Torquay 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

By Steven

Stuart Wardley scored for the second consecutive game but it wasn’t enough as Diamonds had to settle for a point against Torquay United on a cold Tuesday evening at Plainmoor.

The on-loan Diamonds midfielder struck midway through the first-half and despite having the better chances throughout the game, Torquay scored a vital goal to help them in their battle to survive in the Third Division.

Two changes were made to the starting line-up from the one that began proceedings against Leyton Orient on Saturday. Andrew Sambrook was recalled and replaced the unfortunate Tarkan Mustafa.

Garry Butterworth was also recalled into the starting line-up as he replaced Ritchie Hanlon while Stuart Douglas and Onandi Lowe started in attack.

Alex Russell, the hat-trick hero in the surprise 3-1 win against Darlington on Saturday, started and Kevin Hill passed a last minute fitness check to start in midfield.

Diamonds made a positive start and Paul Hall’s cross nearly found Lowe but Torquay goalkeeper Kevin Dearden managed to take a good catch under a lot of pressure.

Torquay attacks were rare in the opening stages of the game and Mark Peters and Andy Tillson kept the home-side at bay as Diamonds continued to push forward.

Lowe fired a shot wide of the goal on six minutes, in the first real attack of the game, as the visitors made the more promising start on the heavy Plainmoor pitch.

Diamonds continued to push forward at every opportunity and Paul Underwood found himself in space down the left flank to fire an effort just past the Torquay post.

Torquay had their first chance of the game on 11 minutes when Hill fired a free-kick towards goal and goalkeeper Billy Turley done exceptional well to hold on to the bobbling ball.

After 15 mins: Torquay 0 Diamonds 0

Torquay started to get themselves back into the game as silly errors creped into the defence although they had still to test Turley.

After some good build-up play, Charlie McDonald fired a shot wide of the target as Torquay experienced some good possession.

Torquay should have broken the deadlock on 24 minutes when Paul Holmes burst through the middle of the Diamonds defence but his weak effort was well saved by Turley.

On 29 minutes, Richard Logan went mightily close with a long-range effort which Turley acrobatically tipped over the crossbar.

After 30 mins: Torquay 0 Diamonds 0 

On 32 minutes, Hall should have done better when, after some good build-up play from Sambrook, he fired a shot over the crossbar after getting himself into a good shooting position.

But on 37 minutes, Diamonds took a deserved lead when Sambrook’s cross was headed on by Lowe and Douglas played a short ball to Wardley who fired home.

Diamonds nearly extended their lead just moments later when Hall managed to cut inside the Torquay defence but his effort rolled wide of the visitor’s goal.

Logan fired a shot for the home-side that struck the side netting but Diamonds were fully in control of the game, as they looked the more promising side as the half-time whistle blew.

Half-time: Torquay 0 Diamonds 1

Torquay started the second-half very brightly and nearly took the lead inside the first three minutes when Ruben Hazel fired a wicked shot just past Turley’s right-hand post.

Diamonds won a number of successive corners shortly after that effort from Hazel but the visitors failed to make the home-side pay as they tried to get themselves back into the match.

Torquay were becoming a little unfortunate in front of goal and on 58 minutes, Turley flapped at a cross and Greg Goodridge nearly managed to direct a shot on target.

After 60 mins: Torquay 0 Diamonds 1

There was a stoppage in play as a linesman had to be replaced as Torquay looked the more likely to score the next goal as they continued to put pressure on the Diamonds defence.

Torquay should have got themselves on level terms on 66 minutes when Goodridge burst down the left flank to deliver a perfect cross but Hill could not turn the ball into the net from inside the six-yard penalty area.

But on 70 minutes, Torquay got themselves back on level terms when Goodridge produced another excellent cross from the left and Hill was on hand to poke home from close range.

Torquay were now on top and as the rain hurtled down at Plainmoor, Underwood had to make a vital stop on the goal-line as Chris Brandon fired a shot from inside the penalty area.

