 seconds to get the ball back into play.

During this period the Diamonds had four corners in quick succession, the first three of which had a real threat on goal, but after the four went straight out for a goalkick it looked like the Diamonds might get nothing from their dominance of the half. With seconds left the Diamonds won a throw on their left, just inside the Rovers half, and Justin Miller launched ball diagonally into the area, and it flicked off a defender to Aaron O’Connor who blasted the ball low into the net in front of the visiting fans to clinch a point with 10 seconds to spare.

Full-Time: Forest Green Rovers 2 Rushden & Diamonds 2

Although the Diamonds were celebrating the late equaliser, questions will be asked how they had played so poorly in the first half for the second away game running – a performance manager Edinburgh described as "abject", and why they couldn’t produce the sort of performance they showed in the second half for the whole 90 minutes. The team has still to score in the opening period during November, and the last three games have seen first period performances at Fleetwood and Forest Green sandwich the three goals that York scored at Nene Park during that phase.

There will be a chance to answer this question on Tuesday evening when Cambridge United visit Nene Park, although they will be without Shane Huke following his hamstring injury.


Forest Green Rovers: James Bittner, Jared Hodgkiss, Luke Jones (Capt), Craig Armstrong, Adam Quinn, Mike Fowler (Gavin Caines 75), Yan Klukowski, Curtis McDonald, Wayne Turk, Liam Enver-Marum (Steve Guinan 71), RossDyer.

Subs Not Used: Scott Bartlett, Chris Stokes, Jon Else.

Rushden & Diamonds: Joe Day (GK), Justin Miller, Kurt Robinson, Shane Huke (Matt Johnson 33), Jamie Stuart (Capt), Max Porter, Alan Power, Lewwis Spence (Ryan Charles 70), Tim Sills (Sam Smith 80), Craig Farrell, Aaron O’Connor

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

Goals: McDonald (20, 1-0), McDonald (25, 2-0), Power (pen, 51, 2-1), O’Connor (90+4, 2-2)

Yellow Cards: Power, Sills

Referee: Ms A Fearn (Leics)

Attendance: 642 (Away 72)

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