November 29, 2003 Leave a comment
By Steven Dove
In an entertaining encounter, Rushden & Diamonds couldn’t make their domination in possession count as they were forced to settle for a hard-worked point against Port Vale.
It was Trevor Benjamin who grabbed the important Diamonds goal, his first since joining on-loan from Leicester, cancelling out a fierce strike from Adrian Littlejohn.
Diamonds had their chances to win the game through Onandi Lowe and Rodney Jack late on but the visitors had little luck in front of goal.
Brian Talbot continued with John Dempster at the heart of the Diamonds defence as Andrew Edwards missed out through a back injury.
With David Bell away on international duty, Andy Burgess and Ritchie Hanlon continued their role in the centre of midfield with Jack operating on the right side due to Paul Hall’s suspension.
Lowe, going up against his former club for the first time since leaving Vale Park, partnered Benjamin in attack with Paul Kitson recalled to the bench.
Brian Horton, the Port Vale boss, made one change to his starting line-up with Littlejohn returning to the fold and partnering Steve McPhee in attack.
Diamonds made a positive start to proceeding and could have opened the scoring on two minutes when Stuart Gray’s header from Marcus Bignot’s cross went the wrong side of a post.
Littlejohn displayed great speed to carve open the Diamonds defence on seven minutes but the Vale striker’s fizzing drive flew wide of the goal.
Jonathon Brain, the Port Vale goalkeeper, was called into action moments later when Hanlon went close with a 25-yard pile driver as Diamonds continued to open the game brightly
However, despite Diamonds controlling the opening stages of the first-half, it was the home-side who took the lead as Littlejohn cut inside the visitors defence on ten minutes to fire an unstoppable shot past Jamie Ashdown.
The quick and nippy striker displayed nifty footwork to work an opening and Littlejohn’s powerful shot left Ashdown helpless.
AFTER 15 MINS: Port Vale 1 Diamonds 0
Ashdown displayed quick reflexes when his point blank save from McPhee denied Port Vale from doubling their advantage.
It was McPhee and Littlejohn who were causing the problems for Diamonds’ defence as their pace, on more than one occasion, gifted Port Vale some useful openings.
Most of Diamonds’ creative work was being displayed down the right flank where Jack and Bignot were working well together but it was the final delivery into the Port Vale penalty area where the visitors were becoming stuck.
AFTER 30 MINS: Port Vale 1 Diamonds 0
Jack played a major role in bringing Diamonds back on level terms on 31 minutes when it was his ball to Benjamin which resulted in the on-loan Leicester striker firing into the Port Vale net.
Benjamin swivelled on the edge of the area and fired a low shot into the corner of net after Jack displayed great trickery to cut inside the Port Vale defence.
Diamonds continued to play some delightful football and nearly got themselves in the lead on 37 minutes when Gray went close with a flying header from Bignot’s cross.
It was the visitors who continued to create the better openings and enjoy more possession as Vale struggled to get the ball out of their own half.
The visitors continued to press but were unable to find a way past the Vale defence in a first-half which would have pleased Diamonds’ travelling army.
AT HALF TIME: PORT VALE 1 DIAMONDS 1
Just like the first-half, Diamonds came out in a positive frame of mind and Jack’s trickery down the right flank on 48 minutes caused some nervy moments in the Port Vale defence.
Mark Boyd failed to test Ashdown with a long range effort on 50 minutes when the Vale midfielder first saw a shot blocked and from the rebound spooned it high and wide of the target.
Vale began to display their best football of the game and Diamonds breathed a huge sigh of relief when Levi Reid’s blocked shot on 56 minutes was deemed to be offside as the ball broke loose in the penalty area.
Ian Armstrong’s low shot on 58 minutes caused Ashdown few problems although the home side were soon beginning to find their way in the game.
AFTER 60 MINS: Port Vale 1 Diamonds 1
Only a breathtaking save from Brain denied Jack putting Diamonds in front on 60 minutes when the former Crewe striker raced onto a through ball from midfield.
The Port Vale goalkeeper showed great awareness and displayed great bravery to save at the feet of the Diamonds makeshift midfielder.
Diamonds continued to create some worthwhile openings and Benjamin maybe should have tested Brain on 66 minutes when he collected a through ball from Gray.
AFTER 75 MINS: Port Vale 1 Diamonds 1
Littlejohn’s curling effort was comfortably saved by Ashdown on 75 minutes as both teams began to create chances.
Port Vale’s Andreas Lipa saw a goal bound effort blocked by packed Diamonds defence on 77 minutes while moments later Lowe nearly headed into his own net.
Kitson, who had replaced Benjamin with ten minutes remaining, squanded a header on 82 minutes after Paul Underwood dragged the ball into the penalty area from an acute angle.
Diamonds showed more urgency in their play and continued to bombard the Port Vale goal.
Diamonds had chances to snatch the game at the death but lady luck wasn’t on their side and eventually had to settle for a share of the spoils.
AT FULL TIME: PORT VALE 1 DIAMONDS 1
Port Vale: Brain, Pilkington, Lipa, Collins, Brisco (Armstrong h/t), Cummins, McPhee, Reid, Boyd, Littlejohn, Burns.
Subs not used: Goodlad, Bridge-Wilkinson, Rowland, Birchall.
Diamonds: Ashdown, Bignot, Underwood, Hunter, Hanlon (Mills 73), Jack, Benjamin (Kitson 80), Burgess, Gray, Dempster, Lowe.
Subs not used: Sambrook, Talbot, Story.
Referee: Mr M Cowburn
Attendance: 4,586 (353 from Rushden)
Diamonds’ MOTM: Rodney Jack