After 75 mins: Torquay 1 Diamonds 1

Lowe was replaced on 77 minutes by Duane Darby as the Diamonds tried to get themselves back in front.

Just moments after that substitution, Partridge was thrown into the action as he replaced Douglas.

Torquay nearly grabbed the winner with five minutes remaining when Hill’s cross went straight across the face of the goal but nobody in a yellow shirt was on hand to tap home the loose ball.

Full-time: Torquay 1 Diamonds 1

Torquay United: Dearden, Holmes, Hazell, Woods, Hankin, Hill, Rees, Brandon, Logan (Williams 83), McDonald (Goodridge 56), Russell.

Subs not used:

Bookings: Northmore, Richardson, Tully

Diamonds: Turley, Underwood, Peters, Butterworth, Burgess, Douglas (Partridge 80), Hall, Sambrook, Wardley, Lowe (Darby 77), Tillson.

Subs not used: Dowell, Hanlon, Mustafa

Bookings: Tillson (47)

Referee: Paul Armstrong

Attendance: 1,709

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Rushden & Diamonds 1 Orient 0

In a scrappy affair, Rushden & Diamonds extended their unbeaten run at Nene Park to 15 games, as Stuart Wardley’s goal was enough to give the Northamptonshire side maximum points against struggling Leyton Orient.

Wardley pounced midway through the second-half after Leyton Orient failed to clear their lines, but it was the visitors who created the better chances with Wayne Gray causing Diamonds all kinds of problems.

Diamonds boss Brian Talbot entered the match will a fully fit squad to choose from and named an unchanged side to the one that drew with Rochdale last week.

That meant Stuart Douglas retained his place in attack and partnered Onandi Lowe while Wardley and Ritchie Hanlon started in midfielder despite the return to fitness of Garry Butterworth, who was named as a substitute.

Leyton Orient recalled their highly talented defender Matthew Lockwood to the starting line-up while top goal scorer Steve Watts started in attack for the O’s.

Diamonds made the brighter start of the two sides and had an excellent chance to opening the scoring inside the first minute when Ritchie Hanlon fired a free-kick over the Orient crossbar.

But Orient also began the game brightly as they looked dangerous moving forward. Watts had the first effort for the visitors but his header went straight into the arms of Diamonds goalkeeper Billy Turley.

Both sides were now struggling to maintain their bright start to the game with both goalkeepers rarely tested.

After 15 mins: Diamonds 0 Orient 0

Diamonds were now beginning to look the brighter side as Lowe caused havoc in the visitors defence and when the Jamaican managed to force the ball into the penalty area, Douglas could not control his shot.

To Orient’s credit they continued to make chances themselves and Turley wasn’t having a quiet afternoon as Carl Hutchings managed to direct a header towards the Diamonds goal.

In truth, Orient were now looking the better side and Paul Underwood had to make a vital tackle on  Gray as the Orient striker would have certainly caused Turley some trouble if he had a shot on target.

And it was Orient would created the best chance of the half when former Cardiff defender Matthew Braizer brought a fine finger tip save from Turley after the ball took a deflection.

After 30 mins: Diamonds 0 Orient 0

Orient were certainly creating the better chances and Gray outpaced Diamonds defender Mark Peters but Turley done well as the Orient striker pushed his shot wide of the target.

Diamonds pushed forward at every attempt but could not trouble Orient goalkeeper Scott Barrett as the visitors defence held firm.

Stuart Wardley had an excellent chance to give Diamonds the lead when Lowe’s header found the on-loan midfielder but he could not guide the bouncing ball towards the visitors goal.

Orient were still creating the better chances and Andrew Harris fired a shot over the Diamonds goal from 30-yards.

Gray was proving to be the biggest threat to Diamonds as Turley had to be alert as he made another dangerous run into the penalty area.

Orient certainly shaded the opening 45 minutes and they were the team unfortunate not to take the lead as the referee blew his half-time whistle.

At half-time: Diamonds 0 Orient 0

Diamonds made the brighter start to the second-half and Lowe had an early effort that went inches wide of the Orient goal although the referee spotted an infringement in the penalty area.

