STAGS HELD BY DIAMONDS
Rushden & Diamonds 0 - 0 Mansfield Town
Attendance: 3096 (477 from Mansfield)
Martin Shaw at Nene Park
Mansfield were held to a 0-0 draw for the second time this season by lowly Rushden. The Stags put in a fine first half performance and should have buried the Diamonds with chance after chance and some fine flowing football, but after failing to take their chances, Rushden came back strongly in the second half and could have stolen the victory themselves. Failure to win leaves the Stags 6 points behind the final play-off place, which could become 9 points on Tuesday.
Stagsnet player ratings now in the Match Centre
Observer report, by Steve Hartshorn
STAGS FAIL TO FIND CUTTING EDGE AGAINST DIAMONDS
Stags had to settle for a share of the spoils after a goalless draw at Nene Park last weekend. Meaning that for the second time this season, The Stags failed to score against a lowly Rushden & Diamonds side that have only won 2 of their last nineteen games and sit in 22nd place in Coca Cola League 2.
The Stags side contained a number of changes from the side that had disappointingly lost at home to Wycombe Wanderers in midweek, most notably a return to the centre of defence for Luke Dimech and a surprising non-inclusion in the squad of sixteen for Derek Asamoah, who, it was later learned had been put on the transfer list by Caretaker Manager, Carlton Palmer for a breach of Club discipline.
Although the game finished scoreless there could be no complaint in its entertainment value as both sides created and wasted a number a chances.
Indeed, Colin Larkin could count himself rather unfortunate, as it was he who missed a hat trick of chances. The first came as early as the 2nd minute when he scuffed his attempt wide of the right hand post from close range and then on eight minutes, he set off on a tricky run that ended with a powerful shot that rebounded off the chest of Scott Shearer in the Diamonds goal.
Moments later The Stags were cursing their misfortune. Alex John-Baptiste played a fine ball into the feet of Adam Rundle who's cross come shot took a deflection off the Diamonds left back, Sean Connelly and hit the foot of the right hand post with the home keeper well beaten.
Barker was next to threaten, but his turn and shot flew over the bar. Barker was also penalised a little later when he was adjudged offside when he clearly wasn't, his effort hitting the woodwork.
Stags were clearly the more dangerous side but were struggling to convert their dominance into well-deserved goals. Yet another great opportunity went begging when after a cross from Rundle, Neil fired tamely wide when in a seemingly perfect position to give The Stags the lead.
Just before the half hour mark, Barker neatly flicked on for Larkin, but The Stags strikers' effort flew just wide of the left hand post.
Stags were almost caught with a sucker punch as the half drew to an end. David Bell, who had clearly looked the best player on the field, sent over a pin-point cross for Drewe Broughton, but the big Diamonds striker contrived to miss the proverbial 'sitter' and stumbled his effort wide of Pilkington's right hand post.
Stags began the 2nd half still in dominant mood and twice Adam Murray tested the agility of the home keeper, Shearer.
Just after the hour mark, Shane Smeltz was introduced at the expense of Larkin, but it was the home side who were to be denied by a custodian, this time Pilkington had to be at his reactionary best to deny Drewe Broughton, who for once had escaped the attention of the Stags back four.
The ball was flying from one end to the other as both sides tried desperately to break the deadlock. Fraser McLachlan went close on two occasions, first he was denied by a fine save from Shearer and the second he was unlucky to see the ball go agonisingly wide after it had hit him following a flap from the Diamonds keeper
On 78 minutes, Rushden almost stole the points when David Bell unleashed a powerful drive that Pilkington did well initially to save but the ball squirmed away from his grasp and luckily for Mansfield, fell past the Stags' keepers left hand post and out for a corner.
Alex Neil, who was played in a right side midfield role, had the last real opportunity of the game but shot just over the bar from around the 20-yard mark.
This weekend The Stags entertain Shrewsbury Town who currently occupy 18th place in Coca Cola League 2. December saw Stags record a 2-0 victory at the Gay Meadow with goals from Asamoah and Adam Murray. With The Stags losing their previous two home games, a return to winning ways would be most welcome.
Football First match report:
By Barney Smith
transribed by carole
No Larkin about as Rushden look to give relegation the old heave-ho
RUSHDEN extended their unbeaten run to three matches after this entertaining game at Nene Park.
The nearest either side came to scoring was in the eighth minute when Mansfield's Colin Larkin (correction by Martin - this was Rundle) saw his short-range effort deflect off Sean Connelly and onto the foot of the post.
