Plymouth Argyle 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

By Steven

A sloppy goal conceded in the final ten minutes of the game meant Diamonds went down to defeat at the hands of league-leaders Plymouth Argyle this afternoon.

Diamonds had deserved at least a point from the game with Billy Turley making four key saves in the match and the makeshift defence limiting Plymouth attacks to a minimum.

Diamonds boss Brian Talbot was forced to make a number of changes to his side following the Boxing Day 4-2 defeat at the hands of Southend United.

In came Gary Setchell meaning that Paul Underwood partnered Mark Peters in the centre of defence. It was no surprise to see Michael McElhatton in the starting line-up as he replaced suspended Ritchie Hanlon.

But what was a major surprise was the inclusion of Stuart Gray. The former Reading midfielder, who hasn’t started a league game since August, replaced Andy Burgess who was taken ill over the last few days.

It meant Duane Darby, Tarkan Mustafa and Tony Pennock joined youngsters Daniel Talbot and David Bell on the substitutes bench.

Plymouth, who were looking to extend their lead at the top of the Third Division, included top goal scorer David Friio in their team while Ian Stonebridge and Marino Keith started in attack.

The game got underway with Plymouth kicking-off, attacking the goal towards the home end of this beautiful redeveloped ground.

Like on Wednesday, Diamonds made a very encouraging start, keeping possession and putting the Plymouth defence under some early pressure.

But it wasn’t long before Plymouth soon found their stride and Lee Hodges and Martin Phillips were making good runs down the flanks.

Graham Coughlan had the first real chance of the game on seven minutes but his long-range effort flew miles wide of Billy Turley’s goal and into the stands.

Plymouth were controlling the early periods of the game as the Diamonds defence looked shaky but still Turley had yet been put under any real danger.

Plymouth came close to breaking the deadlock on 11 minutes when after some good build-up play, Phillips’ turn and shot rattled the outside of a post.

After 15 minutes: Plymouth 0 Diamonds 0

The home side were now looking dangerous on the break and the Diamonds’ defence was being put under a lot of pressure.

Plymouth won a free-kick in a dangerous position on 17 minutes but some good work from the Diamonds wall blocked the kick and managed to clear the danger.

Diamonds were looking very quiet but they won their first corner of the game on 20 minutes. Lowe flicked Gray’s cross on but Partridge had his fierce effort blocked by a Plymouth defender.

All of a sudden Diamonds looked back in the game and Paul Hall was producing some exciting runs down the left flank.

Turley was called into action on 22 minutes when Stonebridge skipped past Underwood to fire a low shot but the Diamonds goalkeeper was equal to his effort.

Diamonds created their best chance on 24 minutes when Garry Butterworth let fly a splendid effort but Plymouth goalkeeper Romain Larrieu produced a finger tip save.

After 30 minutes: Plymouth 0 Diamonds 0

The game was now becoming a little bit scrappy with both teams finding it difficult to mount a serious challenge.

Gray seemed to be struggling with a knock following an earlier tackle but Diamonds were certainly holding their own against the league-leaders as Plymouth started to get frustrated.

Setchell became the first player to see his name in the referee’s notebook on 33 minutes following a nasty looking challenge on Keith.

Diamonds should have taken the lead on 40 minutes when a mistake in the Plymouth defence let Hall in but he miss-hit his shot and Lowe could not force the loose ball into the net.

Diamonds deservedly went in at the break all square and Brian certainly would have been happy with the way his side kept Plymouth at bay.

Half Time: Plymouth 0 Diamonds 0

No changes were made to either side in the second half as Diamonds once again started brightly winning a corner inside the first two minutes of the second half that Butterworth blasted over the Plymouth goal

Plymouth made a slow start but eventually managed to get themselves out of the blocks when on 50 minutes Turley came racing out of his goal to deny Phillips.

Hodges saw a goal disallowed for offside as Plymouth began to get themselves back in the game with this large crowd roaring on every attack by the home-side.

After 60 minutes: Plymouth 0 Diamonds 0

On 60 minutes a free-kick from David Worrell managed to beat everyone in the Diamonds box but Turley, who saw it late, managed to palm it away.

It was an excellent stop but just moments later he produced an even better save, this time acrobatically stopping Coughlan’s close range header.

Turley was again called into action on 63 minutes tipping over a close range header from Keith. If it wasn’t for the Diamonds goalkeeper the visitors could easily have seen themselves 3-0 down in this half.

Plymouth were still in control of this game but it was Turley and the Diamonds defence that were doing themselves proud as attempts from the home-side were kept to a bare minimum.

McElhatton had a shot deflected as Diamond supporters tried to get behind their team. But from the resulting corner Butterworth hit a shot wide of the target.

