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Rushden & Diamonds 0 Harriers 1

Date: 27-08-07 Venue: Nene Park att: 1653 away fans: 234
Penn takes shine off Diamonds again
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.
HT: 0 - 0
Rushden came out for the second period with a more interested look about them and straight from the re-start Chris Hope tried a speculative shot from distance that Bevan collected easily enough.    Simeon Jackson was flagged offside anyway so if it had gone in it wouldn't have counted.

Five minutes into the half was all it took for the Harriers to get back on top though and again Constable took a ball around the keeper but this time Osana was there to remove the ball from the strikers feet.

We had another couple of free kicks in quick succession with both taken by Harkness but then came the goal that we had been waiting for.

Constable collected the ball out wide on the left and sent in a cross to the foot of Bastocks near post but before the keeper could react there was Russ Penn swooping low to force the ball just inside the post beyond the reach of the keeper.

Russ came over to the front of the Harriers fans in the Air Wair stand to soak up the adulation and some idiots got a bit over excited and found themselves out of the ground pronto.

We should really have increased out lead three times over soon after when Blackwood set up Richards with a perfect cross but the mis-firing striker could only head an easy ball straight at Bastock.    Constable could also have added onto the lead when he shot across the face of the goal after leaving the static Rushden defence for dead.

The third chance of a goal fell for Richards again when this time he collected another pass from Constable and jinked his way into the area but then tried to change onto his right foot at the last minute and sent the ball wide when it would have been easier to score.

In an effort to get back into the game Rushden bought on former player Andy Burgess.    He went to Oxford Utd some time ago but failed to cut it there and had now come back.    His first touch of the ball was to cause Harriers fans to miss a heart beat as his speculative shot from an angle flew over Bevan's crossbar.

The Harriers really need a second goal now to quell any fears of a Rushden comeback and we brought on Iyseden Christie in place of the disappointing Richards.    Straight away he set up Penn for a well struck shot that Bastock did well to keep out.

With time now running out we send on Paul Bignot to shore up a defence now under pressure from the home team who are desperate to avoid yet another defeat at Nene Park.    We hold on though and when the final whistle eventually goes we can strike off yet another win at the home of our old rivals.

As said at the top this was a greatly improved performance from the lads and if they could only bring this kind of battling ethic to Aggborough we could be looking at another three points when Exeter City visit next Saturday.
FT: 0 - 1

 Goal for Harriers: Penn 60

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Rushden  subs   cards      Harriers  subs   cards 
Bastock gif   Bevan  
Osano     Kenna  
Foster     Harkness  
Gulliver     Hurren  
Hope     Creighton  
Hatswell     Whitehead  
Challinor     Ferrell  
Howell gif   Constable  
Jackson     Richards  
Rankine     Penn  
Shaw     Blackwood  
SUBS:       SUBS:    
Nicholls     Coleman  
Watson     Christie  
Burgess     Barnes-Homer  
Tomlin     Bignot  
Semple     Smikle  

Mr R Fletcher

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