Bristol Rovers 1 Rushden & Diamonds 2

By Steven Dove

Onandi Lowe maintained his incredible scoring record against Bristol Rovers as he bagged a brace to put Rushden & Diamonds closer to the Third Division championship

The Jamaican international striker grabbed a goal either half to put him on 15 goals for the season, level pegging with midfielder Paul Hall in the race for the clubs top marksmen. Lowe has now scored six goals in four games against Rovers.

Diamonds had gone behind as early as the second minute when Vitalijs Astafjevs had put Rovers into the lead. But Diamonds kept their heads held high to keep their unbeaten running going.

Dean Holdsworth was handed his Diamonds debut with Duane Darby continuing to struggle with a hamstring injury, which has hampered him all week.

The former Wimbledon and Bolton striker partnered Lowe in attack with Stuart Gray also keeping his place of the left-side of midfielder despite the return of David Bell, who was named amongst the substitutes.

There was no place in the squad for Mark Peters meaning Andrew Sambrook, Robert Duffy and John Dempster were included on the bench for Diamonds.

Bristol Rovers’ new signing Andy Rammell was handed his home debut for the club following his transfer from Wycombe Wanderers. Ijah Anderson was out for Rovers through injury meaning Danny Boxall was drafted in to cover in defence.

Diamonds made the worst possible start to the game when, after only two minutes, Rovers broke the deadlock. Following a long kick up field, Astafjevs was able to skip past Paul Underwood and fire an unstoppable shot past Billy Turley.

After Diamonds had made a good opening to the game, it shocked the visitors and a quick response was needed.

However, it was the home side who continue to look dangerous on the attack and Rammell nearly doubled Rovers advantage on six minutes when he saw his header scooped off the line from Barry Hunter.

Diamonds were struggling to find a way past the Rovers defence and with the home side pursuing with the offside trap, it saw the visitors limited in their opportunities.

After 15 minutes: Rovers 1 Diamonds 0

A horrible mistake from Turley on 15 minutes nearly gifted Rammell a goal but the Diamonds goalkeeper was sparred his blushes when his miss-kick was dealt with by Hunter.

Diamonds first notable effort arrived on 17 minutes when Lowe twisted past Kevin Austin to fire a shot from an acute angle past Rovers goalkeeper Scott Howie’s left-hand post.

Hunter fired over the crossbar two minutes later but it was Rovers who continued to look dangerous on the attack.

After 30 minutes: Rovers 1 Diamonds 0

Rovers were completely running the show and Diamonds were showing nothing for their efforts as the Pirates continued to look the more likely to team to score.

Diamonds’ chances were rare but, against the run of play, the visitors were back on level terms. Stuart Wardley headed in a loose ball back into the area for Lowe to bravely beat Howie on 36 minutes with his head to nod home from close-range.

The goal was somewhat undeserved but it sparked Diamond and Lowe nearly went close moments later with a header but the Jamaican was edged out by Austin.

Rovers ended the half strongly but they had to make do with going in level at the interval, despite dominating large periods of the opening 45 minutes.

AT HALF-TIME: ROVERS 1 DIAMONDS 1

It was a jaded start for both sides in the second half with missed opportunities and some bad passing.

Lowe was struggling to display his power and pace and threaten the Rovers goal as the Diamonds striker was closely watched by Austin.

Diamonds nearly took the lead on 53 minutes when Andy Edwards, who had pushed forward for a free kick, was denied by a reflex save from Howie, who managed to scoop the ball out from underneath his body.

Rovers went close on 57 minutes when Rob Quinn drilled a volley wide of the target but it was the visitors who, for the first time in the game, were beginning to enjoy the majority of the possession.

After 60 minutes: Rovers 1 Diamonds 1

Holdsworth, who was having a quiet game for Diamonds, went close on 64 minutes after the striker cut in from the flank to fizz a shot just inches the wrong side of Howie’s post.

Diamonds were looking dangerous on the attack and on 67 minutes, the visitors took the lead.

A delightful sweeping move involving Andy Burgess, Underwood and Holdsworth enabled Hall to chip the ball over Howie from the flank to leave Lowe with the simplest of goals, scoring from a few yards into an empty net.

Rovers’ play was starting to frustrate the home crowd with their inaccurate passing and their sloppy play as Diamonds began to take full advantage.

After 75 minutes: Rovers 1 Diamonds 2

Rovers boss Ray Graydon was quickly forced to make changes to his side which quickly saw Grazioli and Wayne Carlisle thrown into the action, with the home side playing three in attack.

Astafjevs tried his luck from a 25-yard free-kick which was pushed aside by th flying Turley as Rovers continued to push bodies forward to try and salvage something from this contest.

Lowe nearly opened an opportunity to extend Diamonds’ lead on 83 minutes but the striker was thwarted by Boxall.

Rovers threw bodies forward in the closing stages but were unable to get past the Diamonds defence as the visitors held on with four added minutes remaining.

AT FULL TIME: ROVERS 1 DIAMONDS 2

Rovers: Howie, Parker (Carlisle 76), Boxall, Austin, Barrett, Quinn (Tait 71), Hodges, Hyde, Llewellyn (Grazioli 64), Rammell, Astafjevs.

Subs not used: Bryant, Street.

Bookings: Rammell (42), Quinn (45)

Diamonds: Turley, Bignot, Hunter, Edwards, Underwood, Hall (Sambrook 81) Wardley, Burgess, Gray, Lowe, Holdsworth (Duffy 84).

Subs not used: Mills, Bell, Dempster.

Bookings: Bignot (43), Hall (62), Wardley (82)

Referee: Mr Clive Penton.

Attendance: 6,736 (350 from Diamonds)

Diamonds’ MOTM: Barry Hunter (Consistent)

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