After 75 minutes: Plymouth 0 Diamonds 0

On 76 minutes Turley, who was having an outstanding match, made another key save again denying Keith who struck a fierce long range effort from outside the penalty area.

Diamonds chances were rare but Lowe had a good effort on 80 minutes but he blasted his shot well over the cross bar and high into the stands.

But after all their good work, Diamonds conceded a sloppy goal. On 81 minutes substitute Blair Sturrock crossed from the right and Mark Peters diverted the ball into his own net, although nobody was totally sure who got the final touch with the P.A announcer awarding the goal to Keith.

Diamonds tried to get themselves back in the game but failed to find that all important goal, which they really deserved.

Plymouth: Larrieu, Worrell, Friio, Coughlan, McGlinchey, Stonebridge (Sturrock 75), Phillips, Adams, Hodges, Wotton, Keith.

Subs not used: McCormick, Beswetherick, Evers, Heaney 

Bookings: Wotton (60)

Diamonds: Turley, Underwood, McElhatton (Bell 84), Peters, Butterworth, Partridge, Setchell, Gray (Darby 84), Hall, Sambrook (Mustafa 89), Lowe.

Subs not used: Pennock, Talbot,

Bookings: Setchell (33), Underwood (45)

Referee: Mr M.L Cable

Attendance: 9,503

Southend 4 Rushden & Diamonds 2

By Steven

Diamonds let a two goal lead slip at Roots Hall this afternoon as Southend staged a remarkable second half comeback to take maximum points and extend their unbeaten run to six.

After going two goals ahead in the first half and playing the better football, Diamonds were left shell shocked as Southend steamrolled their visitors in the second half.

Diamonds boss Brian Talbot were forced to make a major change before the game with Jim Rodwell being recalled into the centre of defence to partner Mark Peters.

It meant that Barry Hunter had failed to recover from his twisted knee injury that he sustained against Carlisle United on Saturday.

Otherwise Brain named an unchanged side with Scott Partridge partnering Onandi Lowe in attack and Michael McElhatton named amongst the substitutes.

For Southend, former Diamonds striker Mark Rawle was named amongst the substitutes with Tesfaye Bramble, who has struck four goals this season, starting in attack.

Diamonds kicked-off the first half and won an immediate corner but a poor delivery from Paul Hall amounted to minimal danger.

It was a poor turnout this afternoon at Roots Hall with large sections of the stands empty but good support from Diamonds had travelled down to the coast to make this midday kick-off.

Both sides were having good periods of possession but on five minutes Diamonds took the lead. Some good build up play found Andy Burgess on the left flank who delivered a perfect cross for Lowe to knock down and Garry Butterworth fired home.

It was a great start for the Diamonds but to their credit, Southend immediately were looking for a way back into the game. The home side won two consecutive corners but Billy Turley done well in the Diamonds goal.

Chances were few and far between but Diamonds were having the better of the play and Brian would certainly have been happy with the way his side had settled down in the opening 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes: Southend 0 Diamonds 1

Diamonds won their second corner of the game on 18 minutes and Burgess sent an excellent delivery into a dangerous position that had Southend goalkeeper Darryl Flahavan in all sorts of trouble.

Southend had not tested Turley inside the opening 20 minutes and Diamonds were playing some positive football with the home side struggling to get the ball out of their own half.

Ritchie Hanlon fired an effort wide of the target on 23 minutes following some good build up play from Lowe and Hall.

After 30 minutes: Southend 0 Diamonds 1

On 30 minutes Southend created their first chance of the game. Rob Newman sent over a perfect cross from the left that Carl Hutchings rose to meet but Turley pulled off an excellent acrobatic save.

Just moments later, as Southend were experience their best spell of the game, Hutchings sent over a cross from the right and this time Damon Searle couldn’t keep his header on target.

But despite Southend’s good spell, Diamonds deservedly doubled their advantage on 35 minutes.

Lowe showed his strength beating off the challenge from two defenders to square the ball to Partridge and although he failed to find the Diamond striker, Phil Whelan sliced his clearance straight to him and the former Brentford hit man found the net. 

Diamonds were certainly looking the better teams as the Southend fans started to get frustrated as they struggled to find any flowing football and trouble the visitors defence.

On 42 minutes Leon Cort let fly from 30-yard but thankfully his effort went straight into the arms of Turley.

Half Time: Southend 0 Diamonds 2

Southend started strongly in the second half and won a corner within the first minute but Diamonds defender managed to deal with the danger and cleared their lines.

Another corner was won just moments later as the home side began the second half in positive spirit but Diamonds were again solid in defence and managed to deal with the danger.