Orient had an excellent to break the deadlock when Gray, who was having an excellent game for the visitors, managed to get in front of Mark Peters, but his shot hit the side netting.

Diamonds were certainly putting some pressure on the Orient goal and Douglas was unfortunate not to get his shot on target after turning the visitors defence inside the penalty area.

After 60 mins: Diamonds 0 Orient 0

But Diamonds made the final breakthrough on 62 minutes when after a scrap in the penalty area where Orient couldn’t clear their lines and Wardley tapped home from close range.

It wasn’t what Orient deserved but Diamonds had been patient and the home-side were looking more threatening in the second-half.

Diamonds now seemed to be in control of the game as Orient heads dropped as visitor’s manager Paul Brush made his first substitution of the game to add more firepower in attack. 

After 75 mins: Diamonds 1 Orient 0

Billy Turley was once again called into action on 75 minutes when, after a mistake from Wardley, Gray burst clear into the penalty area to see his shot deflected just wide of the post.

Orient continued to push forward but could not find a way past the Diamonds defence and an impressive Turley, who had kept the home-side in the match with a number of key saves.

At full-time: Diamonds 1 Orient 0

Diamonds: Turley, Mustafa, Underwood, Peters, Burgess, Douglas (Partridge 77), Hall, Hanlon, Wardley, Lowe, Tillson.

Subs not used:

Bookings:

Leyton Orient: Barrett, Lockwood, Smith, McGhee, Harris, Watts (McLean 82), Barnard (Hadland 72), Gray, Brazier, Hutchings, Canham (Minton 77).

Subs not used:

Bookings

Referee: Mr P Richards

Attendance: 4,507

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Rochdale 1

By Steven

A goal from Rochdale striker Kevin Townson just a minute from time meant Diamonds had to settle for a point this afternoon at Nene Park.

Diamonds goalkeeper Billy Turley could only palm out a shot from David Flitcroft and Rochdale’s top goal scorer tapped home from close range to give the visitors a share of the spoils.

It looked as if Diamonds had done enough to grab the three points when Paul Hall struck five minutes before the full time whistle but Townson’s effort was well deserved for the visitors.  

Diamonds boss Brian Talbot made one significant change to his starting line ahead of the game. Stuart Douglas made his second start for the club since arriving from Luton Town and replaced Scott Partridge.

Andy Tillson was in the staring eleven and made his home debut while Stewart Wardley was recovered from a slight knock that made him doubtful prior to the match.

Onandi Lowe was included after receiving international clearance to play in the match while young goalkeeper Adam Dowell was named as a substitute after the departure of Tony Pennock, on-loan to Farnborough Town.

For Rochdale they were missing Clive Platt but Townson, the club’s leading goal scorer, started after playing for England Under-19’s just 48 hours before today’s match.

There was worrying signs for Diamonds inside the first three minutes when Tillson was sent tumbling to the ground and look in pain as he hobbled off for treatment.

He did return to the field as Diamonds continued their bright start to the game which saw Douglas have a turn and shot blocked by a Rochdale defender.

Rochdale were struggling to get the ball in the Diamonds penalty area as Diamonds continued to enjoy the early possession.

Rochdale created their first chance of the game when Paul Underwood conceded a free-kick in a dangerous position that Matt Doughty swung to the near post but Billy Turley scampered across to collect the ball.

After 15 mins: Diamonds 0 Rochdale 0

The game was somewhat being spoilt by the referee who had already awarded nine free-kicks in the opening 18 minutes to the game.

Lowe fired a shot over the bar following some good work from Andy Burgess as Diamonds continued to have the better of the game.

Rochdale won their first corner of the game on 23 minutes and after playing it short the won a free-kick but they could not trouble the Diamonds defence nor Turley.

The game was not flowing as everyone expected it to be but Diamonds were still having the better of the game and looking the more likely to score the first goal, although they had yet to trouble Rochdale goalkeeper Steve Banks.

