Darlington 2 Rushden & Diamonds 0

 

The Diamonds slipped to defeat in their last game of the season as Darlington scored twice in the second-half. Tommy Wright tapped home after 64 minutes, and John Campbell made the game safe with a 25-yard volley five minutes from time.

Justin Edinburgh made a single change to the team that beat Kidderminster on Monday, with Max Porter returning from suspension and Matt Johnson dropping to the bench. He kept the same 3-5-2 formation that was so successful against Kidderminster.

After the hosts had a couple of early attacks, the first twenty minutes had an end of season feel before the Diamonds picked up the pace and dominated the remainder of the half.

After 25 minutes the Diamonds had the first of three excellent chances during the half, as Shariff laid a neat ball into the path of Aaron O’Connor in the left channel. With Jamie Day making a decoy run on his outside, O’Connor was able to cut inside and shoot, but keeper Russell made a confident save.

A minute later there was another chance with Jamie Day involved again as he picked up a neat flick by Aaron O’Connor and then set up Nabil Shariff for a run into the area in the left channel, but his side-footed attempt was gathered by Russell.

A major concern during the half was the knock picked up by Jamie Day, as he picked up an ankle injury and had to be replaced by Matt Johnson. After the game Justin Edinburgh confirmed he had "turned his ankle" which could mean he recovers in time for his England C duty in May.

The third excellent Diamonds chance of the half came just before the interval as Alan Power forced a good save from Russell as he made a surging run into the area

Half-Time: Darlington 0 Diamonds 0

The second half struggled to spark into life, and the opening goal after 64 minutes was perhaps appropriate for a game that looked like it might peter out into a goalless draw. Curtis Osano struggled to deal with a Quakers threat down their right, and Chris Moore was able to hit a low cross towards the six-yard line which substitute John Campbell fired towards goal, and although Simon Evans made a block it fell to Tommy Wright who had a simple tap-in from close range. Referee Simpson looked long and hard at the linesman as there was a strong suspicion Wright might have been offside, but no flag was shown and the goal stood.

If that goal was very scrappy, the Quakers second goal was one of the few quality moments in the game, as John Campbell picked up a loose ball in a similar area to where the Diamonds had seen their two best chances in the first half, but he chose to shoot from 25 yards, and his powerful effort easily beat Evans.

The game ended with home keeper Sam Russell being confirmed as the sponsors man-of-the-match, and award justified by his performance in the first half that denied the Diamonds a half-time lead that might have led to them going on to win the game.

Full-Time: Darlington 2 Diamonds 0

Few involved with Rushden & Diamonds will be sad to see the back of the 2010-11 season, with the fans prepared to back a regime over which there have been question-marks for some time, but who will now be looking to know the true situation with the club.

Teams

Darlington: Sam Russell, Paul Arnison, Ian Miller (Capt), Aman Verma (Paul Terry 57), Aaron Brown, Jamie Chandler, Gary Smith, Chris Moore, Marc Bridge-Wilkinson (John Campbell 64), Liam Hatch, Tommy Wright (Nathan Modest 89)

Subs Not Used: Phil Gray, Greg Taylor.

Rushden & Diamonds: Simon Evans, Justin Miller, Jamie Day (Matt Johnson 41), Shane Huke, Curtis Osano, Eddie Oshodi (Neil Cousins 70), Max Porter, Alan Power, Michael Corcoran, Aaron O’Connor (Capt), Nabil Shariff (Craig Farrell 75)

Subs Not Used: James Broadbent (GK), Ryan Charles

Goals: Wright (64), Campbell 85)

Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancs)

Attendance: 2009 (Away approx 75)

Rushden & Diamonds 2 Kidderminster Harriers 1

 

Rushden & Diamonds saved the best until last, as their best home performance and one of the best games of the season came in their last game at Nene Park in this campaign.

Aaron O’Connor opened the scoring with a penalty early in the second half, after Michael Briscoe had handled. Although the Diamonds were dominant, they allowed the Harriers back in the game when Chris McPhee equalised with five minutes left, but the Diamonds got the result they deserved when substitute Ryan Charles finished off after a mazy run by Aaron O’Connor. The Harriers had Jack Byrne sent off as a result of his reaction to conceding the late winner.

A glorious spring afternoon saw a shirt-sleeved Bank Holiday crowd at Nene Park, with the Harriers still chasing a play-off spot after they had beaten close rivals Fleetwood Town on Good Friday.

Harriers manager Steve Burr was able to name an unchanged 16 for the game, whereas Justin Edinburgh was forced into several changes due to the suspensions of Max Porter and Gary Mills, and the late injury withdrawal of Paris Cowan-Hall. He was able to restore Eddie Oshodi on the right of a back three, with Shane Huke in the centre and Curtis Osano on the left. Jamie Day and Justin Miller were pushed forwards as left and right wing-backs, with Michael Corcoran taking the defensive midfield role behind Alan Power and Matt Johnson. Aaron O’Connor and Nabil Shariff shared striking duties.