But just six minutes into the second half Southend found themselves back in the game. Hutchings fired a shot just outside the penalty area and although Butterworth cleared his shot off the line, Cort smashed home the rebound.

This was going to be a very testing period for the Diamonds. Southend had come out in the second half and were really taking the game to the visitors but that was to be expected.

Diamonds nearly extended their lead on 57 minutes when after an amazing run from Lowe he released the ball to Hanlon and with only the goalkeeper he failed to find the net with Flahavan making a vital stop with his feet.

That miss was to prove vital as Southend were back on level terms. Bramble found a gap in the Diamonds defence to slide a ball to Barrington Belgrave who side footed a shot past Turley.

After 60 minutes: Southend 2 Diamonds 2

Southend were now the team on top and their supporters believed their side could snatch victory.

Partridge saw a goal disallowed for offside on 65 minutes but despite this, Southend were still the team on top.

And the home side had now gone in front. Their third goal arrived on 67 minute with Bramble running onto a through ball from Belgrave to slide a shot past Turley, who had come rushing out of his goal.

After such a good first-half, Diamonds now saw themselves behind and it was the home side who were starting to play the better football, carving open the visitors defence and finding gaps in the midfield.

After 75 minutes: Southend 3 Diamonds 2

But on 75 minutes this game was over as a contest when Southend hit a fourth goal. Belgrave skipped past Peters and played a nice one-two with Bramble to hit a fierce shot past Turley.

Brian made three changes with ten minutes remaining. Duane Darby, Gary Setchell and McElhatton were all thrown into action.

Diamonds were still pushing forward at every attempt but Southend had now settled into their stride and now playing the better football.

Southend: Flahavan, Broad, Cort, Newman (Clarke 38), Whelan, Searle, Thurgood, Maher, Hutchings (Johnson 90), Bramble (Rawle 88), Belgrave.

Subs not used: Gay, Rawle, Kerrigan 

Bookings:

Diamonds: Turley, Underwood, Peters, Butterworth (McElhatton 79, Partridge (Darby 79), Burgess, Rodwell (Setchell 79), Hall, Hanlon, Sambrook, Lowe.

Subs not used: Brady, Pennock.

Bookings: Partridge (63)

Referee: Mr Grant Hegley.

Attendance: 5,878

Rushden & Diamonds 3 Carlisle United 1

By Steven

This win was well deserved. Diamonds outplayed their opponents in every department and although the score line may not suggest a comfortable win, Carlisle were no match for the Northamptonshire side at Nene Park.

Despite Carlisle taking the lead midway through the first half, a solid display from the Diamonds and a wonderful goal from Paul Hall helped seal an easy three points.

Diamonds boss Brian Talbot made one change from that which started against Luton last week. Scott Partridge was recalled into the starting line-up to partner Onandi Lowe in attack.

Michael McElhatton, who played his first piece of competitive first-team action in over a year at Luton last week, was named as a substitute while Duane Darby, who started at Kenilworth Road, was also on the bench.

Carlisle, who were looking for their first away victory of the season this afternoon, included leading goalscorer Richie Foran in attack while Maltese striker Ian Stevens was also in the starting eleven.

Diamonds kicked-off, attacking the goal towards the Peter De Banke terrace, and it was the home side who were making the more promising start as they controlled the opening stages of the game.

Lowe had Diamonds’ first effort when he connected with Paul Underwood’s free-kick but the Jamaican couldn’t get enough power behind his shot.

Lowe had another effort just moments later. Again the cross came from Underwood but this time the striker just couldn’t find the target as the ball trickled wide.

Diamonds should have broken the deadlock on five minutes. Andy Burgess had time and space on the left flank to deliver an inch perfect cross but Hall hit his first-time shot straight into the arms of Carlisle goalkeeper Peter Keen.

It was a good start from the Diamonds and maybe Brian would have been disappointed that his side had not taken the lead inside the first ten minutes.

Carlisle created their first effort on nine minutes when Stuart Green skipped past Andrew Sambrook down the right but drilled a weak shot straight into the arms of Billy Turley.

Carlisle were reduced to 10 men after 14 minutes when Michael Jack saw red after he, seemingly, head butted Sambrook which left the Diamonds defender with a bloody nose.

After 15 minutes: Diamonds 0 Carlisle 0

Brian didn’t rush into replacing Sambrook as the defender ran into the tunnel with the club physio to patch up the wound on his nose.

It meant Hall was required to play at right-back but Sambrook was soon back on the field and took up his place in the Diamonds defence.

Diamonds were certainly in control of proceedings as they put Carlisle’s defence under constant pressure.

Carlisle won a free-kick on 25 minutes after Hall had brought down Foran on the edge of the penalty area. And it resulted in Stuart Green finding the net from an acute angle beating the Diamonds wall and past Turley at his near post.

