Notts County 1 Rushden & Diamonds 3

By Steven Dove

Notts County are virtually penniless and were also left pointless this evening by a rampant Rushden & Diamonds performance.

Onandi Lowe, Duane Darby and a Stuart Gray penalty erased memories of Saturday’s disappointing defeat by Brentford as Diamonds took full control of this encounter.

Brian Talbot’s side had fallen a goal behind through Mark Stallard’s overhead kick but this was always going to be Diamonds’ day as they ran rings around their struggling opponents.

Darby, a former Magpie, began proceedings with a starting role in attack, leaving Rodney Jack to operate on the left-flank and Gray pushing into the centre of midfield.

And there was a recall for Ritchie Hanlon, who was called upon to be amongst the substitutes, his first selection for a competitive first-team fixture for over a year.

Notts County included ex-Tottenham midfielder Darren Caskey in their side, with the club fresh off the back of a win over Chesterfield at the weekend.

The game was barely four minutes old when Lowe sent a header inches wide of the Notts County goal following Paul Underwood’s pinpoint cross.

Notts County had rarely threatened until ex-Rochdale midfielder Clive Platt’s mis-timed shot nearly caught Billy Turley off guard.

For all their possession, Diamonds carved open little opportunity but Duane Darby went close with a turn-and-shot following some excellent midfield work from Gray.

AFTER 15 MINS: Notts County 0 Diamonds 0

Darby was continually looking sharp and Lowe was causing the home side problems as Diamonds began to discover cracks in the County defence.

Jack tried his luck from outside the area on 22 minutes, swivelling past two defenders before unleashing a low shot straight into the arms of County goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall.

The home-side, who had rarely threatened, set up their best effort of the game on 24 minutes when Platt turned inside the Diamonds penalty area to hit his shot just wide.

Platt, who played for Rochdale during Diamonds’ play-off encounter two-years-ago, was a constant threat for the visitors with his height and presence.

And on 26 minutes he played a role in the opening goal when he gained the vital flick on from a long throw to enable Stallard to capitalise on a mistake from Underwood and find the net with an acrobatic overhead kick.

However, the lead lasted just two minutes as a Paul Hall corner was met by a rising header from Lowe, who lost his marker in the penalty area and gave Mildenhall no chance.

AFTER 30 MINS: Notts County 1 Diamonds 1

County’s wayward passing was frustrating their supporters as Diamonds tried to capitalise on their generosity.

Darby saw an effort from an acute angle on 37 minutes blocked by Mildenhall and the resulting corner led to Lowe going close with a header.

Despite Diamonds’ domination, Notts County should have restored their lead on 43 minutes when Paul Bollard fired over from close range as they ripped through the visitors’ defence.

However, Diamonds themselves thought they had taken the lead on the stroke of half-time when Lowe saw Mildenhall first produce a stretching save from a towering header and then block the Jamaican’s follow-up effort.

AT HALF TIME: Notts County 1 Diamonds 1

Diamonds started the second-half in a positive manner and were in front just three minutes after the restart when Lowe was sent tumbling in the area by Tony Barras resulting in Gray firing home from the spot.

With County behind, the pressure from the home side increased as Stallard nearly took advantage of a slip from Barry Hunter but the striker was denied by a vital tackle from Turley.

Lowe hit a 30-yard effort straight into the arms of Mildenhall on 55 minutes and Jack went close moments later.

Chances were few and far between for County as Diamonds’ defence held firm and limited the home-side to few openings.

AFTER 60 MINS: Notts County 1 Diamonds 2

A weak effort from Ian Baraclough on 62 minutes was County’s best effort in the second-half, drilling a low shot straight into the arms of Turley.

Diamonds kept pushing bodies forward in an attempt to secure three valuable points and David Bell maybe should have tested Mildenhall on 63 minutes but a moment of hesitation forced the youngster wide.

The football from Diamonds was, at times, of a high standard but for all their possession they couldn’t find a third.

Notts County were struggling to find a way through the Diamonds defence but Turley was forced to make an acrobatic save from Baraclough’s in swinging shot on 69 minutes.

AFTER 75 MINS: Notts County 1 Diamonds 2

With time ticking away, County boss Billy Dearden pushed his men forward and the resulting tactic nearly ended in an equaliser with Stallard firing wide.

Jack was causing problems for the Magpies down the left flank and after winning a free-kick, Diamonds nearly grabbed a third with a Lowe header.

However, Darby deservedly sealed all three points when he finished off a wonderful flowing move on 82 minutes, crashing a shot off the inside of a post and past Mildenhall.

Diamonds went in search for a fourth in the closing stages but at the full time whistle they left the field to a standing ovation from the travelling contingent who made themselves heard throughout this contest.

AT FULL TIME: NOTTS COUNTY 1 DIAMONDS 3 

Notts County: Mildenhall, Fenton, Baraclough, Barras, Platt (Hackworth 79), Caskey (Brough 79), Stallard, Nicholson (Riley 79), Bolland, Baldry, Livesey.

Subs not used: Deeney, McFaul.

Bookings:

Diamonds: Turley, Bignot, Underwood, Edwards, Hunter, Jack, Darby, Gray, Bell, Hall, Lowe

Subs not used: Hanlon, Sambrook, Talbot, Story, Petterson.

Bookings:

Referee: Mr G Cain

Attendance: 4,250

Diamonds MOTM: Duane Darby (Outstanding)

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