Queens Park Rangers 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

By Steven Dove

Despite a spirited second-half performance, Rushden & Diamonds slipped to a narrow defeat at Loftus Road.

Diamonds had a number of good opportunities in the second-half after Kevin Gallen had put the home-side into a first-half lead.

Paul Hall struck the woodwork with a formidable effort and Rodney Jack was denied an injury time equaliser by a finger tip save from QPR shot-stopper Chris Day.

Onandi Lowe was recalled to the starting line-up after missing Sunday’s win over Wycombe with the flu meaning Trevor Benjamin dropped to the bench.

Andy Burgess recovered from a knock sustained at the Causeway Stadium to partner Ritchie Hanlon in midfield and Andrew Sambrook continued in the Diamonds defence in the absence of Paul Underwood.

QPR, undefeated in 12 home league games, were without Tony Thorpe after the former Bristol City and Luton striker failed a late fitness test. Paul Furlong was recalled to the starting line-up.

As expected, QPP started the stronger of the two sides and Gallen was only denied a scoring opportunity on four minutes by a fine tackle from John Dempster.

Moments later, Jamie Ashdown, who recently completed his loan move to Nene Park for the remainder of the season, pulled off a fine save from Furlong.

The on-loan Reading goalkeeper was then called into action on eight minutes when he somehow kept out Gallen’s surging run and shot as Diamonds’ offside trap was broken.

AFTER 15 MINS: QPR 0 Diamonds 0

Diamonds’ first sight at goal arrived on 16 minutes when Hall, collecting a ball on the right flank, skipped past the challenge of one defender only to miss-hit a shot wide of the target with the goal at his mercy.

QPR’s attacks were rare but Marcus Bean should have found the target on 21 minutes when the Diamonds defence was caught asleep as the midfielder found himself in acres of space in the visitor’s penalty area.

It was little surprise when QPR opened the scoring on 24 minutes as Gallen slotted home from inside the penalty area, finishing off some fine work from Martin Rowlands.

AFTER 30 MINS: QPR 1 Diamonds 0

Diamonds began to enjoy their best spell of the game and Lowe’s first opening on 31 minutes was a tame effort which was easily smothered by Day.

Furlong’s powerful close range header on 37 minutes from Gallen’s free-kick flew over the crossbar as QPR began to sustain further pressure on the Diamonds goal.

The home-side should have doubled their advantage on 38 minutes but Daniel Shittu was guilty of missing the target with only Ashdown to beat from six-yards.

Rowlands tried his luck from 30-yards although Ashdown was equal to his effort and Gallen continued to cause problems for the Diamonds defence.

AT HALF-TIME: QPR 1 DIAMONDS 0

With Diamonds looking to make an instant impression in the second-half, Burgess struck from 20-yards on 46 minutes although Day wasn’t troubled.

Diamonds conjured the best opening on 51 minutes when Lowe found some space in the QPR penalty area only to blast over the crossbar.

A splendid effort from Hall on 57 minutes was worthy of bringing Diamonds back on level terms but the Jamaican international watched as his strike from an acute angle rebounded off Day’s post.

AFTER 60 MINS: QPR 1 Diamonds 0

Diamonds continued to enjoy the majority of the possession in the second half and Lowe, who had been closely marked all game, had a rare header comfortable saved by Day.

On 66 minutes, Marc Bircham fired over an empty target after Ashdown was forced to come outside his area to force a save from Gallen.

Ashdown’s busy afternoon continued on 70 minutes when he was forced to tip over Gallen’s 30-yard pile driver.

AFTER 75 MINS QPR 1 Diamonds 0

A timely tackle from Gino Padula to prevent Jack a goal scoring opportunity was much-needed as the Diamonds midfielder looked destined to find the back of the net.

Diamonds suffered heartbreak on 83 minutes when Lowe’s free-kick was heading goalbound until Benjamin diverted it off course with a header.

The visitors continued to throw bodies forward in the closing stages. Lowe had a half-volley blocked and Benjamin went close moments later.

Jack had a late chance saved by Day and despite their best efforts, Diamonds couldn’t force an equaliser and slipped to a narrow defeat which their second-half performance probably didn’t deserve.

AT FULL TIME: QPR 1 DIAMONDS 0

QPR: Day, Forbes, Padula, Carlisle, Shittu, Bircham, Gallen, Rowlands, Bean, McLeod (Ainsworth 84), Furlong.

Subs not used: Culkin, Palmer, Rose, Sabin

Bookings:

Diamonds: Ashdown, Bignot, Hunter, Hanlon, Jack, Burgess, Dempster, Sambrook, Kitson (Benjamin 67), Hall (Bell 59), Lowe.

Subs not used: Talbot, Okounghae, Akinfenwa.

Bookings:

Referee: Mr A Butler

Attendance: 14,141

Diamonds’ MOTM: Jamie Ashdown

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