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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