Hartlepool 5 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Three goals in the space of seven second-half minutes meant Diamonds went crushing to their heaviest league defeat of the season against an impressive Hartlepool outfit at Victoria Park this afternoon. 

Some poor defending but some excellent finishing from Hartlepool meant the home side deservedly collected maximum points with Diamonds failing to muster and really chance in the whole game.

Diamonds boss Brian Talbot was forced to ring the changes with no fewer than four new players in the side to the one that started proceedings in the 3-0 defeat against Carlisle United on Tuesday.

In came new boy Stuart Wardley and he surprisingly partnered Ritchie Hanlon in the centre of midfield with Michael McElhatton not even amongst the substitutes.

Darren Carr, currently on a non-contract at Nene Park, started his first game for the club when he partnered Barry Hunter in the centre of defence with both Mark Peters and Ray Warburton out through injury.

In attack, Stuart Douglas made his first start for the Diamonds while Scott Partridge was also recalled into the starting line-up with Duane Darby and Onandi Lowe both missing.

Jon Brady was recalled to the substitute bench along with Tarkan Mustafa as the Diamonds looked to bounce back following that defeat at Brunton Park.

Hartlepool were also looking to bounce back from a heavy defeat against Mansfield in midweek. They were boosted by the return of Tommy Widdrington and in attack they had former Sheffield Wednesday striker Ritchie Humphreys and experienced Gordon Watson.

Hunter was given the captain’s armband in the absence of Warburton and Paul Underwood as the game got underway at a fierce pace.

The first effort of the game arrived inside the second minute when Partridge curled an effort just past the Hartlepool post which would have beaten goalkeeper Anthony Williams had it been on target.

Hartlepool won their first corner of the game shortly afterwards but Carr done extremely well to clear the danger and the knock the ball out of touch for a throw.

Both teams were enjoying some good possession play but neither team had created much in front of goal despite looking dangerous on occasions.

Diamonds nearly found themselves a goal down in bizarre fashion on 10 minutes when James Coppinger cross was headed by Gary Setchell and it nearly beat his own goalkeeper but Billy Turley managed to keep it out.

Hartlepool were now looking dangerous as Watson and Humphries starting causing havoc in the Diamonds defence with their pace and trickery.

Sambrook conceded a needless free-kick on 11 minutes and it was nearly costly and Widdrington tested Turley from long range but the Diamonds goalkeeper made a vital stop.

From the resulting corner, Hanlon cleared an effort of the goal line as Mark Tinkler’s headed looked as if it was going into the back of the net.

After 15 minutes: Hartlepool 0 Diamonds 0 

Diamonds were really under pressure now. Every time the home side pushed forward they looked extremely dangerous although Turley looked in good form, already making a number of vital saves.

The windy weather conditions were making playing decent football very difficult and it seemed to be affecting the Diamonds more as they struggled to get use to the blustery weather.

Hartlepool were once again on the attack on 20 minutes and Tinkler was again dangerous in the box as he saw another header go just over the cross bar and into the stands.

Paul Smith was also causing a lot of problems for the Diamonds as the Hartlepool midfielder was sending some excellent corners into the visitor’s penalty area.

Diamonds were really struggling to create any chances with every attack let down by the final ball. Williams had not yet made any key save as Hartlepool continued to look impressive.

After 30 minutes: Hartlepool 0 Diamonds 0

But finally all of Hartlepool’s pressure paid off as they deservedly took the lead. Turley could only tip Tinkler’s header onto the crossbar but Watson was on hand to poke home from close range.

Hartlepool continued to push forward as Diamonds remained firmly on the back foot and a number of corners were won by the home-side who were looking to quickly add a second.

Diamonds won there first corner of the game on 34 minutes but it didn’t mount to anything as Hartlepool nearly scored on the breakaway but Watson was adjudged to have made a foul on Sambrook.

Diamonds somehow managed to avoid another Hartlepool attack as Smith saw a shot saved by Turley and Watson followed it up but was denied by Hunter who made an important stop on the goal line.

This game was all Hartlepool and still Diamonds had failed to test Williams as Partridge and Douglas continued to struggle in attack.

Diamonds managed to create their first real effort of the game when Douglas beat two defenders but his effort struck the side netting.

Diamonds’ best effort of the game fell a minute before the interval when, after a scramble in the penalty area, the ball arrived to Hanlon but the former Peterborough midfielder fired over.

At Half-Time: Hartlepool 1 Diamonds 0

No changes were made at the interval and Hartlepool started the second-half exactly the same way they finished the first, causing pressure amongst the Diamonds defenders.

Hartlepool were still very much controlling large periods of the game but Diamonds slowly got themselves back into the game as the visitors enjoyed some moments of good pressure.

Partridge went close with a header from a Hall cross as Diamonds were starting to get a grip of the game and control some of the midfield play.

The football was getting a bit scrappy but the Diamonds were still looking good as they pushed forward in search of an important goal.

After 60 minutes: Hartlepool 1 Diamonds 0

Hanlon saw a header go wide of the Hartlepool goal on 61 minutes when it may have been better to leave the cross from Hall to Gray who was arriving at the far post unmarked.

But the Diamonds fell further behind which would have left Brian fuming from the bench. The cross arrived in the penalty area and a bad mix up from Sambrook and Hunter meant that Humphries scored from inside the six-yard box.

It was a bad time to concede a goal, just as Diamonds looked as if they might cause some trouble and get back into the game.

And just moments after conceding the second, Diamonds fell further behind as Watson left the visitors defence in their wake to score at the second attempt after seeing his initial shot saved.

Things were going from bad to worse for the Diamonds and it was in attack where the visitors were really struggling to find any danger. It would be fair to say that Darby and Lowe were certainly being missed.

Now Hartlepool were running riot. Another mix up in the Diamonds defence left Widdrington an easy chance to tap home from close range after Turley done so well to stop his initial effort.

Hartlepool were ripping through the Diamonds defence and they could easily have had a fifth but Watson struck a shot over the cross bar when in acres of space.

After 75 minutes: Hartlepool 4 Diamonds 0

Hartlepool were continuing to run riot and on 77 minutes Hartlepool added a fifth when Coppinger got in front of Hunter to volley home from closer range and leave Turley fuming at his defenders.

Duffy replaced Partridge with ten minutes remaining the game was already over as a contest.

Hartlepool kept moving forward as they looked for goal number six but Turely produced a fine save from Humphries with the crowd roaring every single chance the home-side created.

Robert duffy did score a good goal at theend but it was wel to late

Hartlepool left the field to a standing ovation and it was fully deserved but for Diamonds it was a massive defeat which will probably mean that Brian will be returning to the drawing board on Monday morning.

Full-Time: Hartlepool 5 Diamonds 1

Hartlepool: Williams, Barron, Lee, Robinson, Westwood, Widdrington (Stephenson 79), Tinkler (Boyd 75), Smith, Coppinger (Arnison 81), Humpherys, Waston.

Subs not used: Hollund, Lormor 

Bookings

Diamonds: Turley, Partridge (Duffy 81), Setchell, Gray, Douglas, Hall, Hanlon, Sambrook (Mustafa 64), Wardely, Hunter, Carr (Dempster 64).

Subs not used: Pennock, Brady.

Bookings: Setchell (14), Wardley (45).

Referee: Mr M Ryan

Attendance: 3,513

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