The Maunsell Cup was claimed for a fourth time infront of the Rushden fans as two top-drawer goals either side of half-time gave the Diamonds a deserved win over League One side Peterborough United.
Despite manager Garry Hill being unable to attend, the backroom staff put out a strong line up, and also giving new player-coach Chris Hope his chance to excel. However, it must also be taken into account that Rushden were missing perhaps their three most prominent midfielders; Andy Burgess, Curtis Woodhouse, and Rob Wolleaston. Alan Marriott continued his goalkeeping duties, with Curtis Osano, Gareth Jelleyman, Hope, and Captain Sagi Burton in defence. Jon Challinor partnered Scott Mitchell in midfield, with Lee Tomlin and Marcus Kelly on the right and left side respectively. The exciting pairing of Lee Phillips and Daryl Clare provided the attacking force.
Within a minute, a strong Peterborough side had their first chance. The dangerous George Boyd sent over a hanging cross, and Craig Mackail-Smith hit a powerful shot which seemed to be heading into the top corner, only for Marriott to pull out a magnificent flying save.
As the muggy heat seemed to be getting to the players, Lee Phillips showed his strength and power to muscle past Craig Morgan with a fine turn, before his 35-yard piledriver was palmed away by England squad member Joe Lewis, although it certainly stung his hand!
On 42 minutes, Diamonds seemed to get the break that they had wished for.Â Kelly andÂ Mitchell worked together to create space, before the latter sent in a cross which found Daryl Clare’s head perfectly so he could nod home. For some reason, the linesman put up his flag even though Clare had to run past his marker, a decision that infuriated the fansd in line with the officical.
Just moments after, justice was done as Clare and Tomlin combined before Tomlin chipped the ball up to Jon Challinor, who, from about 25 yards out, struck a perfect volley that beat Lewis into the top corner, to give Rushden the lead just before half time.
Half-time: Rushden and Diamonds 1-0 Peterborough United
The extra fitness work in Portugal seemed to be paying off, as despite the incredibly humid weather, not a single change was made at half time.
Within 7 minutes of the restart, Posh were level, as new signing Gareth Jelleyman clumsily fouled Dean Keates 25 yards from goal. Keates himslef stepped up and curled the ball into the corner delighfully, giving Marriott absolutely no chance. This signalled a tempo increase for Rushden, although Rushden seemed nervous at the back, particularly when Sagi Burton took the ball out of Marriotts hands, conceding a corner in the process.
Michael Rankine and Dean McDonald then replaced Phillips and Clare, and used their pace and strength to their advantage against a tiring away defence. Osano and Tomlin sent two wayward shots wide, before Tomlin was inexcusably tripped just inside the box. Everybody inside the stadium instantly thought ‘penalty’ , bar the officials. This led to a loud voice from the home fans questioning referee Peter Walton’s Premiership standard.
With only 15 minutes left, Rushden scored what proved to be the match-winner. Dean McDonald received the ball to the left of the box, before tricking his way past the defender. He then promptly pinged the ball past Lewis’ near post from the nearest of angles, delighting the fans amongst the Peter De Banke Terrace.
Many would have thought that Peterborough’s reaction would be to barrage the home goal with shots, but the home defence marshalled them well. Â£5m-rated Aaron McLean saw an overhead kick fly wide, before Marriot was tested by Chris Whelpdale at his near post. However, the Diamonds hung on and lifted the Maunsell Cup.
Full-time: Rushden and Diamonds 2-1 Peterborough United
Attendance: 941 (Approximately 220 away)
Man of the match: Chris Hope