After 30 mins: Diamonds 0 Rochdale 0

Rochdale went close to breaking the deadlock on 30 minutes when Townson showed his skill and pace to beat off the challenge from two Diamonds defenders and fire a shot into the side netting.

The visitors were now looking the stronger side as Billy Turley’s goal was being put under pressure.

Chances were few and far between and the football was getting scrappy as both side’s struggled to create any scoring opportunities.

But on 39 minutes Diamonds should have taken the lead with the best chance of the match. Rochdale defender Richard Jobson made a terrible error on the edge of the penalty area to enable Lowe to get a free shot on goal but he pulled his effort just wide of the post.

Burgess struck a shot toward goal just three minutes before the interval but it was easily held by Banks as Diamonds continued their good pressure towards the Rochdale goal.

At half-time: Diamonds 0 Rochdale 0

Diamonds started in the second-half positively and Douglas showed determination and skill to beat a Rochdale defender and get a cross into the centre of the Rochdale penalty area but Lowe could not direct his effort on target.

On 51 minutes Lowe fired a shot toward goal that tested the reactions of Banks but Rochdale were slowly getting themselves back in the game.

Diamonds thought they should have had a penalty on 52 minutes when Douglas showed great determination to out pace Gareth Griffiths and it seemed the Rochdale defender tried to pull back the Diamonds striker but the referee waved away the appeals.

On 58 minutes Rochdale’s Patrick McCourt saw an excellent effort go inches over the Diamonds crossbar.

After 60 mins: Diamonds 0 Rochdale 0

Diamonds continued to press forward but had not created many chances but both team’s kept plugging away as they looked for the break through.

On 69 minutes Lowe became the fourth Diamonds player to see his name in the notebook as the referee continued to spoil the game with stoppages.

After 75 mins: Diamonds 0 Rochdale 0

On 77 minutes, Michael Oliver fired a shot wide of the goal when he should have done better as we moved into the final stages of the match.

But on 79 minutes Lowe was taken off, meaning he ended his run of scoring in every home game since he arrived at the club, and he was replaced by Duane Darby, who got a standing ovation.

Diamonds continued to press forward but on 83 minutes Steve Jones saw his shot deflected over the cross bar.

Rochdale though they may have sneaked a winner in the closing stages when Turley was left stranded which Townson lobbed over the Diamonds goalkeeper but he was only denied by an excellent goal line clearance from Paul Underwood.

But with just four minutes remaining Diamonds took the lead when Hall picked up a long ball from Burgess to fire a shot in the bottom corner of the net.

It looked as if Diamonds were heading for victory but Townson grabbed the vital goal as Turley could only palm away a shot from Flitcroft.

At full-time: Diamonds 1 Rochdale 1 

Diamonds: Turley, Mustafa, Underwood, Peters, Burgess, Douglas, Hall, Hanlon, Wardley, Lowe (Darby 82), Tillson.

Subs not used: Partridge, Brady, Dowell, Mills

Bookings: Hanlon (48), Tillson (50), Peters (53), Lowe (69)

Rochdale: Banks, Evans, Griffiths, Flitcroft, Oliver, Doughty, McEvilly, Townson, Jobson, Jones, McCourt (Todd 64).

Subs not used: Coleman, Todd, Gilks, Durkan.

Bookings: McEvilly (9), Evans (27)

Referee: Mr J Ross.

Attendance: 4,672

Hull City 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

By Steven

Diamonds boss Brian Talbot must have wondered how his side failed to leave Boothferry Park with nothing as they fell to a narrow defeat at the hands of promotion-chasing Hull City this afternoon.

A goal either side of the interval was enough for Hull to claim all three points and although Ritchie Hanlon fired home from the penalty spot it wasn’t enough as the Northamptonshire side left empty handed.

Brian was forced to make one change ahead of the game. Andy Tillson was included in the starting line-up, just 24 hours after completing his move from Walsall, and he partnered Mark Peters in the centre of defence.

Otherwise it was an unchanged starting line-up from the one that began proceedings against Oxford United on Tuesday. However amongst the substitutes was Gary Mills, while former Hull favourite Duane Darby was also on the bench.

