Rushden & Diamonds 2 Southport 2

 

Rushden & Diamonds fought back to draw 2-2 with Southport at Nene Park on Saturday afternoon. The Diamonds opened the scoring after 28 minutes when a Gary Mills shot was saved but Matt Johnson was on hand to fire home the loose ball. The Sandgrounders equalised nine minutes later when Gary Mills was adjudged to have pushed Shaun Whalley in the penalty area and Matty McGinn fired home the spot-kick.

The Sandgrounders took the lead after 55 minutes when Shaun Whalley beat Joe Day after being put clear by a Tony Gray header. The Diamonds then dominated the remainder of the game, and scored the equaliser when good work by Michael Gash led to a Max Porter shooting from 25 yards, with the shot taking a big deflection on its way into goal.

The Diamonds then hit the bar and saw another effort cleared off the line, but were unable to get the winner, meaning the Diamonds fans had seen their third score draw in a row at Nene Park.

Diamonds’ Manager Justin Edinburgh had to replace Paris Cowan-Hall who had taken a knock in midweek, and with Aaron O’Connor, Ryan Charles and Sam Smith still unavailable he played Matt Johnson in a striking role, with Youth Team player Jake Woolley taking a place on the bench.

Southport manager Liam Watson had almost a full squad to pick from, although right-back Kevin Lee was serving the second game of his suspension, and he restored Robbie Williams to his starting line-up.

The Diamonds had an early chance when a Farrell flick put Michael Gash clear, but his effort was smothered by keeper McMillan. The visitors then had their best spell of the game, with several breaks down the left that beat the Diamonds offside trap, and Steve Daly having a claim for a penalty when he broke clear and knocked the ball past Joe Day before falling to the ground. Day also made an excellent save from Shaun Whalley after he had broken away from the attentions of Jamie Day.

The Diamonds did start to get back into the game as the half-hour approached, and after 28 minutes they took the lead. A long ball forwards from Shane Huke was headed back across the area by Michael Gash, and Gary Mills swivelled and fired a shot on goal which McMillan could only parry and Matt Johnson was on the spot to fire home the loose ball.

Any thought that the opening goal might deflate a visiting team that had been struggling on the road all season were quickly dispelled when Shaun Whalley got in a dangerous cross that Justin Miller did well to force clear. However, after 37 minutes the visitors were level. A simple ball forwards from midfield saw Shaun Whalley break clear on the right, and as Gary Mills tried to force him wide in the area his push was spotted by the linesman who confirmed a penalty should be awarded. As in the game at Haig Avenue, Matty McGinn fired the spotkick past Joe Day.

The Diamonds did have one other good move before half-time, with Mills and Day linking on the left to create a chance for Michael Gash that was cleared away for a corner.

A controversial moment just before the break saw referee Martin signal that Matt Johnson was offside as he was about to fire on goal, with the linesman not seeing any infringement.

Half-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Southport 1

An early scare for the Diamonds in the second half came when Joe Day’s punch to a free kick landed back into the danger area, and Alan Moogan might have done better with his effort on goal.

After 55 minutes the visitors went ahead, and it was a remarkably simple goal. A long ball forwards from McMillan was flicked into the path of Shaun Whalley by Tony Gray, and the impressive winger made no mistake to lift the ball past Joe Day.

After a lethargic start to the second period, the goal did produce the expected response from the Diamonds, as they started to create chances, the first of which saw an excellent header from Farrell following a Day free kick saved by McMillan, and the keeper then bundled the ball for a corner ahead of an attempt by Justin Miller. Farrell and Gash then had attempts blocked before Matt Johnson found the ball at his feet from a Gash cross from the left, but he was unable to turn and shoot before the massed defence got in a challenge.

The Diamonds then switched to 4-4-2 with Michael Corcoran replacing Gary Mills, with Jamie Day pushed into left midfield and Matt Johnson into right as Nabil Shariff replaced Craig Farrell. The equaliser came after 77 minutes when good work by the impressive Michael Gash saw his pass to Nabil Shariff pushed out to Max Porter, whose powerful goalbound shot was defected past McMillan.

The Diamonds then had a number of chances to win the game, with both Huke and Miller winning headers from Diamonds corners, with Miller also hitting the crossbar an seeing another effort cleared off the line with McMillan beaten. Shariff also had a chance to open his Diamonds account when a flick-on from Gash dipped over his head, but he could not get an overhead kick onto the ball.

Full-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 2 Southport 2

With a succession of score-draws at home against teams in the lower half of the table, the Diamonds have a chance to show how they can perform against one of the main contenders for promotion when Luton Town visit on Tuesday evening.

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds: Joe Day, Justin Miller, Jamie Day, Shane Huke, Eddie Oshodi, Alan Power, Max Porter (Capt), Gary Mills (Michael Corcoran 63), Matt Johnson, Michael Gash, Craig Farrell (Nabil Shariff 70).

Subs Not Used: Simon Evans (GK), Joe Keehan, Jake Woolley

Southport: Tony McMillan, Chris Lever, Earl Davis, Shaun Whalley, Alan Moogan (Capt), Steve Daly (Matty McNeil 65), Tony Gray (Karl Ledsham 65), Matty McGinn (John-Paul Kissock 81), Rob Marsh-Evans, Robbie Williams, Aaron Turner.

Subs Not Used: Steve Dickinson (GK), Liam Blakeman

Goals: Johnson (28, 1-0), McGinn (37 (Pen), 1-1), Whalley (55, 1-2), Porter (77, 2-2)

Yellow Cards: Turner, Lever.

Referee: Mr R Martin (Weston-super-Mare)

Attendance: 1061 (away 58)

Diamonds Man of The Match Chosen by G H Frecknall & Co Ltd: Matt Johnson

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