Oldham 3 Rushden & Diamonds 2

By Steven Dove

Rushden & Diamonds went down 3-2 to a late Matt O’Halloran goal after twice coming from behind.

The Diamonds had done the hard work with only ten men when Andrew Edwards was dismissed for a foul after ten minutes.

John Sheridan had put Oldham into the lead from the penalty spot but Onandi Lowe’s fifth goal in five game from a 30-yard free-kick squared the game at half-time.

Will Haining restored Oldham’s lead midway through the second-half but Bignot seemed to give Diamonds a share of the spoils.

However O’Halloran popped three minutes into injury time to strike past Turley and fall to their second away defeat of the season.

Diamonds boss Brian Talbot recalled Lowe to the starting line-up as Duane Darby, despite scoring his first goal of the season against QPR on Monday, dropped to the bench.

Gary Mills continued his role in the centre of midfield with Stuart Gray remaining amongst the substitutes.

Oldham gave a home debut to Mark Hudson, signed from Fulham. However, boss Iain Dowie was hit with the blow that new loan signing Calvin Zola Makongo from Newcastle was struck with illness.

Oldham nearly took the lead in 36 seconds when Paul Murray’s cross was tamely headed wide by Mikael Antoine-Curier.

Diamonds nearly responded moments later when, after Oldham failed to clear their lines, Andy Burgess had a volley deflected the wrong side of a post.

It was the home-side that enjoyed the better chances in the opening stages and David Eyres was unfortunate not to have broken the deadlock when his volley stuck the woodwork.

It was a poor start from Diamonds and things went from bad to worse for the visitors as, on 10 minutes, Edwards brought down John Eyre in the box. It seemed a harsh penalty decision but to everyone’s surprise the former Peterborough defender was also dismissed.

Sheridan calmly stepped up to slot home the penalty, sending Billy Turley the wrong way.

The dismissal resulted in the Diamonds boss bringing John Dempster into the equation, replacing the unfortunate Mills.

AFTER 15 MINS: OLDHAM 1 DIAMONDS 0

Lowe’s curling free-kick on 17 minutes nearly got Diamonds back on level terms in a rare effort for the visitors.

Turley came to the rescue to tip over a fantastic effort from Hudson on 21 minutes, displaying great agility and reflexes.

Oldham were in complete control of proceedings and Antoine-Curier saw a header drift wide of Turley’s goal.

AFTER 30 MINS: OLDHAM 1 DIAMONDS 0

On a number of occasions, Diamonds’ good build-up play was broken down by resilient and hard working Oldham defending.

Ernie Cooksey nearly finished off a well-worked move for Oldham on 36 minutes when he volleyed wide following a delightful right-wing cross from Haining.

Despite being under all the pressure, Diamonds hit back in tremendous style on 38 minutes when Lowe hit a trademark free-kick, from 30-yards, leaving Oldham goalkeeper Les Pogliacomi no chance.

Eyres struck the side netting moment later and Paul Hall squandered a good chance after Oldham had failed to clear up the danger from a Lowe free-kick.

Oldham finished the half strongly but couldn’t find a way past a resolute Diamonds defence, which had combated most of the bombardment the home-side had offered.

AT HALF TIME: OLDHAM 1 DIAMONDS 1

Andy Sambrook was brought into proceedings at the start of the second-half, replacing Hall but Oldham remained the stronger outfit at the restart.

Burgess was unfortunate not to test Pogliacomi on 49 minutes as the midfielder saw his shot deflected by an Oldham defender as he tried to finish off a good move from the visitors.

Sheridan nearly grabbed his second of the game when his connected with a cross on 53 minutes which flew over the Diamonds crossbar.

Oldham should have restored their lead on 56 minutes when Dempster failed to clear his lines and, somehow, Antoine-Curier struck the Diamonds crossbar from six-yards.

A tumble from Turley saw Diamonds have a scare on 59 minutes as Hunter cleared a corner off the goal line.

