Rushden & Diamonds 2 Luton Town 2

By Steven Dove

Although the losing rot over Luton Town has  been stopped, Diamonds had the perfect chance to record their first win over their local rivals.

Only a vital penalty save from Marlon Beresford to prevent Ritchie Hanlon from giving Diamonds a late second half lead saved Luton from defeat.

The visitors had twice taken the lead through Peter Holmes and Adrian Forbes but two headed goals, one from Paul Kitson and another from Barry Hunter, gave Diamonds a share of the spoils.

Barry Quinn was handed his Diamonds debut just 48 hours after completing his loan move from Coventry City.

It meant John Dempster was unfortunate to drop to the substitute bench as the Republic of Ireland international partnered Hunter.

Luton were without the services of Matthew Spring and Sol Davis so Ian Hiller and Holmes were recalled to the starting line-up.

A left footed drive from Andy Burgess after three minutes was an early indication that Diamonds were eager for all three points over a side they haven’t beaten in six attempts.

However, Forbes soon hushed the Diamonds crowd when he pocked home from close range on six minutes after Steve Robinson had found space on the right flank.

Steve Howard’s free header on nine minutes should have extended Luton’s lead after the Diamonds defence had fallen asleep but Jamie Ashdown was equal to the striker’s effort.

Hanlon’s free-kick tested Beresford in the Luton goal although the midfielder couldn’t connect sweetly with the 30-yard effort.

Diamonds brought themselves back on level terms on 15 minutes with a move which was started and finished by Kitson. The former West Ham striker pushed a ball out to the right flank where Paul Hall delivered an inch perfect cross for Kitson to head home past Beresford – the ball striking the inside of a post.

AFTER 15 MINS: Diamonds 1 Luton Town 1

Luton almost immediately restored their lead but Ashdown was strong at his near post to prevent Chris Coyne pouching a rare goal for his side.

The visitors continued to show more urgency in their play and Holmes’ 25-yard drive flew inches wide of Ashdown’s post.

Holmes squandered a further effort moments later when he skipped past a challenge from Burgess only to drag the shot wide of the target.

AFTER 30 MINS: Diamonds 1 Luton Town 1

After the early promise from both sides, neither team were beginning to show the flowing football that was evident in the opening 15 minutes.

However, Diamonds slipped behind on 39 minutes through a well-worked goal. Ahmet Brkovic’s work down the left flank gave him enough room to whip over a delivery which was tucked away by Holmes.

Lowe had an effort held by Beresford on the stroke of half-time but Diamonds couldn’t find a way past a stern Luton defence.

AT HALF-TIME: DIAMONDS 1 LUTON 2

Within the opening minute of the second-half, Hanlon’s flying header from Hall’s cross swept the wrong side of Beresford’s post.

Diamonds showed more urgency in their play and Kitson’s header on 50 minutes flew wide of the target.

Jack flashed a shot over the crossbar on 55 minutes and Lowe had a header which should have tested Beresford.

AFTER 60 MINS: Diamonds 1 Luton 2

Diamonds’ second-half performance warranted a goal and they got it on 65 minutes when Burgess’ corner found its way to Hunter whose header somehow flew into the top corner of the net.

Luton soon responded and Brkovic’s bicycle kick on 68 minutes was comfortably saved by Ashdown.

AFTER 75 MINS: Diamonds 2 Luton 2

A poor free-kick from Robinson failed to test Ashdown on 78 minutes as the visitors struggled to pile on the pressure.

Diamonds had the perfect chance to take the lead when Robinson was adjudged to have handled inside the area on 82 minutes. The former Northern Ireland international was shown a yellow card but Hanlon was denied from the spot by an excellent save from Beresford.

Diamonds threw men forward in the closing stages and Lowe was gifted a golden opportunity at the death but it was to end all-square in a pulsating fixture.

AT FULL-TIME: DIAMONDS 2 LUTON 2

Diamonds: Ashdown, Bignot, Hunter, Hanlon, Jack, Quinn, Burgess, Sambrook, Kitson, Hall, Lowe

Subs not used: Mills, Dempster, Bell, Talbot, Akinfenwa.

Bookings: Lowe (90)

Luton Town: Beresford, Forbes, Robinson, Coyne, Boyce, Brkovic, Howard, Hillier (Leary 54), Holmes, Mansell, Foley.

Subs not used: Showunmi, Davis, Brill, O’Leary.

Bookings: Howard (53), Robinson (81)

Referee: Mr S.J Tanner

Attendance: 5,823 (2,345)

Diamonds’ MOTM: Andrew Sambrook

See here for video highlights of the game.

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