Cambridge 3 Rushden & Diamonds 1

 
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

Attendance: 4,598

Diamonds MOTM: Paul Hall (Caused problems for Cambridge)

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Rushden & Diamonds 2 Scunthorpe 0

By Steven Dove

A gutsy Rushden & Diamonds performance against promotion hopefuls Scunthorpe United helped record a 2-0 win at Nene Park thanks to goals from Andy Burgess and Onandi Lowe.

Scunthorpe were unfortunate losers having struck the crossbar on two occasions but despite going down to ten men – when Barry Hunter was dismissed – Diamonds turned on the style.

Prior to the game, Diamonds boss Brian Talbot welcomed back Hunter to the centre of defence. He partnered youngster John Dempster with Andy Tillson missing out.

Gary Mills kept his place alongside Stuart Gray in the centre of midfield despite the return of Stuart Wardley, who, on Saturday, welcomed a new addition to the family as his wife gave birth to a baby girl.

Burgess was recalled to the left wing position at the expense of Daniel Talbot, who was named amongst the substitutes. Duane Darby and Lowe remained up front in attack.

The other change for Diamonds was the inclusion of Tarkan Mustafa, his first start of the season, replacing Andrew Sambrook.

Scunthorpe boss Brian Laws had the luxury of naming an unchanged starting line-up from the one that began proceedings in the narrow 2-1 victory against York City.

The first effort of the game arrived after three minutes. Mills done a good job down the right flank to enable Paul Hall to float a cross straight onto the head of Darby, but the Diamonds striker couldn’t keep his effort on target.

Diamonds continued to enjoy more of the possession without creating many scoring opportunities.

But on nine minutes Peter Beagrie hit a free kick that Billy Turley could only palm away to Mark Jackson who fired back a shot against the crossbar. The Scunthorpe players protested that the ball had crossed the goal line.

And as the visitors continued to protest, Diamonds broke away and took the lead just a minute later. An excellent long ball by Mills found Lowe who broke through the Scunthorpe defence to slot a ball past Tom Evans.

But Scunthorpe nearly hit back immediately. On 12 minutes Paul Underwood had to clear the ball off the line following a goalmouth scramble and Wayne Graves found himself in acres of space in the penalty area but was denied by a fantastic stop from Billy Turley.

After 15 minutes: Diamonds 1 Scunthorpe 0

Darby nearly deceived Evans on 21 minutes when he tried to lob a header over the Scunthorpe goalkeeper and just moments later Andy Dawson fired a long-range effort over the crossbar for the visitors.

Scunthorpe were looking dangerous on the attack and Dawson had another long range effort on 26 minutes but the former Nottingham Forest loan player dragged his effort wide of the target.

After 30 minutes: Diamonds 1 Scunthorpe 0

The Diamonds were trying to put pressure on the visitors. Lowe and Darby were linking up well in attack while Mills was looking solid in midfield as Scunthorpe struggled to get into the game.

A dangerous ball from Dawson on 42 minutes left Carruthers to out jump the Diamonds defence and glaze a header inches wide of the goal.

But on 43 minutes Turley combined with Dempster to clear a Scunthorpe attack off the line but when the ball broke out to Graves he fired a shot that beat the Diamonds goalkeeper but rattled the crossbar.

Diamonds ended the half as the stronger outfit but the home side could count themselves lucky to go in at the break one goal better off than their opponents.

Half-time: Diamonds 1 Scunthorpe 0

Diamonds started the second half brightly and a Gray cross couldn’t find Darby and Evans intervened to stop an early attack.

But the Diamonds extended their lead on 50 minutes. A ball from Mills found Burgess in the penalty area who slotted a shot past Evans for his first goal of the season.

The home side continued to play bright football in the second half and Burgess was continuing to cause problems down the left flank and trouble Scunthorpe defender Nathan Stanton.

