Darlington 2 Rushden & Diamonds 2

By Steven Dove

The promotion bandwagon remains firmly on the tracks as Rushden & Diamonds displayed all the qualities needed to come from behind on two occasion to snatch a deserved point against Darlington.

In front of only 2,742 supporters, one of the lowest attendance’s of the season at Feethams, Diamonds kept their heads held high and battled back when it looked as if Darlington may run away with the game in the second half.

But in actual fact, Brian Talbot’s side may have been disappointed not to have been returning to Northamptonshire with all three points when two good chances at the death went begging.

Neil Wainwright opened the scoring for Darlington in the 51st minute but Stuart Gray’s spot kick levelled the match before the home-sides support had a chance of finishing their song and dance in the terrace.

But when Ian Clarke restored Darlington’s lead on 67 minutes it looked as if the home side would pick up only their second win in eight league attempts, which would have certainly pulled them clear of the relegation zone.

However, Darlington haven’t had much luck in keeping winning leads and Paul Hall became the Diamonds hero for the second week running when he fired a shot on the turn with seven minutes remaining.

Brian handed Tony Battersby his club debut after agreeing to play on a non-contract basis for the club following his two impressive games for the reserves over recent weeks.

And the former Lincoln and Boston striker nearly helped Diamonds take the lead after only 15 seconds when he headed a ball into the path of Gary Mills, who burst through into the Darlington penalty area only to see Andy Collett pull off a fantastic save.

Diamonds had certainly begun the game brightly and Gray whistled a shot from 30-yards wide of the Darlington goal. It certainly should have been a dream start for the visitors.

Darlington responded and quickly settled into their stride when Simon Betts collected a ball from Neil Wainwright to send a shot over Billy Turley’s goal and into the deserted terrace.

But the visitors’ best chance of game never arrived until 29 minutes when Ashley Nicholls spun past two Diamonds defenders to fire an effort straight into Turley’s arms.

The visitors continued to have the majority of the possession and Paul Underwood, who had drifted up field, was somewhat unfortunate when he saw shot go straight into Collett’s arms.

However, the second half began disastrous as Darlington, who had certainly started brighter than Diamonds, opened the scoring when, after some poor defending, Richard Hodgson tapped home from close range.

It certainly sparked up a dour atmosphere at Feethams but that change of spirit never lasted long when Diamonds quickly responded.

On 55 minutes, the Darlington defence couldn’t clear their lines and when Battersby tried to flick the ball over Gary Pearson’s head, the match referee deemed that the defender had used his hand. Gray made no mistake from the spot.

Wainwright, Nicholls and the ineffective Barry Conlon all tried their lucks as the match drifted on and at one point it seemed as if it wouldn’t be Darlington’s day.

But that was until a lapse in concentration in the Diamonds defence proved costly. Clark Keltie’s perfectly weighted ball found Ian Clark on 67 minutes who had time, space and accuracy to guide the ball past Turley and into the corner of the net.

With the clock ticking it seemed as if Diamonds’ efforts were not going to be rewarded until Hall’s turn and shot, just moments after Stuart Wardley had seen a header hit the post, found the back of the net with seven minutes remaining.

Maybe Diamonds should have stolen the match on 86 minutes when, in quick succession, John Dempster, who had replaced Mark Peters midway through the second half, saw a header cleared off the line and David Bell squandered a chance from close range.

However, maybe it would have been injustices if Diamonds had nicked a winner when Darlington had put their visitors under the cosh for much of the second half.

Darlington: Collett, Valentine, Betts, Liddle, Pearson, Clark, Conlon, Hodgson, Wainwright, Keltie, Nicholls.

Subs not used: Ford, Campbell, Sheeran, McGurk, Porter.

Bookings:

Diamonds: Turley, Underwood, Hunter, Peters (Dempster 73), Wardley, Gray (Burgess 73), Bignot, Mills, Bell, Hall, Battersby.

Subs not used: Talbot, Sambrook, Duffy.

Bookings: Wardley (90)

Referee: Mr S Baines

Attendance: 2,742

Diamonds’ MOTM: David Bell (Showed touches of sheer class)

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