AFTER 60 MINS: OLDHAM 1 DIAMONDS 1

Lowe was unable to find the target from a 20-yard free-kick on 62 minutes with Diamonds enjoying a good spell of possession.

Oldham continued to threaten the Diamonds goal and Sheridan was unfortunate not to find the back of the net on 67 minutes with a long range effort.

Oldham restored their lead on 74 minutes when Eyres’ pile driver rebounded off the inside of a post to enable Haining to poke home from close range.

AFTER 75 MINS: OLDHAM 2 DIAMONDS 1

Gray was introduced into the action on 79 minutes as Diamonds tried to force an equaliser in the closing stages.

Oldham kept pushing forward as they kept hold of the ball, much to the frustration of Diamonds.

Rodney Jack burst clean through on 82 minutes but was forced wide which enabled Pogliacomi to make a comfortable save.

However, to their credit, Diamonds kept pushing forward and were back on level terms moments later. As Oldham failed to clear the danger, Bignot drove home Barry Hunter’s header from close-range, which squeezed into the bottom corner of the net.

 

And when it looked as if Diamonds would take a share of the spoils, O’Halloran stepped up to fire a shot into the corner of the net to send the Northamptonshire side home disappointed.

Oldham Athletic: Pogliacomi, Hudson, Haining, Holden, Clegg (O’Halloran 86), Sheridan (Roca 86), Murray, Cooksey, Eyre, Antoine-Curier (Vernon 76), Eyres.

Subs not used: Collin, Ndiwa

Bookings: Hudson (48)

Diamonds: Turley, Bignot, Underwood, Mills (Dempster 14), Edwards, Hunter, Jack, Burgess (Gray 79), Bell, Hall (Sambrook h/t), Lowe

Subs not used: Darby, Talbot.

Bookings: Hunter (90)

Sent-off: Edwards (11)

Referee: Mr M Cooper

Attendance: 5,469 (273 from Diamonds)

Diamonds’ MOTM:

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Rushden & Diamonds 3 QPR 3

By Steven Dove

Rushden & Diamonds produced a stunning comeback to claim a share of the spoils against Queens Park Rangers in a six goal thriller.

Onandi Lowe came off the substitute bench to grab the vital equaliser after Diamonds had fallen 3-1 behind thanks to two fantastic strikes from Gareth Ainsworth and a solo goal from Paul Furlong.

Duane Darby had given Diamonds a 16 minute lead, his 50th goal for the club but went in 2-1 down at the interval. Furlong goal extend the lead before Paul Hall gave Diamonds hope.

Diamonds boss Brian Talbot welcomed the return of Lowe to his squad after the Jamaican international recovered from a head injury.

However, it was the same starting eleven that claimed a surprise 2-1 win at Tranmere on Saturday with Darby and Rodney Jack leading the attack.

David Bell and Gary Mills started in midfield despite picking up knocks at Prenton Park with Lowe amongst the substitutes.

QPR boss Ian Holloway recalled Kevin Gallen in the starting line-up with Tony Thorpe dropping to the bench after making his club debut in Saturday’s win over Bournemouth.

QPR nearly opened the scoring inside the first minute when Paul Furlong squandered a chance from inside the area.

Paul Underwood may have been fortunate to stay on the field when he seemingly sent Gallen tumbling to after being put through on goal.

Diamonds had three players in the referee’s book after just six minutes with Billy Turley and Mills also seeing the yellow card.

Furlong’s 25-yard effort flew wide of Turley’s goal on 14 minutes in a rare effort in the opening stages of the game

AFTER 15 MINS: Diamonds 0 QPR 0

The deadlock was broken on 16 minutes when Darby slid home from close range to guide the ball past Chris Day when Paul Hall delivered a ball across the face of the goal.

Diamonds nearly doubled their advantage moments later when Day displayed great reflexes to tip over Hall’s volley from Bell’s right-wing cross.