Within a few minutes it was clear this would be a very open game, with the 3-5-2 formation of the Diamonds giving them a significant attacking threat down the flanks with Miller and Day, and Johnson and Power linking up well with the two strikers. The formation did allow Kidderminster’s wide players plenty of space, especially Matty Blair who seemed to find a lot of space on either wing.

Justin Miller had the Diamonds first effort on goal, but his dangerous looking shot hit Nabil Shariff who did manage to recover the ball before firing into the side netting. Another Miller cross narrowly eluded the head of Aaron O’Connor before the Diamonds striker flicked towards goal at the neat post from an Alan Power corner, but again found the side-netting.

O’Connor and Shariff were linking well, with Shariff setting up the Diamonds captain with a chance that flew wide.

The Harriers didn’t really threaten the Diamonds goal until almost the half-hour mark when a flick by Michael Corcoran dissected the centre-back line allowing Chris McPhee to set up Matty Blair who fired across goal before Curtis Osano was booked for a foul in the build-up by referee Atkin who had initially allowed advantage – one of several occasions the referee allowed the game to flow, and contributed in no small part to making it such an entertaining game. Lee Morris then fired wide after a rare mistake by Eddie Oshodi who had quickly adjusted to the pace of the game after his lay off.

Shariff then went close as he got on the end of a long throw from Justin Miller, and O’Connor again did well to get clear of his marker but his final effort was wayward.

After a fairly quiet start to the game, Simon Evans was called upon to make two excellent saves shortly before half-time, both from Matty Blair, who had switched to the left.

Half-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Kidderminster Harriers 0

After such an entertaining first half there was a feeling that all the game needed was a goal – and it came inside five minutes of the second half. Nabil Shariff showed his close control to shield the ball after receiving it towards the edge of the area before turning and hitting a shot towards the far post, but saw it hit Michael Briscoe’s arm, and a penalty was awarded. Aaron O’Connor fired home the spotkick inside the right-hand post.

Although the game meant more to the visitor in terms of their final league position, it was the Diamonds who continued to control the game after going ahead. A great move saw O’Connor on the left link with Matt Johnson’s run through the centre, and he in turn set up Shariff who attempted to lob the ball back to an unmarked Johnson, but keeper Lewis was just able to gather the ball.

A minute later another chance fell to Aaron O’Connor who latched onto a poor backpass, but his effort was blocked by Lewis. A powerful shot by Alan Power was saved by Lewis and O’Connor saw another penalty claim turned down.

At the other end substitute Canham headed a Briggs cross wide and McPhee might have done better when he picked up a long ball.

Michael Corcoran was getting forwards for corners and he saw an effort blocked before a flowing Diamonds move down the right saw the ball worked to Shariff whose shot was saved.

As is often the case, the team that has all of the pressure needs to have more to show from it – and the Diamonds paid the price for not putting the game beyond the visitors when a quick ball to Nicholas Wright on the right saw him surge past Osano and put in a low cross that Chris McPhee fired home after 85 minutes.

Another great run from Aaron O’Connor set up Alan Power for a shot that he tried to place, allowing Lewis to gather as the Diamonds tried to retake the lead – and the visitors also looked for a winning goal to keep their playoff push going.

Justin Edinburgh made his first change of the game with just four minutes left when he brought on Ryan Charles for Nabil Shariff, who had again impressed. With Charles struggling for fitness, this might have been a gamble, but it was one that paid off handsomely.

As the referee signalled there would be four minutes of added time Aaron O’Connor once more created space for himself in the left channel, beating defender Michael Briscoe after the defender allowed a long ball forwards from Jamie Day to bounce, before firing a shot that Lewis could only parry and Briscoe could only prod into the path of Ryan Charles who was on hand to fire home the winner.

In the aftermath of the goal Sean Canham was booked and Jack Byrne received a straight red card before the Diamonds saw out time to reward their fans with an excellent three points.

Full-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 2 Kidderminster Harriers 1

The Diamonds final game of the season is a trip to Darlington on Saturday – note this is a 5:15 kick off.

Teams

Rushden & Diamonds: Simon Evans, Justin Miller, Jamie Day, Shane Huke, Curtis Osano, Eddie Oshodi, Matt Johnson, Alan Power, Michael Corcoran, Aaron O’Connor (Capt) (Neil Cousins 90+5), Nabil Shariff (Ryan Charles 86)

Subs Not Used, James Broadbent (GK), Craig Farrell, Joe Keehan

Kidderminster Harriers: Daniel Lewis, Lee Vaughan, Mike Williams, Mark Albrighton, Michael Briscoe, Keith Briggs (Capt) (Tom Shaw 68), Chris McPhee, Jack Byrne, Matty Blair, Callum Gittings (Sean Canham 59), Lee Morris (Nick Wright 59).