After 60 minutes: Diamonds 2 Scunthorpe 0

But this game now came back to life when Diamonds were reduced to ten men. Barry Hunter, for the second time this season, was shown the red card for leading with his elbow on a challenge on Torpey.

It meant Brian was forced to withdraw Darby and replace him with Mark Peters as Scunthorpe threw on Scott Brough to put more pressure on the Diamonds defence.

Then Mustafa crossed which Gray nearly connected with while Carruthers, moments later, saw a header go inches over the Diamonds crossbar.

On 68 minutes, Lowe produced an amazing run deep inside the Scunthorpe penalty area. He then, unselfishly, fed a through ball to Gray but the former Celtic and Reading midfielder dragged his shot wide of the target.

After 75 minutes: Diamonds 2 Scunthorpe 0

Beagrie should have done better when he got the better of Mustafa down the right flank but the former Everton and Bradford star struck the side netting.

Scunthorpe continued to throw bodies forward and Torpey’s header went wide of the goal while Peters nearly got himself in all kinds of trouble when he had to deal with a Brough cross.

Jackson wasted a free-kick with seven minutes remaining after Mills had given away a free-kick in a dangerous position.

Diamonds nearly extended their advantage in the closing stages but Lowe saw a free-kick rattle the post

Diamonds ended the game the stronger side and it was another positive result from the players as they now head for a local derby against Cambridge United on Saturday.

After 90 minutes: Diamonds 2 Scunthorpe 0

Diamonds: Turley, Mustafa, Underwood, Hunter, Darby (Peters 63), Burgess, Gray, Mills, Hall, Dempster, Lowe.

Subs not used: Partridge, Wardley, Sollitt, Talbot.

Bookings: Hunter (31, 61), Mills (73)

Sent-off: Hunter (61)

Scunthorpe: Evans, Stanton, Dawson, Jackson, Cotterill (McCombe 78), Sparrow (Wheatcroft 78), Graves (Brough 64), Carruthers, Torpey, Beagrie, Calvo-Garcia.

Subs not used: Barwick, Collins   

Bookings: Dawson (27), Beagrie (88)

Referee: Mr Phil Crossley (Kent)

Attendance: 3,849

Diamonds’ MOTM: Gary Mills (Hard working and tough tackling)

Shrewsbury 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

By Steven Dove

A goal from Duane Darby combined with a penalty save from Billy Turley helped preserve a point for Rushden & Diamonds and maintain their unbeaten start to the season against Shrewsbury on Saturday.

The home side looked as if they would take all three points when Rodgers fired home his fourth goal of the season in the second half but Darby hit back for the Diamonds just moments later.

And when Andrew Sambrook was sent off for a denying Rodgers a goal scoring opportunity, Shrewsbury striker Nigel Jemson had the perfect opportunity to give the home side all three points from the penalty spot but Turley came to the rescue.

Diamonds boss Brian Talbot recalled Andy Tillson to the starting line-up having recovered from a hamstring and back injury. He partnered John Dempster in the centre of defence with Mark Peters amongst the substitute.

But a surprise to the team was the inclusion of Gary Mills replacing Stuart Wardley, who was not named amongst the substitutes. Andrew Sambrook kept his place at right-back at the expense of Tarkan Mustafa.

For Shrewsbury, Luke Rodgers and Nigel Jemson started in attack with manager Kevin Ratcliffe naming only one change from the side that beat Southend last week. In came Ryan Lowe at the centre of midfield replacing Darren Moss.

Shrewsbury started the stronger side and when Andy Thompson skipped past Tillson down the right flank, captain Paul Underwood had to step in and make a vital tackle.

But Diamonds soon found their feet and in the space of two minutes, Stuart Gray and Onandi Lowe both tried their luck in front of goal but it failed to trouble Shrewsbury goalkeeper Ian Dunbavin.

But the best effort of the game arrived on seven minutes when Lowe tried his luck from distance and his effort had to be tipped over the crossbar by an acrobatic Billy Turley.

