Port Vale 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

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.

Bookings:

Diamonds: Ashdown, Bignot, Underwood, Hunter, Hanlon (Mills 73), Jack, Benjamin (Kitson 80), Burgess, Gray, Dempster, Lowe.

Subs not used: Sambrook, Talbot, Story.

Bookings:

Referee: Mr M Cowburn

Attendance: 4,586 (353 from Rushden)

Diamonds’ MOTM: Rodney Jack

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Rushden & Diamonds Youth 1 Manchester United Youth 2

By Steve Brown

A brave effort from Rushden & Diamonds’ youngsters ended in heartbreak as two late goals from the current FA Youth Cup holders Manchester United booked their place in the fourth round.

Diamonds were on course for a major shock when Eric Manangu’s first half goal looked as if it might be enough to progress in the competition.

Manchester United threw everything at Diamonds and only some fantastic goalkeeping from Karl Daniels had put the visitors at bay.

However, two goals in the final 12 minutes, one from Mark Howard and a composed finished from Ramon Calliste, broke Diamonds hearts.

Diamonds lined up without the services of Jason Taylor who was out through suspension. Simeon Jackson began in attack with Manangu, who made his first senior appearance during the senior side’s 4-0 win over Colchester.

Manchester United, under the guidance of former midfielder Brian McClair, included Chris Eagles in their starting line-up, the youngster who made his first senior debut in the club’s Carling Cup victory over Leeds United.

As expected, United made a solid start and Diamonds goalkeeper Karl Daniels was called into action after two minutes keeping out Floribert Ngalula low drive.

The visitors’ flowing football was breathtaking at times as United’s youngsters carved open the Diamonds defence with ease.

Eagles showed his credentials as a first-team player with his pace and darting runs, as the United midfielder continued to cause problems for the home-side.

Diamonds won their first corner of the match on nine minutes and surprisingly opened the scoring. Marcus Kelly sent a cross to the back post where Magnus Okounghae’s header was stabbed home by Manangu.

Despite their early goal, the visitors continued to threat the Diamonds goal and Daniels showed great bravery when he saved at the feet of Calliste.

AFTER 15 MINS: Diamonds 1 United 0

A physically stronger United side continued to cause problems for Diamonds and Eagles should have found the target on 21 minutes when the striker found space but lofted a shot over the crossbar.

Scott Wark’s ambitious long range effort a minute later was a rare chance for Diamonds but, to their credit, the home-side continued to play good football despite the visitors’ superior possession.

Chibuza Chilarka’s solid defending was keeping Calliste quiet as the United youngster, on more than one occasion, found openings in the Diamonds defence.

AFTER 30 MINS: Diamonds 1 United 0

Sylvan Blake was gifted a free header on 33 minutes but the young striker failed to test Daniels, firing wide of the target.

United continued to play patient football and it was the visitors who continued to look the more likely to find the next goal.

With Manangu playing as the only striker, Diamonds struggled to threat the United goal.

Jonathan Spector went close before the half-time whistle with a header which hit the roof of the net but it was Diamonds who went in at the interval with a moral boosting one goal lead.

AT HALF TIME: DIAMONDS 1 UNITED 0

Daniels continued to be busy in the Diamonds goal and made quick saves early in the second-half from Calliste and Adam Eckersley.

United started the second-half much in the same fashion they had dominated the opening 45 minutes as Diamonds were quickly put on the back foot.

Daniels produced the save of the match on 49 minutes when he somehow got his body behind a low drive from Calliste, who had carved open the Diamonds defence with ease.

The Diamonds goalkeeper was enduring a busy evening and Daniels displayed safe handing on 56 minutes when a further effort from Calliste was thwarted.

AFTER 60 MINS: Diamonds 1 United 0

As Diamonds began to tire, United continued to look more likely in grabbing an equaliser. Eagles’ darting run on 60 minutes, unchallenged, should have finished in the youngster striking the target but flashed a shot over the crossbar.

Diamonds’ chances were few and far between but a dangerous corner from Kelly on 70 minutes caused some nervy moments in the visitors defence.

Daniels’ busy evening continued on 73 minutes when he blocked a goal bound effort from Eagles.