There were very few goalmouth chances in the opening 45 minutes (correction by Martin - nonsense) but it was the visitors who enjoyed the best opportunities. In the 28th minute Larkin beat the offside trap only to see his first-time shot whistle across the face of the goal.
Four minutes from the interval Billy Sharp had a 20-yard shot well saved by Kevin Pilkington while three minutes later Drew Broughton failed to control his shot when put through by David Bell's teasing cross.
After 51 minutes Alex Neil set up Adam Murray and his chip was brilliantly turned round the post by Scot Shearer.
Both sides were enjoying some excellent chances and after 66 minutes Fraser McLachlan saw his header pushed around a post following an Adam Rundle cross.
A minute later Shearer dropped a corner at the feet of McLachlan, but the midfielder could only stab the ball wide.
Twelve minutes from time Andy Burgess found Bell on the right and his wonderful half volley could only be dropped by Pilkington over the goal line.
Rushden manager Barry Hunter thought that the goalless draw was the fair result.
“At half-time we could have been a couple of goals down. We were not particularly happy with the centre-halves as they were getting bossed by Mansfield's strikers.”
“I've got to credit Mansfield for a very open game. We refuse to be beaten and always had chances to win.”
Mansfield boss Carlton Palmer was also pleased with the result. “I was delighted with my players today. I was just disappointed that we did not take three points,” he said.
Palmer joked that Adam Murray and Scot Shearer were having a personal duel. “They were having their own private competition and were putting on their own show,” he said.
Rushden & Diamonds…….. Mansfield Town
11--------------Shots on Target------8
2--------------Shots off Target-------5
report from Footymad
Rushden & Diamonds extended their unbeaten run to three games following this entertaining goalless draw.
The nearest either side came to breaking the deadlock was in the eighth minute when Colin Larkin saw his close-range shot deflect off Sean Connelly and onto the foot of the left hand post.
There were very few chances in the opening 45 minutes but it was the visitors who enjoyed more of the attacking play.
On 28 minutes Larkin beat the offside trap after Richie Barker's flick-on but the striker's shot beat Scott Shearer and flashed across the face of the goal.
A minute ahead of the interval Drewe Broughton failed to control his shot following David Bell's teasing cross.
The second half was a very open affair with both sides creating plenty of good chances.
On 51 minutes, Alex Neil set up Adam Murray and his chip was brilliantly turned around the post by Shearer.
Five minutes later the same two Mansfield players combined again but Shearer was equal to another Murray strike.
On 63 minutes, Broughton got free of the Mansfield defence but Kevin Pilkington produced a superb point-blank save to deny the former Southend striker.
Midway through the half, Fraser McLachlan had a header which Shearer saved. From the resulting corner the Rushden keeper flapped at the ball giving McLachlan an excellent chance which he spurned.
Twelve minutes from time Diamonds produced their best move of the game when Bell latched onto Andy Burgess' raking pass. Bell produced a wonderful half-volley which stunned Pilkington, causing the former Manchester United keeper to drop the ball over his own goal line.
report from CHAD:
Rushden 0 Stags 0
ANOTHER clean sheet, but Mansfield Town could not find a way through struggling Rushden and Diamonds' resolute defence at the other end this afternoon.
Stags completely dominated the home clash between these sides back in December but that one also ended 0-0.
Rushden, boosted by last week's 3-0 win over Bury, only their second win in 18 games, were outplayed in the first half today.
But, with Stags failing to put away a handful of chances, the home side put on an improved second half showing and forced Kevin Pilkington into three excellent saves.
However, home keeper Scott Shearer, on loan from Coventry, also had to twice save superbly from Adam Murray in the second 45 minutes.
It was Stags' fourth clean sheet in six games. But it was also a game in which you couldn't help think that three points were going begging.
Caretaker-manager Carlton Palmer said: "I was delighted with the players today, we played very well.
"I have told them they shouldn't be disappointed. Obviously we want to win it but you can also lose it and I was pleased we kept our discipline and kept trying to do the right things.
"As on Tuesday the ball didn't roll for us and we are not getting the rub of the green.
"But we were by far the best team in the first half. You expect Rushden to come out and have a little say in matters. But we defended well and made chances of our own.
"The same as at our place, their keeper has got man of the match again so that says it all.
"We deserved to win the game today and there's nothing more we can do."
Stags made one change with Dimech in for Curtis. Dimech went to the centre of defence with Buxton to right back, Neil to right of midfield and Larkin up front as the visitors adopted a 4-4-2 formation.
Before the game there was the welcome sight of Scott McNiven, not hopefully over his cancer nightmare, warming up with the other players.
Also joining them was Rhys Day, still recovering from injury.
