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.


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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: