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)

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