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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