Furlong, a constant menace to the Diamonds defence, swivelled to drill a shot over the crossbar on 25 minutes as QPR looked promising on the break.

AFTER 30 MINS: Diamonds 1 QPR 0

Furlong’s flying header on 34 minutes from Gallen’s right-wing cross tested Turley but flew the wrong side of a post.

QPR were back on level terms in spectacular style on 36 minutes when Ainsworth struck home a sweet 25-yard volley into Turley right-hand corner of the net. The goal, set-up by Tommy Williams, was applauded at all ends of the ground.

Turley’s was called to make an important stop two minutes before the interval when Furlong turned to hit a ball on the bounce. The Diamonds shot-stopper displayed great reflexes to tip the ball around the post

And Diamonds were dealt a blow before half-time as Ainsworth produced more magic, this time hitting a 30-yard effort into the same corner of the net as his first, leaving Turley stranded.

AT HALF TIME: DIAMONDS 1 QPR 2

Burgess nearly gave Diamonds the perfect start to the second-half when his first-time shot was comfortably saved by Day.

Furlong extended the visitors lead on 52 minutes when the former Watford and Chelsea striker coolly slotted past Turley after being released by Williams.

Lowe was introduced into the action on 57 minutes. Bell struck a wayward free-kick a minute later as Diamonds looked for a way back through.

Jack nearly picked out a gem on 59 minutes when the St Vincent international striker’s curling effort flew inches wide.

AFTER 60 MINUTES: Diamonds 1 QPR 3

Diamonds responded well to going two goals behind and Lowe nearly reduced the deficit with a close-range header.

Gallen nearly found the corner of the net on 66 minutes and Steve Palmer brought out a fine save from Turley moments later with a 25-yard pile driver.

Barry Hunter produced a timely tackle on 71 minutes to prevent Furlong extending the visitors advantage.

AFTER 75 MINUTES: Diamonds 1 QPR 3

QPR kept the pressure on their opponents and Tony Thorpe nearly came on the bench and made an immediate impact with a snap-shot that was blocked by Hunter.

Hall gave Diamonds a life line to reduce the deficit with a low strike, combining well with Lowe, beating Day and watching the ball creep into the corner of the net.

Diamonds kept the pressure on and with two minutes to go Lowe’s header nearly crept into the net.

But Diamonds produced a stunning comeback when Lowe found space in the penalty area to steer the ball home after the visitors failed to clear the lines from a corner.

Diamonds: Turley, Bignot, Underwood, Mills (Gray 56), Edwards, Hunter, Jack, Darby (Lowe 57), Burgess, Bell, Hall.

Subs not used: Dempster, Sambrook, Talbot.

Bookings: Underwood (4), Turley (5), Mills (6), Gray (66)

QPR: Day, Padula, Palmer, Carlisle, Shittu, Bircham, Gallen, Ainsworth, Rowlands, Furlong (Thorpe 72), Williams.

Subs not used: Culkin, Bean, Oli, Edghill.

Bookings: Bean (57), Shittu (61), Rowlands (62), Padula (88)

Referee: Mr L S Mason

Attendance: 5,544 (2,159 from QPR)

Diamonds’ MOTM: Rodney Jack

Video Highlights from this game are here.

Tranmere 1 Rushden & Diamonds 2

By Steven Dove

Rushden & Diamonds spoilt the Tranmere party by recording their first away victory in Division Two.

Rodney Jack and David Bell grabbed the goals as Tranmere missed out on equalling a club 18-match undefeated record.

Despite Gary Jones pulling a goal back for the home-side and hitting the crossbar late on, Diamonds held on to a fully deserved three points.

Diamonds went into the match without the services of Onandi Lowe, scorer of three goals this season, with a head injury.

It meant Duane Darby partnered Rodney Jack in attack with Gary Mills keeping his place in the starting line-up at the expense of Stuart Gray.

