Tuesday 15th April 2008 (7-45 pm)

Stafford Rangers 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1
Blue Square Premier at Marston Road
Attendance: 455

Visitors Rushden & Diamonds took the points with a single goal scored in the 5th minute by Michael Rankine. But, despite the defeat, manager Steve Bull MBE gained encouragement from what he saw.

Following Saturday's 2-1 at Cambridge United, Bull named an unchanged starting line-up with Alan Dodd added to the bench in place of Kevin Street.

On a chilly evening, Rushden chose to attack the Social Club end in the first half, so Rangers got the game underway. Tom Ingram got forward into the area but was denied a shooting chance by Martyn Margarson brave save at the feet of the Stafford midfielder.

However, the game's only goal came after just 280 seconds. Andy Burgess crossed low from the left and Rankine flicked it past Danny Alcock and in via the far right-hand post.

Stafford were forced to make an early change when Nick Wellecomme replaced the limping Nathan Smith.

Samy Mawene won the ball in a challenge with Conal Platt, took the ball forward and fed Damion Jarrett who fired tamely at Margarson from outside the area. In the 18th minute, Ishmale Reid had a got from 20 yards and saw his shot blocked by a defender. Ingram fired the rebound over.

Midway through the first half, Platt ghosted into the area and forced Alcock to turn round a well-struck near-post effort hit from a narrow angle on the left. On the half hour, Mawene drove over from 20 yards out and sent a slightly longer-range shot wide a few minutes after.

A long goal-kick from Alcock into Rushden territory was flicked on by Neil Grayson to Nick Wellecomme but Margarson left his line to clear. The visiting keeper dropped Reid's left-wing cross in the 37th minute under Wellecomme challenge. The ball fell to Jarrett who sent his shot wide from 8 yards out.

As the interval approached, Andy Gooding drove low across the face of the Stafford goal and Alcock gathered up a long-range effort hit along the ground by Curtis Osano.

With Boro now attacking the Social Club end, Reid delivered a right-wing corner to the bar post. Wayne Daniel ran in but could not make contact. A long throw from Ross Draper was headed out for another corner which triggered chants of encouragement from the fans behind the goal. On the hour, a long-range drive from Jarrett must have swerved in the air as Margaretson hurriedly beat the ball to safety.

Rushden boss Garry Hill made all three of his changes in seven minutes around the hour mark, with one eye presumably on the game his side has on Thursday. The substitutions didn't stop Stafford creating chances. Draper drove across the face of the Rushden goal while Reid tried his luck from outside the area.

Tom Shaw went in the book for a challenge on Ingram in the 67th minute. Grayson headed over from the resulting free-kick. Ross Draper also saw yellow four minutes later and earned a three-match ban covering the games against Exeter, Droylsden and the first opponents next season. From this free-kick, Alcock produced a fine reaction save to keep out a downward header from substitute Sam Smith. The Stafford keeper had a bit of good fortune when his clearance of a backpass from Draper hit Smith and looped clear.

In what had become an open game, Stafford did not give up chasing the equaliser. Mawene drove the ball across the face of the visitors goal. At the other end, Osana fired well wide of the left-hand post from outside the area.

Ingram became the third name to enter the notebook, just before Jon Loukes replaced Jarrett. Draper went close to scoring with a well-struck 30-yard shot that flew past the right-hand post with Margarson diving at full stretch. In stoppage time, Loukes fired over from 25 yards and Alcock joined his teammates in the Rushden area for one final corner.

Stafford Rangers (black and white stripes / black / black): 1. Danny Alcock, 5. Wayne Daniel (capt), 7. Chris Flynn, 6. Djoumin Sangare, 35. Damion Jarrett, 22. Samy Mawene, 16. Tom Ingram, 17. Ross Draper, 30. Ishmale Reid, 9. Neil Grayson, 15. Nathan Smith. Subs: 18. Alan Dodd, 19. Seb Arnolin, 33. Danny Allen (gk), 42. Nick Wellecomme (for Smith, 8), 44. Jonathan Loukes (for Jarrett, 89)

Rushden & Diamonds (yellow / yellow / yellow): 19. Martyn Margarson, 2. Curtis Osano, 4. Phil Gulliver (Capt), 26. Michael Corcoran, 27. Abdou El-Kholti, 17. Andy Gooding, 11. Andy Burgess, 8. Curtis Woodhouse, 7. Jon Challinor, 14. Michael Rankine, 23. Conal Platt. Subs: 5. Chris Hope, 16. Tom Shaw (for Woodhouse, 57), 21. Jake Beecroft, 24. Dean Howell (for El-Kholti, 54), 28. Sam Smith (for Platt, 61)

Referee: P. Tierney (Lancashire)
Attendance: 436 (away fans 54)

This match report was originally written for and published on the now defunct www.staffordrangers.co.uk