Just a minute later a bad back pass from Underwood put Turley in all types of confusion and his blushes were only sparred by Rodgers’ miss pass inside the penalty area.

After 15 minutes: Shrewsbury 0 Diamonds 0

Lowe went agonisingly close on 16 minutes when he saw his header from Daniel Talbot’s corner cleared off the line by the Shrewsbury defence. The rebound went wide of the target from Dempster.

On 23 minutes, Paul Hall floated over a cross from the right flank and when the ball went over the head of Lowe, Talbot was on hand to fire an effort on target but Dunbavin stood firm and blocked the youngsters effort.

Lowe tried a mazy run from deep inside the Shrewsbury half on 28 minutes but despite showing his power and pace, he was stopped in his tracks by the referee who spotted an infringement.

After 30 minutes: Shrewsbury 0 Diamonds 0

Rodgers, who was been kept very quiet by the Diamonds, won his side a corner on 35 minutes but it was put to waste by the home side and went straight into the arms of Turley.

The game was struggling to spring back into life after the bright early start. Both Mills and Shrewsbury defender Micky Heathcote went into the referee’s notebook as the half time whistle approached.

Lowe went close to breaking the deadlock just a minute before the interval when the Jamaican international swivelled and turned to fire a low left foot shot but it was parried by Dunbavin.

At half time: Shrewsbury 0 Diamonds 0

Shrewsbury came storming out in the second half and inside the first minute Jemson combined with Rodgers, who unleashed a fierce volley that beat Turley but struck the crossbar.

Shrewsbury’s attacking start to the second half had certainly lifted the Gay Meadow faithful and Rodgers was soon springing back to life as he tried to open the deadlock.

Andy Burgess was introduced into the action on 51 minutes, replacing Talbot. And just moments later Mills drilled a long-range effort for the visitors but it failed to trouble Dunbavin.

Lowe struck a shot on the volley on 57 minutes but it rolled across the face of the goal while Burgess saw a deflected shot go inches wide of the Shrewsbury goal.

After 60 minutes: Shrewsbury 0 Diamonds 0

The Diamonds were now starting to throw bodies forward and Darby went close on the hour mark with Lowe also having an effort blocked by the Shrewsbury defence just a minute later.

But Shrewsbury went close to breaking the deadlock on 67 minutes when Redmile rose above the Diamonds defence to head a shot on target but the defender saw his header cleared off the line by Lowe.

However, Diamonds fell behind on 70 minutes when Rodgers beat Dempster down the left flank to fire a shot at Turley’s nearside post for his fourth goal of the campaign.

But just two minutes later, Diamonds were back on level terms when Darby rose unchallenged in the penalty area to meet Hall’s right wing cross.

Then the drama continued to unfold on 74 minutes. Sambrook was shown the red card for bring down Rodgers and with the referee pointing to the penalty spot, Shrewsbury had the chance to retake the lead.

Up stepped the experienced Jemson but his spot kick was drilled straight at Turley who managed to block the kick and it went out for a corner.

After 75 minutes: Shrewsbury 1 Diamonds 1

A tactical change from Brian saw him withdraw Darby and bring on Mustafa with 12 minutes to go as Diamonds tried to preserve a precious point.

Both sides went at it in the closing stages but this was a result that certainly pleased the visitors rather than the home side and maintained Diamonds’ unbeaten start to the season.

Full time: Shrewsbury 1 Diamonds 1

Shrewsbury: Dunbavin, Thompson, Van Blerk (Drysdale 77), Tolley, Redmile, Heathcote, Lowe (Moss 64), Atkins, Rodgers, Jemson (Stevens 84), Woan.

Subs not used: Kendall, Murray.

Bookings: Heathcote (40)

Diamonds: Turley, Underwood, Dempster, Tillson, Sambrook, Talbot (Burgess 51), Mills, Gray, Hall, Darby (Mustafa 78), Lowe.