Owen Story was given his first taste of first-team football with a spot amongst the substitutes.

Tranmere boss Ray Mathias named an unchanged starting line-up to the side that drew with Hartlepool United last week.

Simon Haworth nearly gave Tranmere the perfect start to the game inside the opening minute when he was given a free header which the striker guided wide.

The home-side started strongly and moment’s later Haworth was given another header but on this occasion he failed to trouble Billy Turley.

However, despite soaking up the early pressure Diamonds took the lead on six minutes. A cross from the right flank by Marcus Bignot saw Jack sweep the ball home on the volley past Rovers goalkeeper John Achterberg.

Tranmere nearly responded soon after when Ryan Taylor’s corner was flicked towards goal by Haworth, which forced Turley to tip over the crossbar.

After 15 minutes: Tranmere 0 Diamonds 1

Diamonds soon began to find their feet after a nervy start and on 19 minutes Paul Hall struck the side netting from Andy Burgess’ pinpoint cross.

Turley produced a breathtaking save on 23 minutes to keep his side in front when he stretched to meet Jones’ powerful header.

Jack had a header cleared off the line on 27 minutes as Diamonds, following a slow start, began to control the game.

After 30 minutes: Tranmere 0 Diamonds 1

Ian Sharps flashed a header wide on 30 minutes as Tranmere tried to discover their early match form.

And Diamonds’ fantastic play saw them double their advantage when Bell’s one-two with Jack saw the young midfielder lob Achterberg in spectacular style on 33 minutes.

Mills tried a 30-yard effort on 37 minutes and moments later Jack went close with a snap-shot from inside the area.

Tranmere nearly responded before the break but Iain Hume’s curling effort flew the wrong side of a post.

AT HALF-TIME: TRANMERE 0 DIAMONDS 2

Tranmere came out of the blocks in the second-half and Taylor’s corner on 46 minutes was headed towards goal by Graham Allen, which Turley was equal with.

The home-side began to push bodies forward and their was nearly an embarrassing moments for Burgess as he went close to diverting the ball into his own net.

Darby had a shot blocked on 58 minutes in a rare second-half effort for Diamonds.

After 60 minutes: Tranmere 0 Diamonds 2

Eugene Didi went close for Tranmere in a number of successive corners won on 61 minutes but the Diamonds defence stood strong to combat the bombardment.

Tranmere continued to enjoy the majority of the possession without really testing Diamonds and a wayward effort from Sean Connelly on 66 minutes was the closest the home-side had come for some considerable time.

However, moments after coming on the field substitute Alex Hay crossed for Jones whose diving header from close range was unstoppable by Turley.

As the Prenton Park fans got behind their team, Tranmere began to spur on, and Haworth went inches wide on 71 minutes with a thunderous header.

Turley was forced to make an important stop from Jones on 73 minutes when the Tranmere striker found space in the penalty area to drive a low shot.

After 75 minutes: Tranmere 1 Diamonds 2

Hall tried his luck from 30-yards on 76 minutes although Achterberg made a comfortable save.

Tranmere continued to push bodies forward but Andrew Edwards and Barry Hunter were turning solid performances’ at the heart of the Diamonds’ defence.

Haworth nearly caught Turley unaware on 84 minutes with a snap-shot that nearly crept into the corner of the Diamonds net.

Tranmere hit the crossbar in the closing stages when Hume deflected Jones shot and Turley pulled off a breathtaking from Haworth to help record a first ever away victory in Division Two.

AFTER 90 MINUTES: TRANMERE 1 DIAMONDS 2

Tranmere: Achterberg, Connelly, Roberts, Allen, Sharps, Hume, Mellon, Haworth, Jones, Nicholson (Dadi 55), Taylor (Hay 69).

Subs not used: Gray, Howarth, Navarro

Bookings: Sharps (42), Roberts (56)

Diamonds: Turley, Bignot, Underwood, Mills, Edwards, Hunter, Jack, Darby, Burgess, Bell, Hall.

