Southend United 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

By Steven Dove

After conceding two early goals, Rushden & Diamonds somehow failed to leave Roots Hall with maximum points despite clawing their way back into the contest through a Barry Hunter goal and dominating the second half.

Diamonds conceded two goals as early as six minutes and were left with an uphill struggle. However, despite threatening to do damage in the second half they just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.

Diamonds boss Brian Talbot made one change to his starting line-up from the 2-2 draw against Darlington a fortnight ago. Mark Peters was dropped onto the substitute bench and replaced by John Dempster.

Duane Darby, who has been out of action for six weeks, returned on the bench meaning Paul Hall and Tony Battersby started in attack with Onandi Lowe still missing through suspension.

Daniel Talbot’s ankle injury sustained during a training session on Friday afternoon meant Gary Setchell was named amongst the substitutes, which still was short of a goalkeeper.

Southend United boss Rob Newman was able to name the same starting eleven from last week’s defeat against Wrexham, which included former Diamond striker Mark Rawle.

When the game eventually got going, after a 15-minute delay because of road works, it was the home side that began brighter when Kevin Maher shot straight at Billy Turley.

But the deadlock was soon broken when Rawle broke the offside trap on five minutes to nutmeg Turley and roll the ball past the Diamonds goalkeeper for an early lead.

And things went from bad to worse for Diamonds when, after Hunter failed to clear his lines, Damon Searle fired a beautiful effort from 30-yards into the corner of Turley’s net.

Diamonds had hardly settled into this encounter as Southend continued to press forward and on 11 minutes the home side thought they should have been rewarded a penalty when Dominic Foley tumbled in the area from Marcus Bignot’s challenge.

After 15 minutes: Southend United 2 Diamonds 0

Diamonds thought they should have been awarded a penalty themselves when Hall was sent tumbling in the area by Southend goalkeeper Darryl Flahavan. However, the referee adjudged the Diamonds midfielder to have dived in the area and was subsequently booked.

Diamonds’ first notable effort arrived on 23 minutes when David Bell cut in from the right flank to fire a low effort that was comfortably saved by Flahavan.

Diamonds best effort arrived on 28 minutes when Bell tried his luck from a 25-yard free-kick, which was acrobatically tipped over the crossbar from Flahavan.

After 30 minutes: Southend United 2 Diamonds 0

A tactical change on 36 minutes saw Andy Burgess replace Gary Mills in the heart of the Diamonds midfield as Brian tried a more attacking look to his side.

And the change brought about an immediate change in fortune when, moments later, a Stuart Gray free kick found the head of Stuart Wardley to enable Hunter to bundle the ball from close range.

Diamonds pushed forward in the closing stages of the first half but couldn’t go on level terms despite a late effort from Hall which flew wide of the Southend United goal and a Paul Underwood effort that fizzed over the crossbar.

AT HALF TIME: SOUTHEND UTD 2 DIAMONDS 1

Darby was introduced to the action at half-time, replacing, surprisingly, Bell, who had looked impressive. It meant Hall moved to his normal right midfield position.

Burgess tried his luck two minutes after the restart as Diamonds began the half positively but the midfielder saw his effort go straight into the arms of Flahavan.

Battersby fired over the crossbar on 51 minutes when, maybe, the former Lincoln City striker should have found the target from inside the penalty area.

Jay Smith’s first time shot on 56 minutes nearly caught Turley unaware but the Diamonds goalkeeper managed to scramble across his goal to gather comfortably.

On 58 minutes, Darby thought he should have been awarded a penalty when he believed he was tackled from behind. However, the referee waved away the protest and awarded a goal kick.

After 60 minutes: Southend United 2 Diamonds 1

Underwood’s curling free-kick on 61 minutes went inches over the crossbar as Diamonds continued to push forward looking for that important goal.

On 65 minutes Rawle went close with a header as Southend began to get into this contest. It was the best effort from the home side in the second half.

Diamonds continued to throw bodies forward and although they were controlling most of the possession, the visitors couldn’t find a way through.

After 75 minutes: Southend United 2 Diamonds 1

Foley should have sealed victory for Southend on 76 minutes when Maher robbed Burgess in the centre of the field but the on-loan Watford man scuffed his effort as he watched the ball roll wide.

Diamonds were still controlling this game but somehow they had not found the net. Rawle was given a good opportunity to wrap up the game but Gray made a vital tackle.

AT FULL TIME: SOUTHEND UNITED 2 DIAMONDS 1

 

Southend: Flahavan, Sutch, Cort, Kelly, Searle, Marney, Maher, Smith (Thurgood 79), Clark (Beard 74), Foley, Rawle.

Subs not used: Gay, Salter, Jordan.

Bookings: Maher (60)

Diamonds: Turley, Underwood, Hunter, Dempster (Peters 78), Bignot, Gray, Wardley, Mills (Burgess 36), Bell (Darby h/t), Battersby, Hall.

Subs not used: Setchell, Sambrook.

Bookings: Hall (18), Bignot (54), Underwood (84), Gray (87)

Referee: Mr Clive Penton

Attendance: 6,543 (430 from Diamonds)

Diamonds’ MOTM: Paul Underwood

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