Rushden & Diamonds 0 Oxford United 2

By Steven Dove
The last game of 2002 finished on a flat note for Rushden & Diamonds as they suffered only their second league defeat at Nene Park this season against an impressive Oxford United outfit.

Dave Savage and a wonderful strike from David Oldfield helped give Oxford maximum points but the hero of the day was goalkeeper Andy Woodman and he spoilt Diamonds’ day with some breathtaking saves.

The United shot-stopper denied Diamonds on a number of occasions and was influential in Oxford’s win, which the visitors thoroughly deserved despite a second-half onslaught from the home-side.

Stuart Gray was recalled to the starting line-up, replacing the injured Gary Mills who tore his hamstring during the Boxing Day point claimed at Scunthorpe United.

Andy Burgess was also recalled to the substitute bench after missing the match against Scunthorpe meaning David Bell kept his place on the left side of midfield.

Oxford United, who claimed an impressive 3-0 victory over Bournemouth on Boxing Day, made two changes to their side. Oldfield and Savage both started whilst James Hunt missed out through injury.

Diamonds started brightly and Barry Hunter’s header flew over the Oxford crossbar after Gray had delivered an inch perfect free-kick deep into the visitor’s penalty area.

The deadlock was nearly broken on three minutes when Bell’s corner was powerfully headed toward goal by Mark Peters only for him to see Woodman acrobatically save the effort.

Diamonds continued to attack the Oxford goal and Lowe’s powerful shot was heading goal bound only for it to take a wicked deflection off David Waterman.

Oxford, who had made slow start to the game, surprisingly took the lead on 12 minutes when Savage skipped past three challenges to slot a ball past Billy Turley and into the corner of the net.

After 15 minutes: Diamonds 0 Oxford United 1

Diamonds’ response was positive and Lowe was unfortunate not to have been granted a penalty when he was sandwiched between two Oxford defenders on 21 minutes.

Savage was causing all the problems for Diamonds and Bignot had to be alert when the former Northampton midfielder was put in the clear.

But on 29 minutes, Oxford extended their lead when Oldfield, who was having a quiet game, hit a fantastic strike to beat Turley from 25-yards out.

After 30 minutes: Diamond 0 Oxford United 2

Oxford continued to carve open the Diamonds defence and Oldfield sneaked around the back of the back four only to be stopped in his tracks by a determined Underwood.

Diamonds, who were slowly losing the momentum to their play, which was so evident in the opening 15 minutes, were struggling to attack the Oxford goal although Bell dragged an effort wide of the target.

The home-side continued to throw the pressure on and Bell’s driven shot was well held by Woodman as Diamonds went in two goals down at the interval.

HALF-TIME: DIAMONDS 0 OXFORD UNITED 2

Hunter fired a header towards the Oxford goal on 46 minutes as Diamonds started the second-half positively.

Steve Basham’s turn and shot drifted over Turley’s crossbar on 49 minutes but Bell went closer for Diamonds shortly after when his snapshot rolled wide of the Oxford post.

On 50 minutes, Peters hit a shot, which Woodman tipped over the crossbar, and moment later Lowe hit a header towards the Oxford goal.

A powerful run from Paul Hall let Darby fire a shot which was deflected by the Oxford defence as the home-side looked promising in the opening stages of the second half.

Diamonds continued to control the second-half and a low drive from Gray was well saved by Woodman, who was looking impressive in the Oxford goal.

After 60 minutes: Diamonds 0 Oxford United 2

Lowe should have reduced Oxford lead when his point blank header from Darby’s cross was unbelievably stopped by Woodman.

Bignot wasted a golden opportunity to grab a goal for Diamonds when Darby headed a ball down for the defender only for him to fire high into the stands.

After 75 minutes: Diamonds 0 Oxford United 2

Burgess, who was introduced to the action replacing Gray, flashed a header across the face of the Oxford goal as time slowly began to tick away.

Hunter saw a header cleared off the goal line and Lowe also went close but despite throwing bodies forward, the home-side couldn’t find a way through the Oxford defence and more importantly the impressive Woodman.

FULL TIME: DIAMONDS 0 OXFORD 2

Diamonds: Turley, Underwood, Hunter, Peters, Wardley, Darby, Gray (Burgess 74), Bignot, Bell, Hall, Lowe.

Subs not used: Talbot, Sambrook, Duffy, Dempster.

Bookings: Underwood (14)

Oxford: Woodman, McNiven, Savage (Louis 61), Crosby, Waterman, Robinson, Bound, Ford (Whitehead 78), Oldfield, Basham (Scott 75), Hunter.

Subs not used: Steele, Sall.

Bookings: Crosby (9)

Referee: Mr I Williams

Attendance: 4,891 (1,221 from Oxford)

Diamonds’ MOTM: Stuart Wardley (Hard working)

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