Sheffield Wednesday 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

By Steven Dove

Rushden & Diamonds entered the big stage and turned in a grand performance as they took a valuable point against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.

The visitors may have created few chances but they did exactly what was asked of them. Brian Talbot’s team defended in number and withstood the Wednesday attacking power and warranted something from the game.

Sheffield Wednesday had their chances and also had a goal disallowed but it would have been cruel on Diamonds if they had left Hillsborough empty handed.

There were a number of notable surprises to the Rushden & Diamonds team with Paul Hall, who was expected to be recalled to the starting line-up from Wednesday LDV Vans win over Oxford, named as a substitute and Duane Darby not even in the 16.

That left the door open for Gary Mills to join the midfield, who was expected to play out on the right flank, and Owen Story who amongst the substitutes. There was no space in the squad for Ritchie Hanlon or Paul Evans who were involved at the Kassam Stadium.

Sheffield Wednesday themselves made a number of notable surprises to their side. Chris Turner, the Wednesday boss, left out Lloyd Owusu, who had scored in the club’s last two league games.

It meant former Wolves striker Adam Proudlock partnered Grant Holt in attack with on-loan goalkeeper David Lucas remaining in between the sticks for the home side.

It may have been the big stadium or the 20,000 plus crowd but Diamonds made a nervy start at Hillsborough with Sheffield Wednesday nearly finding a opening inside the opening two minutes.

To their credit, Diamonds soon settled into their stride and began to enjoy some healthy possession.

However with the drums banging and the noise generated by the Kop Stand urging Wednesday forward, it always looked like the home-side would prove to be dangerous on the attack.

Turley was sparred his blushes by the linesmen when he deemed the ball rolled out of play as the Diamonds goalkeeper fumbled a simple pass back from Andrew Edwards.

The decision infuriated the Wednesday supporters although the resulting goal kick must have been a huge relief to Turley with Holt opening up a free goal to aim at.

AFTER 15 MINS: Sheffield Wednesday 0 Diamonds 0

Wednesday’s supporters were continuing to be frustrated by the referee as he turned down a penalty appeal on 17 minutes. Holt, bearing down on the Diamonds goal, was sent tumbling in the penalty area by Barry Hunter.

The referee waved away the protests much to the disbelief of the Wednesday bench who were seemingly certain that the resulting challenge warranted a spot kick.

The first notable opportunity of any kind never arrived until the 22nd minute. Terry Cooke’s cross was glanced towards the Diamonds goal by Proudlock only for the striker to be denied by a reflex save from Turley.

The Diamonds goalkeeper displayed great agility to dive low and push aside Proudlock’s header which would have certainly crept into the corner of the net.

AFTER 30 MINS: Sheffield Wednesday 0 Diamonds 0

It took 37 minutes for Diamonds to threaten the Sheffield Wednesday goal. A dipping shot from Jack caught Lucas unaware but the former Crewe striker was unfortunate to see his effort fly inches over the crossbar.

Diamonds’ excellent following continued to get behind their team but they were soon to get frustrated by the referee as Paul Kitson went into the notebook for an incident the official certainly didn’t witness.

David Bell’s trickery on 43 minutes enabled Marcus Bignot to deliver a threatening ball into the penalty area in a rare attack for Diamonds but they were thwarted by some excellent goalkeeping from Lucas.

AT HALF TIME: SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY 0 DIAMONDS 0

Turner was forced into making a substitution for the second-half. Holt, who had certainly carved open the best opportunities for the home-side, was replaced by striker Michael Reddy.

Early signs indicated some promising moments from a Wednesday prospective as Derek Geary tested Turley in the opening moments of the second-half.

However, the home fans soon witnessed Jack go close for Diamonds when, on 48 minutes, the striker tried to chip Lucas who had backtracked towards his goal after failing to claim a long ball.

A vital block from two bodies in the Sheffield Wednesday penalty area denied Marcus Bignot an opportunity of testing Lucas on 57 minutes after the Diamonds had superbly carved open the home sides defence with some creative passing football.

AFTER 60 MINS: Sheffield Wednesday 0 Diamonds 0

There were worrying times for Diamonds on 64 minutes when both Andy Burgess and Mills went down with knocks. However both continued after a lengthy stoppage as treatment was received.

In a rare chance for Wednesday, Robbie Mustoe sent a header wide of the target on 69 minutes, failing to really test Turley.

However, the Diamonds goalkeeper was soon called into action two minutes later when Proudlock swivelled on the edge of the area to fire a goal bound effort towards the Diamonds goal.

It nearly caught Turley unaware but the Diamonds shot-stopper displayed safe hands as he caught a difficult ball at the first attempt.

AFTER 75 MINS: Sheffield Wednesday 0 Diamonds 0

Wednesday thought they had taken on 79 minutes but were again set to be frustrated by the referee when he ruled out Graeme Lee’s effort for an infringement on Edwards.

This time there seemed little complaints from the Wednesday players as Diamonds survived.

Diamonds began to finish the game strongly and Wednesday soon found themselves on the back foot with Jack going close once again on 82 minutes.

Hunter’s thunderbolt header was saved comfortably by Lucas on 87 minutes although Wednesday had a good chance themselves with Geary heading over the crossbar.

Both sides threatened to pinch maximum points at the death but it was certainly Diamonds who would leave Hillsborough the far happier side.

Sheffield Wednesday: Lucas, Geary, Bromby, Lee, Smith, Mustoe, McLaren, Murphy, Holt (Reddy h/t), Proudlock, Cooke (Haslam 58).

Subs not used: Pressman, Wood, Shaw.

Bookings: Mustoe (53)

Diamonds: Turley, Bignot, Edwards, Hunter, Underwood, Bell, Burgess, Gray, Mills, Kitson, Jack.

Subs not used: Story, Dempster, Talbot, Sambrook, Hall

Bookings: Bell (27), Kitson (40), Gray (81)

Referee: Mr M Thorpe.

Attendance: 22,599

Diamonds’ MOTM: Gary Mills

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