AFTER 75 MINS: Diamonds 1 United 0

Diamonds were edging towards a famous victory and in a last bid ditch to salvage something from the game the United management team threw on an extra striker for a defender.

The visitors thought they had got themselves back on level terms but Daniels’ marvellous evening continued when he somehow tracked back and caught a near shot from Eagles.

However, Diamonds’ hard work was finally undone when Howard’s powerfully headed home an Eagles corner.

It was probably what United deserved but it was a set back for Diamonds who had held their own for a long period of the game.

Diamonds then suffered heartbreak on 82 minutes when United took the lead. Calliste, who had threatened all evening, calmly slotted past Daniels following a well worked moved by the visitors.

Diamonds finished the second-half strongly and had chances to take the game into extra time but the final whistle put Neville Hamilton’s side out of their agony.

AT FULL TIME: DIAMONDS 1 UNITED 2

Diamonds: Daniels, Clark, Burndam, Grant, Okounghae, Chilarka, Kelly, Shaw, Manangu, Jackson (Ahmed 63, ), Wark

Subs not used: Stevens, Watson, Grainger, Wilkinson

Bookings:

Manchester United: Heaton, Picken, Eckersley, Howard, McShane, Spector (Marsh 76), Ngalula, Hogg, Blake, Eagles, Calliste.

Subs not used: Jones, Crockett, Flanaghan, Simpson.

Bookings:

Referee: Mr G Muge

Attendance: 5,214

Diamonds’ MOTM: Karl Daniels (Some outstanding saves)

Rushden & Diamonds 4 Colchester United 0

By Steven Dove

Colchester may have been the team in form going into this match but Rushden & Diamonds made their opponents look ‘second best’ in this 4-0 win at Nene Park.

Diamonds just tore Phil Parkinson’s team apart as Colchester, who had Craig Fagan sent-off early in the first-half, never looked in the game.

Onandi Lowe, Stuart Gray, Andy Burgess and a fantastic shot from Marcus Bignot set up the win to seal the clubs first win in four matches.

Lowe was recalled to the starting line-up as he made his first partnership in attack with Trevor Benjamin, who was making his home debut.

Barry Hunter, Gary Mills (suspensions) and David Bell (international duty) were missing as Andrew Edwards and Burgess returned back to the first-team frame with John Dempster also called into action.

Colchester, riding high in Division Two with six wins on the spin, included Wayne Andrews in their starting line-up as he replaced Scott McGleish.

The visitors, sporting bright orange jersey’s, made a promising start and if it wasn’t for a vital tackle from Andrew Edwards on Andrews then Colchester could have been in front inside the opening two minutes.

After surviving that small scare, Diamonds made a perfect start and took the lead on three minutes. Rodney Jack, playing in a right wing roll, burst inside the penalty area to cut the ball across the face of the goal for Lowe to tap home from close-range.

The big Jamaican striker stole in front of his marker and Jack’s pinpoint cross was good enough to cause problems for the Colchester defence.

Diamonds continued to control the early spells of a fast flowing game and Ritchie Hanlon’s long-range effort on 14 minutes tested Simon Brown, the Colchester goalkeeper, who pushed aside the midfielders shot.

AFTER 15 MINS: Diamonds 1 Colchester 0

Diamonds continued to bombard the Colchester goal and in the space of a minute, Brown was called to tip over the crossbar from Lowe and Edwards.

The Colchester goalkeeper was far the busier as Diamonds’ free flowing football carved open the visitors defence on a number of occasion.  

Colchester’s attacking threat was coming from Andrews and the former Watford attacker saw a goal bound effort blocked by a flying tackle from Dempster.

Jamie Ashdown was called to make his first save on his home debut when he comfortably dealt with a tricky shot from Rowan Vine, as the midfield cut inside the Diamonds defence.

The visitors were dealt a blow on 27 minutes when an off the ball incident involving Dempster and Fagan saw Colchester reduced to ten men.

Andy Hall, the match official, had no hesitation and produced a straight red towards the youngster.

AFTER 30 MINS: Diamonds 1 Colchester 0

Colchester’s attacks were rare but Andrews was certainly causing the Diamonds defence problems.

It was little surprise when Diamonds doubled their advantage. The home-side had been in control of possession and Lowe’s power and pace was causing so much of the damage.

