Rushden & Diamonds 1 Brighton 3

By Steven Dove

There could be few complaints from Diamond followers following this defeat. Brighton showed their championship credentials with a top-class performance to seal a comfortable three points.

It never looked as if this would be Diamonds’ day straight from kick-off. Brighton displayed good attacking football and fully warranted their win with Guy Butters, Leon Knight and Zeshan Rehman on the score sheet.

A Stuart Gray penalty early in the second-half raised hopes but Brighton played the better football and had the majority of possession.

Brian Talbot named an unchanged side from the club’s 2-2 draw with Stockport County at the weekend.

Duane Darby remained in attack and partnered Rodney Jack as former Newcastle striker Paul Kitson was left on the bench.

Brighton boss Steve Coppell started with midfielder Zeshan Rehman, a recent on-loan signing from Fulham, but was without influential captain Danny Cullip.

After an uneventful opening Knight nearly drew first blood for Brighton on ten minutes with a long range effort which was spilled by Billy Turley.

The former Chelsea striker was displaying some blistering pace which was causing concern for the Diamonds defence in the early stages.

After making a relatively slow start, Diamonds came to life on 13 minutes when Jack picked up a loose ball, skipped past the challenge of a Brighton defender only to drill a shot wide of the target.

AFTER 15 MINS: DIAMONDS 0 BRIGHTON 0

Brighton, who had made the better start, thought they had broken the deadlock on 19 minutes when Nathan Jones’ long range effort was spilled by Turley and when Chris McPhee tapped home from close range the celebrations were cut short by the offside flag.

Diamonds hadn’t come close to scoring until 21 minutes when Brighton goalkeeper Michel Kuipers survived a nervous moment, making an instant block from Butters after Hunter had headed a dangerous ball into the box.

Rehman nearly marked his Brighton account with a goal, turning on the volley on 24 minutes to test Turley from 25-yards.

Paul Underwood threatened to do damage down the left flank for Diamonds on a number of occasions but the visitors were rarely troubled.

AFTER 30 MINS: DIAMONDS 0 BRIGHTON 0

Although Brighton were in control of proceedings, Turley had little to do with Andrew Edwards and Hunter looking positive in defence.

Brighton, who went into the match just outside the top two in the division, continued to bombard the Diamonds defence and it was little surprise when they took the lead five minutes before the interval.

An in swinging from Jones caused confusion in the Diamonds penalty area and as the ball broke to Butters the former Gillingham defender blasted home from close range.

And at the half-time whistle nobody could complain at Brighton’s advantage as it was they had deserved.

AT HALF TIME: DIAMONDS 0 BRIGHTON 1    

Diamonds had a perfect chance to respond only three minutes in the second half when they were rewarded a penalty.

Jack’s pace saw him dart into the penalty box and the faintest of touches from Brighton’s Robbie Pethick sent the Diamonds striker to the ground. Gray kept his cool to send Kuipers the wrong way from the spot and get back on level terms.

However, the lead lasted only four minutes when Knight ran at the Diamonds defence and, after Edwards failed to put in a challenge, the striker blasted an effort into the corner of the net.

In between the two goals, Coppell was sent to the stands by the referee and Darby had the chance of giving the home-side a lead.

However, Brighton continued to look the more promising side and on 57 minutes Knight went close to adding a third for the visitors.

AFTER 60 MINUTES: DIAMONDS 1 BRIGHTON 2

Jack was looking to the most dangerous player to get Diamonds back on level terms and the St Vincent international showed great trickery to skip past the challenge of a Brighton defender only to strike the side netting.

A tactical substitution saw Kitson called upon as Talbot reverted to a 4-3-3 formation. The change nearly put Diamonds back on level terms when Marcus Bignot’s cross saw Kuipers display great reflexes and shut out Gray’s pinpoint header.

The change in formation saw Diamonds begin to enjoy more possession although it was the final ball into the penalty area that was lacking quality.

AFTER 75 MINS: DIAMONDS 1 BRIGHTON 2

Diamonds were soon beginning to get frustrated and as they went in search for an equaliser they were caught napping in defence as Brighton broke on the break.

With the Diamonds defence disjointed, Rehman let fly with a curling shot from 30-yards as the midfielder waved away in delight to virtually seal the points.

Knight could have extended Brighton lead on 82 minutes when the attacker created space in the penalty area only for his effort to be cleared off the goal line from Bignot.

Darby headed wide on 89 minutes and their were other chances for Edwards and Kitson but the three points headed to the Withdean Stadium and there could be few excuses.

AT FULL TIME: DIAMONDS 1 BRIGHTON 3

Diamonds: Turley, Bignot, Underwood, Mills (Sambrook 85), Edwards, Hunter, Jack (Talbot 86), Darby, Gray, Bell (Kitson 62), Hall.

Subs not used: Dempster, Story.

Bookings: Edwards (30)

Brighton: Kuipers, Mayo, Pethick, Knight, Hart (Piercy 85), Carpenter, Butters, Jones, McPhee, Hinshelwood, Rehman.

Subs not used: Virgo, Harding, Flitney, Robinson.

Bookings: Hart (55)

Referee: Mr D.R Crick

Attendance: 4,634 (1,232 from Brighton)

Diamonds’ MOTM: Gary Mills

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