Rushden & Diamonds 3 Rochdale 3

By Steven Dove

Rushden & Diamonds had to settle for a point at Rochdale on Tuesday evening when a late strike from Patrick McCourt gave the visitors a share of the spoils.

Onandi Lowe struck twice and Paul Hall also got amongst the goals in a game that saw Diamonds come from behind on two occasions. But despite leading this game with two minutes remaining, McCourt’s deflected shot sealed a point for the visitors in a six-goal thriller.

The result means Diamonds are now five points behind league-leaders Hartlepool United with both sides having played the same number of games. 

Diamonds boss Brian Talbot received a huge boost prior to kick-off with the news that Lowe was passed fit to play despite doubts prior to the game after picking up a slight knock in the draw over Boston.

Paul Underwood also returned to the starting line-up after recovering from a hamstring injury that meant Andrew Sambrook, who impressed at York Street, dropped to the bench.

There were no sign of Mark Peters in the squad, which meant John Dempster was recalled to the substitute bench. Barry Hunter and Marcus Bignot both started despite carrying injuries.

Rochdale player-manager Paul Simpson named a similar side to the one that started proceedings in the 1-1 draw against Exeter City with dangerous striker Clive Platt leading the line in attack.

In an even opening to the first-half, the first opportunity of the game was gifted to Rochdale when a vital slip from Andrew Edwards enabled Paul Connor a sniff at goal but he wasted a chance by firing wide.

Lowe and Duane Darby were already looking dangerous in attack as the Rochdale defence struggled to cope with their power and pace.

This was a game of very few chances although Diamonds were certainly looking dangerous on the break. Neither goalkeeper had yet been forced into making a save.

After 15 minutes: Diamonds 0 Rochdale 0

The game soon turned scrappy with neither side finding any openings. Platt was shown a half-chance on 17 minutes but it never troubled Diamonds goalkeeper Billy Turley.

But the game sprung into life on 26 minutes when Rochdale surprisingly took the lead. Simpson ran towards the Diamonds goal following a delightful flick from Connor and with Edwards backing off it allowed the player-manager to strike a low shot into the corner of the net.

The goal came out of nowhere and was the first notable effort on either goal. Darby had an opportunity to responded moment later but dragged the ball across the face of the goal when maybe he should have tested the Rochdale goalkeeper.

After 30 minutes: Diamonds 0 Rochdale 1

Diamonds were soon putting Rochdale on the back foot although Lowe was struggling to have an influence on the game as the visitors defence kept the Jamaican at bay. 

Diamonds’ first effort on the visitors goal never arrived until 40 minutes when Underwood’s surging run produced a reflex save from Rochdale goalkeeper Matthew Gilks.

From the resulting corner, Diamonds came even closer when Hunter rose highest to crash a header across the face of the Rochdale crossbar.

But Diamonds had a chance to get on level terms when they were awarded a penalty following Lee Andrews’ handball in the penalty area following a mazy run from Underwood.

However, the home-side wasted their chance to score before half-time, which some would have said was undeserved, when Gilks guessed the right way to prevent Wardley.

AT HALF-TIME: DIAMONDS 0 ROCHDALE 1

Stuart Gray was introduced into the action at half time, replacing the quiet David Bell, who had struggled to make an impact in the first-half.

Rochdale made the brighter start to the second half and Simpson hit an early effort straight into the arms of Turley.

But Diamonds responded quickly and were back on level terms on 48 minutes when Underwood burst down the left flank to find the head of Hall, who nodded home from close range for his 15th goal of the season.

Gray nearly got his name on the score sheet on 52 minutes when the former Celtic midfielder struck a fierce shot goalbound only to see his effort fly narrowly wide.

Somehow, Gilks kept the scoreline level when he stopped Lowe’s effort from six-yards out after the Jamaican connected with Darby’s cross across the face of the Rochdale goal.

Darby should have scored on 57 minutes when, just like Lowe, he missed from six-yards with Gilks making a vital stop.

After 60 minutes: Diamonds 1 Rochdale 1

The pressure was coming from Diamonds and Wardley should have done better when he was gifted an opportunity from outside the area but the former QPR midfielder fired over the crossbar.

But an unfortunate break for Rochdale put them back in the lead when, after a scramble in the goalmouth, the ball struck Burgess, fell kindly to Simon Grand who sweetly swept home.

Gilks was having an amazing game in the Rochdale goal. This time Hall struck from close range with the Dale goalkeeper pushing the midfielders effort onto the crossbar and over the bar.

But the resulting corner led to an equaliser from Diamonds. Burgess’ kick was met by the rising head of Lowe, who out jumping the Rochdale defence to power past Gilks.

The Diamonds pressure was starting to tell and Lowe put the home side into the lead when Underwood’s cross was met by the Jamaican who, once, again, out jumped the Rochdale defence to power home.

After 75 minutes: Diamonds 3 Rochdale 2

Rochdale were refusing to let this game slip away from them and it was suddenly the Diamonds on the back foot with constant attacking pressure.

Hall nearly finished off a fantastic passing move when the midfielder linked up well with Lowe only for the Jamaican to squander a good opportunity from close range.

But a stroke of luck from Rochdale brought a further twist to this game when McCourt struck a shot, which took a wicked deflection off a Diamonds defender, deceiving Turley and flying into the corner of the net.

AT FULL TIME: DIAMONDS 3 ROCHDALE 3

Diamonds: Turley, Underwood, Hunter, Edwards, Wardley, Darby, Burgess, Bignot, Bell (Gray H/T), Hall, Lowe.

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

Bookings:

Rochdale: Gilks, Flitcroft (McCourt 77), Beech, Doughty, Simpson (Melaugh 73), Duffy, Platt (McEvilly 83), Andrews, Jobson, Grand, Connor.

Subs not used: Townson, Warner.

Bookings:

Referee: Mr L Cable.

Attendance: 3,444 (131 from Rochdale)

Diamonds’ MOTM: Paul Underwood (Contributed to two Diamond goals)

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