On 39 minutes and at the second attempt, Lowe crossed, easily skipping past Colchester’s Scott Fitzgerald, and as the visitors struggled to clear their lines, Gray was on hand to thump the ball home from inside the six-yard area.

For a team who had won six on the spin prior to this game, Colchester were being torn apart and Diamonds should have extended their lead on 42 minutes but Benjamin wasted a glorious opportunity firing straight at Brown when being put into the clear.

Colchester had their chances to reduce their lead before the half-time whistle but Vine’s snapshot flew over the Diamonds crossbar.

AT HALF TIME: DIAMONDS 2 COLCHESTER 0

Neither side made a promising start to the second-half with the closet effort arriving on 54 minutes when Paul Underwood’s cross needed the faintest of touches to put it past Brown.

The Diamonds captain had put the ball into a dangerous position but neither Lowe on Hanlon could get the vital touch as the Colchester defence went asleep.

The second-half sparked into life on 57 minutes when Diamonds extended their lead. Gray’s corner was headed into a dangerous area where Burgess’ instant reaction guided the ball into the back of the net

On 59 minutes, Colchester went close in a rare opportunity as Vine’s long range effort sent Ashdown scamper across his goal.

AFTER 60 MINS: Diamonds 3 Colchester 0

Benjamin tested Brown on 62 minutes as the on-loan Leicester City striker displayed great skill on the edge of the area to catch the Colchester defence unaware.

The pace of the game had slowed down considerably when Hanlon’s tame effort failed to test Brown on 69 minutes.

Despite their superior lead, Diamonds continued to march forward and Lowe’s header on 70 minutes flew inches wide of the target.

Ashdown was called upon to make an important save when he flung himself at Scott McGleish’s shot on 72 minutes.

AFTER 75 MINS: Diamonds 3 Colchester 0

Diamonds continued to push forward and a smashing volley from Bignot extended the home-side’s lead on 80 minutes.

The defender unleashed an unstoppable shot into the corner of the net leaving Brown with no chance.

Eric Manangu, the Diamonds youngster, had his chance to shine for his first appearance, replacing Lowe.

Benjamin had the chance to rub salt into the wounds of Colchester in the closing stages but his fierce effort produced a flying save from Brown.

AT FULL TIME: DIAMONDS 4 COLCHESTER 0

Diamonds: Ashdown, Bignot, Underwood, Edwards (Okounghae 87), Hanlon, Jack, Benjamin, Burgess, Gray, Dempster, Lowe (Manangu 83).

Subs not used: Sambrook, Talbot, Hall.

Bookings: Dempster (25)

Colchester United: Brown, Myers, Fitzgerald, Pinault (Izzet,59, Duguid, Andrews (McGleish 69), Fagan, Vine, Bowry, Chilvers, Stockley.

Subs not used: Keith, Gerken, White.

Bookings: Bowry (8)

Sent-off: Fagan (27)

Referee: Mr AR Hall

Attendance: 4,149 (744 from Colchester Utd)

Diamonds’ MOTM: Onandi Lowe

Hartlepool 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

By Steven Dove

Hartlepool’s 14-month unbeaten home record could have been in some jeopardy but for a controversial performance by the match referee which dented Diamonds hopes of taking something from Victoria Park.

A harsh penalty decision combined with a dubious second yellow card shown to Paul Hall from Premiership official Mr Foy were two major decisions which went against Diamonds.

There was little to separate Diamonds from their title rivals last season but just as the visitors started to get back into a tightly fought affair, Hall was shown a second yellow card for a challenge on Matty Robson.

The controversial incident occurred before Gavin Strachan smashed home his fifth goal of the season from the penalty spot after John Dempster had deemed to handle in the area.

Hartlepool’s opening goal also was frustrating from a Diamonds prospective. It seemed as if Dempster knew little about a goal bound effort from Hartlepool striker Eifion Williams.

Rodney Jack had brought Diamonds back on level terms on 57 minutes when he headed home Marcus Bignot’s cross, which lopped over Hartlepool goalkeeper Jim Provett.

However, this was never going to be Diamonds’ day as Hartlepool’s winning goal also had some good fortune about it. Chris Westwood’s wayward effort took a deflection and it kindly fell into the path of Jack Wilkinson who smashed home from close-range for his first senior goal.

