Rushden & Diamonds 2 Wrexham 2

By Steven Dove

Rushden & Diamonds twice had to come from behind to protect their unbeaten home record in a thrilling encounter against an impressive Wrexham side at Nene Park.

And Paul Hall was the hero for Diamonds as he scored twice. Both goals involved Onandi Lowe but this was certainly Diamonds’ toughest task this season on their own patch.

But the bad news for Diamonds was both Barry Hunter and Mark Peters left the field because of injuries, meaning Paul Underwood had to play the majority of the game in the centre of defence.

Prior to the game, Diamonds boss Brian Talbot made several changes to the starting line-up that began proceedings against Bournemouth on Tuesday night at Dean Court.

The Diamonds boss was forced to make one change in attack. Scott Partridge started his first league game of the season with Duane Darby out with a groin injury that may keep him out for two weeks.

The surprise was the inclusion of David Bell, who was making his full league debut. The youngster replaced Stuart Gray who was out with a knee problem sustained at Bournemouth.

Hunter also went up against his former club. He replaced John Dempster in the centre of defence and partnered Peters. Gary Setchell was also named amongst the substitutes.

For Wrexham, boss Dennis Smith had the luxury of naming an unchanged side. They included Andy Morrell, who has fired nine goals, the leading marksmen in England’s top divisions.

Wrexham came to Nene Park in confident mood having recorded back-to-back 4-0 victories in the last seven days.

With both teams trying to figure the other out it was a slow start to the game. Lowe carved out the first on three minutes but saw his effort blocked and then just moments later the same player dragged his shot wide of the target.

But it was the visitors who were looking the stronger side and on eight minutes they took the lead.

A run down the left flank from Hector Sam deep inside the penalty area enabled his to pick our Carlos Edwards who had the simple job to tap home from close range.

The Diamonds were forced to make an early change to their side. Earlier, Hunter had to go off the field with a face injury and didn’t return. He was quickly replaced by Dempster.

After 15 minutes: Diamonds 0 Wrexham 1

Chances were rare for Diamonds, who, unlike their recent home form, were struggling to keep possession. Wrexham looked strong on the break and were causing problems for the Diamonds defence.

Wrexham were firmly keeping the pressure on their opponents and it was evident for the first time at Nene Park that Diamonds’ were not totally in control of the match.

Sam had the chance to double Wrexham’s advantage on 28 minutes when the home side broke from a Diamonds corner but the striker failed to lob Turley, who had drifted out of his goal.

After 30 minutes: Diamonds 0 Wrexham 1

On 37 minutes, Wrexham goalkeeper Andy Dibble was finally tested. Lowe’s curling free-kick nearly deceived the former Luton shot-stopper but Dibble acrobatically denied the Diamonds striker.

Lowe done well on 41 minutes when he drove past Dibble. But the Diamonds striker went wide of the goal and had to settle for drilling the ball back in the box with Hall having an effort stopped on the line.

But a minute later the Diamonds got themselves back on level terms. Lowe tried another free-kick that was pushed out by Dibble but only as far as Hall who poked home from close range.

It was certainly not what Diamonds deserved at the half-time whistle and the Diamonds boss was sure to have some strong words to say back in the dressing room.

At half-time: Diamonds 1 Wrexham 1 

Two minutes into the second-half, Wrexham should have got themselves back in front. After some good work in midfield the ball dropped to Dan Bennett who fired over the bar from inside the penalty area.

On 54 minutes, Lowe had a free header but failed to put it on target while Morrell went close for Wrexham just moments later.

For the first time in the match the Diamonds were beginning to control the match and Hall was nearly put through in on goal but Mills’ ball was a touch too hard for the Jamaican international

After 60 minutes: Diamonds 1 Wrexham 1

On 63 minutes Diamonds should have taken the lead. Hall fed a through ball to Mustafa who done all the hard work done the right flank. His ball into the box went past everyone but Partridge should have done better at the far post.

But despite Diamonds’ good pressure, they fell behind on 65 minutes. And Morrell was the hero for Wrexham as he superbly beat Turley, rounding the Diamonds goalkeeper and sticking the ball home from a tight angle.

That goal also saw Peters go off on a stretcher. He was replaced by Setchell, meaning Underwood drifted into the centre to partner Dempster.

On 72 minutes, Daniel Talbot, on as a substitute, floated an excellent ball to Lowe. The Jamaican international controlled the ball delightfully with his chest but saw his shot saved by Dibble.

After 75 minutes: Diamonds 1 Wrexham 2

It was now all hands to the pump for Diamonds who were looking to keep their unbeaten home record firmly in-tact.

Trundle had an effort which flew over the Diamonds crossbar on 79 minutes as Wrexham continued to mount the pressure but just moments later the Diamonds squared the encounter.

And it was Hall who became the hero. But much of the thanks went to Lowe who battled for possession deep in Wrexham’s half of the field and squared the ball for his international team-mate who rounded Dibble and slotted into an empty net.

Trundle went close for Wrexham on 84 minutes and moments later Setchell drilled an effort straight at Dibble.

In five minutes of injury time, Wrexham came closest but the Diamonds would be happy with the point after being made to fight all the way.

At full-time: Diamonds 2 Wrexham 2

Diamonds: Turley, Mustafa, Underwood, Hunter (Dempster 11), Peters (Setchell 67), Wardley, Partridge (Talbot 71), Mills, Bell, Hall, Lowe.

Subs not used: Sollitt, Setchell, Solkhon.

Bookings: Mills (18)

Wrexham: Dibble, Whitley, Roberts (Lawrence 87), Edwards (Holmes 46), Ferguson, Morrell, Barrett, Edwards, Bennett, Pejic, Sam (Trundle 61)

Subs not used: Rogers, Campbell.

Bookings: Bennett (37)

Referee: Mr A Penn

Attendance: 4,090

Diamonds’ MOTM: Paul Hall (Non-stop work rate)

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