Oxford United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

This may not have been a match which ranked highly on the importance scale but, nevertheless, a penalty from Stuart Gray secured Diamonds a win over Oxford in the LDV Vans Trophy.

Brian Talbot’s team will now discover their second round opponents on Saturday morning when the Second Round draw is made.

Gray struck fiercely from the spot after 36 minutes when Rodney Jack was sent tumbling in the area by Oxford’s Jon Ashton.

Diamonds made a number of changes to their side with non-contracted goalkeeper Paul Evans starting between the sticks and Ritchie Hanlon beginning his first competitive game for 18-months.

Gary Mills, Paul Kitson and John Dempster were given starting roles as Andy Burgess and Paul Hall were rested and settled for places amongst the substitutes.

Oxford boss Ian Atkins also rested key players. In came Dave Waterman, Danny Brown and Derek Townsley into midfield whilst Chris Hackett started in attack.

Chances were few and far between in the opening 20 minutes and, in truth, the football at times was uninspiring. A Paul Underwood cross was headed straight into the arms of Andy Woodman by Rodney Jack inside the opening minute and Hanlon nearly marked his return with a goal by crashing the woodwork with a 25-yard effort.

Oxford themselves created some worthwhile chances. Hackett, eager to convince Oxford boss Ian Atkins of a starting role in first-team, flicked a header narrowly over the bar on ten minutes whilst a Matthew Robinson cross caused problems for Evans.

Jack’s pace was causing the Oxford defence problems and the St Vincent international struck a 25-yard volley wide of the target.

It was little surprise when Jack played a part in Diamonds’ only goal of the game. His pace and trickery in the box took him into the area although at one point Ashton seemed to force the Diamonds strike wide.

However, as Ashton tried to nick the ball away from Jack the Oxford defender caught the Diamonds striker and the referee had no hesitation about rewarding a spot kick which Gray smashed home.

AT HALF TIME: OXFORD UNITED 0 DIAMONDS 1

A tactical change from Oxford saw them revert to a 4-3-3 formation with Derek Townsley playing just behind Hackett and his strike partner Jefferson Louis.

The change seemed to spark Oxford into life as Brown, on 51 minutes, fired over the Diamonds crossbar from 25-yards.

Unsurprisingly, Oxford began to force the pace although Hanlon and Gray both created worthwhile chances within the opening ten minutes of the second-half with long range efforts.

However it was the home side that began to look more likely to find the next goal and on 63 minutes Hackett showed good vision and skill to pick out Louis with a nice flick. The big striker shot first-time from six-yards and Evans was forced to push the ball over the bar.

In actual face, Evans was having a tidy game for Diamonds. The former Sheffield Wednesday shot-stopper done himself no harm at all in at least being taken for a further look at by the management staff at Nene Park, especially when he saved well from the feet of Manny Omoyinmi.

Diamonds and Oxford both created chances in the final stages of the game but it was Talbot’s side that progressed into the Second Round and probably marginally deserved their reward.

FULL TIME: OXFORD UNITED 0 DIAMONDS 1

Oxford United: Woodman, McNiven, Robinson, Waterman, Crosby, Bound (Omoyinm h/t), Brown, Townsey, Hackett, Ashton, Louis.

Subs not used: Wanless, Whitehead, Brooks, Cox.

Bookings: Crosby (40), Hackett (77)

Diamonds: Evans, Dempster, Underwood, Bignot (Sambrook h/t), Edwards, Gray, Hanlon, Mills, Bell, Kitson (Story 82), Jack (Burgess 78).

Subs not used: Darby, Hall

Bookings:

Attendance: 2,510 (152 from Diamonds)

Referee: Mr L Probert

Diamonds’ MOTM: John Dempster

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