Subs not used: Gray, Dempster, Sambrook, Talbot, Story.

Bookings: Edwards (29), Underwood (51), Mills (89)

Referee: Mr S Mathieson.

Attendance:

Diamonds’ MOTM: Billy Turley

Rushden & Diamonds 2 Plymouth Argyle 1

By Steven Dove

Two goals in the space of a minute from Onandi Lowe and Rodney Jack gave Diamonds their first win in Division Two.

Lowe’s towering header and Jack’s solo effort, his first ever goal for Diamonds, in the second half were enough to seal three points against Plymouth Argyle.

Tony Capaldi kept Diamonds nerves jangling with a 76th minute strike but Diamonds did enough to secure an opening win at Nene Park.

Brian Talbot was handed a boost prior to kick-off as he named an unchanged side to the one that was defeated against West Ham United.

Jack partnered Lowe in attack with Stuart Gray and Duane Darby remaining on the bench for Diamonds.

Plymouth, winners of the Third Division championship two-seasons-ago, named a strong starting line-up with Jason Bent and Marino Keith expected to cause Diamonds problems.

After a scrappy start, Diamonds nearly opened the scoring on two minutes when Paul Hall’s volley was dragged wide of the target.

Diamonds were praying from a penalty on six minutes when Lowe was seemingly brought down by Argyle’s centre-half Paul Wotton. However, the referee waved away the appeals.

Lowe was causing torment in the Plymouth defence and saw a free-kick on eight minutes strike the wall.

Jack was handed a golden opportunity two minutes later when the Diamonds striker fired over the crossbar from close-range following Lowe’s right wing cross.

After 15 minutes: Diamonds 0 Plymouth 0

Plymouth, who were sporting bright orange jersey’s, carved open their first opportunity when David Norris cut in from the right to drag a shot wide of Turley’s goal.

Diamonds continued to enjoy more of the possession and Lowe’s 30-yard effort nearly caught out Plymouth goalkeeper Romain Larrieu.

The visitors rarely threatened but a thunderous shot on 19 minutes from Lee Hodges produced a fine flying save from Billy Turley.

Lowe was causing Plymouth problems as the Jamaican’s power and pace gave him a number of opportunities at the visitor’s goal.

After 30 minutes: Diamonds 0 Plymouth 0

Keith should have tested Turley on 34 minutes when the Argyle striker dragged an effort after creating himself space in the Diamonds penalty area.

Chances were few and far between as the referee made a number of decisions to the frustration of the Diamond fans.

AT HALF TIME: DIAMONDS 0 PLYMOUTH 0

The second-half saw a slow opening and it wasn’t until Graham Coughlan had a header saved on 52 minutes by Turley that the game began to open up.

And as the game began to open up, Diamonds broke the deadlock as Lowe climbed above the Plymouth defence to head home Gary Mills’ cross.

And moments later, Diamonds doubled their advantage as Jack capitalised on a back pass from Lee Hodges to round past Larrieu and slot into an empty net.

Plymouth boss Paul Sturrock had already criticised his defence following last week’s Carling Cup exit against Colchester and no doubt the former Dundee manger would be fuming at this latest showing.

After 60 minutes: Diamonds 2 Plymouth Argyle 0

Plymouth rarely threatened and Keith’s tame effort on 64 minutes gave Turley little trouble.

Burgess’ left wing cross on 68 minutes picked out Hall in the centre of the area but the Jamaican was unable to find any power behind his header.

Norris’ header on 71 minutes was a rare effort for Plymouth as Diamonds remained firmly in control of proceedings.

An awful challenge from Friio on Burgess left the Diamonds bench fuming and resulted in Brian being sent to the stands for consistent arguing.

After 75 minutes: Diamonds 2 Plymouth Argyle 0

Plymouth, unexpectedly, got themselves back into the game on 76 minutes when Capaldi’s curling effort from outside the area gave Turley no chance.