Subs not used: Partridge, Sollitt, Peters.

Bookings: Mills (38)

Sent-off: Sambrook (74)

Attendance: 3,548

Referee: Mr Mark Warren (West Midlands)

Diamonds’ MOTM: Billy Turley (Vital penalty save)

Rushden & Diamonds 3 Kidderminster 1

By Steven Dove
Rushden & Diamonds secured their first win against Kidderminster Harriers since 1999 with a confident display. An own goal from Sean Flynn, a penalty from Stuart Gray and a second goal of the season from Duane Darby wrapped up the points.
Danny Williams had given Kidderminster a glimmer of hope reducing the score to 2-1. But this was always going to b Diamonds’ day in a game that also saw Drewe Broughton sent off for the visitors.
Prior to the game, Diamonds boss Brian Talbot made one change to the starting line-up than began proceedings against Torquay United on Tuesday evening.
Andrew Sambrook replaced the injured Marcus Bignot at right-back meaning Tarkan Mustafa was recalled to the substitute bench.
Daniel Talbot kept his place on the left side of midfield despite the return of Andy Burgess from suspension, who was named amongst the substitutes. John Dempster kept his place in the centre of defence meaning Andy Tillson was left out through injury.
Kidderminster welcomed back Flynn to the starting line up after reportedly falling down a set of stairs last weekend that had kept him out during midweek.
The game started at a bright tempo and Darby fired Diamonds’ first effort as early as the second minute but he failed to get any power in his shot and it was a comfortable saved from Kidderminster goalkeeper Stuart Brock.
Diamonds nearly took the lead on five when Onandi Lowe latched onto a long ball from Barry Hunter but the Jamaican international was denied by a superb stop from Brock.
Darby saw his name go into the referee’s notebook shortly afterwards when he squared up to Kidderminster’s defender Abdou Sall.
But Diamonds’ closest effort arrived on 12 minutes. From a free-kick, in a dangerous position, Talbot squared the ball across the field to Gray who unleashed a shot that beat Brock but rattled the outside of a post.
But on 14 minutes, Diamonds took a deserved a lead. Talbot delivered an inch perfect corner that caused a mix-up in the Kidderminster defence. It left Flynn to head the ball into his own net.
After 15 minutes: Diamonds 1 Kidderminster 0
Kidderminster nearly responded just two minutes later. After some good build-up play, Dean Bennett ran half the length of the pitch and after beating Dempster and Sambrook he managed to drag his shot wide of the target.
The tempo had slowed down but it was still Diamonds who were looking the more impressive side, threatening the Kidderminster goal and putting pressure on the visitors defence.
After 30 minutes: Diamonds 1 Kidderminster 0
Darby thought he had extended Diamonds’ lead on 31 minutes but the striker was ruled out for offside having been put through by Lowe’s header.
On 34 minutes, Gray delivered an inch perfect ball for Lowe who looked odds on to score but the Jamaican fired his shot wide of the target from inside the penalty area.
On 37 minutes, Underwood made a vital tackle when he denied Parrish in the centre of the penalty area after Bo Henriksen’s clever flick had put him in the clear.
Gray seemed to be inspirational in the Diamonds midfield and on 43 minutes he dragged a ball across the face of the goal but it was just too far in front of Darby.
At half-time: Diamonds 1 Kidderminster 0
Turley was called into action on 49 minutes when he saved at the feet of Stamps, who had beaten Diamonds’ offside trap.
Kidderminster had certainly started the second half brightly and on 52 minutes substitute Lee Ayres acrobatically fired a shot from inside the penalty area but Turley safely gathered his effort.
Burgess was introduced to the action on 57 minutes, replacing Talbot. But moment’s later Kidderminster nearly found themselves on level terms when Parrish broke clear but dragged his effort wide.
However, Kidderminster were reduced to ten men on 59 minutes when Broughton was dismissed for a second yellow card following a suspected elbow to the face of elbow.
After 60 minutes: Diamonds 1 Kidderminster 0
But despite all Kidderminster’s pressure, Diamonds had a chance to extend their lead when Williams brought down Darby in the penalty area. The responsibility from the spot was down to Gray, who hammered his shot straight down the middle and past Brock.
On 71 minutes, Darby fired a tremendous shot from outside the box but was only denied by a fantastic flying save from Brock. Then Wardley unleashed a thunderous shot that Brock pushed onto the crossbar.
After 75 minutes: Diamonds 2 Kidderminster 0
But the game was brought back to life with just 14 minutes remaining of the game. Kidderminster reduced Diamonds’ lead when Williams fired home a free-kick into the bottom corner of the net.
But then just moments later, Diamonds restored their two goal cushion. Lowe broke past the Kidderminster defence to square the ball for Darby to tap home into an empty net.

