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.

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