Jamie Ashdown and Trevor Benjamin were both handed their Diamonds debut following their loan moves to Nene Park this week whilst Dempster was drafted into the starting line-up at the expense of the injured Andrew Edwards.

Ritchie Hanlon partnered Gary Mills in the centre of midfield with Andy Burgess having to settle for a place amongst the substitutes.

Hartlepool boss Neale Cooper handed Darren Craddock and Wilkinson their first senior starts for the club as captain Michael Barron was dropped amongst the substitutes.

Hartlepool, whose last home defeat was at the hands of Diamonds last season, nearly made the perfect start to proceedings but Wilkinson’s early goal was ruled out for offside.

Diamonds were under a considerable amount of pressure in the early stages of the game but certainly had their own chances to take the lead. Jack turned on the edge of the Hartlepool area on nine minutes to see a shot saved by Provett whilst Benjamin should have opened his account moments later with a free header.

Hartlepool, who were convincing 4-0 winners over non-league Whitby Town in the FA Cup last week, continued to threaten the Diamonds goal and Chris Westwood’s free header from Strachan’s corner should have tested Ashdown on 23 minutes.

The referee continued to frustrate the near 5,000 crowd inside Victoria Park as Westwood and Hall picked up yellow cards before Hanlon nearly sent a fierce volley wide of the target.

However, Hartlepool opened the scoring on 38 minutes through Strachan’s penalty. Ashdown, keen to make an impression on his debut for Diamonds, guessed the right way but was unable to meet the Hartlepool midfielders side-footed shot.

Although Diamonds had created little in the first-half, when chances did arrive they were good openings and Jack should have brought Diamonds back on level terms when he latched onto a long kick from Ashdown only to see his effort bounce back off the crossbar.

Diamonds only had to wait just over ten minutes at the start of the second-half to get themselves back on level terms when Jack was all alone in the Hartlepool penalty area to head over Provett from Bignot’s pinpoint cross.

The controversial moment of the game came on 67 minutes when Hall was dismissed for a second yellow card. The Jamaican’s challenge on Robson probably warranted a free-kick but a booking seemed harsh, much to the frustration of the Diamonds bench.

Diamonds held their own as Hartlepool pushed forward looking to take advantage of the visitor’s misfortune.

However, Wilkinson’s first goal on his senior debut arrived on 74 minutes and although the young striker deserved something from his hard working performance it was a little harsh on Diamonds.

Hartlepool had chances to extend their lead but were outdone by some fantastic goalkeeping from Ashdown. The on-loan Reading goalkeeper displayed why he is so highly rated at the Madjeski Stadium first denying Darrell Clarke and then producing an outstanding stop from Williams.

Hartlepool: Provett, Craddock, Nelson, Robson, Westwood, Clarke, Strachan, Tinkler (Sweeney 82), Humphreys, Wilkinson, Williams.

Subs not used: Barron, Richardson, Robinson, Konstantopoulos.

Bookings: Westwood (30), Strachan (41), Tinkler (65)

Diamonds: Ashdown, Bignot, Underwood, Mills, Hunter, Hanlon (Burgess 52), Jack, Benjamin, Gray, Dempster, Hall.

Subs not used: Sambrook, Bell, Talbot, Okounghae

Bookings: Hall (32, 67), Benjamin (55)

Sent-off: Hall (67)

Referee: Mr C Foy

Attendance: 4,944 (205 from Rushden)

Diamonds’ MOTM: Barry Hunter

Swansea 3 Rushden & Diamonds 0

By Steven Dove

With finances at a minimum, this was a game Rushden & Diamonds needed to win. However a one-sided contest resulted in Brian Talbot’s men being dumped out at the first stage of the FA Cup by Swansea.

Diamonds were never in the game and could have no complaints about this defeat. Lee Trundle, Kevin Nugent and Kieron Durkan bagged the goals as the Third Division side deservedly booked their passage into round two.

Diamonds made as number of significant changes from the club’s LDV Vans defeat by Luton in midweek.

Duane Darby made his first start in six games as he replaced the injured Paul Kitson whilst Barry Hunter and David Bell were recalled into the starting line-up.

Swansea made no fewer than eight changes to their starting line-up from the one which slipped to defeat by Southend on Tuesday.

