Carlisle 1 Rushden & Diamonds 2

By Steven Dove

Rushden & Diamonds celebrated their promotion to the Second Division by returning to the top of the league following this 2-1 victory over Carlisle United at Brunton Park.

But the game ended in disappointment as Stuart Wardley, who scored the opening goal, left the field with minutes remaining on a stretcher following a horrific challenge from Mark Summerbell, which resulted in the midfielder being shown a second yellow card.

However it didn’t dampen the promotion party as Diamonds leapfrogged Hartlepool. Andrew Edwards added a second for Diamonds and despite a late consolation and onslaught from Carlisle, the visitors held on for victory.

Diamonds boss Brian Talbot went into the match making one change to the side that secured a vital win against near-neighbours Lincoln City last Saturday at Nene Park.

Onandi Lowe was missing from the starting line-up due to personal reasons, which resulted in him flying back to Jamaica. Dean Holdsworth, making his second start in Diamonds colours, replaced the striker in the starting line-up.

Paul Underwood and Duane Darby, who were both substituted during the win over Lincoln, were passed fit to play. Stuart Gray kept his place on the left side of midfield.

Carlisle boss Roddy Collins made four changes to his side. Mark Birch, Lee Maddison, Jon McCarthy and Craig Farrell were all back in the starting line-up after missing the 1-1 draw against York City in midweek.

Carlisle started brightly and a right-footed driven shot in the opening minute from captain Peter Murphy was an early indication that the home-side were fully intending to put Diamonds’ promotion party on hold.

Moments later, Carlisle should have been in front when Craig Russell skipped past the challenge of Andrew Edwards to deliver an inch perfect cross, only for Farrell to side foot a shot over the crossbar.

Holdsworth nearly broke the deadlock for Diamonds in a blistering start to the game. The former Wimbledon and Bolton striker struck on four minutes but saw his effort, from the edge of the box, travel over the crossbar.

Diamonds were certainly struggling to get the ball out of their own half as Carlisle continued to impress in the opening stages of this contest.

After 15 minutes: Carlisle 0 Diamonds 0

On 15 minutes, Holdsworth’s trickery in the centre of the park released Wardley, but the Diamonds midfielder wasted a glorious opportunity when he blasted over the Carlisle crossbar.

As the large Brunton Park crowd tried to cheer on their side, Diamonds continued to show signs that they may break the deadlock as Holdsworth’s effort from close range on 20 minutes fizzled wide.

Gray’s miss-hit free-kick on 25 minutes failed to cause Carlisle goalkeeper Matthew Glennon any trouble although Diamonds continued to show positive signs of breaking the deadlock.

Wardley, who started the game impressively for Diamonds, nearly picked out the perfect pass for Holdsworth but the striker strayed into an offside position, much to the frustration on the visitor’s bench.

After 30 minutes: Carlisle 0 Diamonds 0

A sloppy spell of defending in the Diamonds defence resulted in a dangerous free kick for the home side and Billy Turley acrobatically saved Russell’s left footed shot.

A header from Will McDonagh resulted in Turley having to make an important save on 38 minutes as Carlisle began to get themselves back into the game.

Diamonds’ first corner of the game resulted in Darby having a glorious opportunity to open the scoring but the striker failed to connect with the moving ball.

The first-half concluded with Diamonds creating a good opportunity. A deadly ball from the right flank caused problems in the Carlisle defence and Birch had to make a timely tackle to stop an obvious goal.

AT HALF TIME: CARLISLE 0 DIAMONDS 0

Diamonds thought they should have been awarded a penalty two minutes into the second half when Holdsworth, who skipped past two Carlisle defenders, was bundled over. The referee, however, waved away the protests.

The visitors started the second-half brightly and Darby went close with a long-range effort, which flew wide of Glennon’s goal.

But the deadlock was broken for Diamonds on 55 minutes. Darby’s cross from the right flank was dummied beautifully by Marcus Bignot and as the ball rolled across the face of the box, Wardley was on hand to smash a shot in the back of the net.

After 60 minutes: Carlisle 0 Diamonds 1

Diamonds edged closer towards the Second Division when they added a second on 63 minutes when Burgess’ delightful free-kick was powered into the back of the net by a fierce close-range header from Edwards, to notch his first goal for the club.

Carlisle refused to lie down and they continued to attack Turley’s goal with some long-range efforts.

Rundle squandered a good opportunity for Carlisle on 68 minutes, which drifted wide of Turley’s goal.

Paul Hall brought out a fantastic save from Glennon on 70 minutes when the Jamaican midfielder struck from 30-yards as the Carlisle shot-stopper tipped the effort over the crossbar.

After 75 minutes: Carlisle 0 Diamonds 2

With news flittering throw that both Hartlepool and Bournemouth were both losing, the large Diamonds crowd began the celebrations as the visitors began to look for a third.

But this match was not over as Carlisle pulled a goal back. Brian Wake crossed from the right flank and as Turley could only palm away the ball into the box, Stuart Green struck home on 80 minutes.

With five minutes remaining, Diamonds were on the back foot and Edwards, who was enjoying his best game for the club, made a timely tackle on Wake to prevent a goal scoring opportunity.

But Carlisle’s opportunity of snatching an equaliser was dented as Summerbell was dismissed for an awful challenge on Wardley, whose impressive performance ended on a stretcher.

But despite a late onslaught, Diamonds held on to an excellent victory as the promotion party began.

AT FULL TIME: Carlisle 1 Diamonds 2

Carlisle: Glennon, Birch, Maddison, Murphy, McDonagh (Green 41), Kelly, McCarthy (Baldacchino 59), Summerbell, Russell, Rundle, Farrell (Wake 53).

Subs not used: Andrews, Keen.

Bookings: Summerbell (57 + 85), Birch (62)

Sent-off: Summerbell (85)

Diamonds: Turley, Underwood, Hunter, Edwards, Bignot (Sambrook 58), Wardley (Bell 88), Burgess (Mills 83), Gray, Hall, Holdsworth, Darby.

Subs not used: Duffy, Dempster.

Bookings: Holdsworth (36), Edwards (90)

Referee: Mr S Mathieson.

Attendance: 5,468

Diamonds’ MOTM: Stuart Wardley (Deserved his goal)

Match Gallery Pictures courtesy of Mal Swinden

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