McCafferty turned well in the opening minute to drill a low ball across the Stags penalty box but too far in front of Broughton to cause damage.
Stags replied with a corner that was cleared. But Rushden were penned back in their half as John-Baptiste lofted the ball back into the danger zone, Barker headed down and Larkin bundled a volley wide as the ball came at him quickly at an awkward height.
The dark clouds opened at this stage and the rain hammered down on Nene Park.
Dempster brought down Neil 25 yards from goal and Rundle crashed his free kick into the Diamonds wall.
Stags defended the home side's first corner before creating two quickfire chances on breaks.
First Larkin ran at the defence before firing in a powerful shot that struck keeper Shearer on the chest.
Then John-Baptiste put Rundle in space and his shot clipped Connelly, wrong-footing the keeper, but came back off the base of the left post.
Another good Stags break saw Larkin sweep a superb first time pass out to Rundle on the left. He teased Connelly before pulling back a low cross which Barker sliced over on the turn.
An offside flag then halted Barker and his finish hit the post anyway.
Mansfield should have gone ahead on 16 minutes. Rundle crossed from the left and Shearer bizarrely decided to punch the ball when he could have caught it. It went straight to Neil who, from 15 yards, missed the target with his first time shot.
Another Rundle cross saw Neil slice his volley and again the ball flew wide as Mansfield began to confidently dominate the game.
Mansfield defended another Rushden corner on 26 minutes and three minutes later wasted another good chance at the other end.
John-Baptiste's long free kick from his own half was flicked on by Barker and Larkin, just six yards from goal, flicked the ball wide of the far post.
The home side lifted a gear and won two more corners, the second developing into a brief scramble in which Gier blazed the loose ball well over.
Burgess, under pressure, turned a long Connelly cross wide of the far post.
On 42 minutes Pilkington had his first save to make as Sharp sent in a low 20 yard shot. And a minute later Bell swung a low cross into the box which Broughton slid in too late on to be able to get it on target at the far post.
The half-time whistle sounded to mark the third 45 minutes of scoreless football between the sides this season.
Stags' first corner of the second half came to nothing as Rushden cleared at the second attempt.
Murray almost beat Shearer on 52 minutes. Neil tried to make space for a shot but eventually rolled it on to Murray who lifted a shot towards the top left corner that had the keeper diving full length to turn it round.
Four minutes later Shearer foiled Murray again. A sweet move that saw Jelleyman find Neil saw his first time lay-off give Murray a chance that he sidefooted towards the top right hand corner only to see the keeper again at full stretch to claw it round.
Rushden threatened briefly when Stags failed to clear a long throw and the ball reached Gray who saw his first time shot take a deflection wide of goal.
On 62 Stags made a change up front with Kiwi Smeltz on for Larkin.
Diamonds enjoyed another spell of pressure and Buxton got in the way of McCafferty's low drive.
Rushden's best chance of the afternoon fell to Broughton on 63 minutes. Dempster's pass picked him out in the box and six yards from goal he saw Pilkington make a superb point blank save to keep out his finish.
Diamonds continued to grow in confidence and stature and the second of two corners saw Dempster volley just wide.
McLachlan got a good header onto a Rundle cross soon after which forced Shearer into yet another good save. And when Shearer spilled the resulting corner, it came off McLachlan at the far post and bounced the wrong side of the post.
This was better from Mansfield and Smeltz was a fraction away from getting a decisive head to a Neil cross at the far post.
Three more successive Stags corners followed, all taken by Neil to the near post and all cleared.
But Diamonds were not done and resumed the offensive again.
On 74 minutes Pilkington had to get down to save a Bell shot from another scramble while a minute later Gray's low shot came off Murray and went narrowly wide.
A cross from the right was touched on by McCafferty which lifted the ball too high for Sharp to be able to keep it down as his final touch took it well over the bar.
Murray headed at the keeper from Mansfield's 11th corner of the afternoon.
But Rushden were close again on 79 minutes as Bell hit a piledriver from 18 yards which Pilkington failed to hold, just managing to help it round his near post.
When the corner was cleared to Gray, he blazed over from 20 yards.
A good Stags raid, led by Smeltz's break down the right, ended with Neil curling a 20-yard finish over the far angle as time began to run out.
Diamonds added two more corners to their tally but Stags stood firm.
Littlejohn replaced Sharp for the last two minutes as the game petered out into its scoreless conclusion.
Match Report, Rushden & Diamonds Official Site
By Rich Beeby
Rushden and Diamonds0 v 0Mansfield Town
Rushden and Diamonds and Mansfield Town played out a goalless draw for the second time this season in League Two although the Diamonds this time faired much the better against their Nottinghamshire counterparts.