Subs Not Used:Andrew Stevens (GK), Jamille Matt,

Goals: Aaron O’Connor (pen) (1-0, 49), Chris McPhee (1-1, 85), Ryan Charles (2-1, 90+1)

Yellow Cards: Curtis Osano, Lee Vaughan, Jamie Day, Nabil Shariff, Sean Canham, Michael Corcoran

Red Cards: Jack Byrne (90+2)

Man of the Match chosen by STABLEHIRE LTD – Nabil Shariff

Attendance: 1569 (away 522)

Click here for video highlights.

Crawley Town 4 Rushden & Diamonds 0

 

Matt Tubbs scored a hat-trick against 10 men Diamonds after Gary Mills saw red after 12 minutes. Jamie Cook added a fourth goal in added time shortly after Max Porter had also received a red card in the first minute of added time.

The Diamonds had gone down to 10 men when Gary Mills reacted to a late tackle on him by Scott Neilson and the referee decided it was worthy of a red card, with Neilson only seeing yellow. Neither side was threatening to open the scoring until Simon Evans went to field a ball in front of Matt Tubbs but let it slip and Tubbs rolled the ball home. Tubbs added a second from close range after the interval when a McAllister header came back off a post. The striker scored his hat-trick eight minutes from time with a looping header. As the game entered added time Max Porter picked up a second yellow card and then ex-Diamond Jamie Cook scored the best goal of the game with a fierce 30-yard shot.

Justin Edinburgh made two changes from the team that drew at Gateshead, with Alan Power returning from suspension in place of Joe Keehan and Matt Johnson replacing the injured Ryan Charles.

Crawley manager Steve Evans chose four ex-Diamonds in his starting line-up – Scott Shearer, John Dempster, Craig McAllister and Dean Howell. On the bench were two more – Glenn Wilson and Jamie Cook.

The Diamonds trip to the ground had proved a difficult one in the holiday traffic, as they arrived just 45 minutes before kick-off.

The game started fairly quietly, with both sides adjusting to the playing conditions on a warm holiday afternoon, but after 12 minutes the prospect of the Diamonds getting any kind of a result against the big-budget Champions all but evaporated when referee Hopkins showed Gary Mills a red card. Mills had been scythed down in a tackle from Scott Neilson, but had got up and reacted to the challenge. Neilson only received a yellow card for his challenge, and none of the other players who got involved in the aftermath to the challenge were spoken to by the referee.

The hosts were still unable to produce a significant threat on the Diamonds goal until the 34th minute when a Dean Howell cross was knocked down by Craig McAllister towards Matt Tubbs. Keeper Evans appeared to have gathered the ball ahead of Tubbs, but he spilled it and Tubbs was presented with a simple chance to tap the ball home and open the scoring.

Despite being down to 10 men, the Diamonds players were matching their high-budget opponents for the majority of the first half, and it was only a mistake that occurred at a time there was little danger that had given the hosts a lead at the interval.

Half-Time: Crawley Town 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

The second half started with little action at either end before a rare Diamonds corner saw Aaron O’Connor find space at the near post to meet a low kick from Alan Power, but his effort was deflected by Shearer into the side netting.

Simon Evans made an excellent save from McAllister after 55 minutes, and Ben Smith might have done better as he tried to lob in the rebound. Evans then made his second excellent save of the game on 67 minutes when he palmed away a Neilson effort. He had little chance when the resultant corner by Ben Smith was met by a poorly marked Craig McAllister. Although the striker’s header hit the post Matt Tubbs was on hand to knock home the rebound.

John Dempster received a yellow card as he blocked a dangerous-looking run by Neil Cousins, and from the resultant free kick Jamie Day forced a good save from Scott Shearer. At the other end Craig McAllister sprang the Diamonds offside trap on 71 minutes, but couldn’t square to an unmarked Tubbs to score his hat-trick.

By this stage the Diamonds had brought on both Neil Cousins and Paris Cowan-Hall to try to get a goal back, but after playing with only 10 men for such a period on a warm afternoon their team-mates were starting to tire, and Matt Tubbs scored his hat-trick after 82 minutes when a cross from the left allowed Tubbs to nod a looping header over Evans and into the far corner of the net.

Paris Cowan-Hall and Aaron O’Connor were starting to link up at pace, and looked like they might have been able to cause the home defence problems had Cowan-Hall been fit enough to start, and this partnership produced a chance for O’Connor that was blocked.

