By Steven Dove
Rushden & Diamonds came so close to snatching a precious point over Swindon Town on Saturday afternoon.
However, the damage was done in the first-half in this five goal thriller as Swindon raced into a two goal half-time lead through goals from Tommy Mooney and a penalty converted by Andy Gurney.
An Alan Reeves own goal brought some hope for Diamonds straight after the restart but David Duke restored Swindon’s two goal cushion midway in the second-half.
Rodney Jack brought some hope that Diamonds would snatch a point but Rory Fallon, who was sent-off when the two teams met on Boxing Day grabbed a late goal.
David Bell was drafted into action at the expense of Ritchie Hanlon in the only change from last weeks 4-1 win over Oldham.
Leo Roget continued to partner Barry Hunter in the heart of Diamonds’ defence whilst Owen Story was named as a substitute.
Swindon, unbeaten in their last six, were without Steve Robinson who sustained a fractured leg in their recent 2-2 draw with Blackpool.
The home-side began brightly and only some good fortune from Diamonds denied Sammy Igoe an early shot at the visitors’ goal.
It wasn’t long before Diamonds got into their stride and a Paul Hall cross was nearly put away by the on-rushing Andy Burgess.
However, a defensive error saw Swindon take the lead on eight minutes. After Roget had taken one touch too many, Mooney was allowed to race through and scoop the ball over the onrushing Jamie Ashdown.
Sam Parkin should have extended Swindon’s advantage moments later when he fired over the crossbar from close range.
Some nervy defending from Diamonds nearly brought about an embarrassing own goal on 13 minutes but Hunter’s was sparred any embarrassment by a goal line clearance from Gary Mills.
AFTER 15 MINS: SWINDON 1 DIAMONDS 0
Swindon didn’t take long to double their advantage with a 16th minute penalty, converted by Gurney after Burgess was deemed to have handled in the area from Duke’s cross.
Igoe was Diamonds’ biggest problem as the Swindon midfielder showed nifty footwork on 24 minutes to drive a shot inches wide of Ashdown’s post.
A timely tackle from Bell denied an almost certain Swindon goal as Mooney raced onto Igoe’s cross from the right flank.
AFTER 30 MINS: SWINDON 2 DIAMONDS 0
Diamonds, struggling to find any pattern to their play, couldn’t break through a stern Swindon defence as the wind played havoc to their long ball game.
Onandi Lowe, who had been having a quiet game by his standards, had a header deflected for a corner on 39 minutes in a rare effort for the visitors.
Diamonds were enjoying their best spell of the game without causing many problems for Rhys Evans in the Swindon goal.
Bell’s deflected free-kick on 42 minutes kindly fell into the path of Gary Mills but the Diamonds midfielder was denied by the onrushing Evans, who predicted the danger to perfection.
A Duke shot deep into first-half stoppage time was somehow kept out by Ashdown’s feet with Swindon tearing the Diamonds defence apart with some well-worked football that warranted a third goal.
AT HALF TIME: SWINDON 2 DIAMONDS 0
As expected, Diamonds came out in a positive frame of mind in the second-half and a Lowe free-kick on 49 minutes flew over the crossbar when maybe the Jamaican should have done better.
Diamonds had a huge slice of luck on 53 minutes when Jack’s right-wing cross was diverted into his own net by Reeves.
Jack displayed great determination to collect a loose ball and whipped a cross into a dangerous area and despite no immediate threat; Reeves sliced a shot into his own net.
Jack could have found the net himself shortly after with a low drive but Evans made a comfortable save.
AFTER 60 MINS: SWINDON 2 DIAMONDS 1
Diamonds, displaying a more solid performance to the second-half, continued to bombard the Swindon goal and a trademark Lowe free-kick had Evans scrambling across his goal.
In a pulsating second-half, Diamonds continued to enjoy more of the possession and a Lowe header on 66 minutes was comfortably smothered by Evans.
Swindon had few chances in the second-half and a deflected Mooney free-kick was the only opportunity the home-side had created.
AFTER 75 MINS: SWINDON 2 DIAMONDS 1
Despite their second-half domination, Diamonds were dealt a blow on 75 minutes as Duke’s turn-and-shot crept into the corner of Ashdown’s net.
However in a typical ‘never say die’ response, Diamonds hit back. Burgess’ right-wing cross wasn’t dealt with by the Swindon defence and it enabled Jack to head home at the far post.
Mills had a long range effort which drifted wide of the target as Diamonds pushed extra bodies forward.
Evans came to rescue for Swindon making a vital save from Lowe on 86 minutes in a spell of nervy moments for home fans.
When it looked as if Diamonds may snatch an equaliser, Fallon stole in to head into an empty net after Roget had theatrically headed a ball onto his own crossbar.
AT FULL TIME: SWINDON 4 DIAMONDS 2
Swindon Town: Evans, O’Hanlon, Hewlett, Igoe (Miglioranzi 80), Mooney (Fallon 78), Parkin, Nicholas, Heywood, Reeves, Duke, Gurney.
Subs not used: Griemink, Viveash, Howard.
Bookings: Igoe (41), O’Hanlon (50)
Diamonds: Ashdown, Hunter, Mills, Jack, Quinn, Burgess, Sambrook, Bell (Kitson 73), Hall, Lowe, Roget.
Subs not used: Duffy, Dempster, Talbot, Story.
Bookings: Burgess (16)
Referee: Mr T Parkes
Diamonds’ MOTM: Gary Mills