But just two minutes later Diamonds were back on level terms. Hall broke down the right flank to send a perfect cross for Onandi Lowe to side foot home past Keen and into the net.

It was what Diamonds deserved. They were the team playing the better football but to Carlisle’s credit their heads stayed up and they were making the home side work hard.

After 30 minutes: Diamonds 1 Carlisle 1

Diamonds were fully in control of the game, chances were flying in left, right and centre but still they couldn’t find a way past the Carlisle defence.

Sambrook fired an effort over the crossbar while Burgess saw his header go inches over the crossbar.

Carlisle pushed forward on 43 minutes and won a corner but it was wasted which left their manager Roddy Collins fuming from the sidelines.

Hall fired an effort in stoppage time but despite all their domination and possession in the opening 45 minutes, Diamonds went in at the interval all level.

After 45 minutes: Diamonds 1 Carlisle 1

Carlisle were forced to change their kit and played the second half in Diamonds’ away yellow kit.

But more surprising was the change made by Brian at the interval as Barry Hunter was replaced by Gary Setchell who was to occupy the left side of defence. That meant Underwood partnered Mark Peters in the centre of defence.

Lowe found the net on 47 minute but he was adjudged to have used his hand in the process and the game remained 1-1.

But just three minutes later Diamonds took the lead. Burgess sent a perfect cross into the Carlisle penalty area and Paul Hall managed to drill a fierce effort past Keen.

Diamonds won a free kick on 53 minutes but Underwood saw a curling effort fly well over the Carlisle crossbar and failed to trouble Keen.

Lowe managed to weave his way past three or four Carlisle defender on 57 minutes but his mazy run was halted by an excellent save from Keen.

After 60 minutes: Diamonds 2 Carlisle United 1

An excellent sweeping move nearly resulted in Diamonds extending their lead but the final ball from Partridge to Sambrook was just out of the defenders reach and Keen made a brave save.

Carlisle attacks were rare but when they did push forward they looked dangerous but Peters and Underwood were producing a solid display in the centre of defence.

Diamonds should really have extended their lead but despite all the possession they couldn’t find a way past Carlisle’s defence.

After 75 minutes: Diamonds 2 Carlisle United 1

Diamonds were having some excellent opportunities to put this game beyond Carlisle’s reach but nobody could grab that killer goal.

But the game was put beyond doubt as Diamonds extended their lead through a bizarre own goal. Lowe broke clear and squared the ball to Burgess whose shot was cleared off the line but struck an unfortunate Whitehead.

After 90 minutes: Diamonds 3 Carlisle United 1.

Diamonds: Turley, Underwood, Peters, Butterworth (McElhatton 90), Partridge, Burgess, Hall, Hanlon, Sambrook, Lowe, Hunter (Setchell h/t).

Subs not used: Darby, Pennock, Brady.

Bookings: Peters (57), Setchell (70)

Carlisle United: Keen, Whitehead, Soley, Stevens (Halliday 38), Green, Murphy, Winstanley, Allen, Andrews, Jack, Foran.

Subs not used: Thurston, Hopper, McAughtrie, Thwaites.

Bookings: Allen (27), Soley (47), Whitehead (53), Green (73)

Sent Off: Jack (14)

Attendance: 4,142

Referee: Mr A R Hall

See here for video highlights courtesy of Gary Mabee Visual Productions.

Luton Town 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

By Steven

Diamonds, once again, played some very good football, but failed to deliver the goods in front of goal as they lost by a single goal to Luton Town at Kenilworth Road this afternoon.

Dean Crowe struck midway through the first half to help Luton record their 13th victory of the season but Diamonds should have at least come away with something from the game, however, a host of missed chances cost them dear.

Following a very cold and frosty morning in Bedfordshire, the Diamonds were very surprised at the perfect playing conditions that awaited them at Kenilworth Road for this important encounter.

As snow fluttered on the Kenilworth Road pitch before the game, there was a major change in Diamonds’ squad with Duane Darby replacing Scott Partridge in attack and partnered Onandi Lowe.

Andy Burgess started on the left hand side of midfield so Partridge, Jon Brady Gary Setchell, Tony Pennock and Michael McElhatton were named amongst the substitutes.

For Luton, David Bayliss was making his home debut for the club following a move from Rochdale while Chris Coyne started for the Hatters after his wife had given birth to a baby boy the night before.

Over 1,000 Diamonds fans packed inside Kenilworth Road as kick-off approached and this was anticipated to be a fantastic game.

It was Luton who created the first real opening. Emmerson Boyce sent over an excellent right wing cross but Andrew Sambrook managed to get ahead of Steve Howard at the far post.

