Rushden & Diamonds 1 Swansea City 1

By Steven Dove

A strangely subdued Rushden & Diamonds outfit managed to grind out a point against basement boys Swansea City thanks to Paul Hall’s second half glancing header.

The Jamaican international midfielder pounced on 70 minutes to cancel out a strike from Kevin Nugent, which had threatened to take all three points back to Swansea.

Diamonds boss Brian Talbot recalled Scott Partridge to the starting line-up following his impressive loan spell at Exeter City. The striker hasn’t scored for the club since December 2001.

Andrew Sambrook made way for Gary Mills, who was recalled into the side following his hamstring injury. Andy Burgess kept his place in midfield whilst Hall switched to the right.

Stuart Wardley was recalled to the substitute bench following his back injury that has forced him to miss the last two encounters. David Bell, a regular in the first eleven, was also amongst the substitutes.

Swansea City, who were in desperate need of the points ahead of the game in their battle to avoid relegation, included new signing Roberto Martinez, who had signed for the club during the week.

Diamonds carved open the first opportunity of the game when Burgess picked up the ball from 30-yards to fire an effort over Roger Freestone’s crossbar.

But it was the visitors who started the game brighter. Martinez was looking bright down the flank and although Turley hadn’t been tested it was a good opening.

Lowe fired a header straight into the arms of Freestone on six minutes as Diamonds struggled to find any openings.

Diamonds thought they should have been awarded a penalty on eight minutes when Jason Smith hauled down Lowe inside the box. But the referee waved away the protest and signalled for a corner.

Swansea’s attacks were rare but on ten minutes Kevin Nugent flashed a cross across the face of the box, which nearly saw Jason Thomas guide the ball into the Diamonds goal.

After 15 minutes: Diamonds 0 Swansea City 0

But despite all the early pressure from Diamonds, it was the visitors who took a 15 minute lead when Leon Britton’s cross was met in the penalty area by Nugent, guiding the ball past Billy Turley.

Diamonds nearly fell further behind on 20 minutes when Lenny Johnrose capitalised on a mistake from Marcus Bignot only for the Swansea striker to be denied by Turley.

The home side should have got themselves back on level terms on 24 minutes when Lowe, somehow, managed to miss the target from six-yards, slicing an effort straight to a Swansea defender.

The visitors thought they doubled their advantage when Nugent stuck the ball in the back of the net for the second time in the game. But the referee adjudged that the nippy striker impeded Mark Peters.

After 30 minutes: Diamonds 0 Swansea City 1

Gray’s right-footed volley on 30 minutes flew over Freestone’s crossbar as Diamonds continued to struggle and break down a resilient Swansea City defence.

Thomas drilled a low effort on 31 minutes inches past the post as Swansea continued to attack the Diamonds goal.

Bignot was gifted a golden opportunity a minute later when he collected a delightful flick from Partridge but the Diamonds defender watched his shot go over the Swansea crossbar.

Lowe thought he had found the net on 41 minutes when his thunderbolt shot whistled past Freestone after he had skipped past three challenges.

But despite threatening to cause danger, Diamonds failed to get on the score sheet meaning their was plenty of work for the home side in the second half.

AT HALF TIME: DIAMONDS 0 SWANSEA CITY 1

Diamonds started strongly in the first half and after Lowe had seen off three Swansea challenges, the Jamaican international saw his shot fly over the Peter De Banke terrace.

But Lowe nearly found the net on 50 minutes when his looping header was heading goal bound until Freestone tipped the strikers effort over the crossbar.

Diamonds were struggling to find any way past the Swansea defence as Freestone continued to enjoy a quiet afternoon.

After 60 minutes: Diamonds 0 Swansea City 1

Michael Howard was unlucky not to have extended Swansea’s lead when his low drive was well held by Turley. It was the visitors who continued to impress in this lacklustre encounter.

However, the game finally sprung back into life when Bignot’s right-wing cross, on 71 minutes, was superbly met by a glancing header from Hall, leaving Freestone with no chance.

Lowe tried one of his trademark free-kicks moments later, which looked, at one point, if it would swing into the corner of the net. However, Freestone dived low to make a comfortable save.

After 75 minutes: Diamonds 1 Swansea City 1

Burgess’ dipping shot on 77 minutes nearly found its way into the net but the midfielder was unlucky when it sailed just over the crossbar.

Diamonds continued to attack Swansea’s goal and Hall went close to doubling his tally with a snap-shot that trickled wide of the post.

Wardley tried his luck on 85 minutes when his shot went inches wide of the Swansea goal as time began to run out.

But despite throwing bodies forward in the closing stages, Diamonds couldn’t find a way through and it was the visitors who left Nene Park far the happier side.

AT FULL TIME: DIAMONDS 1 SWANSEA CITY 1

Diamonds: Turley, Underwood, Hunter, Peters, Partridge (Bell 60), Burgess (Wardley 79), Gray, Bignot, Mills, Hall, Lowe.

Subs not used: Talbot, Duffy, Dempster.

Bookings: Bignot (22), Mills (68)

Swansea: Freestone, Smith, Thomas (Watkin 88), Tate, Nugent, Evans, Williams (Durkan 55), Howard (O’Leary 81), Johnrose, Martinez, Britton.

Subs not used: Mumford, Richards.

Bookings:

Attendance: 4,046

Referee: Mr M Ryan

Diamonds’ MOTM: Onandi Lowe (Worked hard throughout)

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