Diamonds had many chances to win the tie although a point was probably a fair result with Scott Shearer keeping his second consecutive clean sheet for the club in a week with a string of fine saves in the Diamonds goal.
Rushden and Diamonds kept an unchanged starting eleven for the first time since 2nd October's home game against Rochdale as they prepared to face Mansfield Town, at Nene Park.The only change came on the bench where Magnus Okuonghae replaced Caretaker Manager Barry Hunter.Mansfield meanwhile made one change as former Diamonds trialist Luke Dimech swapped places with Tom Curtis who was dropped to the bench.
Mansfield started brightly and saw Colin Larkin fire wide after Richie Barker's neat head down after two minutes.Diamonds battled but failed to test the visiting keeper and it was Mansfield who next threatened in front of goal as Larkin claimed a loose ball before firing his shot, but Scott Shearer saved well with his chest for Diamonds.
Adam Murray shot wide after a poor punch from Shearer following Gareth Jelleyman's left wing cross, after 16 minutes, before Alex Neil's right footed volley went wide of Shearer's left hand post minutes later.
Mansfield had the better command of the game and were unlucky not to take the lead when Barker headed on a long free-kick into the path of Larkin who shot on the volley, only to see his effort go wide of Shearer's far post with the keeper beaten, with 29 minutes gone.
Shearer had to be on his guard to rush out of his goal to deny the threatening Adam Murray on 38 minutes, two minutes earlier at the other end Andy Burgess headed wide of the keeper's left post from Sean Connelly's cross.
Billy Sharp shot from distance after 41 minutes before Diamonds best chance of the first half a minute later.David Bell got in behind the Stags defence to square the ball across towards the far post, however Drewe Broughton miss-kicked and saw his effort go wide, much to the relief of Kevin Pilkington in goal.
Murray's chip from outside the box was heading for Shearer's top right corner before the keeper managed to pull off a smart save six minutes into the second half, as the Stags again began brightly.Murray again fancied his chances from distance after 55 minutes after Neil's first time ball set him up but Shearer sprung to his left well to clear the ball for a corner.
Diamonds upped the anti and Pilkington had to be on his guard to thwart Sharp after good play from Neil McCafferty saw Diamonds reclaim a lost ball and allowed a lay off to the Sheffield United loan player.Later Burgess beat Jake Buxton superbly on the left wing before shooting a curling shot into the hands of the keeper after 61 minutes.
Larkin who looked bright in the Stags attack was subbed off for New Zealand International Shane Smeltz after 62 minutes moments before more good chances from the hosts.Pilkington had to block from eight yards from Broughton after Dempster had supplied the target man on 62 minutes before Dempster himself saw an effort from a corner go wide of the left post after his swinging shot.
Fraser Mclachlan should have done better from Neil's left wing corner with Shearer off his line after 67 minutes, however the midfielder fired wide for Mansfield.
Bell shot from the right and saw Pilkington save with his legs after good defensive play from Mansfield had seemed to have thwarted any chance of a shot following Hawkins ball into the box, after 73 minutes.Two minutes later Bell crossed and McCafferty flicked on to allow Sharp the chance to shoot, but he put the chance wide of the keeper's left post.
Burgess switched play from the left to the right with his ball out to Bell after 79 minutes, with Bell fancying the shot from just inside the box only to see Pilkington save well before spilling it behind for a corner.
As time ticked away Bell's cross almost gifted Broughton a goal but he failed to get a touch at the far post after 85 minutes before a late change saw Billy Sharp come off for Adrian Littlejohn with three minutes of normal time remaining, however the former Port Vale man could do little in the dying minutes.
A point shared and a fair result which takes Diamonds points total to 5 points from three games and an unbeaten run of three games for the first time this season.Frustratingly a late winner for Cambridge and a draw for Kidderminster means that the gap between the bottom few remains tight.
Rushden and Diamonds:
Shearer, Connelly, Hawkins, Gier, Gray, Sharp (Littlejohn 87), Bell, Burgess, Broughton, Dempster, McCafferty.Subs not used: Worgan, Hay, Dove, Okuonghae.
Pilkington, Rundle, Neil, Murray, Larkin (Smeltz 62), John-Baptise, Buxton, Dimech, McLachlan, Barker, Jelleyman.Subs not used: White, Curtis, McIntosh, Lloyd.
Referee: Mr P Melin
Attendance: 3096 (477 away)
Diamonds Man of the Match: Scott Shearer
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