Rushden & Diamonds 2 Stockport 2

By Steven Dove

It was nearly the same old story for Rushden & Diamonds but on this occasion Andrew Edwards grabbed a vital goal to give Diamonds a share of the spoils against a plucky Stockport outfit.

It could have been much worse for Brian Talbot’s side. Having controlled large periods of the game and creating some notable opportunities, Diamonds were staring defeat in the face.

Stuart Barlow grabbed a brace with Stuart Gray, who also missed a penalty, putting Diamonds back on level terms five minutes after Stockport had taken the lead.

And with time ticking away and three points seemingly heading back to Edgley Park it looked as if Diamonds would slip to their fifth defeat of the season until Edwards showed bravery to power a header home.

With limited options in attack, Diamonds boss Brian Talbot partnered Duane Darby with Rodney Jack leaving new recruit Paul Kitson on the bench.

Barry Hunter was passed fit to play after picking up knocks in midweek whilst Marcus Bignot had recovered from a cold.

Stockport, languishing in the bottom four of the division, named a strong line-up with former Tranmere defender Dave Challinor in their side who possess one of the longest throws in the Football League.

Gary Mills fired over after three minutes as Diamonds started positively with Jack looking dangerous on the flank.

However, with their first attack Stockport broke the deadlock. Aaron Wilbraham’s tricky down right flank enabled the midfielder to pick out the perfect cross for Stuart Barlow who lost his marker to guide a header past Billy Turley.

Darby nearly responded on eight minutes with a turn-and-shot that may have crept into the net had it not taken a wicked deflection off a Stockport defender.

However, Stockport’s lead lasted five minutes as a well worked move involving Paul Hall’s cross from the right resulted in Stuart Gray thumbing an effort home from close range.

Diamonds were looking nervy at the back and Stockport nearly restored their lead when Aaron Lescott saw a shot blocked in a packed penalty area.

AFTER 15 MINS: Diamonds 1 Stockport 1

The visitors looked promising on the attack and were playing some delightful football; spreading the ball around the pitch and carving open the Diamonds defence.

David Bell teed up Paul Hall for an effort on 21 minutes and when Stockport goalkeeper Nick Colgan spilled the shot, Jack nearly poked the ball home but was intervened by a defender.

Barry Hunter touched a header wide of the target two minutes later with Diamonds beginning to look good in the Stockport area.

AFTER 30 MINS: Diamonds 1 Stockport 1

Just like the sunshine at Nene Park, Diamonds were playing some bright football but Stockport’s defence were proving a tough nut to crack.

Diamonds had the chance to take the lead on 33 minutes when Robert Jones handled inside the area but Gray struck the wood work from the penalty spot despite sending Colgan the wrong way.

The penalty miss gave Stockport a lifeline and spurred them out of first gear as they began to attack the Diamonds goal.

Barlow tested Turley from long range but the Diamonds goalkeeper made a relatively comfortable save as the visitors began to push bodies forward.

That proved to be a dangerous tactic for the visitors as Hall nearly caught Colgan unaware with a sweeping volley that flew inches over the crossbar.

Andy Welsh tried his luck before the interval but the 1-1 scoreline at the half-time whistle was a fair reflection on first-half proceedings.

AT HALF TIME: DIAMONDS 1 STOCKPORT 1

Diamonds were unfortunate not to take the lead on 47 minutes when Jack fired a ball across the face of the Stockport goal with the onrushing Darby not able to touch home.

Looking comfortable on the ball and playing patiently, Stockport created few opportunities but warranted their second goal on 53 minutes when Barlow stole in unmarked to power home a header from Lambert’s free-kick.

Diamonds now had their work cut out for them with the Stockport defence holding their ground and threatening on the break.

Mills struck the outside of a post on 59 minutes after the midfielder found himself in acres of space on the edge of the area.

AFTER 60 MINS: Diamonds 1 Stockport 2

However, the visitors continued to push forward with John Hollins, Stockport’s Acting manager, seemingly ordering his players to go in search for a third.

Kitson was introduced into the action on 69 minutes replacing the unfortunate Darby, who had worked his socks off all afternoon.

Turley was called to make a vital save on 71 minutes when he denied Lescott, after the midfielder skipped around the challenge of Paul Underwood. Jon Daly blasted the rebound over the bar.

With time ticking away, Diamonds threw bodies but were beginning to get frustrated by the visitors’ offside tactic.

AFTER 75 MINS: Diamonds 1 Stockport 2

Gray was caught offside on 78 minutes when Diamonds had carved open the Stockport defence and Hall went close moments later with a well struck shot.

Frustration was creeping into the Diamonds side with mis-placed passes and close offside decisions.

And it looked as if an equaliser was never going to come until, on 85 minutes, Underwood’s pinpoint cross picked out Edwards who stole in front of his markers to head home.

Diamonds: Turley, Bignot, Underwood, Mills (Talbot 86), Edwards, Hunter (Dempster 72), Jack, Darby (Kitson 68), Gray, Bell, Hall.

Subs not used: Sambrook, Story.

Bookings: Mills (27), Hunter (67)

Stockport: Colgan, Smith, Challinor, Lescott, Wilbraham (Daly 62), Lambert, Jones, Hardiker, Welsh, Morrison (McLachlan 81), Barlow.

Subs not used: Spencer, Ellison, Williams.

Bookings: Wilbraham (28), Lescott (49)

Referee: Mr M Clattenburg

Attendance: 4,049 (490 from Stockport)

Diamonds’ MOTM: Paul Underwood

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