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

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