Hartlepool 1 Rushden & Diamonds 2

 
By Steven Dove

A spirited second-half performance from Rushden & Diamonds helped record the club’s first win on their travels in an amazing see-saw battle against league leaders Hartlepool.

The Diamonds had to come from behind after Adam Boyd had given Hartlepool the lead. But a header from Mark Peters and a fine individual effort from Paul Hall preserved all three points for the Northamptonshire side.

Diamonds boss Brian Talbot was forced to make a number of important changes to his side prior to the match. The most notable changes came in attack with Onandi Lowe missing through injury.

That left the way for Brett Solkhon to make his first ever league start. But with no Duane Darby in the side because of injury and Scott Partridge missing the match, despite travelling, it made interesting reading on who would partner the youngster in attack.

That job fell to Paul Underwood. The Diamonds captain would turn from a left-back to a striker for the day meaning Gary Setchell started his first game of the season.

Stuart Gray was welcomed back into the side replacing David Bell, who was named amongst the substitutes, while Marcus Bignot was also included in the squad and sat on the bench.

Hartlepool United, who went into the game top of the Third Division table, included former Sheffield Wednesday striker Ritchie Humpherys in attack while Mark Robinson replaced Paul Arnison in defence.

The Diamonds made a shaky start to the game and inside the first minute Darrell Clarke fired over the bar from close range as the visitors’ defence fell asleep.

Hartlepool were certainly looking strong in these opening stages of the game. Diamonds were struggling to get out of the blocks and despite moving the ball around the pitch they were creating few chances.

But to Diamonds’ credit, their heads didn’t drop. On six minutes the Northamptonshire side came agonisingly close when Stuart Wardley broke down the right and his cross was nearly put into his own net by Hartlepool defender Graeme Lee.

It was noticeable that Paul Hall was drifting into attack with Underwood playing slightly behind the attackers as Diamonds experimented throughout the match, trying to create opportunities.

Billy Turley came to the rescue on 11 minutes when he superbly stopped Eifion Williams’ point-blank header when the striker was left unmarked in the penalty area.

After 15 minutes: Hartlepool 0 Diamonds 0

On 15 minutes Hartlepool midfielder Mark Tinkler struck a fierce effort that Turley tipped over the crossbar whilst moments later Tommy Widdrington nearly had a sight at goal after outfoxing the Diamonds defence.

Hartlepool were continuing to throw the pressure to their opponents and were looking the more likely side to get on the scoresheet as they created the better chances.

A good move involving Underwood and Solkhon released Wardley down the right flank on 24 minutes but the former QPR midfielder couldn’t control his effort as it flew over the crossbar.

Gray powered his way past two Hartlepool defenders on 25 minutes to try his luck from 30-yards but despite getting his shot on target the ball flew into the hands of goalkeeper Anthony Williams.

Adam Boyd turned his marker and fired a good effort on 27 minutes but Diamonds also went close soon after as the game soon balanced out to be an evenly close contest.

After 30 minutes: Hartlepool 0 Diamonds 0

But despite preserving the pressure for large periods of the game, Diamonds fell behind on 31 minutes. A delightful ball over the top of the Diamonds defence found Boyd who chipped a rushing Turley from an acute angle to squeeze his effort into the net.

The Diamonds were falling to pieces at the back as the Hartlepool pressure began to take its toll. Few chances were being created in attack with the home-side controlling most of the possession.

Tinkler rattled the crossbar with a header for Hartlepool on 39 minutes while moments later Hall created a rare chance for Diamonds.

But it was no surprise at the half-time whistle that Hartlepool went in at the break one goal better off. They had controlled the game for long periods and deserved their lead.

At half-time: Hartlepool 1 Diamonds 0  

The Diamonds changed their system at the break. Despite working his socks off during the first-half, Solkhon never appeared for the second half and was replaced by Daniel Talbot.

It meant Wardley and Hall played in attack with Underwood dropping off into midfield. The change nearly proved effective right from the start when Wardley nearly got on to the end of a Gray cross.

But a resulting corner led to the equaliser for Diamonds. Talbot floated a fantastic delivery into the penalty area that gave Mark Peters the opportunity to rise above the Hartlepool defence and power home a header.

The game was open in the second half. Diamonds were seeing a lot more of the ball and on 53 minutes Setchell tried his luck from 35-yards although it failed to trouble Williams in the Hartlepool goal.

All of a sudden, the Diamonds were playing superb football – a completely different story from the first half. After some good work from Underwood, Mustafa had a shot tipped over the crossbar from Williams.

Hartlepool had hardly found a sniff at goal in the second half and on 60 minutes Underwood brought a ball down in the Hartlepool penalty area but couldn’t get his effort on target.

After 60 minutes: Hartlepool 1 Diamonds 1

Hartlepool’s first chance of the second half arrived on 61 minutes when Williams created some space in the penalty area but was only denied by an excellent stop from Turley.

Underwood, who was working his socks off at the back in attack, kept trying his luck and on 67 minutes he went close when his shot floated just over the Hartlepool crossbar.

Setchell went down in a heap on 68 minutes after making a superb flying tackle on Williams. But the Diamonds defender was soon back on his feet and continued at left-back.

Hartlepool were soon getting back into this ‘action packed’ game as Mustafa had to clear a shot off the goal line as Hartlepool’s Lee was given time to direct a header.

After 75 minutes: Hartlepool 1 Diamonds 1

Diamonds were soon putting the pressure back on the home side and Wardley went close for the visitors with a header after Talbot delivered an excellent cross from the left.

It was now Hartlepool’s turn to throw the pressure in this sea-saw battle and Williams should have done better on 82 minutes when he was awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position.

But out of the blue, Diamonds’ hard work paid off as they took the lead. Again, Talbot was the provider as he fed in Hall but the Jamaican international took all the credit, as his individual run was worthy of a goal after shaking off the challenge from two defenders.

It came out of the blue but it was a performance they would surely have put a smile on the Diamond boss face at the final whistle.

At full time: Hartlepool 1 Diamonds 2

Hartlepool: Williams, Barron, Lee, Westwood, Clarke, Robinson (Smith 80), Widdrington, Tinkler, Humpherys, Boyd, Williams.

Subs not used: Provett, Sharp, Henderson, Sweeney.

Bookings: Tinkler (88)
 
Diamonds: Turley, Mustafa, Underwood, Hunter, Peters, Wardley, Gray, Mills, Setchell, Hall, Solkhon (Talbot 46).

Subs not used: Bignot, Sollitt, Bell, Dempster.

Bookings: Hunter (41), Peters (43)

Referee: Mr P Dowd

Attendance: 5,502 (192 from Diamonds)

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

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