Swans boss Brian Flynn recalled Trundle to the starting line-up along with the likes of Kristian O’Leary and Lenny Johnrose.

Diamonds made a slow start to proceedings as Swansea made the early progression. However, Paul Underwood squandered an early chance after breaking through the Swansea defence and Darby saw a goal bound effort blocked.

Despite controlling large periods of possession, Swansea failed to trouble the Diamonds defence as Paul Evans, continuing in between the sticks for Diamonds in the absence of Billy Turley, had little to do.

Swansea carved open the first notable effort on 14 minutes when Trundle turned on the edge of the Diamonds penalty area to crash a shot against the outside of the woodwork.

AFTER 15 MINS: Swansea 0 Diamonds 0

Diamonds continued to play patient football and on 16 minutes, Stuart Gray fired a goal bound shot straight into the arms of Swansea’s veteran goalkeeper Roger Freestone.

Chances were few and far between in this even contest. Trundle came close on 19 minutes with a shot across the face of the goal and Gary Mills was wayward with an effort moments later from 25-yards.

Lee Britton, ever consistent in the Swansea team this season, beat Evans on 22 minutes but dragged an effort wide of the target following some good build-up play from the home-side.

Swansea continued to create a number of chances. In the space of two minutes, Richard Duffy and Durkan both went close.

Durkan’s effort, which arrived on 27 minutes, flashed wide of the target after he met Michael Howard’s cross with a powerful header.

Diamonds were dealt a blow before the half-an-hour mark as Andy Burgess was taken off on a stretcher following a rash challenge from Johnrose.

AFTER 30 MINS: Swansea 0 Diamonds 0

Diamonds had failed to test Freestone until Rodney Jack burst through the Swansea defence on 31 minutes to strike a shot straight at the goalkeeper.

The former Crewe man latched onto a through ball from Gray but couldn’t squeeze his effort into the corner of the net as Freestone stood tall.

Freestone displayed great acrobatics on 38 minutes as he pushed aside a fierce effort from Gray. Diamonds worked the ball into a dangerous area and it was Ritchie Hanlon who set-up the former Celtic player who unleashed a shot towards the top corner of the net.

It seemed as if it would be all square going into the interval until Trundle smashed home his 12th goal of the season on 38 minutes. The Diamonds defence backed away enabling the Swansea striker to tee up the perfect effort.

Things continued to go from bad to worse for Diamonds as Andrew Edwards was forced to be replaced by John Dempster after the former Peterborough man picked up a back injury.

AT HALF TIME; SWANSEA 1 DIAMONDS 0

A curling free-kick from Gray two minutes after the restart caused anxious moments for Swansea supporters as Diamonds set out their tactics early in the second-half.

Swansea came out for the second-half to continue and create the better chances. Britton wormed his way through the Diamonds defence on 50 minutes but was let down by a poor finish which failed to trouble Evans.

Trundle, the constant threat for Swansea tried his luck on 56 minutes with a curling free-kick but Evans showed great awareness to make a comfortable save.

Swansea deservedly doubled their advantage on 58 minutes when Trundle teed up Nugent inside the penalty area who had the easiest job to smash the ball home from close range.

AFTER 60 MINS: Swansea 2 Diamonds 0

Diamonds could have few complaints about the two goal margin as the visitors rarely threatened the Swansea goal.

Gray saw a tame header from Hall’s cross on 66 minutes fail to trouble Freestone as Swansea continued to dominate this one-sided game.

Diamonds best second-half chance arrived on 70 minutes when a dangerous ball from Underwood resulted in Hall testing Freestone from inside the six-yard penalty area.

AFTER 75 MINS: Swansea 2 Diamonds 0

Diamonds had no response to Swansea’s domination and it looked in the final ten minutes as if the home-side would add a third.

As time ticked away, the game began to fall flat although Diamonds did everything in their power to find a response.

However, the game was over a contest as Durkin lobbed Evans from 20-yards as the Swansea midfield ran half the length of the pitch unchallenged.

AT FULL TIME: SWANSEA 3 DIAMONDS 0

Swansea: Freestone, Howard, O’Leary, Britton, Nugent, Trundle (Thomas 89), Johnrose, Durkan, Robinson (Coates 77), Iriekpen.

