For the second season in a row Russ Penn turned up trumps and polished off the Diamonds again. Today his goal gave the Harriers three much deserved points after a bad couple of results in recent weeks that saw confidence in the team from the fans veering towards an all time low.
Today the 234 fans at a sunny Nene Park backed their team throughout and we got our rewards with a much better performance than against Stevenage on Friday evening.
Andy Ferrell returned to the side following injury and what a difference he made with his tigerish, combative performance in midfield that got him the Harriers Online man of the match award. He replaced Brian Smikle in the starting eleven and that was the only change form the previous game.
Right from the start we looked the better side and it wasn't just Rushden being very poor that made us look good. There was a genuine impetus about the side and they were showing that they meant business.
Rushden were the first out of the blocks though when Jonny Harkness gave away an early free kick that was taken by Curtis Osano. It reached Scott Bevan but the big Harriers keeper flapped slightly and punched it into the path of Jon Challinor who then fired straight back at him.
Our first chance came via the head of Russ Penn but his attempt from a Harkness cross went just wide of Paul Bastocks upright. Russ had another chance to score minutes later and this time he fired over from twenty yards out.
In the sixteenth minute the Harriers had their first real chance of the game when Harkness delivered an exceptional cross into the area that James Constable flew at to meet perfectly but amazingly the ball went just wide of the post. A real let off for the home side.
The Diamonds had a simple chance to open the scoring when Osana bursts into Bevans area to collect a pass and somehow contrived to miss the ball completely. Phil Gulliver was the next to make an attempt on goal for them with a header from a Martin Foster free kick but Mark Creighton got up to it well to cut the threat out.
It was end to end stuff now with the Harriers just about edging it and they came close again when Michael Blackwood sent in a teasing cross that Justin Richards just failed to get on the end of. Two minutes later and roles became reversed when this time Richards set Blackwood up but rather than shoot Blackwood chose to pass the ball out wide to Harkness instead but he failed to reach it in time.
Midway through the half now and we saw a fine shot by Constable get touched onto the crossbar by Chris Hope but the referee failed to give us a corner even after protests from Harriers players. We then had two free kicks awarded to us. The first was taken by Jeff Kenna and stopped on the line from going in with the clearance out of the area resulting in another free kick being awarded to the visitors. This time Harkness took it and it flew just over the bar.
In the dying minutes of the half came a moment of controversy when Constable raced clear of the Rushden defenders to give chase to a ball on the edge of the area. The keeper, Bastock, came out to intercept but only succeeded in crashing into Beano.
In theory the keeper denied Constable a scoring opportunity and could have been red carded but Constable was going away from the goal slightly and the ref decided that it only warranted a stern talking to and a yellow card for the ex Boston goalie.
The Harriers went into half time looking the better side by streets and the travelling Red Army happy too.