Richard Brodie had joined the action, and he should have done better when he broke clear of the Diamonds defence and had the choice of tapping past and advancing Evans or squaring to an unmarked strike partner – but instead spooned the ball straight at Evans.

As the game started the three minutes of added time Max Porter made a challenge on Nielson near the half-way line that referee Hopkins deemed worthy of a second yellow – perhaps rather harshly, especially given the state of the game. Almost immediately the 9-men Diamonds might have got a consolation goal when a Day freekick found Miller in space, but his effort was cleared.

That was not the end of the action though, as with the three minutes almost up the ball fell to Jamie Cook who was in plenty of space against the nine-men, and he lashed the ball past Evans for the best goal of the game, against his former club.

Full-Time: Crawley Town 4 Rushden & Diamonds 0

With both Mills and Porter suspended for Easter Monday’s game against Kidderminster the Diamonds will have to field a revised midfield line-up in their final home game of the season.

Teams

Crawley Town: Scott Shearer, David Hunt, John Dempster, Ben Smith (Jamie Cook 79), Matt Tubbs (Richard Brodie 83), Josh Simpson, Craig McAllister, Dannie Bulman (Capt), Dean Howell, Scott Neilson, Kyle McFadzean (Charlie Wassmer 42).

Subs Not Used, Michel Kuipers (GK), Glenn Wilson.

Rushden & Diamonds: Simon Evans, Justin Miller, Jamie Day, Shane Huke, Curtis Osano, Max Porter, Alan Power, Gary Mills, Aaron O’Connor (Capt), Nabil Shariff (Paris Cowan-Hall 65), Matt Johnson (Neil Cousins 57).

Subs Not Used: James Broadbent (GK), Joe Keehan, Michael Corcoran.

Goals: Tubbs (34, 1-0), Tubbs (68, 2-0), Tubbs (82, 3-0), Cook (90+3, 4-0)

Yellow Cards: Neilson, Porter, Huke, Dempster

Red Cards:Mills (12), Porter (90+1)

Referee: J Hopkins (Essex)

Attendance: 3083 (Away 99)

Gateshead 2 Rushden & Diamonds 2

 

A brace from Nabil Shariff gave the Diamonds a 2-2 draw after they had taken and early lead, but had been 2-1 behind at the interval. The goals meant that Shariff has now scored four goals in only three games, the first of which he started as a substitute.

The Diamonds took the lead after 18 minutes when Joe Keehan flicked a ball into the path of Nabil Shariff who ran on to score his third goal in consecutive games. The home side equalised after 33 minutes when an unmarked Nathan Fisher had a simple header from a Ferrell corner. The Heed then went ahead before the interval with another goal from a dead-ball situation – this time a Brittain free-kick found the unmarked Ben Clark on the edge of the six yard box, and he headed the ball to Jon Shaw who netted at the second attempt after his first effort hit Evans.

Shariff got his second goal after Aaron O’Connor picked the ball up after a mistake by Ben Clark, and he laid a short pass to Shariff who was able to turn and shoot past Deasy. O’Connor had two further opportunities with only the goalkeeper to beat as the Diamonds had the better of the second period.

Justin Edinburgh made one change to the team that drew at Grimsby, with Ryan Charles replacing Craig Farrell. Paris Cowan-Hall returned to the match-day squad, taking a place on the bench.

The first half had an end of season feel throughout, and although three goals were scored, all of them came from slack defending.

The first 15 minutes of the game lacked anything of note, with the first corner of the game falling to the hosts after 15 minutes.

It was thus rather a surprise when the Diamonds opened the scoring after 18 minutes, Gary Mills worked the ball forwards to Joe Keehan who flicked into the path of Nabil Shariff as he broke between the Tynesiders centre-backs. and ran on to score his third goal in consecutive games slotting coolly past Deasy.

Ryan Charles had a chance to extend the lead two minutes later when Deasy was forced out of his area to try to intercept a long ball that Aaron O’Connor was favourite to reach ahead of the defenders, but it fell to Charles on the right side of the pitch, but his attempted lob into an empty net was wayward.

After Ryan Charles conceded a corner there was a scare for the Diamonds when the Rundle set piece went through Simon Evans’ hands, but squirmed away for a further corner. A neat backflick from Andy Ferrell set up Nathan Fisher whose attempt on goal was deflected wide. A further corner followed, and this one saw the ball sail straight to Nathan Fisher who was completely unmarked on the six-yard line, and he hardly had to jump to head the ball into the net.

The home side then went ahead before the interval with another goal from a dead-ball situation – this time a Brittain free-kick from on the half-way line found the unmarked Ben Clark on the edge of the six yard box, and he headed the ball to Jon Shaw who netted at the second attempt after his first effort hit Evans.