Ian Stonebridge fired over on 80 minutes as Plymouth pushed bodies forward in the closing stages.

Turley was asked to make a number stops with five minutes remaining as the pressure on the Diamonds defence increased. 

However, Plymouth could not find a way through to spark celebrations from the Diamonds fans and record the clubs first ever win in Division Two.

AT FULL TIME: DIAMONDS 2 PLYMOUTH ARGYLE 1

Diamonds: Turley, Bignot, Underwood, Mills, Edwards, Hunter, Jack (Darby 79), Burgess, Bell, Hall, Lowe.

Subs not used: Gray, Dempster, Talbot

Bookings: Mills (4)

Plymouth Argyle: Larrieu, Worrell (Adams 80), Hodges (Stonebridge 66), Friio, Coughlan, Norris, Bent, Evans, Capaldi, Wotton, Keith (Lowndes 75).

Subs not used: Aljofree, McCormick.

Bookings: Friio

Referee: Mr B Knight

Attendance: 4,045 (989 from Plymouth)

Diamonds’ MOTM: Onandi Lowe

Date Published: 16th August 2003

West Ham United 3 Rushden & Diamonds 1

By Steven Dove

Rushden & Diamonds did themselves proud, despite being knocked out of the Carling Cup at the hands of West Ham United.

After going two goals down in the opening 15 minutes, Diamonds showed great character to get back in the game before half-time through Onandi Lowe.

And, to their credit, Diamonds controlled large periods of the second-half before David Connolly added his second of the night on 75 minutes to seal a 3-1 win. Jermaine Defoe had opened the scoring for the Hammers.

Diamonds boss Brian Talbot handed Rodney Jack his full club debut as the St Vincent international striker partnered Lowe in attack.

Gary Mills was given his first start of the season as Duane Darby and Stuart Gray dropped to the bench.

It resulted in Andy Burgess moving out to the left flank, with Mills and David Bell starting in the centre of midfield.

West Ham boss Glen Roeder made a number of changes to his starting line-up from the one that defeated Preston over the weekend. Connolly, Robert Lee and Matthew Etherington all made their home debuts for the club.

Diamonds survived a number of nervy moments early on before Paul Hall’s long-range effort on four minutes drifted wide of the West Ham goal.

Billy Turley was called into action moment later when he made an important save from Youssef Sofiane after the home-side carved open the Diamonds defence.

Diamonds were struggling to cope with the pace of Defoe and it was the nippy striker who broke the deadlock on nine minutes. David Noble’s chip beat Turley but struck the crossbar enabling Defoe to head home from the rebound.

Diamonds barely had time to recover when a second goal hit the back of the net. Defoe picked out Connolly’s run into the box on 14 minutes, enabling the former Wimbledon forward to side foot a shot past Turley.

After 15 minutes: West Ham 2 Diamonds 0

West Ham’s attacking flair was evident as Defoe and Connolly made a mockery of the Diamonds defence.

Diamonds nearly fell further behind on 21 minutes had it not been for a timely interception from Barry Hunter after Etherington made a dangerous run into the area.

Diamonds did little to warrant any immediate response and a low drive from Mills on 23 minutes was the best the visitors had to offer.

Connolly tested Turley moment later with a long-range effort as the Hammers kept on the pressure.

After 30 minutes: West Ham 2 Diamonds 0

Defoe, who is continuingly been linked with a move to Manchester United, fired wide on 31 minutes after the Diamonds defence backed off the West Ham striker.

Lowe brought back a glimmer of hope for Diamonds when he fired home a 25-yard free-kick past James after the Jamaican international was impeded by Christian Dailly.

Diamonds soon sparked into life and James was called to make an important stop on 37 minutes when Hall struck a powerful low drive from 25-yards.

Hall fired a volley over the crossbar on 40 minutes as Diamonds enjoyed their best spell of the game.

