Bristol Rovers 0 Rushden & Diamonds 3

 
By Steven

Diamonds are still hot on the heels of the play-offs following a fantastic 3-0 win over a poor Bristol Rovers side at the Memorial Ground on Saturday afternoon.

It wasn’t a fantastic encounter but two goals in the space of one second-half minute sent Diamonds on their way to three very important points and leave the Rovers crowd jeering at their players at the final whistle.

Onandi Lowe scored twice, his first a fantastic individual effort, and Ritchie Hanlon also fired home as the 218 travelling Diamonds supporters went home delighted with their team’s performance.

Prior to the game, Diamonds boss Brian Talbot made two key changes. Andrew Sambrook was recalled to the starting line-up and replaced Tarkan Mustafa.

But the key change to the game was the inclusion of popular striker Duane Darby. He was included in the starting eleven for the first-time since the home encounter against Darlington at the beginning of February.

Bristol Rovers made one change to their side that drew 0-0 against Carlisle United on Tuesday evening. In came Sergio Ommel in attack, replacing Ross Wear who is sidelined through a back injury, and partnered top goal scorer Nathan Ellington.

There was beautiful sunshine at Bristol as the game got underway but the Memorial Ground pitch left a lot to be desired as it looked patchy in places, especially in both penalty areas.

Rovers made the brighter start of the two-sides and inside the first minute Mark Smith fired a shot across the face of the goal, although it failed to trouble Billy Turley.

The home-side continued to look more threatening as they enjoyed the majority of the possession and Diamonds had yet to make a threat towards the Rovers goalkeeper Scott Howie.

Diamonds’ best effort of the game arrived on 10 minutes. Paul Underwood played a delightful free-kick into a dangerous position and Wardley stole in front of his marker to guide a diving header towards goal but Howie produced an excellent save.

After 15 mins: Rovers 0 Diamonds 0

As the game drifted on, neither team were creating many opportunities as the fans became restless, both teams struggling to find any opportunity in and around the penalty area.

This game certainly wasn’t a thrilling encounter and both teams were sloppy in midfield and both goalkeepers were having a quiet afternoon.

After 30 mins: Rovers 0 Diamonds 0

Paul Hall sent a first time shot over the cross bar from long range as Diamonds enjoyed the better of possession looking more likely to break the deadlock.

Andy Tillson nearly scored against his former club on 35 minutes when, after Hall’s corner wasn’t cleared by the Rovers defence, the Diamonds defender shot inches wide from inside the penalty area.

Rovers were getting back into their stride and on 37 minutes, Ellington turned Mark Peters but he fired a shot wide of the target.

But out of nowhere Diamonds took the lead in spectacular style through Lowe. The Jamaican international picked the ball up inside the Rovers half and his pace and strength enabled him to beat two defenders to smash the ball home into the top corner of the net. Howie stood no chance.

Underwood hit the woodwork on the stroke of half-time and although it may not have been deserved Diamonds went off delighted at the referee’s whistle.

Half-time: Rovers 0 Diamonds 1

Rovers started the second-half brightly, much like they did in the first-half and Ellington fired a shot on the volley just over the Diamonds crossbar.

But that effort was matched, just moments later, by David Hiller who sent a delightful free-kick towards goal and Turley had to be on full alert to make the save.

Rovers were now pressing on strong in the second-half. Ellington, who had a quiet first-half was looking threatening and he nearly stole in front of Underwood to get a shot in on goal.

After 60 mins: Rovers 0 Diamonds 1

Diamonds were slowly getting themselves back into the game and Lowe was causing problems in the Rovers defence as the home-side looked rusty in their passing and off the ball movements.

And Diamonds’ pressure soon paid off with two goals in the space of a minute. The first came from Hanlon on 66 minutes when, after Burgess shot from Hall’s corner was blocked, the Diamonds midfielder fired home the rebound.

And then just moments later Lowe grabbed his second of the game when Wardley, unselfishly, squared the ball across the face of the goal for the Jamaican to slot home from close range.

The only worrying sign for Diamonds was that Underwood had to go off after pulling up with what looked like a hamstring strain.

And then just moments later, Sambrook was the next to go after a challenge with a Rovers defender meant the young defender could not continue. He was replaced by Jon Brady.

After 75 mins: Rovers 0 Diamonds 3

Burgess could have made it four to the Diamonds on 83 minutes when he found himself in space in the Rovers penalty area but his shot was blocked by a Rovers defender.

Diamonds remained in control of the game until the final whistle and the delighted on Brian and Terry Westley’s face was plain to see as they jumped out of their dugouts.

Full-time: Rovers 0 Diamonds 3

Bristol Rovers: Howie, Challis, Foran, Foster, Smith (Walters 81), Hillier, Shore (Thomson 58), Hogg, Wilson, Ommel (Gall 58), Ellington.

Subs not used:  Astafjevs, Clarke.

Bookings: Wilson (77), Foran (88)

Diamonds: Turley, Sambrook (Brady 74), Tillson, Peters, Underwood (Setchell 71), Hall, Hanlon, Wardley, Burgess, Darby, Lowe (Duffy 89).

Subs not used: Partridge, Dowell.

Bookings:

Referee: Mr Trevor Parkes

Attendance: 5,240 (218 from Diamonds)

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