Worcester City 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

By Steven

If anybody though that today’s match was going to be easy for the Diamonds then you would be horribly wrong. The Diamonds were made to work for their passage into the Second Round of the FA Cup as Worcester did themselves proud going out by a single goal.

And it only took a marvellous free kick from Ritchie Hanlon deep into the second half to divide the two sides and Worcester could have certainly snatched something had their finishing been better in front of goal.

Despite chances being few and far between for Worcester their football gave them a standing ovation at the full time whistle from both sets of supporters and the Diamonds were given a real test by their non-league opponents.

The Diamonds arrived at Worcester in confident mood and were pleasantly surprised at the good playing surface that awaited them at their St George’s Lane ground.

Diamonds boss Brian Talbot named an unchanged line-up to that which won against Halifax Town last weekend, which meant that Duane Darby, so doubtful at the start of the week, partnered Scott Partridge in attack.

There was even better news for the Diamonds with Michael McElhatton named as a substitute and youngster Robert Duffy was also named on the bench.

This wasn’t going to be an easy task and Worcester fielded a strong line-up. In their starting 11 was Darren Bullock, who had a loan spell at the Diamonds, and experienced striker Phil Stant.

As the ground began to fill up there was a buzz amongst Worcester supporters as they thought they could spring a surprise, but the Diamonds were certainly up for the challenge.

So 3:00pm arrived and we were underway. Straight away, in the opening 20 seconds, Diamonds mounted an attack when Paul Hall burst down the wing but an infringement in the penalty area broke down that move.
But we made a very encouraging start in front of a healthy crowd although Worcester was pushing forward at every opportunity.

Partridge had a long-range effort for the Diamonds on eight minutes but it failed to trouble their goalkeeper Danny McDonnell, who had a important part to play for the visitors if they were going to cause an upset today.

We were experiencing plenty of possession in the opening 10 minutes but to their credit Worcester certainly settled in quickly and were showing no nerves, passing the ball comfortably.

Mark Peters and Barry Hunter were heavily involved for the Diamonds in the opening 15 minutes as the Dr Martens League side began to pour forward, although Billy Turley had yet to be tested.

After 15 minutes: Worcester 0 Diamonds 0

Worcester thought they should have had a penalty of 17 minutes when Andy Ellis was sent tumbling in the penalty area following a challenge from Barry Hunter but the referee simply waved away the appeals.

The home crowd were really getting behind their side every time they pushed football and this game was certainly the FA Cup with Worcester playing some excellent football.

Diamonds needed something to settle their nerves and they broke from a Worcester corner when Partridge played a cross into a dangerous position but Hanlon failed to connect with the final ball.

Hanlon an effort on 24 minutes but again he failed to connect properly with a long effort and McDonnell made a comfortable save.

It was an exciting opening 25 minutes with both teams playing good football and either side looked as if they could break the deadlock.

After 30 minutes: Worcester 0 Diamonds 0

Hanlon had the Diamonds best effort on 30 minutes when he fired a long-range effort just over the Worcester crossbar that would have beat McDonnell had it found the target.

Turley certainly wasn’t being put under any pressure but Worcester were still very much in this match. The Diamonds was not outplaying the home side and it was an impressive performance from our opponents.

Worcester created their best effort on 40 minutes. Mark Shepherd made a delightful run into the penalty area and his final ball found Stant, who managed to fire a shot over the cross with his back at goal.

As the half time whistle went Worcester would have been delighted with there first half performance and the Diamonds certainly had plenty of work to do if they were going to do the job on the first attempt

Half Time: Worcester 0 Diamonds 0

The Diamonds returned for the second half and Brian made no changes to his side keeping faith with the positive opening we made in the opening 10 minutes of the first half.

Worcester were given a warm reception by their fans when they arrived onto the field and they made the bright opening in the second half as Stant caused some early pressure.
Partridge had the Diamonds best effort five minutes into the second half when he forced a good save from McDonnell,  turning and shooting inside the penalty area.

Worcester were put under pressure in the opening five minutes of the second half and a good half time team talk may have been what we needed as we began to play some good football.

After 60 minutes: Worcester 0 Diamonds 0

We were looking threatening and this encounter was turning into a real F.A. Cup tie with the home fans getting behind their side and both teams playing some decent football.
This was turning into a real dogfight and Worcester kept pushing forward as a lot of the play took place in the middle of the field.

Burgess had a shot deflect by Worcester defender Allan Davies but from the resulting corner the Diamonds were unable to create a decent opportunity.

But after 67 minutes the Diamonds took the lead when Hanlon curled a delightful free kick into the corner of the Worcester net that left McDonnell no chance at all.

The goal certainly helped calm Diamond nerves and Partridge produced a wonderful flying save from McDonnell, who was having an impressive game for Worcester.

The home side was not lying down however and Worcester were certainly not out of the game and they continued to pile men forward as they tried to get back into the tie.

Duffy was introduced into the game on 71 minutes replacing Darby who had a quiet game for the Diamonds.

After 75 minutes: Worcester 0 Diamonds 1

Worcester were not out of this game and their first attempt on target came on 77 minutes when Paul Carty saw his curling effort well saved by Turley.

The Diamonds were temporally down to 10 men as Burgess took a nasty whack from a Worcester defender.

Burgess had to be replaced by Jon Brady as the midfielder limped off with an injury and Partridge had an opportunity to wrap the game up in the final five minutes but he hit his shot over the crossbar.

Five minutes of added time meant that Worcester still had time to get a vital goal to force a replay but Duffy had an excellent chance for the Diamonds but he failed to keep his shot on target.

Partridge had a goal disallowed for offside in the closing stages but this was going to be the Diamonds day and although it was not easy they held on to edge into the next round of the F.A Cup.

Worcester City: McDonnell, Davies, Jukes, Heeley, Weir, Carty, Shepherd, Ellis, Stant (Burrow 89), Bullock, Hyde (McFarlane 77).

Subs not used: Goodman, Woods, Wyatt

Diamonds: Turley, Underwood (Setchell 65), Peters, Butterworth, Partridge, Darby (Duffy 71), Burgess(Brady 85), Hall, Hanlon, Sambrook, Hunter.

Subs not used: Pennock, McElhatton

Booked: Hunter (40), Peters (86)

Booked: Bullock (10), Davies (18), Stant (65), Carty (66) 

Referee: Mr M.A. Cooper

Attendance: 3,313

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