Paul Underwood came close for Diamonds on the stroke of half-time but failed to trouble James from the edge of the area.

AT HALF TIME: WEST HAM UNITED 2 DIAMONDS 1

Diamonds started the second-half strongly and had claims for a penalty, after 49 minutes, turned away when Burgess was sent tumbling in the area.

Connolly saw his turn-and-shot deflected over the crossbar on 51 minutes and from the resulting corner Anton Ferdinand had a header cleared off the goal line from Mills.

Diamonds continued to enjoy more of the possession and Burgess drifted a 25-yard effort wide of the target on 58 minutes after creating himself space.

After 60 minutes: West Ham United 2 Diamonds 1

West Ham’s chances were rare and Sofiane’s erratic 25-yard shot, which flew high over the Diamonds crossbar, was the best the home-side could offer.

Ferdinand was taken off on a stretcher on 66 minutes, much to the concern of Roeder on the Hammers bench.

Diamonds had further opportunities to get back on level terms through Lowe and Jack although Richard Garcia nearly found the target, cutting in from the right and firing over the visitor’s crossbar.

After 75 minutes: West Ham United 2 Diamonds 1

Diamonds were in total control of the game and their patient build-up play was starting to frustrate the home crowd.

However, against the run of play, West Ham sealed the tie with a third goal. After Diamonds failed to clear their lines from a corner, Connolly added his second when he pounced on Turley’s failure to hold Defoe’s low drive.

Bell’s 30-yard shot on 81 minutes flew over James’ goal as the West Ham defence went sleeping.

Diamonds kept the pressure on Wes Ham until the final moments and had a number of opportunities for a consolation but it wasn’t to be.

AT FULL TIME: WEST HAM UNITED 3 DIAMONDS 1 

West Ham United: James, Repka, Brevett, Lee, Dailly, Connolly, Defoe, Etherington, Ferdinand (Byrne 66), Sofiane (Garcia 66), Noble

Subs not used: Bywater, Mellor, McMahon

Bookings: Repka (80),

Diamonds: Turley, Bignot, Underwood, Mills (Gray 85), Edwards, Hunter (Dempster 85), Jack (Darby 80), Burgess, Bell, Hall, Lowe.

Subs not used: Sambrook, Talbot

Bookings: Hunter (25)

Referee: Mr M G Cowburn.

Attendance: 13,715

Diamonds’ MOTM: Marcus Bignot (Solid display)

Date Published: 13th August 2003

Luton Town 3 Rushden & Diamonds 1

By Steven Dove

Despite Onandi Lowe giving Diamonds a first-half lead, Brian Talbot’s side slipped to an opening day defeat against Luton Town at Kenilworth Road.

Lowe struck midway through the first-half but a double strike from Tony Thorpe and a late header from Matthew Spring wrapped up a fourth win for the Hatters over Diamonds.

Diamonds boss Brian Talbot named the same starting line-up which started in last season’s title decider game against Hartlepool United.

It meant there was no place for new signing Rodney Jack, as he started on the bench. Stuart Gray was passed fit to play and began on the left side of midfield. Lowe and Duane Darby started proceedings in attack

Luton boss Mike Newell, the former Hartlepool manager, gave a club debut to midfielder Courtney Pitt, who signed on Friday evening from Portsmouth after the Football League relaxed its transfer embargo on the club.

Young defender Kevin Foley was also given an unexpected starting role whilst Steve Howard shrugged off a niggling injury to partner Thorpe in attack.

Diamonds started positively and carved open their first opportunity on six minutes when Lowe’s header from Marcus Bignot’s cross flew straight into the arms of Luton’s rookie goalkeeper Robert Beckwith.

Chances were few and far between in an even opening. Luton had plenty of the ball but were failing to turn possession into chances and test Billy Turley in the Diamonds goal.

Thorpe went close for Luton on 14 minutes but was penalised for an infringement in the penalty area as he connected with a Matthew Spring corner.