Full Time: Rushden & Diamonds 3 Kidderminster HarriersĀ 1
Diamonds: Turley, Underwood, Hunter, Dempster, Sambrook, Hall, Gray, Wardley (Mills 79), Talbot (Burgess 57), Darby (Partridge 87), Lowe

Subs not used: Mustafa, Sollitt
Bookings: Darby (5), Hunter (30), Dempster (51)

Kidderminster: Brock, Sall (Ayres 45), Stamps, Williams, Hinton, Smith, Bennett (Foster 66), Parrish, Broughton, Henriksen, Flynn
Subs not used: Danby, Ducros, Joy

Bookings: Stamps (15), Williams (39), Broughton (41, 59)
Sent-off: Broughton (59)

Referee: Mr Chris Foy (Merseyside)
Attendance: 3,329

Diamonds’ MOTM: Paul Underwood (Solid display)

See here for video highlights.

Rushden & Diamonds 3 Torquay 0

By Steven Dove
Rushden & Diamonds swept aside Torquay United on Tuesday evening as Brian Talbot’s side recorded a 3-0 victory at Nene Park.

Goals from Duane Darby, Stuart Wardley and Paul Hall secured the Diamonds’ first win of the new season.

The only downside of the evening saw the withdrawal of Marcus Bignot, his home debut only lasting 11 minutes as he hobbled off injured.

Brian had to make one significant change from the team that began proceedings against Swansea City on Saturday.

Defender Andy Tillson was declared unfit for the match following his hamstring injury so youngster John Dempster was drafted in for his first league start of his career.

But other than that the team remained the same from the one that started at the Vetch Field stadium, although Brett Solkhon and Andrew Sambrook were named amongst the substitutes.

Torquay named an unchanged starting line-up from the one that beat Bristol Rovers at the weekend meaning new signing Neil Prince, signed from Liverpool in the summer, started after passing a late fitness test.

The first effort of the game didn’t arrive until the five minute but it brought a goal for the Diamonds. Hall broke down the right flank to deliver an inch perfect cross for Darby who headed past Torquay goalkeeper Kevin Dearden.

But Torquay nearly responded shortly after when Martin Gritton picked up a loose ball just outside the Diamonds penalty area and he unleashed a fierce shot that struck the outside of the post.

But Brian was forced to make a substitution early in the first half. Bignot’s home debut lasted only 11 minutes when he hobbled off to be replaced by Sambrook.

But despite Diamonds’ quick goal, Torquay were still looking confident in their play and it was them who were looking the more impressive side in the early stages of the game.

After 15 minutes: Diamonds 1 Torquay 0

On 18 minutes Prince fired a low shot from 25-yards and Billy Turley had to react quickly as he spilled the ball away for a corner.

The Diamonds were now starting to find their feet in this game and they soon began to look the stronger side.

However on 24 minutes, Torquay should have got themselves back on level terms. Tony Bedeau fed a delightful ball to Gritton, which split open the Diamonds defence, but the former Plymouth man fired over the crossbar.