But Diamonds soon settled into their game and Paul Hall should have done better with a free kick that was awarded to the visitors in a dangerous position.

Diamonds were soon playing the better football and gaps started to develop in the Luton defence as Brian Talbot’s side pushed forward in the opening stages of the game.

But despite all of Diamonds early pressure it was Luton who were carving out the better chances. Crowe sent over an excellent cross on five minutes but Matthew Taylor couldn’t keep down his header.

Luton were forced to make a substitute just 10 minutes into the first half when Coyne had to go off on a stretcher following an early incident involving Darby. Russell Perrett took over in the centre of defence.

After 15 minutes: Luton 0 Diamonds 0 

Diamonds created their best chance of the game on 15 minutes. Hall broke down the right flank to deliver an inch perfect cross but Garry Butterworth couldn’t keep his header on target.

Diamonds went close on 20 minutes when Burgess crossed from the left but Lowe saw his header trickle just wide of the Luton goal.

It was a fairly even 20 minutes. Both teams were creating good chances but neither goalkeeper had really been under threat.

Diamonds were causing more havoc in attack as Luton’s defence looked patchy at times but still Mark Ovendale, the Hatters goalkeeper, had yet to be troubled by the visitors attackers.

Unfortunately the referee was spoiling the game at times, getting involved in silly incidents, and stopping the flowing football that both teams were trying to play.

Just before the half-an-hour mark, Jean Loui Valois nearly beat Billy Turley when he went inches wide with a thunderous effort that would have beat the Diamonds goalkeeper had it been on target.

After 30 minutes: Luton 0 Diamonds 0

But the Diamonds fell behind on 33 minutes. Howard flashed a cross into a dangerous area that Paul Underwood sliced onto his own post. The trouble seemed to have gone but Nicholls found Crowe who scored from close range.

Diamonds were still controlling large periods of the game but it was Luton who were creating the better chances. Howard and Crowe were causing some serious problems for the Diamonds defence.

Luton nearly grabbed a second on 39 minutes when Crowe burst through into the penalty area but Turley made an important stop from the former Stoke hitman.

Diamonds started to fade as Luton continued to create the better chances and more of the danger. Howard went close again with a close range header but Turley made a comfortable save.

Diamonds could have grabbed an equaliser just before the interval when Darby beat Bayliss to the ball in the penalty area but Taylor got in front of the striker who nearly diverted the ball into his own net.

At Half Time: Luton 1 Diamonds 0

Luton were forced to make their second substitution of the game at the start of the second half as Matthew Spring was replaced by Peter Holmes in the centre of midfield.

But it was Diamonds who made the more positive start in the second half. Darby capitalised on a mistake in the Luton defence but Ovendale made a vital stop for his side.

Lowe connected to a Paul Underwood free kick on 51 minutes but it failed to trouble Ovendale. However, it was another positive start for the Diamonds as they tried to force themselves back into the game.

Luton nearly doubled their advantage on 53 minutes when Perrett out jumped the Diamonds defence but failed to keep his effort on target.

Partridge was introduced into the action on 58 minutes replacing Darby, as Brian looked to push men forward at any opportunity when his side broke down the flanks.

After 60 minutes: Luton 1 Diamonds 0

Just two minutes after coming onto the field, Partridge created Diamonds best chance of the game when he cut inside the Luton defence to shoot a fierce effort, but Ovendale was equal to it.

Diamonds were now the team on top, creating the better chances and continuing to put Ovendale under continued pressure. Meanwhile Luton were struggling to break through the Diamonds defence.

After 75 minutes: Luton 1 Diamonds 0

Sambrook had a long-range effort on 78 minutes but he failed to test Ovendale and it needed something special from the Diamonds if they were going to rescue anything from this match.

Ahmet Brkovic became the fourth Luton player to see his name in the referee’s notebook on 82 minutes but Diamonds failed to capitalise on the resulting free kick.

Diamonds should have got themselves back on level terms, six minutes from time when Butterworth broke free but with only the goalkeeper to beat he spooned his shot wide of the target.

McElhatton tasted his first piece of first team action for over a year when he replaced Hanlon with five minutes to go.

Diamonds pushed everyone forward in the closing stages as they tried to forced that important goal but it was no good as Brian’s team failed to deliver in front of goal.

Full Time: Luton 1 Diamonds 0

Luton: Ovendale, Spring (Holmes 46), Nicholls, Coyne (Perrett 10), Taylor, Boyce, Howard, Valois (Hillier 75), Bayliss, Crowe, Brkovic.

Subs not used: Emberson, Forbes.

