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

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