After 30 minutes: Diamonds 1 Torquay 0

Torquay were certainly creating the best chances of the game and on 33 minutes, Bedeau raced clear of the Diamonds defence but he failed to get his effort on target.

It had been a while since Diamonds had created any worthwhile chance but on 36 minutes Talbot delivered a dangerous free-kick into the Torquay penalty area which Stuart Wardley failed to direct on target.

Just a few minutes later Wardley saw a header strike the post but he was adjudged to have made an infringement in the penalty area.

AT HALF TIME: Diamonds 1 Torquay 0

The Diamonds started the second half brightly and Darby was nearly gifted an early opportunity but he was quickly denied by the Torquay defence.

Chances were few and far between in the early stages of the second half. But it was the home side who were looking more dangerous as they continued to put pressure on the Torquay goal.

And on 57 minutes that pressured told as Diamonds extended their advantage. Hall was once again the provider as he delivered a perfect corner for Wardley to power home a header.

After 60 minutes: Diamonds 2 Torquay 0

Diamonds continued to press forward as they searched for a third goal that would certainly put the game beyond doubt. Lowe fired inches wide and Wardley saw a shot saved by Dearden.

Bedeau had an opportunity to get Torquay back into the match but Turley reacted quickly to deny the Gulls striker from close range.

But the game was put beyond all doubt on 73 minutes when Diamond added a third. Lowe delivered a free kick that was spilled by Dearden and Hall was on hand to fire home a shot across the face of the goal.

After 75 minutes: Diamonds 3 Torquay 0

Torquay continued to press forward in the closing stages of the game and Alex Russell’s effort saw Turley at full stretch to palm his effort around his post.

Diamonds continued to press forward in the closing stages of the game but the fourth never arrived although the evening provided great entertainment of football.

AT FULL TIME: Diamonds 3 Torquay 0

Diamonds: Turley, Underwood, Hunter, Wardley, Darby (Partridge 69), Gray, Bignot (Sambrook 11), Talbot (Mills 69), Hall, Dempster, Lowe

Subs not used: Sollitt, Solkhon.

Bookings: Hunter (66)

Torquay United: Dearden, Hazel, Woozley, Hankin, Russell, Fowler, Bedeau, Hill, Hockley (Richardson 58), Gritton (Benfield 28), Prince (Ashington 45).

Subs not used: Douglin, Attwell.

Bookings: Woozley (35), Hazel (79)

Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire)

Attendance: 3,602

Diamonds’ MOTM: Barry Hunter (Solid in defence)

Swansea City 2 Rushden & Diamonds 2

By Steven Dove

Paul Underwood fired home his first goal in the Football League deep into stoppage time to help Rushden & Diamonds secure their first point of the new season following a 2-2 draw at the Vetch Field.

The Diamonds captain unleashed a low shot just outside the Diamonds penalty area that deceived Swansea goalkeeper Roger Freestone. The result, however, was the least Brian Talbot’s side deserved.

Diamonds had taken the lead through Onandi Lowe’s superb free kick but James Thomas responded for Swansea.

Paul Reid fired a superb effort in the second half that looked as if it had won the game for Swansea but Underwood’s strike sealed a point for the Northamptonshire side.

However the game saw both sides reduced to ten men when Kris O’Leary, the Swansea City captain, and Barry Hunter were both dismissed in the second half.

Diamonds boss Brian Talbot, as expected, started the season with strikers Lowe and Duane Darby in attack while Marcus Bignot was handed his club debut after signing on a one-month contract during the week.

But the big question mark was concerning defender Andy Tillson – would he play following a pre-season injury? Well, Brian was able to play the former Bristol Rovers man and he partnered Hunter in defence.

Swansea went into the match with manager Nick Cusack naming five players who were making their club debuts – David Smith, Matt Murphy, Thomas, Reid and Jamie Wood.

