Rushden & Diamonds 1 Luton 2

By Steven

A goal from former Northampton Town striker Steve Howard, just nine minutes from time, meant Diamonds fell to their first league defeat at Nene Park since the beginning of September.

Diamonds had taken the lead through Paul Hall but a simply tap-in from Dean Crowe midway through the second-half combined with Howard’s header meant Luton went home happy with maximum points.

Prior to the game, Diamonds boss Brian Talbot named an unchanged side to the one that began proceedings in Tuesday’s 2-1 victory against Exeter City.

That meant Scott Partridge retained his place up front and partnered Onandi Lowe while Ritchie Hanlon kept his place in the centre of midfield as Garry Butterworth was ruled out because of a knee injury.

For Luton, they recalled Howard to the starting line-up after serving his suspension. He was partnered by Dean Crowe in attack while Kevin Nicholls was passed fit to play after being rated 50:50 on Friday.

Diamonds nearly broke the deadlock inside the first five minutes when Partridge skipped past long serving Luton defender Marvin Johnson and when the striker found Hanlon his shot rebounded off the feet of Hatters goalkeeper Carl Emberson.

It was a great start by Diamonds in such blustery weather conditions at Nene Park and just moments Andy Burgess nearly scored against his favourite club but he dragged his shot wide of the target.

And the Diamonds’ excellent start to the match continued when Paul Hall’s free-kick was caught in the wind and Emberson had to make an acrobatic save to tip the ball over the crossbar.

Luton created their first effort of the game on 12 minutes when Adrian Forbes’ 20-yard run and shot flew straight over Billy Turley’s crossbar.

After 15 mins: Diamonds 0 Luton 0

After such an excellent start to the game, Diamonds were beginning to find it difficult to get past the Luton defence and the wind was causing havoc towards both teams.

On 22 minutes, Luton won a free-kick in a dangerous position when Mark Peters brought down Matthew Spring just outside the penalty area but Taylor saw his shot saved by the resilient Diamonds wall.

Lowe had an excellent chance to break the deadlock on 25 minutes but the Jamaican international could find enough power in his header after Luton failed to clear their lines.

After 30 mins: Diamonds 0 Luton 0 

Diamonds nearly took the lead on the half-hour mark. Lowe was causing havoc in the Luton defence and his cross-cum-shot was turned towards goal by Partridge but Emberson saved well with his feet.

Chances were now becoming few and far between as the wind continued to cause havoc to the game.

The first-half ended goal less but Diamonds could certainly be encouraged by their performance as they limited Luton to few opportunities.

Half-time: Diamonds 0 Luton 0

Luton created only their second shot on target on 47 minutes when Matthew Taylor wriggled past two defenders but his shot was easily saved by Turley.

But Diamonds got off to the perfect start when just two minutes into the second-half they broke the deadlock. Lowe broke down the left-flank and squared the ball across the face of the goal for Hall to poke home.

It nearly got better for Diamonds just a minute later when Partridge found time and space in the Luton penalty area but he fired his shot straight at Emberson as the ball rolled out for a corner.

But Luton were back on level terms on 57 minutes. Taylor broke down the left-flank to deliver a cross across the face of the goal and Crowe had the simplest of jobs to just tap home from close range.

After 60 mins: Diamonds 1 Luton 1

Luton should have taken the lead on 62 minutes when, once again, Taylor delivered a cross into the penalty area and after Diamonds failed to clear the ball, Crowe couldn’t test Turley from inside the six-yard penalty area.

Luton were now the team on top as Diamonds defence was put under pressure but this game was far from over as we went into the last 20 minutes of the match.

After 75 mins: Diamonds 1 Luton 1

Darby was thrown into action on 77 minutes as Diamonds looked for the winning goal but this game was still very much in the balance.

Luton nearly stole a goal against the run of play when a weak effort from Taylor was not held by Turley but Underwood scrambled the ball from off the goal line.

But Luton pushed forward and got their reward with just nine minutes remaining when a cross from Taylor was powerfully headed home by Howard and although Turley got a hand to it, it hit the post and rolled into the net.

Diamonds threw everyone forward in the final stages of the game but they could not find a way past the Luton defence.

After 90 mins: Diamonds 1 Luton 2

Diamonds: Turley, Mustafa, Underwood, Peters, Partridge (Darby 75), Burgess, Hall, Hanlon, Wardley, Lowe, Tillson.

Subs not used: Brady, Setchell, Sambrook, Dowell.

Bookings:

Luton: Emberson, Spring, Perrett, Johnson (Bayliss 75), Forbes (Hughes 66), Nicholls, Coyne, Taylor, Howard, Crowe, Neilson.

Subs not used: Ovendale, Boyce, Valois, Bayliss.

Bookings: Taylor (53), Nicholls (55), Hughes (85)

Referee: Mr M Fletcher

Attendance: 5,876

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