Walsall 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS were knocked out of the LDV Vans Trophy after failing to convert their chances at the Bescot Stadium against Paul Merson’s Walsall side.

David Bell had a penalty saved by Saddlers keeper Mark Paston just before half-time after referee Carl Boyeson spotted that Alex Hay was being held back inside the box by defender Ian Roper.

Further opportunities went begging for Ernie Tippett’s team who put in another good performance despite being beaten by stand-in skipper Jorge Leitao’s close-range strike on 74 minutes, firing home after Billy Turley could only parry a shot from Matt Fryatt who was released into space by Merson’s vision.

Tippett only made one change after last Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Swansea City in Coca-Cola League Two with Andrew Sambrook replacing John Dempster who suffered a dead leg in the first half at the Vetch Field. Sambrook was brought into a defensive midfield role for a man-marking job on former England and Arsenal ace Merson.

After just six minutes Kevin Braniff shot narrowly wide and Paston made saves from Craig Dove and Bell. Braniff headed over another chance before Hay and Peter Hawkins picked up bookings inside a two-minute spell.

Bell’s penalty miss came on 39 minutes and that lifted Walsall as Merson and Kris Taylor broke clear for efforts before the break.

Diamonds had claims for another penalty just after the interval when Mark Wright appeared to handle Dove’s cross. But this time Mr Boyseon was not convinced by appeals from the visiting supporters behind that goal.

Hawkins had a good shot which went wide and Braniff blasted over in a counter-attack. Andy Burgess also had a goal disallowed for handball just before he shot into the net from 20 yards but it just seemed like a matter of time until Diamonds would score.

However Leitao finally found the net and Merson hit the crossbar near the end as Diamonds bowed out of this competition in the first round.

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Swansea City 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

 

Well, I would love to give a report of the full game, but unfortunately, due to the nightmarish traffic in Swansea, I didn’t take my seat in the press box until 20 minutes into the game!

And I couldn’t even crib a report for the first 20 minutes off BBC Radio Wales as their live commentary of the game wasn’t happening due to technical problems.

Mind you, I could give you a detailed description of the three or four miles of the A483 and A4067 that it took one and a half hours to crawl along to the ground.

Mind you, I should feel hard done by – many of the Diamonds fans didn’t find their way onto the West Terrace until near enough half-time. Just as well that they got there – as they swelled the away support into three figures!

Anyway, I was reliably informed that it had been something like one-way traffic towards the Diamonds goal at a passionate Vetch for the first 5-10 minutes, before the game settled down somewhat. After I arrived, Diamonds had a spell where they were not exactly controlling the game, but at least seemed in no real danger.

Swansea’s attacks seemed to be breaking down most often due to their forwards’ inability to keep onside, with the vocal local fans becoming ever more frustrated at this.

However, just when the natives were beginning to get a bit restless and the Diamonds looked in least trouble, they fell behind. A slightly half-hearted challenge on Forbes by Dove near the touchline allowed the ex-Luton winger enough time to sling over a dangerous cross to the near post that Nugent never looked like wasting, heading in comfortably after 38 minutes.

Shortly afterwards, Nugent, looking suspiciously offside, got behind the Diamonds’ back four, but was pushed wide, with Billy Turley eventually making a good smothering save.

There was one more moment of danger before the break when Forbes whipped in another dangerous cross, which was cleared over his own bar by Allen, under pressure from the lurking Nugent.

So, nothing particularly special from the Diamonds, with Swansea probably deservedly one ahead at the break.

Ernie had kept faith in the team and tactics that had brought the much-needed win seven days earlier against Cheltenham. However, at half-time, he decided to introduce Andy Sambrook in the place of John Dempster in the holding midfield position. Whether Dempster had taken a knock or not was not clear, but, at times, he had struggled against Martinez and O’ Leary in the battle for central midfield supremacy.

After the break Swansea again started well, taking the game to the Diamonds. Billy Turley made decent saves from Trundle and Gurney shots, before Diamonds finally began to get some real hold of the match.

The visitors probably enjoyed their best period of the match around halfway through the second 45 minutes, with Burgess and, in particular, Bell to the fore as they gave the Diamonds the much-needed width that had been missing in the first half.

Some concerted pressure resulted in four corners in succession, the last of which provided Alex Hay with one of two good chances he had in the game ­-but he headed over the bar from just a few yards out, admittedly under pressure from a Swansea defender.