Hull recalled striker Lawrie Dudfield to the starting line-up after missing the last two games for the club and he partnered top goal scorer Gary Alexander in attack.

Diamonds created the first opportunity of the first-half when a Ritchie Hanlon cross found Stewart Wardley on the edge of the penalty area but his shot flew over the Hull crossbar.

Diamonds settled in quickly and looked confident on the ball in bright sunny conditions with the Boothferry Park pitch in reasonable condition after some heavy rainfall overnight.

Hull started slowly and the strong winds were causing the home-side more problems as they struggled to get out of the starting blocks.

On ten minutes, the first shot on target was registered when Stuart Gray sent in a free-kick from out on the right flank but the ball went straight into the arms of Hull goalkeeper Paul Musselwhite.

But despite all the good pressure from Diamonds, it was Hull who took the lead on 13 minutes. Ryan Williams turned Tillson inside the penalty area and squared the ball to Alexander who beat goalkeeper Billy Turley.

After 15 mins: Hull City 1 Diamonds 0

Hull were now looking full in control as they swept forward causing problems in the Diamonds defence every time the home-side move forward.

Hanlon tested Musslewhite from distance on 20 minutes but it was still the home-side who remained dangerous with David Beresford causing problems for Tarkan Mustafa down the right-flank.

Diamonds refused to take their foot off the pedal as they continued to play good football but Onandi Lowe and Scott Partridge had yet forced a shot on target.

Turley produced a brave save on 24 minutes when he dived at the feet of Alexander and Diamonds had a penalty appeal turned down shortly afterwards as Lowe went tumbling inside the penalty area.

After 30 mins: Hull City 1 Diamonds 0

Both sides were enjoying good possession without creating any real chances but Diamonds had gone off the boil a bit after such a positive opening to the game.

Alexander, who was having a very good game for the visitors, fired a long-range effort straight into the arms of Turley but on 38 minutes, Diamonds should have got themselves back on level terms.

The referee played some good advantage play after Partridge was fouled from behind and Hall sent an excellent cross into the penalty area but Wardley failed to guide his header home inside an empty net from just three yards out.

On the stroke of half-time Partridge was able to turn in the penalty area after an excellent ball from Hanlon but Musselwhite managed to get a hand to his shot.

At Half-Time: Hull City 1 Diamonds 0

Diamonds made two changes at the interval with Darby replacing Partridge and Jon Brady, who hit the winner against Oxford United in midweek, coming on for Gray.

On 50 minutes, Lowe broke free but his shot hit the side netting as Diamonds started the second-half in a similar style to the way they began the first-half.

Diamonds were looking strong but they still found themselves behind as Hull were looking second best in an impressive display from the visitors.

After 60 mins: Hull City 1 Diamonds 0

Hull were getting themselves back in the game although Darby was causing some problems for the Hull defence as the visitors side continued to battle on.

Hull won a free-kick in a dangerous position on 67 minutes after Tillson stopped Dudfield in his tracks but the Alexander’s shot took a massive deflection off the wall and went out for a corner.

But Diamonds fell further behind on 70 minutes when nobody in a white shirt failed to stop Jason Van Blerk in his tracks and he fired home his first goal for the club with a low shot.

After 75 mins: Hull City 2 Diamonds 0

But Diamonds had the chance to get themselves back in the game when Hanlon was sent tumbling down in the penalty area from Wicks. It was a controversial decision and Van Blerk was sent-off for a second bookable offence for dissent.

Hanlon made no mistake from the penalty spot as he lashed home leaving Musslewhite no chance at all.

Douglas was introduced into the action as the Diamonds boss went into ‘all out attack’ mode in a bid to try and salvage a draw, which they really do deserve.

Alexander nearly made the game safe in spectacular style with seven minutes remaining when he hit a shot from a tight angle that beat Turley but struck the crossbar.

Diamonds continued to try their luck in front of goal but they failed to beat Musslewhite as the
club’s poor away record continued.

