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.

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