Plymouth Argyle 3 Rushden & Diamonds 0

By Steven Dove

Not even a penalty save from Jamie Ashdown could prevent Rushden & Diamonds from defeat over title-chasing Plymouth.

Diamonds suffered a miserable afternoon in Devon with Marcus Bignot being shown the red card and Barry Hunter leaving on a stretcher.

Diamonds could have no complaints about this defeat with the Plymouth goals coming early in the second-half through Graham Coughlan and Ian Stonebridge and a late stunning strike from Paul Wotton

Plymouth could have easily added more to their total by Ashdown was in fine form making a number of key saves.

Diamonds boss Brian Talbot went into this game keeping faith with the same side that drew 2-2 over Luton Town last week.

It meant Onandi Lowe continued his partnership with Paul Kitson in attack despite suffering bruising to the ribs.

Plymouth, who had only lost one league home game all season, made no fewer than four changes to their side which drew 0-0 with Grimsby last week as they tried to keep their lead at the top of the Division Two table.

Diamonds made a steady start in the breezy conditions at Home Park and Rodney Jack was tormenting Paul Connolly down the left-flank.

As early as the second minute, Jack skipped past the challenge of Connolly to deliver a cross which was just short of Paul Hall’s reach.

Some shaky moments in the Diamonds defence almost allowed Lee Hodges to open the scoring but the Plymouth midfielder could only find the side netting.

Diamonds were given a huge let off on ten minutes when Nathan Lowndes scuffed a golden opportunity after he found himself free inside the visitors’ penalty area.

Ashdown produced a breathtaking penalty save from Haney Aljofree on 12 minutes after Andy Burgess hauled down Mickey Evans in clear vision of referee Clive Penton.

The on-loan Reading goalkeeper was at full stretch as he palmed away Aljofree’s effort around the post.

AFTER 15 MINS: Plymouth 0 Diamonds 0

With the Diamonds defence at ‘sixes and sevens’, Plymouth continued to look dangerous on the break and Evans couldn’t find the vital touch from Lowndes’ cross.

Diamonds were dealt a blow on 20 minutes when Hunter, following a 50/50 challenge with Evans, had to leave the field on a stretcher.

The visitors remained on the back foot and Connolly’s right wing cross on 27 minutes was headed straight into Ashdown’s arms by Evans.

Jack, continuing to cause problems for the Plymouth defence, tried his luck from 20-yard and, haven beaten Plymouth goalkeeper Luke McCormick, the nippy midfielder was unfortunate to see his effort go the wrong side of a post.

AFTER 30 MINS: Plymouth 0 Diamonds 0

Lowe, who was continuingly been marked out of the game, had a rare header comfortably saved on 36 minutes by McCormick as Diamonds struggled to threaten.

As the second-half drew to a close, Diamonds began to look strong and Hall dragged a shot on 40 minutes inches wide of the target.

Despite the fourth official adding six additional minutes to the first-half, neither side could open the scoring although Jack went close late on.

AT HALF TIME: PLYMOUTH 0 DIAMONDS 0

David Bell was introduced into the action at half-time, replacing Kitson. It meant Lowe partnered Jack in attack.

However, Diamonds made the worst possible start to the second-half as Coughlan headed home Hodges’ corner inside the first minute. Ashdown was left no chance as the Plymouth defender guided his effort into the bottom corner.

Plymouth continued to create the better chances and Hodge tested Ashdown from 30-yards with a well struck shot.

Diamonds slipped further behind on 57 minutes when Stonebridge struck from close range after David Norris has fed a delightful ball into the penalty area.

It went from bad to worse for the visitors as Bignot was shown a straight red card. The Diamonds defender could have few complaints as his rash challenge on Hodges left the referee with no choice.

AFTER 60 MINS: Plymouth 2 Diamonds 0

With Diamonds down to ten men, the visitors struggled to find any attacking momentum.

Ashdown produced a further stunning save from Norris on 68 minutes, palming away a fierce 25-yard pile driver which would have crept into the top corner of the net.

Plymouth should have extended their lead on 72 minutes when Friio somehow scooped the ball over the bar from inside the six-yard penalty area.

AFTER 75 MINS: Plymouth 2 Diamonds 0

Despite Diamonds suffering a miserable afternoon, Ashdown was continuing to shine when he blocked Norris’ powerful shot.

Plymouth’s continued to carve open plenty of openings. Hodges had time to take aim on 77 minutes but dragged his shot wide of the target.

Ashdown made saves from Evans and Friio as Diamonds tried in vain to salvage some consolation.

Barry Quinn and Andy Burgess both had efforts blocked before Hall had somehow failed to hit the target from inside the six-yard penalty area.

Paul Wotton rubbed salt in the wounds for Diamonds late on with a stunning 35-yard free-kick late on.

AT FULL TIME: PLYMOUTH 3 DIAMONDS 0

Plymouth: McCormick, Connolly, Hodges (Wotton 80), Friio, Coughlan, Norris, Stonebridge, Aljofree, Gilbert, Evans, Lowndes (Keith 75).

Subs not used: Sturrock, Phillips, Capaldi.

Bookings:

Diamonds: Ashdown, Bignot, Hunter (Dempster 21), Hanlon (Talbot 66), Jack, Quinn, Burgess, Sambrook, Kitson (Bell h/t), Hall, Lowe.

Subs not used: Mills, Akinfenwa

Bookings:

Referee: Mr Clive Penton

Attendance: 13,021

Diamonds’ MOTM: Jamie Ashdown

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