Bookings: Howard (17), Boyce (38), Ovendale (62), Brkovic

Diamonds: Turley, Underwood, Peters, Butterworth, Burgess, Darby (Partridge 58), Hall, Hanlon (McElhatton 85), Sambrook, Lowe, Hunter.

Subs not used: Pennock, Setchell, Brady.

Bookings: Hanlon (18)

Referee: P Danson.

Attendance: 7,495

Brighton & Hove Albion 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

By Steven

They gave it everything, but the Diamonds have gone out of the F.A. Cup this afternoon as Brighton progressed to the Third Round of the competition.

It was a brave display from Brian Talbot’s side but Brighton probably deserved their win. But the Diamonds boss could be very proud of his hard working side, as they worked their socks off all afternoon.

The Diamonds arrived at the Withdean Stadium an hour before kick-off and took a look inside the ground viewing a perfect playing surface and beautiful weather conditions with the sun shining brightly over the trees surrounding the Brighton stadium.

The Diamonds side had no real surprises to it. Brian Talbot took his team for training of Friday afternoon and was glad to report no injury troubles. That meant Barry Hunter and Mark Peters was recalled to the heart of the Diamonds defence and Jon Brady kept his place on the left hand side of midfield.

Onandi Lowe and Scott Partridge started in attack meaning that Peter Thomson joined Gary Setchell, Andy Burgess, Jim Rodwell and goalkeeper Tony Pennock on the substitute bench. 

Brighton included hotshot Bobby Zamora in their team and he partners Paul Brooker and Gary Hart in attack with Peter Taylor likely to play a 4-3-3 formation.

Despite the game being shown live on Sky television there was a healthy crowd inside the Withdean stadium and 350 Diamonds fans had made their way to the South coast to cheer the lads on.

A huge Brighton flag made its was across the stand opposite the press box before the game as the F.A. Cup excitement was building inside the ground just minutes before kick off.

In a lively opening Partridge had the first effort of the game when he picked up a loose ball just outside the Brighton area to fire a low shot straight into the arms of Brighton goalkeeper Michel Kuipers.

In the early stages, Zamora showed signs as to why he has scored 17 goals in all competitions when he nearly burst through the middle of Hunter and Peters but couldn’t control a long ball.

But Brighton took the lead after just five minutes. And it was Zamora who got the opening goal when Turley failed to collect a Jones cross that enable the striker to strike from close range.

It was Zamora’s ninth consecutive goal for the Seagulls to set a new club record at Brighton.

Brady fired a free kick over the Brighton wall but straight into the arms of Kuipers as the Diamonds looked for an immediate way back into the game.

After 15 minutes: Brighton 1 Diamonds 0

The Diamonds stepped up the pace and Brady fired high and wide of the target on 15 minutes, when in truth, he should have done much better and at least hit the target.

Danny Cullip had an effort on 21 minutes that trickled just past Turley’s right hand post as Brighton started to cut out the Diamonds threat towards goal.

This was a very even contest, both teams were playing good football but for Brian’s side they just couldn’t find that cutting edge in front of goal they so desperately needed.

Partridge was continuing to be lively upfront and a dangerous Paul Hall free kick was well dealt with by the Brighton defence.

After 30 minutes: Brighton 1 Diamonds 0

The game started to get a bit scrappy in stages as both teams failed to find any impact in front of goal, even Zamora was having a fairly quiet opening half-and-hour, despite his goal.

On 34 minutes Paul Watson had an excellent effort for Brighton that sent Turley scampering across the face of the goal, but thankfully for the Diamonds his effort was just off target.

Garry Butterworth failed to keep a bouncing ball on target on 37 minutes, as the Diamonds seemed to have lost their grip of the game after making such a bright and positive start.

A needless free kick conceded by Hunter on 38 minutes, which resulted in the former Reading defender collecting the first booking of the game, nearly enabled Watson to score but his effort flew past the target.

A bizarre decision from referee Steve Bennett led to a Diamonds free kick but Ritchie Hanlon failed to deliver the finish that we all know he is capable off.

But the Diamonds were still struggling in the final thirds of the field. Lowe was having a very quiet game and the supply from Brady and Hall were limited. Something needed to be changed at the interval.

Half Time: Brighton 1 Diamonds 0

As predicted a change was made at the interval with Andy Burgess replacing Brady to try and develop some crosses from the left hand side of the pitch.

Lowe made an exciting run just minutes into the second half and when it looked like he might find the net, the Jamaican failed to connect with his shot and Kuipers made an easy save.

But it was a good start to the second-half as the Diamonds began to push forward in the opening stages.

But just as the Diamonds looked as if they were going to cause problems for Brighton, they conceded a second goal on 50 minutes. Danny Cullip’s turn, run and shot left Turley with no chance.