Half-Time: Gateshead 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

After the poor quality of the first half, the expectation of the 700 fans in attendance was they might see an improvement in the second half, but it was only the Diamonds who showed an improvement – a feat that was doubly impressive given their early start to travel up to the North East, following a long away trip on Wednesday / Thursday morning.

Nabil Shariff got his second goal 10 minutes into the half when Aaron O’Connor picked the ball up after a mistake by Ben Clark when he dwelt on the ball in the area, and he laid a short pass to Shariff who was able to turn and shoot past Deasy. O’Connor had two further opportunities with only the goalkeeper to beat as the Diamonds had the better of the second period.

Andy Ferrell did have the ball in the net a few minutes later, but was clearly flagged offside. The Diamonds then almost scored a goal that would have been identical to the hosts second goal, as a long free kick from Mills was met by Michael Corcoran, and he directed the ball across goal but Nabil Shariff saw his header tipped over the bar by Deasy.

After 65 minutes good work from Matt Johnson on the edge of the penalty area saw him slot the ball left to Jamie Day who hit a low hard cross that Aaron O’Connor was only able to divert wide of goal from less than 10 yards out. O’Connor had another chance ten minutes later, but this time he created the chance himself with an excellent run past three defenders before hitting a shot that Deasy did well to get his body behind.

Both sides came close to getting a winner from their set pieces, but the game ended with the scores even.

Full-Time: Gateshead 2 Rushden & Diamonds 2

The Diamonds now have almost a week to recover from the long trips in the past four days, prior to the trip to face league champions Crawley Town on Good Friday (3pm). In midweek the attention will turn to the Diamonds Youth Team as they face Chesterfield in the final of the Midland Youth Cup on Tuesday evening.

Teams

Gateshead: Tim Deasy, Craig Baxter, Michael Liddle, Andy Ferrell, James Curtis, Ben Clark (Capt), Martin Brittain (Gary Mulligan 69), Phil Turnbull, Jon Shaw, Nathan Fisher, Adam Rundle (Ashley Winn 69).

Subs Not Used: Paul Farman (GK), Paul Hackinbottom, James Marwood.

Rushden & Diamonds: Simon Evans, Justin Miller, Jamie Day, Shane Huke, Curtis Osano, Max Porter, Joe Keehan (Michael Corcoran 61), Gary Mills, Aaron O’Connor (Capt), Nabil Shariff (Neil Cousins 86), Ryan Charles (Matt Johnson H/T).

Subs Not Used: James Broadbent (GK), Paris Cowan-Hall.

Goals: Shariff (18, 0-1), Fisher (33, 1-1), Shaw (42, 2-1), Shariff (55, 2-2)

Yellow Card: Brittain

Attendance: 701 (away 46)

Referee: P Davison (Stockton)

Grimsby Town 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

 

 

Rushden & Diamonds gained a well deserved 1-1 draw with Grimsby Town in their rearranged game at Blundell Park.

After a very flat first quarter with an end of season feel the home side took the lead after Simon Evans had made a great save to deny Rob Atkinson, but the resultant corner fell again to Atkinson who fired low into the right hand side of the net. The Diamonds got a deserved equaliser when a Miller long throw was cleared as far as Nabil Shariff, whose shot looped over keeper Croudson.

The first half ended in controversy when a dreadful challenge from Bradley Wood caused a melee involving a dozen or so players, but Wood only received a yellow card, the same as Shane Huke received for his part in the melee.

Justin Edinburgh made two changes to the team that drew with Wrexham at the weekend with Joe Keehan and Nabil Shariff starting in place of Matt Johnson and the suspended Alan Power. Aaron King took a place on the bench. Paris Cowan-Hall was still unavailable as he recovers from the injury he picked up in the original game between the sides.

The Mariners management team Rob Scott and Paul Hurst gave ex-Diamond Rob Duffy a place on the bench, as well as dropping keeper Kenny Arthur.

The game kicked off in front of a sparse crowd at Blundell Park, suggesting the plan to move the game to a Wednesday night had backfired. The Diamonds were playing towards the travelling fans hoping to repeat the feat of scoring twice at that end as they had done in the first game.

The first quarter of the game was very quiet both on and off the pitch, perhaps as a result of both sides having to settle for a mid-table finish in the league. Both Keehan and Shariff looked lively as they looked to cement a place in the starting XI. Keehan had been give a free role, and was able to get forwards as he benefitted from having w willing holding midfielder in Gary Mills.

As the game entered the second quarter things started to liven up, with the Mariners winning a freekick on the right edge of the area, after a quickly taken throw-in (from the wrong place) found Lee Peacock who was bundled over by Curtis Osano. The free kick saw a great save from Simon Evans as he denied Rob Atkinson. However, the resultant corner wasn’t cleared, and Rob Atkinson was able to slot the ball low into the right hand side of the goal.

