Rushden & Diamonds 2 Bristol Rovers 1

By Steven Dove
Rushden & Diamonds made it five league wins on the spin against Bristol Rovers on Saturday but despite dominating much of the play, Brian Talbot’s side could only find the net on two occasions.

However, Diamonds were impressive and showed great character to come from a goal down when Guiliano Grazioli struck home a penalty for Bristol Rovers.

Onandi Lowe hit a free-kick in the first-half to get Diamonds on level terms and a scrambled effort from Paul Hall secured maximum points that were thoroughly deserved.

Diamonds midfielder Stuart Gray and defender Barry Hunter were both included in the starting line-up after passing late fitness tests as Talbot made one change to the team that beat Kidderminster Harriers on Tuesday.

Duane Darby was dropped to the bench as Lowe was recalled into the starting line-up. The Jamaican international teamed alongside Robert Duffy in attack, who scored in the win against Kidderminster.

Bristol Rovers boss Ray Graydon handed club debuts to new signings Graham Hyde and Kevin Street whilst former Charlton and Peterborough striker Bradley Allen, was named amongst the substitutes.

Grazioli, scorer of nine Bristol Rovers goals this season, started in attack although Chris Plummer and Wayne Carlisle both missed out for the visitors through injury.

Rovers were dealt a major blow on three minutes when they were forced to make a substitution. Trevor Challis went down under a nasty challenge and hobbled off to be replaced by Simon Bryant.

Gray carved open the first opportunity of the game on six minutes when the former Celtic midfielder hit a 30-yard effort over Scott Howie’s crossbar.

Rovers, who had made the brighter start of the two sides, were unfortunate not to have taken the lead when Hyde fired a shot that was blocked by an onrushing Mark Peters.

But moments later, the visitors took the lead. From a corner, Lowe was adjudged to have brought down Paul Tait and after the referee pointed to the spot, Grazioli beat Turley from 12-yards.

After 15 minutes: Diamonds 0 Bristol Rovers 1

Diamonds were struggling to get to grips with the game as Rovers continued to impress in the first-half.

But on 21 minutes, and against the run of play, Diamonds were on level terms. From 30-yards, Lowe struck a free-kick that took a big deflection to deceive Howie in the Rovers goal and roll into the net.

It was now the home-side who were gaining more of the possession and on 26 minutes Wardley nearly got onto the end of a perfect header from Lowe, but the midfielder was denied by the feet of Howie.

After 30 minutes: Diamonds 1 Bristol Rover 1

On 32 minutes, Lowe fired a thunderbolt free-kick straight through the Rovers wall, but on this occasion it whizzed past Howie’s post and into the stands.

The Diamonds were beginning to tear Rovers apart and a long-range effort from Paul Underwood on 36 minutes was deflected for a corner.

Moments later, Duffy saw a header cleared off the goal line by Danny Boxall as Diamonds continued to enjoy the majority of the possession.

On 42 minutes, Peters should have guided a header on target from six-yards out after a perfectly delivered corner from Paul Hall found it’s mark.

Rovers pushed on strong in closing stages of the first-half and Hyde went close on 45 minutes when he dragged a shot the wrong side of a post following a mistake from Gary Mills.

At half-time: Diamonds 1 Bristol Rovers 1

Diamonds made a promising start to the second half and Lowe nearly capitalized on a mistake from Kevin Austin, but the Rovers defender managed to clear his lines.

On 51 minutes, Vitaly Astafjevs, who was having a quiet game for Rovers, saw his shot deflected over Turley’s crossbar and go out for a corner.

Lowe showed great determination and strength to hold off two Rovers defenders on 56 minutes, but then, disappointingly, dragged his shot wide of the target, when it seemed as if he would give Diamonds the lead.

Hunter saw his header on 58 minutes roll across the face of the goal as Diamonds continued to create more opportunities then there struggling opponents.

After 60 minutes: Diamonds 1 Bristol Rovers 1

Diamonds were forced to make a substitution on 63 minutes as John Dempster was introduced to the action after Peters received a blow to the face and subsequently failed to resume after receiving treatment in the dugout.

On 67 minutes, Lowe caused havoc in the Rovers defence and when the ball dropped to Mills, the midfielder hit a shot over the Rovers crossbar.

But Diamonds’ pressure finally paid off when they took the lead. The Rovers defence struggled to clear their lines and when the ball broke, Hall grabbed the vital touch for his sixth strike of the season.

After 75 minutes: Diamonds 2 Bristol Rovers 1

On 77 minutes, Tait should have put Rovers back on level terms when the striker powered past Marcus Bignot only to drill a shot across the ground and straight into the arms of Turley.

The Diamonds continued to control the second period as Rovers struggled to find a way past the home-sides defence.

Rovers pushed forward in the final stages of the game and Tait’s header on 86 minutes was comfortably held by Turley, who had enjoyed a relatively quiet game.

Rovers finished the stronger side but couldn’t find the back of the net as the three points deservedly stayed in Northamptonshire.

At full-time: Diamonds 2 Bristol Rovers 1

Diamonds: Turley, Underwood, Hunter, Peters (Dempster 63), Wardley, Gray (Bell 86), Bignot, Mills, Duffy (Darby 68), Hall, Lowe

Subs not used: Sollitt, Talbot.

Bookings: Darby (90)

Bristol Rovers: Howie, Boxall, Challis (Bryant 3), Barrett, Austin, Quinn Tait, Grazioli (Allen 73), Hyde, Astafjevs, Street (Gilroy 82).

Subs not used: Hogg, Clarke.

Bookings: Astafjevs (59)

Referee: Mr A Butler (Nottinghamshire)

Attendance: 3,960

Diamonds’ MOTM: Onandi Lowe (Caused trouble)

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