Full-time: Hull City 2 Diamonds 1

Hull: Musselwhite, Edwards, Greaves, Wicks, Williams (Philpott 79), Dudfield, Alexander, Beresford (Holt 29), Johnsson, Sneekes (Whittle 61), Van Blerk.

Subs not used: Glennon, Roberts

Bookings: Van Blerk (58, 77)

Sent-Off Van Blerk (77)

Diamonds: Turley, Mustafa, Underwood, Peters, Tillson, Hall, Hanlon, Warldey, Gray (Brady h/t, Douglas 79), Partridge (Darby h/t), Lowe.

Subs not used: Pennock, Mills

Bookings: Brady (61)

Referee: Mr M Cowburn

Attendance: 8,825

Rushden & Diamonds 2 Oxford United 1

By Steven

Jon Brady fired a spectacular free-kick midway through the second-half to extend Diamonds unbeaten run to three games as the home-side overcame a tough Oxford team 2-1 at Nene Park on Tuesday night.

Onandi Lowe fired Diamonds into the lead in the first-half but Dean Whitehead’s second-half strike look to have wrapped up a point for the visitors.

But Brady hit his first league goal of the season in spectacular style with a 30-yard free kick that left Oxford goalkeeper Richard Knight no chance.

Diamonds boss Brian Talbot named one change to the starting line-up that began the game against Darlington. Duane Darby was placed amongst the substitutes and he was replaced by Scott Partridge.

Gary Setchell was missing because of a calf injury but Barry Hunter, Stuart Gray and Mark Peters all shock of niggling injuries to start for Diamonds with Garry Butterworth amongst the substitutes.

For Oxford, Knight returned in between the sticks and Lee Maddison was making his debut for the club after completing his loan-move from Carlisle United.

There was an immediate clash of heads inside the first minute when Oxford defender Paul Powell and team-mate Robert Quinn went up for the same ball. Quinn had to be taken off for treatment and failed to return to action as he was replaced by Whitehead.

When the game did get underway it was the home-side who made the brighter start as they controlled the early possession.

The first effort of the game arrived on six minutes when former Barnet midfielder Sam Stockley found time and space in the centre of the field to unleash a fierce shot straight into the arms of Diamonds goalkeeper Billy Turley.

There was a worrying sign for Diamonds on seven minutes when Tarkan Mustafa had to be taken off for treatment as he fell awkwardly out on the right flank.

Diamonds had yet tested Knight in the Oxford goal and it was the visitors who were now in control of proceedings as Manny Omoyimni continued to cause problems down the left flank.

After 15 minutes: Diamonds 0 Oxford 0

Oxford were now finding space around the Nene Park pitch, as Stockley looked dangerous moving forward for the visitors and Omoyimni’s pace and trickery causing the Diamonds defence problems.

Diamonds were still struggling to find a way past the Oxford defence as the visitors continued to look the stronger side.

Chances were few and far between and Diamonds had yet tested the Oxford goalkeeper as the visitors continued to control large parts of the game.

After 30 minutes: Diamonds 0 Oxford United 0

Lowe was struggling to get into the game as Oxford’s defenders kept the Jamaican at bay.

But just moments later Lowe fired Diamonds in front when his run and shot took a wicked deflection of Andy Crosby and the ball flew past Knight. It was the Diamonds’ first shot on target and against the run of play.

On 38 minutes, Lowe could have added a second when he took up a similar position outside the penalty area but this time his shot flew wide of the target, as Diamonds enjoyed some good possession.

As Diamonds continued to enjoy more of the possession, Partridge broke in between two Oxford defenders to fire a shot across the face of the goal but it rolled just wide.

There was five minutes of added time to the first-half but even though some may argue it wasn’t deserved, Diamonds would have been delighted to go into the changing rooms with a one-goal advantage.

Half-Time: Diamonds 1 Oxford United 0

Diamonds were forced to make a change at the interval. The earlier injury to Mustafa forced him to depart and he was replaced by Brady, who occupied the right side of defence.

