Some silverware at last!
Rushden and Diamonds 2-1 Brackley Town
(Northants Hillier Senior Cup Final)
A strong Rushden team only just crept past a spirited Brackley Town, for who it was manager David Oldfield’s last game in charge before taking up a coaching role at Peterborough. Tom Winters opened the scoring for the visitors, directly from a corner, before a Curtis Woodhouse penalty and a late deflected strike from Lee Tomlin retained the trophy that Rushden didn’t deserve to win.
Manager Garry Hill named his strongest possible team in the quest for his first trophy of the season, after a devastating penalty loss to Aldershot in the Setanta Shield Final. The lone change was Tom Shaw being replaced by Michael Rankine, with Andy Burgess dropping back into midfield.
Brackley named two ex-diamonds in their starting XI, looking to finish the season on a high after a great first season in the BGB Premier, finishing a creditable 8th. Former diamond Ryan Semple dropped to the bench, with veteran Dave Savage captaining the Saints.
The game kicked off with rain pouring down on a cold April evening, infront of just over 350 fans, of which 137 were Brackley fans, who deserve a special commendation for their support and upbeat cheering throughout the match. Both sides had difficulty getting to grips woth the slippery conditions, and an early mistake from the Rushden defence let in the lively Jerome Anderson, but his tame shot slid straight into the grateful Martyn Margasons’ hands. Rushden had a great chance to open the scoring, but top scorer Michael Rankine manged to drive the ball wide from 15 yards.
Both sides struggled to create chances, with the aerial presence of Sam Smith and Rankine being dealt with easily by the Brackley defence. Smiths’ 30 pile-driver was the closest either side came for a tense 25 minutes, mainly being controlled by a surprisingly equal midfield battle. Andy Burgess scuffed the ball wide following Dave Savages’ poor pass, while Margason had to be alert to tip a shot from the lively Tom Winters around the post, before pushing away a bullet header from Chris Harper from the following corner.
Half time: Rushden & Diamonds 0-0 Brackley Town
The second half began brightly as both teams went in search of an opening goal. Lee Tomlin came on for the disappointing Sam Smith on 52 minutes, and within seconds, a cheeky backheel and burst of pace got the better of the Brackley defence, but Tomlin shot agonisingly wide. Many inside the ground assumed that Rushden were in control and expected to take the lead soon. However, it was Brackley who shocked the Rushden bench when Tom Winters scored. Chris Harper sent over a hanging cross, and Jerome Anderson met the ball with a diving header, only for the ball to cannon off the bar, Phil Gulliver putting the ball out for a corner. Winters swerved the ball into the area, and, somehow, the ball evaded Curis Woodhouses’ head and slipped through Margasons’ gloves, into the bottom corner of the net sending teh Saints fans delirious.
However, their joy was shortlived, as Rushden equalised just 3 minutes later. Michael Rankine beat the offside trap after an excellent through ball from Michael Corcoran, and with just the keeper to beat, was deemed to have been brought down by Phil Murphy, with a penalty awarded. The decision seemed harsh on Brackley, as Rankine looked to have tripped over the ball. Curtis Woodhouse showed no mercy, blasting the ball into the top right hand corner from 12 yards. The relief on the faces of fans in the Peter De Banke Terrace was obvious.
Brackley immediately came back at Rushden, and despite being offside by 2 clear yards, Alex Fisher raced through, only for Margason to deny him with a superb block. Rushden made two changes in search of a winner, with Corcoran and Abdou El-Kholti being replaced by Jake Beecroft and Lawrence Lambley. With just 15 minutes left, both sides picked up the pace.
Brackley believed they had regained the lead on 79 minutes when Jerome Anderson converted Winters pass, only for the offside flag to be raised. Anderson almost scored again just a minute later, his 30-yard screamer tipped over the bar by Margason, before a Winters cross almost caught out the hesitant keeper. Rushden had a 3-on-1 advantage counter attacking, but Lee Tomlin squandered the easiest of chances, scooping the ball harmlessly over the bar.
With 89 minutes up, Rushden scored the goal that finally silenced the visiting supporters. The virtually non-existent Curtis Osano laid the ball off to speed merchant Lambley, whose sprinted to the byline before whipping in a ball that Tomlin volleyed, albeit via two deflections, through the hands of David Knight and the ball trickled over the line.
David Oldfield came on for Brackley in injury time for his last appearance in a red and white shirt, but it was too late. Tomlin almost added a third when his curler from the left hand side of the box stryck the post and rebounded to safety, with the final whistle sounding moments later
Full Time: Rushden & Diamonds 2-1 Brackley Town
Rushden struggled to a second cup victory in two years thanks to Curtis Woodhouses midfield dominance and Lee Tomlins cutting edge. In all honesty, however, a spirited Brackley side deserved the win, but it is Rushden who now face an rival showdown with Peterborough for the Maunsell Cup.
Attendance: 355 (137 away)
Corcoran 7 (Beecroft 5)
El-Kholti 5 (Lambley 6)
Smith 5 (Tomlin 7)
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