August 31, 2002 Leave a comment
By Steven Dove
Two costly mistakes from experienced defender Andy Tillson proved decisive as Rushden & Diamonds unbeaten start to the season came to an abrupt end at Cambridge United.
Diamonds could never cope with the aerial ability of Cambridge striker Dave Kitson and a jaded performance from the Northamptonshire side gave John Taylor’s team an easy victory.
The only consolation for Diamonds was a late goal from Stuart Wardley, but by that time Brian Talbot’s team were well beaten in a disappointing performance.
Prior to kick-off, Brian made one change to the starting line-up that began the game in the 2-0 victory against Scunthorpe United on Bank Holiday Monday.
Tillson was recalled to the centre of defence and partnered Barry Hunter with youngster John Dempster missing out. Tarkan Mustafa reclaimed his position at right back.
Gary Mills was rewarded for his recent impressive form by keeping Wardley out of the side while Andy Burgess kept his place on the left wing with Daniel Talbot missing out.
Cambridge boss John Taylor made one change to his side. Defender Fred Murray came in for his second start of the season, replacing Phil Warner. Kitson started in attack with Omar Riza playing out on the left side of midfield.
In bight sunshine, Diamonds began well but the opening chance fell to Cambridge United midfielder Tom Youngs, who was gifted time and space in the penalty area, but dragged his shot wide of the target.
Stuart Gray hit the opening shot for Diamonds after good work from Mills but the former Celtic and Reading midfielder dragged his effort well wide of the target.
On six minutes, Riza displayed his threat down the left flank when his pace opened up the Diamonds defence but Billy Turley speared himself well and denied the former West Ham and Arsenal youngster.
Cambridge looked by far the stronger side in the opening stages and Riza was proving a handful down the left flank.
After 15 minutes: Cambridge 0 Diamonds 0
Diamonds began to step up the pressure and Burgess should have done better when he hit a shot on the half volley just outside the penalty area.
The Diamonds were constantly being denied by the linesman flag and in the opening 18 minutes, the visitors were flagged offside five times.
Now the visitors were looking much stronger side. But out of the blue, on 21 minutes, Youngs capitalised on an error from Tillson and the midfielder slotted the ball home from a tight angle to give the home side the lead.
Paul Hall collected a long ball from Paul Underwood on 26 minutes but the Diamonds midfielder couldn’t keep his effort on target and it failed to trouble U’s goalkeeper Shaun Marshall.
After 30 minutes: Cambridge 1 Diamonds 0
A mistake from Murray in the 31st minute nearly gifted Lowe an opportunity. Hall picked up the loose ball and squared up his Jamaican international team-mate but he fired wide of the target.
Diamonds continued to look strong. Lowe saw an effort fly wide of the goal in the closing stages of the first half while Darby was looking quiet in attack.
Tudor should have extended Cambridge’s lead on 40 minutes when he was given the freedom down the right flank but the midfield could only produce a good save from Turley at his near post.
Turley was called into action in the closing stages of the first half when Youngs could have grabbed his second but the Diamonds goalkeeper was quick out his goal.
At half-time: Cambridge 1 Diamonds 0
Lowe received an early booking in the second half, taking the total for Diamonds to four as Cambridge started the second half similar to the way they finished the first – strongly!
Diamonds started to put some pressure on the home side. On 52 minutes Gray saw a header cleared off the goal line after Burgess had delivered an inch perfect corner.
Lowe fizzled a shot into the side netting on 56 minutes as Diamonds looked to get back on level terms.
After 60 minutes: Cambridge 1 Diamonds 0
But on 64 minutes, Cambridge extended their lead. And it came as Tillson failed to clear his lines. Kitson’s pressure put the Diamonds defender off guard and Riza snuck in to place the ball past Turley.
Youngs nearly extended Cambridge’s lead on 68 minutes but the midfielder couldn’t drag the ball from under his feet and was stopped in his tracks by Turley.
After 75 minutes: Cambridge 2 Diamonds 0
But the game was put beyond any doubt when Cambridge scored a third. Kitson broke down the wing and squared a ball into the centre of the penalty area that gave Youngs the easiest chance a slot home past Turley.
Diamonds grabbed a late consolation on 83 minutes when Wardley capitalized on a mistake in the Cambridge defence to slot home a ball past Marshall in the Cambridge goal.
But the home side ended the game with the final laugh as Kitson stole in at the back post to pounce on a header and steer it past Turley.
Cambridge continued to press forward and looked stronger as the match came to a close. It was a comprehensive victory for the U’s and brought the Diamonds’ unbeaten start to the season to a close.
Full time: Cambridge 3 Diamonds 1
Cambridge: Marshall, Goodhind, Murray (Warner 82), Duncan, Angus, Fleming, Kitson, Youngs, Gutteridge (Wanless 82), Tudor, Riza.
Subs not used: Brennan, Scully, Bridges
Bookings: Tudor (38)
Diamonds: Turley, Mustafa, Underwood, Hunter, Tillson, Gray (Wardley 65), Mills, Hall, Burgess (Talbot 76), Lowe, Darby (Partridge 65)
Subs not used: Sollitt, Peters.
Bookings: Mustafa (7), Mills (34), Darby (44), Lowe (46)
Referee: Steve Tomlin
Diamonds MOTM: Paul Hall (Caused problems for Cambridge)