Almost straight away the Diamonds could have equalised when Craig Farrell set Jamie Day free with a deft flick , and Day’s flick to the far post had to be scrambled away. Aaron O’Connor then won a Diamonds corner on the right, with Jamie Day’s kick being cleared for a throw. Justin Miller fired his trademark long throw into the box, and it was only cleared as far as Nabil Shariff on the edge of the area. Shariff hit a looping shot which dipped over keeper Croudson to give the Diamonds a deserved equaliser.

The Diamonds came close to taking the lead as a long ball was neatly rolled into Aaron O’Connor’s path by Craig Farrell, and the Diamonds skipped set up Nabil Shariff which saw a goal-bound effort cleared off the line.

As half-time approached the main talking point of the game occurred, when Bradley Wood launched into a high tackle that looked certain to receive a red card from referee Fletcher, but Shane Huke took matters rather into his own hands, sparking a melee involving a dozen or so players, the result of which was that Wood only received a yellow card, as did Huke for his part in the melee.

Half-Time: Grimsby Town 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

The events involving a home fan and the Diamonds dugout at the interval are best left without further discussion, as, after discussing certain matters with the referee the teams agreed the matter wouldn’t be taken further.

The incident had injected more life into the game, with a greater desire from the sides to make sure they didn’t lose the game, but apart from this tension the second half was quieter that the period before the break.

Simon Evans made his second top class save of the game to deny Michael Coulson, and at the other end Nabil Shariff showed decent pace to outrun his marker, but he couldn’t quite set-up the supporting Joe Keehan, as both players continued to impress. Shariff’s skill and ball control saw him create a chance of his own midway through the half, but he was unable to get a good contact with his left foot.

Shane Huke and Curtis Osano were forming a solid partnership, and on the one occasion their defensive line appeared to be breached Justin Miller was there to cover.

Neil Cousins joined the action, and was able to contribute by helping out in defence as well as starting a move that saw Shariff set up Aaron O’Connor to break into the penalty area and win a corner.

Evans made another good save, to grasp a low shot from Micky Cummins before the final chances of the game fell to the Diamonds, with Matt Johnson almost getting a shooting opportunity deep into the penalty area, then a final pair of Diamonds corners were cleared.

Full-time: Grimsby Town 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Teams:

Grimsby Town, , Steve Croudson, Darran Kempson (Robert Atkinson 26), Scott Garner, Peter Bore, Mark Hudson, Micky Cummins, Michael Leary (Andi Thanoj 79), Bradley Wood, Lee Peacock (Robert Duffy 70), Michael Coulson, Alan Connell

Subs Not Used: Kenny Arthur (GK), , , , Robert Eagle.

Rushden & Diamonds: Simon Evans, Justin Miller, Jamie Day, Shane Huke, Curtis Osano, Max Porter, Joe Keehan (Matt Johnson 82), Gary Mills, Craig Farrell (Neil Cousins 74), Nabil Shariff, Aaron O’Connor.

Subs Not Used: James Broadbent (GK), Aaron King, Michael Corcoran.

Goals: Atkinson (28, 1-0), Shariff (38, 1-1)

Yellow Cards: Wood, Huke, Mills

Referee: Russell Fletcher (Derbyshire)

Attendance: 2071 (away approx 25)

Rushden & Diamonds 2 Wrexham 2

 

 

Rushden & Diamonds fought back from 2-0 down to draw with Wrexham at Nene Park on Saturday afternoon. A goal from Andy Mangan in either half appeared to have sealed a victory for the visitors who had the lion’s share of the play in the first hour, but substitute Nabil Shariff got a goal back with 10 minutes left – his debut goal for the club. Aaron O’Connor then scored the equalising goal in injury time, and Neil Cousins almost scored a winner a minute later.

Diamonds’ Manager Justin Edinburgh had to replace the departed Joe Day in goal, giving a Diamonds league debut to Simon Evans, with James Broadbent on the bench. With Michael Gash out for the rest of the season with a broken toe, and with Ryan Charles, Sam Smith and Paris Cowan-Hall still unavailable due to injury he played with Farrell, O’Connor and Johnson up front. With Michael Corcoran ill, Curtis Osano returned to the back four. After 16 months absence due to injury, Neil Cousins returned to the Diamonds bench.

Wrexham manager Dean Saunders had almost a full squad to pick from, although midfielder Jamie Tolley was unavailable with a knee injury.

The first half was dominated by the visitors, as they won corner after corner, and hit the woodwork twice, as well as getting the opening goal. Mathias Pogba made a break down the right, after a mistake by Jamie Day, and fired the ball across the area for Andy Mangan to sweep home. Diamonds debutant Simon Evans was certainly given plenty to do, and although he opted to punch in the early stages as he settled in, his overall performance suggested that he is a ready deputy for Joe Day.