And Diamonds could have immediately extended their lead inside the first minute of the second half when the ball broke nicely to Hall, but his shot was well saved by Knight.

Diamonds began the second-half brightly but on 52 minutes Oxford received a free-kick in a dangerous position but Whitehead’s shot was well held by Turley with the ball bouncing right in front of the former Northampton goalkeeper.

After 60 minutes: Diamonds 1 Oxford United 0

The game was getting a bit scrappy but Oxford should have got themselves back on level terms on 61 minutes. Powell’s left-wing cross found Omoyimni all alone in the penalty area but he saw his header flash wide of the goal.

Noticing that he needed to change it around, Oxford boss Ian Atkins threw on Chris Hackett but it was Diamonds who were still looking in control as we entered the final 25 minutes of the game.

But out of nowhere, Oxford nearly got themselves back on level terms. On 65 minutes a right wing cross from David Morley found Whitehead who struck a hard shot straight against the post.

But Diamonds continued to play their game and nearly doubled their advantage when Partridge volleyed over the crossbar from just inside the penalty area.

Whitehead had another long-range effort for Oxford on 72 minutes which Turley saved but from the resulting corner, Oxford got themselves back on level terms when Bound fired home, leaving Turley with no chance.

After 75 minutes: Diamonds 1 Oxford United 1

But Oxford’s lead was short lived as Brady hit a spectacular free-kick into the top corner of the net for his first league goal of the season.

Oxford were now pressing forward as Diamonds’ defence were put under pressure and there was some nervous moments as Dave Savage put a teasing ball in the penalty area after breaking free.

Hall had an effort that trickled wide of the goal that would have sealed the match and Morley saw a free-kick just go over Diamonds’ crossbar deep into stoppage time.

Full-Time: Diamonds 2 Oxford United 1

Diamonds: Turley, Mustafa (Brady h/t), Underwood, Peters, Partridge (Douglas 76), Gray, Hall, Hanlon, Wardley, Lowe (Darby 89), Hunter.

Subs not used:

Bookings: Lowe (15).

Oxford United: Knight, Powell, Savage, Omoyimni, Stockley (Hackett 63), Quinn (Whitehead 2), Morley, Bound, Moody, Crosby, Maddison.

Subs not used:

Bookings: Whitehead (75), Crosby (77), Maddison (90)

Referee: Mr Mark Cooper

Attendance: 4,484

Rushden & Diamonds 2 Darlington 1

By Steven

A wonderful first-half strike from Jamaican international Paul Hall set up a narrow 2-1 victory against Darlington as Diamonds extended their unbeaten home record to 12 games on Saturday afternoon.

And Onandi Lowe kept up his impressive record of scoring in every game at Nene Park since his move from America, with the all important winning goal deep in the second-half.

Mark Peters was recalled to the starting line-up and partnered Barry Hunter in the centre of defence as manager Brian Talbot was able to put Paul Underwood in his usual left back position for the first time since the game against Southend.

Tarkan Mustafa, who impressed on his return to the first-team on Tuesday against Macclesfield, kept his place at right-back and Stuart Gray passed a late fitness test as he kept his place on the left-side of midfield.

Garry Butterworth was recalled to the first-time following his lengthy lay-off because of a hamstring injury. But he had to make do with a place on the substitute bench as Ritchie Hanlon and Stewart Wardley continued their role in midfield.

For Darlington, Keith Finch made his first start for the Quakers with goalkeeper Andy Collett out through injury and teenager Mark Sheeran started his first game in attack as he partnered top marksmen Barry Conlon.

Diamonds made a bright start and they nearly took the lead inside the first five minutes as Hall struck a fierce shot on the volley that was well saved by the Darlington goalkeeper.

Lowe was causing a lot of problems for the Darlington defence but it was Duane Darby who was unfortunate not to see a shot hit the back of the net when it was blocked by a defender.

It was an encouraging start for the Diamonds. Darlington were struggling to get the ball out of their own half as the home-side put some early pressure of the visitors young and inexperienced goalkeeper.