What a blow for the Diamonds. It was going to take something special from Brian’s team if they were going to find a way back into this game.

But the Diamonds were given a real chance to get back in the game when an infringement on Lowe meant the Brian’s side was awarded a penalty which Hanlon tucked pass Kuipers, although the Dutch goalkeeper nearly kept it out. 

After 60 minutes: Brighton 2 Diamonds 1

The Diamonds were now back in the game although Peters had to scramble an effort off the goal line when Brooker charged into the penalty area from the left.

The buoyant Brighton fans had suddenly calmed themselves down, as the Diamonds now looked the team on top.

Rushden were not giving up this battle but Brighton continued to move forward at every opportunity to put Brian’s side under continued pressure.

After 75 minutes: Brighton 2 Diamonds 1

Lowe fired a shot over the cross bar on 75 minutes as time was running out for the Diamonds to get that important goal.

Brighton continued to move forward and a corner won on 77 minutes was well held by Turley.

The Diamonds moved forward at every opportunity, Hall and Partridge had efforts inside the penalty area but still Brian’s side kept plugging away.

Brian pushed three men forward as he replaced Andrew Sambrook with Thomson with ten minutes to go and this game was still very much in the balance.

But it failed to pay-off as the full time whistle went The Diamonds had gone out of the competition but could be proud of a solid performance against an impressive Brighton side.

Brighton & Hove Albion: Kuipers, Watson, Mayo, Cullip, Morgan, Hart (Steele 65), Oatway, Brooker, Carpenter, Jones, Zamora.

Subs not used: Pitcher, Rogers, Virgo, Pethick

Diamonds: Turley, Underwood, Peters, Butterworth, Brady (Burgess 46), Partridge, Hall, Hanlon, Sambrook (Thomson), Lowe, Hunter.

Subs not used: Pennock, Setchell, Rodwell

Bookings: Hunter (38), Peters (71)

Attendance: 5,647

Referee: Mr Steve Bennett.

Rushden & Diamonds 3 Bristol Rovers 1

By Steven

It was a typical debut performance. Onandi Lowe was superb in every department, as we bounced back from our defeat against Kidderminster with an excellent victory against struggling Bristol Rovers.

But this was no ordinary win; this was a superb performance, right through the whole team. Brian Talbot’s makeshift team did everything asked of them as we moved up the Third Division table after this victory.

Lowe marked his debut with a goal but the 4,570 crowd witnessed an excellent performance from the striker that overlooked the two goals from Scott Partridge, who was also superb for the Diamonds.

Beautiful sunshine rose above the Nene Park pitch before today’s clash and this was going to be an interesting game. Bristol Rovers were looking for their first league win in 13 games while we had to put behind our disappointing defeat against Kidderminster last week.

As the crowd began to pour into the stadium, the media were informed of the inclusion of Lowe, the Jamaican international who signed for the club on Friday on a three-month contract.

This was going to be a big game for Lowe. Diamonds boss Brian Talbot has been giving encouraging words about the striker and he would partner Partridge in attack.

With everybody predicting who would partner Jim Rodwell in the centre of defence following suspensions to Mark Peters and Barry Hunter, the responsibility laid with Paul Underwood leaving Gary Setchell to play at left back.

That meant Jon Brady started on the left side of midfield, for his first league start since the beginning of October, when we beat Hartlepool.

On the bench was Peter Thomson, Robert Duffy, Tony Pennock, Daniel Talbot and Tarkan Mustafa, meaning there was no place for Michael McElhatton and Gary Mills who were both included in the pre-match squad.

Bristol Rovers included Nathan Ellington in their starting line-up although visitors boss Gerry Francis was not here at Nene Park.

So here we go, with the Diamonds getting us underway. Straight from the kick-off Garry Butterworth got the ball rolling with a long range effort outside the penalty area that Scott Howie made an easy save.

But just moments, and just after the first minute, Scott Partridge broke the deadlock picking up a ball from Lowe to drill a low shot from the right past Howie.

What a start for the Diamonds, who were making all of the pressure early on and Partridge had another effort on three minutes but this time he couldn’t keep his shot on target.

Partridge was on fire, this was a great start from the Diamonds. The former Brentford striker had his third effort inside the first seven minutes forcing a good save from Howie, which resulted in a corner.

It was also an impressive start from the new look defence, who were keeping Bristol Rovers’ strikers at bay.

The sunshine soon disappeared around Nene Park but the football was entertaining when Vitalijs Astafjevs had Bristol Rovers’ first effort for the visitors but Billy Turley was not troubled

On 12 minutes the Diamonds were 2-0 up thanks to Onandi Lowe. His first shot for the Diamonds ended in the back of the net when he turned just outside of the penalty area to fire a low effort past Howie.

