Rushden & Diamonds 0 Millwall 0 (Diamonds win 5-4 on Penalties)

By Steven Dove

It ended in a dramatic penalty shoot out but it was game Rushden & Diamonds thoroughly deserved to win. A 5-3 win on penalties against First Division Millwall took Diamonds through to the next round of the Worthington Cup.

Paul Underwood took the decisive spot kick and combined with another save from the spot from Billy Turley, who also scored one of the penalties, Diamonds booked their place in the next round of the competition.

Diamonds boss Brian Talbot made two changes to the starting line up which claimed a 3-0 victory over Southend United on Saturday. Scott Partridge started his first game of the season replacing Onandi Lowe, who was left out with a knee injury.

The back four was forced to change with Barry Hunter starting his two-match suspension. John Dempster was preferred in the centre of defence instead of Andy Tillson, who was named amongst the substitutes.

Millwall boss Mark McGhee was forced to make a number of changes with Neil Harris and Tim Cahill both missing for the Lions. Ben May came into the starting eleven while Christophe Kinet was also included.

But Millwall had many experienced professionals in their side including Stuart Nethercott, Darren Ward, David Livermore and Steve Claridge, who was amongst the substitutes.

The game started at a fast pace. Millwall won a corner in the first minute and it was a scary moment for the Diamonds as the defence had to clear their lines.

But the first real effort of the game arrived on five minutes. Paul Hall delivered a cross from the right, which Duane Darby met with a powerful header, but it went inches wide of the target.

Chances were few and far between as both sides struggled to break down their respective defences. Diamonds were enjoying more of the possession as Millwall struggled to find any threat in front of goal.

After 15 minutes: Diamonds 0 Millwall 0

Kinet tried his luck from out on the right wing on 20 minutes. It nearly caught Billy Turley unaware but the ball just went inches over the crossbar, in Millwall’s first real effort of the game.

Following some good work from Tarkan Mustafa, Hall dragged an effort wide of the target on 22 minutes when the Jamaican international midfielder really should have done better.

Millwall were struggling to get a grip of the game. Diamonds were certainly enjoying more of the possession as we approached the half-an-hour mark, but we were still waiting for our first shot on target.

After 30 minutes: Diamonds 0 Millwall 0

On 32 minutes, Partridge pulled out to the wing to deliver a cross that Darby met with a powerful header but his effort flew inches wide of Tony Warner’s goal, in what was the closest effort of the game.

The game was very scrappy. Millwall were still struggling to stamp their mark on the game and although chances remained rare Diamonds were looking in control.

Livermore struck a long-range effort wide of the target but the game was still waiting for it’s first shot on target.

With just a minute remaining in the first half, Darby carved out a cross from the left wing and when the ball broke to Mills, the young midfielder hit a first-time volley just wide of the target.

At half-time: Diamonds 0 Millwall 0

McGhee made two changes to his side at the interval with Claridge and Ronnie Bull being introduced into the action.

But it was still Diamonds who continued to look in control. However, Diamonds were also forced into an early substitution as Mills hobbled off the pitch to be replaced by Andy Burgess.

Some good, patient, build up play involving Partridge, Hall and Wardley gave Darby a shot from an acute angle but Warner closed the gap and did well to deny the former Hull striker.

The Diamonds were now turning on the style. Gray pushed a ball out on the right wing which Hall forced another good save from Warner. The Diamonds were certainly impressive against their First Division opponents.

After 60 minutes: Diamonds 0 Millwall 0

Partridge had the first notable effort on target on 60 minutes but Warner had the easiest job and dived low to his right to make the important save.

But Diamonds came close to taking the lead on 63 minutes. Gray lobbed the Millwall defence and the ball found Darby who remained onside. Having done the hard work the Diamonds striker rounded the goalkeeper but ran wide of the goal and struck the outside of the post.

John Dempster received the yellow card when he accidentally brought down May just outside the penalty area as the visitors started to get themselves back in the encounter.

After 75 minutes: Diamonds 0 Millwall 0

Paul Ifill, who was quiet for Millwall, should have done better on 78 minutes when he skipped past two challenges and created some space in the penalty area. However the Millwall midfielder dragged his shot across the ground and it was easy work for Turley.

Millwall were looking dangerous on the attack but the threat on Turley’s goal was rare and this game was now firmly in the balance with extra time looming.

Kinet had a golden opportunity to seal tie for Millwall with just minutes remaining but his long-range effort beat Turley but went agonisingly wide of the target. Then in stoppage time May went close.

Full time: Diamonds 0 Millwall 0

Three minutes into the first period of extra time, Matt Lawrence fired a shot from 30-yards and Turley had to be alert as he tipped his effort over the crossbar and out for a corner.

The ball was now constantly in the Diamonds half of the pitch as Millwall looked strong going forward finding gaps in the home-sides defence.

The visitors were now looking strong and Claridge saw a header saved by Turley, although the Diamond goalkeeper didn’t know much about it.

Turley then produced the save of the match in the closing stages of the first period of extra time when the Diamonds goalkeeper dived low to prevent Bull scoring with a fierce header.

After 105 minutes: Diamonds 0 Millwall 0

Kinet rattled the crossbar three minutes into the second period but the linesman adjudged the ball to be out of play when the midfielder crossed from out on the left flank.

It was evident that the players were getting tired as this match continued although Diamonds were still holding their own as this game remained in the balance.

In the closing stages, Darby had an effort cleared off the line but this game was going into penalties after 120 minutes of exciting football.

After 120 minutes: Diamonds 0 Millwall 0

PENALTIES

(D) – Stuart Gray – GOAL.
(M) – Charlie Hearn – SAVED
(D) – Paul Hall – GOAL
(M) – Paul Ifill – GOAL
(D) – Stuart Wardley – GOAL
(M) – David Livermore – GOAL
(D) – Billy Turley – GOAL
(M) – Andy Roberts – GOAL
(D) – Paul Underwood – GOAL

Diamonds: Turley, Mustafa, Underwood, Peters, Wardley, Partridge, Darby, Gray, Mills (Burgess 48), Hall, Dempster.

Subs not used: Tillson, Sollitt, Bell, Talbot

Bookings: Dempster (65)

Millwall: Warner, Lawrence, Ryan (Bull 46), Nethercott, Ifill, Livermore, Ward, Roberts, Kinet (Hearn 111), Phillips (Claridge 46), May.

Subs not used: Gueret, Robinson.

Bookings: May (68)

Referee: Mr Paul Robinson (East Yorkshire)

Attendance: 2,731

Diamonds’ MOTM: Mark Peters (Millwall chances were rare).

See here for a video snippet of the penalty shootout.

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