Peters took a fall on 13 minutes and was taken off onto the touchline to receive treatment but the Diamonds defender was soon back on the pitch and took up his normal position in the centre of defence.

After 15 minutes: Diamonds 0 Darlington 0

Darlington were now starting to put some pressure on the home defence but Billy Turley had yet to be tested in the Diamonds goal as the home-sides defence held firm.

After a positive start, chances were now becoming few and far between with the play mostly occurring in the midfield area.

Darlington had their first effort of the game on 21 minutes when Neil Wainwright found the ball on the edge of the area but his shot hit the side netting and didn’t trouble Turley.

Finch nearly made a costly mistake when Darlington defender Gary Pearson miss-timed a header that the goalkeeper failed to collect and the ball rolled along the goal-line.

After 30 minutes: Diamonds 0 Darlington 0

Darlington were now having the better of possession as the strong winds continued to circle around Nene Park, making playing conditions very difficult for both sides.

Hunter went tumbling down in the penalty area on 35 minutes with a head injury but he was able to carry on after receiving treatment from assistant physio Phil Ward.

Darlington were enjoying a good spell of possession but still Turley had yet to be tested although Diamonds were struggling to create any opening and threaten the visitors goal.

But just before the interval, Diamonds took the lead in spectacular style. Mustafa burst down the right flank to cut the ball inside to Hall who unleashed a curling shot into the Darlington net from 25-yards.

Half-time: Diamonds 1 Darlington 0

There was a delay to the second-half as a floodlight lost power due to a small fire but the game continued, as neither manager made a substitution at the interval.

Diamonds nearly grabbed their second of the game inside the first three minutes of the second-half when Lowe burst down the wing to send a perfect cross and Darlington defender Simon Betts nearly headed past his own goalkeeper.

Darlington had a penalty appeal turned down when Mustafa was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the area.

Mark Ford brought out the first save of the match for Turley when the Darlington midfielder shot from 25-yards but the Diamonds goalkeeper got down low to push the ball away from danger.

And Darlington’s pressure soon paid off as they got themselves back on level terms. Clark’s corner caused problems for Turley and Liddle stole in front of the Diamonds goalkeeper and Hanlon to head home at the near post.

After 60 minutes: Diamonds 1 Darlington 1

Darlington were now looking the stronger side as they were causing the Diamonds defence all kinds of problems with Conlon and Sheeran looking dangerous in attack.

The game was becoming a bit scrappy as Darlington failed to create any trouble for Diamonds and Lowe was finding it difficult to get past the visitors defence.

Darlington were now pushing forward and looking the more likely to get the important goal as Darby was replaced by Scott Partridge on 69 minutes.

After 75 minutes: Diamonds 1 Darlington 1

Conlon managed to get a shot on target on 75 minutes but his weak header hardly troubled Turley, but it was another clear sign that Darlington were looking for a winner.

But against the run of play, Diamonds took the lead when Lowe got onto the end of a Hall corner that was flicked on by Peters with the Jamaican international finding the corner of the net.

On 82 minutes, Lowe was taken off the field as it looked as if he had picked up an injury and was replaced by on-loan striker Stuart Douglas.

Darlington were still pushing forward and Conlon sent another header towards the Diamonds goal but Turley was not troubled

Full-Time: Diamonds 2 Darlington 1 

Diamonds: Turley, Mustafa, Underwood, Peters, Darby (Partridge 69), Gray, Hall, Hanlon (Butterworth 59), Wardley, Lowe (Douglas 82), Hunter.

Subs not used: Brady, Pennock

Bookings:

Darlington: Finch, Heckinbottom, Liddle, Clark (Maddison 82), Ford, Atkinson, Conlon, Betts, Pearson (Brumwell 89), Wainwright, Sheeran (Campbell 79).

Subs not used: Kilty, Grainger

Bookings: Liddle (28)

Referee: Mr B Curson

Attendance: 4,383

See here for video highlights of the game courtesy of Gary Mabee Video Productions.

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