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Rushden & Diamonds 0 Harriers 1

Date: 14-04-07 Venue: Nene Park att: 1925 away fans: 195
Russ wrecks Rushden
The Harriers continued their great away form today with this humiliating win at old foes Rushden & Diamonds.    On a lovely, warm sunny day in rural Northamptonshire - you could tell it was out in the sticks by the amount of butterflies fluttering on the breeze - the Harriers gave a shockingly poor Rushden a footballing lesson during a laid back first half when we could so easily have gone in three goals clear at the break.

As it was we had to make do with the one goal lead that Russ Penn had given to us just before halftime.

There were more changes to the starting line-up today with Brian Smikle handed his first start for a long time and Jake Sedgemore in at the back in place of Jeff Kenna and Jonny Harkness back in place of Glenn Wilson who was not allowed to play by his owners.    Simon Russell was again on the bench for reasons known only to Mr Yates.

The two former Harriers at Nene Park didn't start.    Wayne Hatswell was on the bench, making his comeback from injury, and Chris Beardsley was no where to be seen.

We should really have taken the lead in just under ten minutes when Brian Smikle spurned a glorious chance to open the scoring after he found himself clear on goal with just the former Hereford Utd keeper to beat.    He only needed to dink the ball to the left or right quickly to wrong foot the keeper but he opted instead to fire it straight at him with the expected result.  It just bounced back off his legs.

The Harriers were playing some slick, passing football and Rushden had no real answer to it apart from some ill thought tackles going in on Russ Penn.  All these were being dished out by Gary Mills and although he got booked for the first off the ball offence the referee just admonished him for the second.    Come the third bad tackle and the Rushden manager took him off for his own well being.

Jonny Harkness came close to scoring from one of his special free kicks on a couple of occasions.    One particular one when the ball dipped suddenly and rebounded off the crossbar with Baker wondering where it had come from.

It was from another free kick on the edge of the area that we took the lead that we were to keep throughout the game.    This time a bad tackle on Christie by Jason Goodliffe was punished with a yellow card and when Harkness stepped up to take the kick he played it back to Russ Penn who shot a powerful volley through a ruck of players and past the static keeper.

Goodliffe hobbled away down the touchline and was never seen again.
HT: 0 - 1
Wayne Hatswell came on in the second half for Goodliffe and the home side looked better for his presence.    We weren't getting so many clearcut chances on goal but we had perfected our offside routine so well that I lost count of the amount of times that Rushden fell for the simple trap we were using.

We again had the first chance on goal in this second period when another Harkness free kick was played, first, to Smikle and then on to Mark Creighton who then sent a fierce shot only just wide.

Mid way through the half the Harriers were so superior to their hosts that we started to 'play like Brazil' and put together some lovely passing moves.    The Rushden fans response was to boo their own players and we saw some weird scenes when every time the manager stood up to approach the touchline a chorus of abuse rained down on him.

He's only been in the job a few weeks and they already want him out.

In the final twenty minutes of the game Rushden finally woke up and realised they were supposed to be doing something constructive and, led by Hatswell, they started to put some pressure on the Harriers defence but we stood up to the threat easily enough and Bevans goal was never in any real danger.

With time running down Mark Yates sent on Gary Hay, Michael Blackwood and Luke Reynolds in place of Constable, Brady and Christie but left the one man that could have turned the screw on the bench.    By bringing on Simon Russell for the final twenty minutes he would have easily ripped the poor Rushden defence apart and we could have got out of the second gear that we'd found ourselves stuck in.

As it was it was left to Mark Creighton to give us our last chance of wrapping the game up when he sent a soaring header crashing against the crossbar just a few minutes from the end.

This was a game that, if it had been played two months ago, we would have taken Rushden to the cleaners.    We hardly had to, or needed to, raise the tempo at all during this one sided end of season game.

As a practise game for Wembley it would do.    As a means of gaining three points it worked but as a rip roaring spectacle I could think of more exciting ways to spend a sunny day.
FT: 0 - 1

 Goal for Harriers: Penn 41

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Rushden  subs   cards      Harriers  subs   cards 
Baker     Bevan  
Goodliffe gif   Sedgemore  
Watson     Harkness gif
Ashton     Hurren  
Hope gif   Creighton  
Mills gif   Whitehead  
Shaw     Brady  
Rankine     Penn  
Williams     Christie  
Jackson     Constable  
Wright     Smikle  
SUBS:       SUBS:    
Tynan     S Taylor  
Hatswell     Reynolds  
Savage     Hay  
Tomlin     Blackwood  
Lambley     Russell  

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