This was fantastic, what a start and what a match. Rovers were not in the game, could it be a big win for the Diamonds?

After 15 minutes Diamonds 2 Bristol Rovers 0

Things could have got much better for the Diamonds with Paul Hall forcing a good save from Howie with a long range effort.

Ellington produced some magic down the left flank but Lowe had a chance to extend Diamonds’ lead with a magical effort but Howie produced the save of the match so far.

What a start from Lowe, the early signs were promising and Partridge and Hall were also looking lively for the Diamonds as we were rarely challenged in defence.

After 30 minutes: Diamonds 2 Bristol Rovers 0

The Diamonds were really turning on the style. This was as good as a performance Brian’s side have put in all season and there were no signs of any hangover from the defeat against Kidderminster.

Bristol Rovers created their best chance of the half on 33 minutes. Ellington powered his way past Andrew Sambrook and Hall, to pull a cross into the penalty area that Asatafjevs hit but Rodwell flung himself in the way to get a vital touch.

But just two minutes latter Rodwell saw his name in the referee’s book, the first of the game, for a nasty looking challenge on Astafjevs.

Ellington, who was proving a handful for the Diamonds, had an excellent chance for the visitors on 40 minutes when he beat Sambrook but despite having a clear shot on goal his weak effort enabled Turley to make a comfortable save.

As we closed in on halftime, Bristol Rovers began to look dangerous but Turley was having a quiet afternoon overall.

And as the half time whistle went, the Diamonds were given a standing ovation from the home support – it was a fantastic first 45 minutes. However there was still 45 minutes to go and Bristol Rovers were not going to go down without a fight.

Half Time: Diamonds 2 Bristol Rovers 0

No changes were made at the interval but near enough straight from the kick-off, Scott Partridge grabbed his second of the game collecting a throw to cut inside the defence and send a low shot into the corner of the net that squeezed past Howie.

Surely now victory was in sight, this was turning into an excellent performance from the Diamonds and despite going three goals in front the Diamonds continued to move forward.

Bristol Rovers were back in the game on 52 minutes when Ellington was sent tumbling down in the penalty area by Rodwell to gain a vital penalty kick. Martin Cameron made no mistake from the spot sending Turley the wrong way.

So were Bristol Rovers on the verge of a fight back, only time would tell, but that goal was going to make the game very interesting and suddenly the atmosphere inside Nene Park changed.

If Ellington had done better on 55 minutes with an effort that  struck the side netting with then the Diamonds would have been in trouble.

This was going to be interesting, could the Diamonds protect their lead or would Rovers find a way back into the game?

After 60 minutes: Diamonds 3 Bristol Rovers 1

On 62 minutes, Lowe struck an unbelievable shot that may have fired through the net had it found the target, but his effort went over the bar and into the Airwair stand amongst frightened Diamond supporters.

There was bad news for the Diamonds on 66 minutes when Hanlon was taken off on a stretcher, which was a massive blow. In his place was Duffy who sat in the centre of midfield.

With 20 minutes to go the Diamonds still remained on top edging out a Bristol Rovers side that were beginning to find their way in the game.

After 75 minutes: Diamonds 3 Bristol Rovers 1

Cameron nearly caught Turley napping when he saw the Diamonds goalkeeper of his line and his snapshot just sailed over the bar – a really close effort for the visitors.

Diamonds were 10 minutes away from victory and Partridge had another effort although he maybe should have tried to find Lowe and Duffy who were screaming for the ball on the other side of the penalty area.

Brady’s left wing cross-caused confusion in the Rovers defence that led to a corner but Setchell failed to find anybody in a white shirt.

Turley produced a fine save at the depth from Gall that would have been an interesting finish but the Diamonds were superb and victory was well deserved. The cry from the Diamond supporters at the end was ‘Bring on Brighton’

After 90 minutes: Diamonds 3 Bristol Rovers 1

Diamonds: Turley, Underwood, Butterworth, Brady, Partridge, Rodwell, Setchell, Hall, Hanlon (Duffy 68), Sambrook, Lowe.

Subs not used: Mustafa, Pennock, Thomson, Talbot

Bookings: Rodwell (35), Sambrook (43), Butterworth (68)

Bristol Rovers: Howie, Challis, Foster (Foran 36), Thomson, Mauge, Hillier, Cameron, Astafjevs, Ellington, Trought (Ommel 85), Smith (Gall 67)

Subs not used: Clarke, Jones.

Bookings: Hillier (56), Foran (84)

Referee: Mr M.J Brandwood

Attendance: 4,570

See here for video highlights of the game thanks to Gary Mabee Productions.

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