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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