Subs not used: Jenkins, Jones, Murphy.

Bookings: Duffy (71), Johnrose (74)

Diamonds: Evans, Bignot, Underwood, Mills, Edwards (Dempster 42), Hunter, Jack, Darby, Burgess (Hanlon 29), Gray, Bell (Hall.57).

Subs not used: Sambrook, Talbot.

Bookings: Mills (62), Hunter (74)

Referee: Mr Steve Tomlin

Attendance: 5,031

Diamonds’ MOTM: Ritchie Hanlon

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Luton Town 2

By Steven Dove

The curse of Luton Town continues to haunt Rushden & Diamonds after Brian Talbot’s side crashed out of the LDV Vans trophy.

It’s now no wins in five attempts against the Bedfordshire outfit and despite Luton going down to ten men and the home-side dominating major periods of the game, Diamonds couldn’t break their opponents down.

All three goals in this 2-1 defeat occurred in the first-half. Luton raced into a two goal lead through Enoch Showumni and a penalty converted by Michael O’Leary although Diamonds did fight back through Rodney Jack.

Sol Davis was dismissed for Luton and despite efforts flying from all directions in the second-half, Diamonds couldn’t find a way through. 

Talbot made three notable changes to his starting line-up from the one that began proceedings in our win over Grimsby Town at the weekend.

John Dempster was handed a starting role in the heart of the Diamonds defence as Barry Hunter was rested. Paul Kitson replaced the injured Onandi Lowe in attack with Ritchie Hanlon making his first starting appearance at Nene Park in over 18-months.

Luton went in the match with a number of injury problems. Matthew Spring, Paul Hughes, Adrian Forbes and Gary McSheffrey were all missing giving the opportunity for a number of young players to stamp their mark.

In traditional local derby style, tempers flared early on as Leary went into the referee’s notebook after two minutes for a rash challenge on Dempster.

Diamonds were quickly frustrated by the linesman’s flag as Jack and Kitson were caught in offside positions in the opening five minutes.

However, it was the home-side who appeared more likely to open the scoring as the Diamonds midfield carved open the Luton defence.

Despite the promising start, Luton opened the scoring after seven minutes. Showumni, the Hatters striker, took full advantage of a mistake from Hanlon to calmly slot past Evans.

Diamonds created a chance to get themselves back on level terms moments later when Gary Mills failed to find power in a header from Marcus Bignot’s pinpoint cross.

Luton’s attacking threat were causing Diamonds problems as Showmuni’s power and Dean Crowe’s pace looking likely to do further damage.

AFTER 15 MINS: Diamonds 0 Luton 1

Luton goalkeeper Dean Brill was called into action on 16 minutes as Diamonds carved open their best opportunity of the game.

Stuart Gray’s dangerous free-kick caused problems for the Luton defence and as the ball broke to Hanlon the midfielder’s first-time shot was palmed to safety by Brill.

Diamonds slipped further behind on 19 minutes as another mistake, this time from Paul Underwood, enabled Showumni to burst through and as the striker shaped to shoot; Dempster was guilty of a rash challenge in the penalty area.

Luton doubled their advantage from the penalty spot with ease as Leary sent Evans the wrong way.

Diamonds responded and reduced the lead four minutes later. Gray’s corner was headed back into a dangerous area by Andrew Edwards and, despite a number of bodies around him; Jack’s bizarre back heel crept into the corner of the net.

AFTER 30 MINS: Diamonds 1 Luton 2

An ambitious 40-yard effort from Andy Burgess nearly caught Brill unaware but the Luton goalkeeper was saved any embarrassment as the ball trickled wide of the target.

Diamonds had further chances to get themselves back on level terms and a notable effort from Kitson saw a one-on-one opportunity go begging as Brill saved.

The Luton goalkeeper displayed get bravery to keep on his feet and prevent the former West Ham striker, who was picked out by a fine long ball from Jack.

Chances continued to be carved open by Diamonds. Burgess swerved a 25-yard effort wide of the target and Kitson also came close to testing Brill.

Luton were dealt a blow a minutes before the half-time interval when Davis was shown a second yellow card for a rash challenge on Jack. The resulting free-kick saw Edwards crash a header against the outside of a post.