Diamonds started the game in a positive frame of mind and a mazy run from one half of the pitch to the other from Lowe nearly enabled Darby to run through on goal but his pass was cut out by defender Jason Smith.

In was a noisy and buoyant Vetch Field Stadium with Swansea fans making plenty of noise as the home side pressed forward in the opening stages.

But despite Swansea pushing forward it was Diamonds who opened the scoring after only 13 minutes when Lowe fired home a delightful 25-yard free kick that left Roger Freestone with no chance.

It was the perfect start for Diamonds and Lowe’s goal will certainly be a contender for Goal of the Season, even at this early stage.

But the lead lasted for only a minute as Swansea hit back. And it was the combination of two new signings when Wood crossed from the left flank to enable Thomas to power a header home from close range.

After 15 minutes: Swansea 1 Diamonds 1

On 19 minutes Reid fired over the top of the Diamonds goal as the home side began to put pressure on the visitors goal.

Daniel Talbot, who was playing on the left side of midfield, fired a free kick just over the Swansea crossbar with everybody at the Vetch Field expecting Lowe to take the kick.

After 30 minutes: Swansea 1 Diamonds 1

Diamonds were now looking the brighter side. On 35 minutes Talbot sent a free kick into a dangerous position and Stuart Wardley’s header went across the face of the goal, which was too strong for Darby.

In patches, the game was getting scrappy and as the half-time whistle approached Swansea were pushing forward, enjoying their best spell of the game.

But it remained all-square at the half-time whistle as both teams went off to a good ovation following an entertaining 45 minutes.

At half time: Swansea 1 Diamonds 1

Paul Hall nearly gave Diamonds a perfect start to the second half but, after a good build up, the Jamaican international fired a shot over the crossbar.

Diamonds picked up their first booking of the season on 56 minutes when Lowe clattered into Kris O’Leary deep inside the Swansea half.

After 60 minutes: Swansea 1 Diamonds 1

On 63 minutes Wood unleashed a dipping shot that nearly deceived Turley after Hunter had given away a free kick in a dangerous position.

But Swansea took the lead on 66 minutes through a fine goal from Reid. He unleashed a shot from out on the right flank that dipped over Turley and into the back of the net.

From a corner kick, Diamonds nearly responded immediately but Hunter couldn’t get enough power in his shot after Tillson had headed down Talbot’s deep cross.

After 75 minutes: Swansea City 2 Diamonds 1

But with 15 minutes remaining, Swansea were reduced to ten men when Lowe went down under the challenge of O’Leary. The challenge may have warranted a yellow card but it amazed the crowd when the referee showed the red to the Swansea defender.

With 10 minutes remaining, Diamonds should have got themselves back on level terms when substitute Gary Mills linked up with Lowe but when the midfielder got the return he dragged his effort wide of the target.

Both sides were reduced to ten men on 85 minutes when Hunter picked up his second bookable offence for a reckless challenge on Smith.

It looked as if Diamonds would go home pointless on the opening day of the season, but up popped Underwood in the closing stages to fire home and grab a precious point for the visitors.

At full-time: Swansea 2 Diamonds 2

Swansea City: Freestone, Jenkins, Smith, O’Leary, Smith, Murphy, Thomas (Williams 85), Reid, Evans, Phillips, Wood (Sharpe 78)

Subs not used: Mumford, Watkin, Marsh,

Bookings: Reid (58),

Sent-off: O’Leary (75)

Diamonds: Turley, Bignot, Hunter, Tillson (Dempster 87), Underwood, Hall, Wardley, Gray, Talbot (Mills 71), Darby (Partridge 71), Lowe.

Subs not used: Sollitt, Mustafa

Bookings: Lowe (56), Hunter (62)

Sent-off: Hunter (85)

Attendance: 6,327

Referee: Mr Andy Penn

Diamonds’ MOTM: Paul Underwood

Video Highlights of the game are available here.

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