In a free-flowing and entertaining game the Diamonds did create a number of chances, with a deft backflick from Craig Farrell from a Justin Miller knockdown presenting Aaron O’Connor with a chance that keeper Maxwell did well to get down to. Miller could only put a left-foot effort wide when a long-throw from Matt Johnson bounced across the penalty area.

Both sides had a penalty claim in the first half, with Curtis Osano tangling with Andy Morrell at one end, whilst a dangerous Diamonds break saw Aaron O’Connor tumble in the area before Alan Power fired the loose ball over the bar. Osano also blocked a dangerous low cross from Obeng after a sweeping move from the Red Dragons had cut through the Diamonds midfield.

Half-Time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Wrexham 1

The teams resumed where they had left off for the first ten minutes of the second half, and an excellent goal from Andy Mangan gave the visitors a two goal lead after 52 minutes. A long ball forwards from keeper Maxwell was flicked on by Matthias Pogba, and his fellow striker Morrell helped the ball into the path of Mangan, who fired an unstoppable shot in-off the underside of the crossbar.

To their immense credit the Diamonds team didn’t let their heads drop, and started to look more threatening after Justin Edinburgh made his first change just before the hour mark, with 18-year old striker Nabil Shariff replacing Matt Johnson. The Diamonds immediately looked a more serious threat up front, with first Aaron O’Connor having a shooting chance after a flick from Craig Farrell, and then Gary Mills doing well to get forwards and get his head on the end of an O’Connor cross, after good work by Farrell on the right, but the effort was straight at keeper Maxwell.

After 68 minutes Alan Power picked up a yellow card for his challenge on Chris Blackburn. This was his tenth yellow card of the season, meaning he will serve a two-game ban as the card was received the day before the yellow card amnesty on 9th April. The resultant free kick should have made the game safe for the visitors, as a long kick from Frank Sinclair found Andy Morrell in a lot of space towards the right edge of the six-yard box, but he put his effort wide.

Joe Keehan replaced Gary Mills after 69 minutes, and he also started to cause the Red Dragons defence problems.

Craig Farrell had taken a knock to his ankle, and was about to be replaced by Neil Cousins when the Diamonds got the vital goal to get themselves back in the game. Alan Power collected a pass from Jamie Day on the left and laid the ball into the area, to the feet of Nabil Shariff, who wrong-footed his marker with his first touch before firing into the right hand side of goal for his debut league goal for the club.

The substitution was then made, with Neil Cousins returning to the Diamonds side for the first time since he picked up a serious injury in the FA Cup tie at Brighton at the end of November 2009

Prior to the goal it looked like Dean Saunders was going to stick with his starting line-up for the whole 90 minutes, but as soon as the Diamonds got themselves back in the game he started on a series of substitutions that changed the shape of his team.

Cousins, Keehan and Shariff were all getting forward alongside Aaron O’Connor, and Cousins did well to control a flick-on from Shariff and make a break into the area, before going down under a challenge, although the appeals for a penalty were somewhat muted.

Referee Kinseley signalled four minutes of added time, and that appeared to inspire the Diamonds, and a minute into added time they got the equaliser. After they won a throw on the left Justin Miller took a short throw and the ball was quickly worked across midfield to Max Porter towards the right-hand side of the centre circle who pumped the ball diagonally towards the left corner of the penalty area. Shane Huke had stayed forwards in anticipation of a long throw, and he was able to head down for Aaron O’Connor to control the ball with his first touch and then fire home his thirteen goal of the season. The Diamonds bench celebrated along with player and fans, showing the current "togetherness" at the club. O’Connor did pick up a yellow card for his celebration.

There was still one chance for the Diamonds to get a winner, as Mark Creighton fouled Aaron O’Connor about 30 yards from goal, and Jamie Day put his free-kick into the path of Neil Cousins, but the effort on goal was smothered.

Final Score: Rushden & Diamonds 2 Wrexham 2

After the disappointment of letting a two goal lead slip against Forest Green, the Diamonds fans, players and staff will know how their counterparts from Wrexham must have felt when the final whistle went.

With Craig Farrell picking up a knock, and Alan Power a two-game suspension, the team selection for Wednesday’s game at Grimsby Town will be a challenge for Justin Edinburgh, but he will have seen from this game that the team spirit is strong, with Simon Evans having an impressive debut, and the three substitutes all contributing to the second half revival.

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds: Simon Evans, Justin Miller, Jamie Day, Shane Huke, Curtis Osano, Max Porter, Alan Power, Gary Mills (Joe Keehan 69), Aaron O’Connor (Capt), Matt Johnson (Nabil Shariff 60), Craig Farrell (Neil Cousins 80).