The action-packed first-half ended with a yellow card for Evans as the Diamonds goalkeeper brought down the lively Showumni.

AT HALF-TIME: DIAMONDS 1 LUTON TOWN 2

Chances were few and far between in the early stages of the second-half although there were some nervy moments for the Diamonds defence as Showumni continued to threaten.

Diamonds should have been back on level terms on 53 minutes when Hanlon was denied by a fantastic save from Brill.

The Diamonds midfielder latched onto a flick from Kitson but the Luton goalkeeper stretched and managed to get a hand onto a shot which was heading for the corner of the net.

Somehow, Luton maintained their one goal advantage, despite Diamonds continuing to dominate. The Hatters looked lively on the attack but struggled to find a way through the Diamonds defence.

AFTER 60 MINS: Diamonds 1 Luton 2

Luton had a chances to secure their passage into the next round of the competition when, after skipping past the challenge of Evans, Showumni blasted into the side netting on 61 minutes with the goal at his mercy.

On 64 minutes, Dempster’s header from Paul Hall’s cross lopped over Brill but hit the roof the net and moments later Burgess sent a curling effort over the crossbar.

Following a clumsy challenge from Dempster on 70 minutes Showumni struck a free-kick straight into the arms of Evans in a rare second-half effort for Luton.

Two quick bicycle kicks, one from Burgess and another from Hanlon, saw Diamonds go close again although Luton stood firm and continued to hold their own.

AFTER 75 MINUTES: Diamonds 1 Luton 2

Wayward passing and some solid defending from the visitors continued to frustrate Diamonds as Jack and Kitson threatened the Luton goal.

With time ticking down, Diamonds threw men forward in a bid to take the game into extra time.

Time and time again, Diamonds had the ball in the Luton penalty area but, not for the first time this season, Talbot’s side had nothing to show for their efforts despite outplaying their opponents.

AT FULL TIME: DIAMONDS 1 LUTON 2

Diamonds: Evans, Bignot, Underwood, Mills (Hall h/t), Edwards, Hanlon, Jack, Burgess (Talbot 83), Gray, Dempster, Kitson.

Subs not used: Sambrook, Story, Okounghae.

Bookings: Evans (45), empster (70)

Luton Town: Brill, Showumni, Brkovic, Hillier, Davis, Mansell, Crowe, Keane, Leary, O’Leary (Davis h/t), Barnett.

Subs not used: Beresford, Deeney, Judge, Oaki.

Bookings: Leary (2), Davis (10, 44), Crowe (45)

Sent-off: Davis (44)

Referee: Mr R G Williamson

Attendance: 2,746 (876 from Luton)

Diamonds’ MOTM: Andy Burgess

Rushden & Diamonds 3 Grimsby Town 1

By Steven Dove

Onandi Lowe marked his return from injury with a brace as Diamonds came from a goal down to record a vital win over Grimsby Town.

Lowe made his first start for six weeks after sustaining a groin injury in our defeat by Bournemouth in September and celebrated it in fine style.

His overall performance was something Diamonds had been longing for but his brace was overlooked by a stunning strike from Ritchie Hanlon late on.

Diamonds had fallen behind through an Iain Anderson effort but a stunning second-half performance brought kept all the points at Nene Park.

Paul Evans continued between the sticks with Billy Turley still out through injury and there was a welcome return for Ritchie Hanlon who was named amongst the substitutes.

Grimsby made two changes to their side with Greg Youngs and Jason Crowe coming into the starting line-up with Paul Groves, the Mariners boss, on the bench.

The visitors made the brighter start of the two sides and nearly opened the deadlock inside the opening two minutes when Michael Boulding flashed a shot across the face of the Diamonds goal.

An ambitious 30-yard free-kick from Iain Anderson tested Evans on eight minutes but the former Sheffield Wednesday shot-stopper made a comfortable save.

The visitors continued to enjoy some healthy possession but Lowe began to show early signs of his power and pace that had certainly been missing from the Diamonds front-line in recent weeks.

Diamonds carved open an excellent opportunity to open the scoring on 14 minutes but Andy Burgess’ pinpoint header, from Rodney Jack’s cross, was saved by the feet of Aidan Davidson.

