Newport County 1 Rushden & Diamonds 3

 

Three excellent goals gave Rushden & Diamonds a well-deserved away win as they defeated Newport County 3-1. The Diamonds took the lead after 19 minutes when excellent work by Ryan Charles allowed him to cross from wide on the right to Aaron O’Connor whose athletic flick back across goal was bundled in by Michael Gash for his first goal for the club. Curtis Osano conceded a penalty six minutes later which was fired home by Danny Rose.

Aaron O’Connor restored the Diamonds lead five minutes before the break when he broke clear and rounded the keeper before firing home. After a solid Diamonds performance in the second half they looked in danger of conceding an equaliser when Luke Prosser was harshly penalised for hand-ball in the area, but Joe Day pulled off a fine save of Rose’s kick. The Diamonds then went up the other end to see Matt Johnson seal the points with a fine finish.

Justin Edinburgh brought in Gary Mills in place of Ollie Thorne, with Michael Corcoran moving to centre back.

The game kicked off after Aaron O’Connor had opted to change ends so that Newport were facing the low sun – albeit with the wind slightly in their favour. The Diamonds fans had been allocated space on a new open terrace area behind the goal the home side defended in the first half – so they too had to face the sun as well as the challenges of viewing over the Athletics track.

The first period belonged to the Diamonds, as they showed no signs of any cautiousness that might be associated with a team that is on a difficult run. All of their early threat came down the right, with Charles and Osano both getting in a decent cross that caused problems to the home defence.

It was thus no surprise when the Diamonds took the lead after 19 minutes when a superb long ball from Mills was brought under control on the right touchline by Ryan Charles. Although quickly closed down Charles executed a neat turn to find the space for a deep cross to the far post. Aaron O’Connor met the cross at a difficult height, but he deftly back-flicked the ball back across goal for Michael Gash to force home.

The goal seemed to spark the home team into life, and for the next 15 minutes the Diamonds defence were put under severe pressure for possibly the only time in the game. Michael Corcoran backheaded the ball into the path of Sam Foley, who fired over, but after 25 minutes Curtis Osano pulled back Craig Reid as he attempted to run towards goal along the left by-line. Although the offence appeared to be outside the area, with Reid rather delaying his fall, a spot-kick was awarded. Danny Rose fired the spotkick high into the right-hand side of goal to level the scores.

Foley then missed another excellent chance when set up by Darryl Knights, claiming he had been fouled as he put the ball over the bar – although Knights had looked well ahead of defence and linesman when the ball was passed to him on the right wing. Joe Day then pulled out a great save to keep the Diamonds on level terms as a Bignot cross was initially blocked but then another Sam Foley attempt looked destined to go just inside the post before Day palmed it wide.

A long free kick saw Matthews head down to Reid whose finishing belied his position in second place in the Conference goalscorers chart as he fired wide.

The Diamonds had weathered this storm though, and Ryan Charles might have got the goal his first half performance deserved when a flick from Aaron O’Connor set him clear, but he fired over.

Five minutes before half-time the Diamonds got in front again, and this time it was Charles who set Aaron O’Connor free, and he neatly sidestepped the keeper, sending a defender to his knees as he fired home to give the Diamonds a half-time lead.

Half Time: Newport County 1 Diamonds 2

With the sun having disappeared the Diamonds were able to keep the home attack in check for much of the second half. Curtis Osano almost scored the goal the Diamonds fans have been waiting from him for some time when he checked inside and hit a powerful left-foot shot that narrowly missed the angle of post and bar.

Michael Corcoran had shown his flexibility to take on the centre-back role, and his partnership with Prosser seemed to improve as the game went on. He executed a well judged back-header to clear a well-hit ball into the box from Kerry Morgan, forcing the ball for a corner. If that defensive work was vital, then so was a clearance off the goal-line from Jamie Day after his namesake Joe was beaten for the only time from open play following an Exiles corner from the right.

Aaron O’Connor was having another excellent game, and led by example, cropping up at the back to get in a vital tackle to preserve the Diamonds lead. Within a minute he was in action at the other end of the pitch as a Mills pass was worked on by Gash and Smith to O’Connor who saw his effort blocked. Sam Smith had replaced Ryan Charles, and he was finding space down the right and got in a dangerous cross that was headed away by Chris Todd to prevent it presenting a simple chance to Michael Gash.

The game entered the final few minutes with the Diamonds holding on to their lead, but the action was far from over. Craig Reid burst towards the six yard box to get on the end of a Matthews flick, and flicked the ball upwards whilst alongside Luke Prosser, with the ball striking the unsuspecting Prosser’s arm, on the blind-side of referee Barratt, but the man-in-black signalled it was an intentional hand-ball, with a penalty awarded, and showed Prosser a yellow card.

Just as the Diamonds fans behind that goal were thinking that their team would be denied the victory their performance deserved, Danny Rose hit the penalty to the same side as the he had in the first half and Joe Day pulled off a great save, knocking the ball back into play. It was then quickly worked downfield, with Aaron O’Connor on the right working the ball inside to Matt Johnson, who held off one defender then coolly took a side step past another before slotting home the clinching goal, right on the stroke of 90 minutes.

After five minutes of added time referee Barratt signalled the Diamonds first victory since he had also blown the final whistle on the Diamonds last victory over Barrow.

Full Time: Newport County 1 Diamonds 3

The Diamonds now have a clear week before the visit of Tamworth next Saturday, but attention will be on Oakwell on Wednesday when the Youth team play in the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup for the first time.

Teams

Newport County: Glyn Thompson, Paul Bignot, Chris Todd, Mike Fowler (Kerry Morgan 63), Andrew Hughes (Eddie Odhiambo HT), Darryl Knights (Graeme Montgomery 76), Jamie Collins (Capt), Danny Rose, Sam Foley, Robbie Matthews, Craig Reid

Subs Not Used: Glyn Garner, Curtis McDonald

Rushden & Diamonds: Joe Day, Curtis Osano, Jamie Day, Luke Prosser, Michael Corcoran, Max Porter, Alan Power (Matt Johnson 81), Gary Mills, Aaron O’Connor (Capt) (Craig Farrell 90+1), Michael Gash, Ryan Charles (Sam Smith 60)

Subs Not Used: Simon Evans (GK), Ollie Thorne.

Goals: Gash (0-1, 19 mins), Rose (pen) (1-1, 26 mins), O’Connor (1-2, 40 mins), Johnson (1-3, 89 mins)

Yellow Cards: Charles, Power, Bignot, Prosser

Referee: Wayne Barratt (Worcestershire)

Attendance 1743 (Away approx 75)

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