Subs Not Used: James Broadbent (GK), Morgan Phillips

Wrexham: Chris Maxwell, Curtis Obeng (Marvin Andrews 87), Neil Ashton, Frank Sinclair, Mark Creighton, Chris Blackburn, Jay Harris, Dean Keates (Capt), Andy Mangan, Andy Morrell (Lee Fowler 84), Mathias Pogba (Nat Knight-Percival 82).

Subs Not Used: Gareth Taylor, Adrian Cieslewicz.

Goals: Mangan (30, 0-1), Mangan (52, 0-2), Shariff (79, 1-2), O’Connor (90+2, 2-2)

Yellow Cards: Osano, Obeng, Power, O’Connor.

Referee: Nick Kinseley (Essex)

Attendance: 1181 (away 273)

Diamonds Man of The Match chosen by Robin Bailey and Guests: Nabil Shariff

Histon 0 Rushden & Diamonds 2

 

 

Two second-half goals gave Rushden & Diamonds victory over Histon at Bridge Road. Aaron O’Connor opened the scoring from the penalty spot on the hour makr after he had been pushed in the area, then Shane Huke scored with a header from a Justin Miller long throw with 7 minutes left. Jake Woolley made his league debut towards the end of the game.

Justin Edinburgh brought in Craig Farrell and Matt Johnson to replace the injured Michael Gash and Ryan Charles, whilst the Stutes made a single change to their weekend line-up. It was confirmed after the game that Gash has broken his fifth metatarsal, and will thus be out for the remainder of the season. Michael Corcoran was making his 100th league appearance for the club.

An early effort from 40 yards by Omer Riza almost tested Joe Day, but it flew just wide. Day then saw a corner from the left by Lee Smith curl across goal and rebound off the angle of post and bar.

The Diamonds then started to control the game, winning a number of corners and long throw opportunities, but the first time they tested keeper Foderingham was when Craig Farrell turned the ball into the path of Aaron O’Connor, whose effort was saved at full-stretch by the home keeper.

The nearest the Diamonds came to opening the scoring in the first half came when they tried a short-corner move on the right similar to the one that had proved successful at Cambridge, with Jamie Day picking up the ball and running towards the box, dummying twice before hitting a shot that bounced to Matt Johnson, and his effort skewed to Craig Farrell who was unlucky to see his effort rebound off the crossbar.

Half-Time: Histon 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

The Diamonds quickly reasserted their control over the game, with best chance in the first 10 minutes falling to Max Porter when he received a neat backflick from Craig Farrell, but his effort found the side netting.

As the hour mark approached the Diamonds finally got the break through their pressure deserved as a long ball forwards was flicked into the path of Aaron O’Connor, and as he prepared to turn past his marker he was clearly pushed in the back by Oyebanyo and referee Stewart pointed to the spot. Aaron O’Connor stepped up to take the kick himself, and he blasted an unstoppable penalty into the right hand side of goal.

Although the Diamonds were continuing to dominate, the home side were still capable of the odd dangerous break, with Omer Riza drawing two good saves from Joe Day.

Aaron O’Connor had a chance to double his tally when put clear by Craig Farrell, but he pulled his shot wide.

The Diamonds needed to get a second goal to seal the points, and after 83 minutes they got it. Justin Miller delivered the 15th long throw of the evening for the Diamonds, and Shane Huke made space in the area to head powerfully past Foderingham.

The game was then over as a contest, but the Diamonds still had time to give a league debut to 17 year old Jake Woolley as well as a further appearance for Joe Keehan.

Full-Time: Histon 0 Rushden & Diamonds 2

The Diamonds now have a few days to prepare for the visit of Wrexham to Nene Park at the weekend.

Teams

Histon: Wes Foderingham, Lanre Oyebanjo, Remy Clerima, Ed Asafu-Adjaye, Zak Mills, Charlie Day (Daniel Sparkes 70), Jim Stevenson, Jay Dowie (Dee Okijie 70), Omer Riza, Lewis Taaffe (Jack Sessions 84), Lee Smith (Capt).

Subs Not Used: George Lawton (GK), Callum Stewart

Rushden & Diamonds: Joe Day, Justin Miller, Jamie Day, Shane Huke, Michael Corcoran, Max Porter, Alan Power (Joe Keehan 89), Gary Mills, Aaron O’Connor (Capt) (Nabil Shariff 70), Matt Johnson (Jake Woolley 87), Craig Farrell

Subs Not Used: Simon Evans (GK), Curtis Osano.

Goals: O’Connor (59 (Pen), 0-1), Huke (83, 0-2)

Yellow Card: Corcoran.

Attendance: 363 (away approx 150)

Referee: M Stewart (Suffolk)

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