Mansfield Town 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

 

Rushden & Diamonds slipped to a 2-1 defeat by Mansfield Town at Field Mill. Louis Briscoe capitalised on a mistake by Curtis Osano in the last minute to give the Stags victory in an eventful game.

After the Stags had come close to opening the scoring several times, with Joe Day in excellent form the Diamonds took the lead after 15 minutes through Aaron O’Connor with an excellent turn and shot. The Stags got back on terms after 29 minutes when a static Diamonds defence allowed Luke Medley to run clear, unchallenged, and fire past Day.

With captain Aaron O’Connor fit again, he was restored to the starting line-up in place of Matt Johnson. Eddie Oshodi was absent due to injury so the back four that played in the final 45 minutes at Kingsmeadow started in this game. Curtis Osano took a place on the bench on his return from injury.

The Stags included their assistant manager, Diamonds legend Paul Hall on their bench as the Diamonds lined up in their Blue and White strip, looking for their second every victory in these colours.

The game started with the Stags on top, and in the second minute Joe Day was forced to pull of the first of many excellent stops he made during the game, as Stags dangerman Paul Connor attempted a dipping drive / lob from 35 yards out that he tipped behind.

The resultant corner saw Connor force another save from Day with a header, and the Stags striker had a further chance three minutes later when Day again denied him.

At the other end Jamie Day shot wide after good work from Alan Power as the Diamonds started to create chances of their own.

The Diamonds took the lead after 15 minutes when a pinpoint ball from Max Porter found Aaron O’Connor on the edge of the "D" in the Mansfield area, he controlled the ball and turned in one move before running into the area and firing home one of the neatest of his 11 goals this season.

A long ball from Joe Day almost allowed the Diamonds to increase their lead, as Michael Gash allowed the ball to run on to Ryan Charles who fired over the bar.

It began to look like the Diamonds might have quietened the attacking threat from the home team with an effective offside trap, but after 29 minutes they appeared to stop and allow a ball forwards to reach an unchallenged Luke Medley, who then had the simple task of running into the area and firing past Joe Day.

Joe Day saved well from Paul Connor after good work from goalscorer Medley as the end-to-end action continued, with Ryan Charles picking up a pass from Max Porter, seeing a dangerous looking cross cut out ahead of Alan Power.

As half-time approached there was a stoppage in play when ex-Diamonds keeper Alan Marriott picked up an injury as he attempted to deal with a long throw from Justin Miller which saw the ball reach Aaron O’Connor who fired wide. Marriott was forced to leave the field with what appeared to be a dislocated finger – an obvious concern with the Stags Wembley trip just over a month away.

Louis Briscoe almost put the Stags ahead before the break when his effort struck the outside of the post and bounced away at almost 90 degrees, and Joe Day made his final save of an exemplary first half performance when he denied Paul Connor yet again, this time with a flying save as the ball threatened to drop over his head towards the corner of the goal.

Half-Time: Mansfield Town 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

The Stags started the second period as the had done the first, with Joe Day denying Connor, and then Higginson firing across goal.

The closest the Diamonds came to scoring in the second period came when an Alan Power free kick from outside of the left edge of the penalty area skimming off Aaron O’Connor’s head, and just wide of goal. The free kick had been won by Michael Gash as he attempted to get past Steven Istead.

The Diamonds other main threat in the second half was coming from Justin Miller’s long throws, although the Stags defence looked more confident in dealing with them than they had been in the first half.

At the other end Luke Medley had two chances to put the hosts ahead, with Paul Connor forcing Michael Corcoran into an error that presented Medley with a chance that he fired high and wide. Curtis Osano had replaced Shane Huke, and he did well to whip the ball of Paul Connor’s toes as he threatened to get the goal his performance deserved.

Justin Miller saw a shot blocked, and substitute keeper Grof did well to claw away an effort from Michael Gash. Miller was replaced three minutes before the end as he struggled to recover from a heavy challenge. Max Porter dropped back into defence, with Matt Johnson dropping deeper to cover.

The tribute the Diamonds fans had paid to Diamonds legend Paul Hall was echoed with the great reception Aaron O’Connor he received from both home and away fans as he left the pitch after two-thirds of the match.

Just as it looked as if the game would end level, allowing the Diamonds to pick up a valuable point, there was late drama. Curtis Osano appeared to have time to deal with the ball he received in the centre of the Diamonds half, but he allowed Louis Briscoe to pick up ball and run on into the area unchallenged and fire home the winning goal.

Final Score: Mansfield Town 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

The Diamonds now have a short time to prepare for the visit to bottom of the table Histon on Tuesday evening. With Justin Miller picking up a leg injury, and both O’Connor and Huke being taken off early following O’Connor’s recent injury and Huke’s illness in midweek, there is a continuing challenge for Justin Edinburgh in team selection.

Teams:

Mansfield Town: Alan Marriott (David Grof 42), Steve Foster, Conor Higginson (Niall O’Rafferty 90+2), Tom Naylor, Paul Stonehouse, Louis Briscoe, Tyrone Thompson, Steven Istead, Adam Murray (Capt), Luke Medley, Paul Connor.

Subs Not Used: Kevin Sandwith, Mark Preece, Paul Hall

Rushden & Diamonds: Joe Day, Justin Miller (Craig Farrell 87), Jamie Day, Shane Huke (Curtis Osano 74), Michael Corcoran, Max Porter, Alan Power, Gary Mills, Aaron O’Connor (Capt) (Matt Johnson 67), Michael Gash, Ryan Charles

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

Goals: O’Connor (15mins, 0-1), Medley (29, 1-1), Briscoe (90, 2-1)

Yellow Cards: Huke, Higginson.

Referee: Peter Wright (Merseyside)

Attendance: 1758 (away 125)

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