Beckwith was called into action moments later when Lowe’s powerful drive from an acute angle was blocked by the Luton teenager.

After 15 minutes: Luton Town 0 Diamonds 0

Howard’s miss-timed effort on 18 minutes caused Turley little trouble as the home side slowly began to put Diamonds on the back foot.

Luton were soon beginning to take control and Pitt’s ambitious lob on 21 minutes was cause for concern to Diamonds.

Hall’s long range effort failed to trouble Beckwith on 25 minutes and Darby went close moments later with a shot which flew wide of the target.

After 30 minutes: Luton Town 0 Diamonds 0

Lowe was adjudged to be in an offside position when the Jamaican international’s flying header flew into the arms of Beckwith on 31 minutes.

But Lowe finally got on the score sheet when Hall’s through ball found his international team-mate on 37 minutes who calmly slotted past Beckwith into the corner of the net.

Luton soon stepped up their pressure on Diamonds with the home-side playing some attractive football in the sweltering heat.

However, they couldn’t find a way past the steady Diamonds defence, who had limited Luton to few chances in the first-half.

AT HALF-TIME: LUTON TOWN 0 DIAMONDS 1

Luton nearly responded immediately in the second half when Spring drilled a low shot on 48 minutes which was well saved by Turley.

But Luton were back on level terms four minutes into the half when Pitt’s delightful through ball paved way for Thorpe to side foot a shot past Turley and into the corner of the net.

It was the least Luton deserved after starting the second-half strongly. Pitt was causing problems for Hall and Gray down the flank as Diamonds were put on the back foot.

Luton doubled their advantage in bizarre circumstances on 59 minutes. Turley was forced to kick the ball out for a corner after being pressurised by Thorpe in the corner of the pitch.

As Turley protested to the linesman that he was being impeded, Howard’s quick thinking from the corner resulted in Thorpe guiding a header into the back of the net before Turley could return to his goal.

After 60 minutes: Luton Town 2 Diamonds 1

On two occasions, Lowe failed to hit the target from long range free-kicks but Hall should have got Diamonds back on level terms when he was denied by Beckwith’s onrushing save.

Jack and Gary Mills were introduced to the action on 67 minutes. Jack replaced Darby in attack, whilst Bell switched out to the left flank, with Mills partnering Burgess in the centre.

Burgess nearly caught Beckwith napping with a cross-cum-shot on 71 minutes and Lowe nearly guided a header into the net moments later when Beckwith failed to reach a Diamonds corner.

After 75 minutes: Luton Town 2 Diamonds 1

Diamonds began to push bodies forward in the closing stages and Underwood’s cross on 77 minutes only needed a Diamonds body to poke it home.

Howard nearly added a third for Luton on 85 minutes when Thorpe’s cross caught Turley napping but the former Northampton striker was denied on the goal line by Barry Hunter.

Bell’s curling free-kick brushed the outside of the Luton post on 86 minutes as Diamonds tried to salvage something from the game.

And as Diamonds pushed forward to salvage a point, they were hit on the break as Spring headed past Turley from close range.

AT FULL TIME: LUTON 3 DIAMONDS 1

Luton Town: Beckwith, Neilson, Spring, Nicholls, Thorpe, Coyne, Pitt (Brkovic 87), Boyce, Howard, Hughes, Foley.

Subs not used: Bayliss, Brill, Crowe, Okai.

Bookings: Foley (41), Spring (52), Boyce (86)

Diamonds: Turley, Bignot, Underwood, Hunter, Edwards, Bell, Burgess, Hall, Gray (Mills 67), Darby (Jack 67), Lowe

Subs not used: Sambrook, Dempster, Talbot.

Bookings:

Referee: Iain Williamson (Berkshire)

Attendance: 6,878 (922 from Diamonds)

Diamonds’ MOTM: Barry Hunter

Date Published: 9th August 2003

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