The former Bradford goalkeeper probably didn’t know much about the save but it soon became apparent that Diamonds might open the scoring.

AFTER 15 MINS: DIAMONDS 0 GRIMSBY 0

Diamonds continued to threaten the Grimsby goal and Lowe’s pace was certainly giving the visitors problems.

Paul Hall’s deflective shot on 25 minutes rolled wide of the Grimsby goal with Diamonds looking sharp on the break.

Grimsby had caused few problems for Diamonds but the visitors were working the offside trap to effect as the home-side continued to be frustrated.

AFTER 30 MINS: DIAMONDS 0 GRIMSBY TOWN 0

Chances were few and far between but on 36 minutes, Jack latched onto a pass from Burgess only for the former Crewe striker to blast over the crossbar after hitting a shot from inside the area.

Despite Diamonds dominating proceeding, Grimsby took a 39th minute lead when a well worked corner was powerfully struck home by Anderson.

The Grimsby defender sweetly struck a shot which somehow crept under the arms of Evans.

However, the Diamonds goalkeeper soon made amends when he somehow denied Mike Edwards with a shot which seemed destined to hit the back of the net.

Lowe continued to be frustrated by the linesman’s flag and despite their best efforts the home side couldn’t find a way through the Grimsby defence.

AT HALF TIME: DIAMONDS 0 GRIMSBY 0

Jack saw his name go into the referee’s notebook for descent on 49 minutes as Diamonds began to show their frustrations early in the second-half.

Grimsby started the second-half strongly and Iffy Onuora had the chance to extend the visitors lead when he was left unmarked in the Diamonds penalty area but the striker failed to connect with Jason Crowe’s cross.

Diamonds’ frustration was starting to show as Grimsby defended in numbers and continued to be thwarted by the offside trap.

AFTER 60 MINS: DIAMONDS 0 GRIMSBY 1

A tactical change from the Diamonds bench saw Paul Kitson introduced into the action as Jack moved into midfield with Stuart Gray being replaced.

The change saw Diamonds look lively on the attack and on 63 minutes, Hall nearly managed to bring the home-side back on level terms but the Jamaican saw his effort blocked.

The equaliser wasn’t far away as Diamonds got their rewards for their hard work. A Marcus Bignot cross wasn’t cleared and as the ball hobbled around, Lowe poked the ball home from close range after Burgess and Kitson both had a crack on goal.

Grimsby responded to their disappointment and went close through Onuora and Crowe in quick succession.

However, Diamonds were in front on 73 minutes when Lowe grabbed his second of the game. A long clearance from Paul Underwood released Kitson who showed his experience by finding the Jamaican striker and, despite a moment of hesitation, Lowe slotted by Davison.

Diamonds could have extended their advantage a minute later when Kitson’s glancing header from Lowe’s cross was saved by Davison.

AFTER 75 MINUTES: DIAMONDS 2 GRIMSBY 1

Lowe was given a standing ovation on 79 minutes as he was replaced by Hanlon, who was also given a good reception by the home crowd.

Onuora was denied by some fine work from Bignot as Grimsby continued to search for an equaliser.

The Diamonds defence continued to hold firm as Grimsby began to throw bodies forward.

Crowe fired over the crossbar on 87 minutes and then in the closing stages, McDermott rattled the woodwork.

It seemed Diamonds would hang on to victory but in actual fact they made sure of the win in the closing stages when Hanlon struck a wicked 25-yard drive which flew past Davidson and into the corner of the net.

AT FULL TIME: DIAMONDS 3 GRIMSBY TOWN 1

Diamonds: Evans, Bignot, Underwood, Mills, Edwards, Hunter, Jack, Burgess, Gray (Kitson 60), Hall, Lowe (Hanlon 79).

Subs not used: Dempster, Sambrook, Talbot.

Bookings: Jack (49), Kitson (90)

Grimsby Town: Davison, McDermott, Cas, Campbell, Boulding, Young, Hamilton, Anderson (Jevons 76), Edwards, Crowe, Onuora.

Subs not used: Pettinger, Wheeler, Groves, Soames

Bookings: Campbell (29), Cas (90)

Referee: Mr RJ Olivier

Attendance: 4,185 (686 from Grimsby

Diamonds’ MOTM: Onandi Lowe (Welcome back)

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