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Match Report


Posted Mon 25 Apr 11 at 18:13 PM

FULL TIME: Rushden 2-1 Harriers

Report by Matt Wall - stats provided and generated for by the Press Association.

Harriers' play-off dream was shattered into a million pieces by Rushden & Diamonds on Easter Monday, Steve Burr's men falling to a 2-1 defeat thanks to Ryan Charles' late goal at Nene Park.

Both sides made a quiet start in this one and this was reflected inside the first eight minutes when there was a half-chance apiece, the lively Nabil Shariff driving one into the side netting for Diamonds whilst Jack Byrne saw an effort blocked at the other end as he drove at goal from around 12 yards.

The home side should have made better of an opening with 17 minutes on the clock as the experienced Aaron O'Connor led the charge into the Harriers area with Sharrif, but his shot was dragged across the face of goal away from Daniel Lewis and so from danger.

The pace seemed to take an eternity to get going on what was a delightfully sunny afternoon - bar the noise generated by the several hundred Harriers fans, this tie had the atmosphere and air of a pre-season kick-about rather than a key end-of-season affair.

Around the half-hour mark, though, things started to gradually pick up for Steve Burr's men - after wasting a couple of counter-attacks, Harriers started to use the ball with a little more purpose and when the ball fell to Lee Morris towards the far post he seemed to have the routine task of finishing into a half-guarded net from six yards. As it was, he didn't get the contact he'd like and the ball slammed over the bar.

Diamonds always looked lively on the counter attack and with just seven minutes to the break they'd have felt they should have done better when O'Connor raced away from the back line and ventured into the area - the chance was gone once he decided to cross rather than shoot, however, as a back-tracking Lee Vaughan cut out the danger with a good block.

Just a minute later Harriers finally forced Simon Evans into a decent save as the ball fell out of the sky and into the path of Matty Blair who was powering into the area, watching it down well before shooting firmly with an effort the goalkeeper did well to get down and stay behind.

That seemed to signify Harriers turning up the pressure a little and, with just seconds of that first period remaining, Evans kept the scores level as he again full himself at full-stretch to deny Blair as the winger's first-time effort looked a good bet to find the back of the net.

The news at the break was that Fleetwood were in front and so Harriers knew they had to get themselves in front and quickly, and so it was an absolute hammer blow to find themselves a goal down just two minutes after the re-start. Sharrif teased things on the edge of the area and drove a shot towards goal that floored Michael Briscoe; unfortunately in the view of the referee's assistant, the defender had his hands above his head whilst being taken out - this punished by a penalty, much to the surprise of almost everyone inside the ground. O'Connor was cool from the spot, though, and put the ball beyond Lewis to give Diamonds the lead.

Harriers needed a response, and quickly and when the only reaction Burr seemed to get from his charges was one of sheer frustration, the manager sought to take things into his own hands by making the only impact he could - changes. Hard working Lee Morris and Callum Gittings were replaced by Nick Wright and Sean Canham with a little under an hour played.

Four minutes later there was a half-chance as Harriers desperately searched for a way back into the game - Chris McPhee looped a cross into the area where sub Canham was on hand to get on the end of it with an effort that went just wide.

Tom Shaw replaced Keith Briggs soon after as Harriers well and truly went for broke, Vaughan burst into the area with 19 minutes left and tried to lash one in but the effort was well blocked. Six minutes later it was Wright's chance to register an effort at goal as he rose well inside the area, his header just lacking a little in power as Evans gathered.

Just when you thought the play-off dream had breathed its last breath, Harriers did what they've done all season and proved they aren't to be a walkover - with six minutes to go, the ball fell kindly for Wright and his pace was enough to take him away from the Diamonds defence. His touch, too, was strong as he moved into the area and crossed sharply to McPhee who bundled it into the back of the net.

The reds surged forward with everything they had but were left utterly heartbroken in injury time. O'Connor's pace was a problem all day for Harriers and in the end it struck a killer blow. The bounce was kind to the front-man as he beat Briscoe - inside the area, Lewis was down well to superbly save from his powerful effort but he was helpless to keep out the poke home from substitute Ryan Charles.

In the frustration, Canham and Blair found themselves booked and Byrne found himself on the end of a straight red card in mysterious circumstances, his third of the season.

Mecca Bingo

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