Shortly afterwards he had his second chance following a great Burgess free-kick from the left. However, after Allen’s fine header was saved Hay was unable to make the most of the resulting loose ball.

Diamonds continued to press and saw a Connolly cross lifted over the bar by the busy Braniff from an awkward position.

A Burge effort just over the bar and more good work in patches by Bell were perhaps the last real impetus Diamonds gave to the game until the final minute, when Braniff’s miscued shot somehow ended up as a corner.

Turley decided it was time to come up for this corner, but the ball broke, and Trundle’s effort from almost halfway only narrowly cleared the bar.

Shortly afterwards the ref blew for full-time. I suppose with a corner count of 10-7 in their favour and almost the same number of shots as their opponents over the 90 minutes, Diamonds could be considered slightly unfortunate to lose.

However, over the full game (and I have to take other people’s word for the first 20 minutes!), 1-0 to Swansea was probably just about fair. The Diamonds defence again looked pretty solid, the midfield was effective in fits and starts, but the real problem is where the goals are going to come from. Diamonds never really looked like they were going to score today.

TEAMS:

Swansea City: Gueret; Ricketts, Gurney, Monk, Austin; Forbes (sub Britton 71), O’Leary, Martinez, Robinson (sub Maylett 84); Trundle, Nugent

Rushden and Diamonds: Turley; Connolly, Hawkins, Allen, Gulliver; Dempster (sub Sambrook 45), Dove, Bell, Burgess; Braniff, Hay

Referee: Mr Warren

Goals: Nugent 38

Attendance: 7,410

Diamonds Man of the Match: Billy Turley (I think we all forgot what a class keeper he really is while Jamie Ashdown was here last year)

Written by J Roberts

Rushden & Diamonds1 Cheltenham Town 0

 

Rushden and Diamonds claimed their second home win of the season by beating old rivals Cheltenham town, at Nene Park.

Ernie Tippett made two changes to the starting line-up from the team that claimed a point at Oxford United in the previous league game.Andy Burgess returned from an ankle injury in the centre of the park, alongside John Dempster who continued his move from defence.On the bench Rob Gier returned following suspension.Opposing manager John Ward’s only changes were on the bench where John Brough and JJ Melligan replaced David Bird and Graham Fyfe.

Diamonds started brightly and Craig Dove’s wonderful through ball created an early opportunity for Hay after four minutes, however his shot from the angle on the turn, was easily handled by Shane Higgs.At the other end Billy Turley had to be alert to punch the ball away after Martin Devaney’s ball into the box, with Damian Spencer close-by.Diamonds again threatened from a couple of David Bell’s corners, firstly seeing a Graham Allen header blocked by Grant McCann before Phil Gulliver headed over from the second.

Both sides saw decent opportunities spurned from distance.The Robins Brian Wilson fancied his chance from long range but shot hopelessly wide, with former Northampton Town man Jerry Gill better placed on ten minutes.Two minutes later Dove, who looked impressive just behind the front pairing of Kevin Braniff and Hay, shot wide from 30 yards.

Only Turley’s smart block with his leg prevented Diamonds from going behind after 20 minutes, with McCann rolling the ball forward to Wilson who shot from the angle.Two minutes later the hosts also came close to breaking the deadlock as Dove’s shot from distance was saved on the second attempt by Higgs, with Hay rushing in, however they only had to wait a further nine minutes to take the lead.

Burgess’ header on from the edge of the box found Braniff who controlled the ball with his thigh and looked for support before turning his defender and shooting the ball high into the roof of the net with his left foot, from an acute angle.Moments later the goal-scorer curled another effort from the Diamonds left over Higgs’ far post as Diamonds looked to go further in front.

Burgess turned his man superbly before shooting from just outside the area, from close to the centre, however his effort went over the bar, six minutes before the break.Interlinking play between Peter Hawkins and Burgess then resulted in the latter shooting and seeing his effort deflect for a corner, before Cheltenham made a change brining on John Brough in place of Michael Taylor after 44 minutes.

Bell shot well wide of the target and Dempster shot straight into the hands of the keeper inside the first five minutes of the second half before the linesman had to replace the referee.Robins then made their second change of the afternoon bringing on JJ Melligan for Wilson.

A neat passage of play ended in Braniff feeding Burgess who saw his shot deflect out for a corner after 62 minutes, with Diamonds looking the most likely to get any further goal. There was a moment of panic for Diamonds as Turley rushed out to clear and conceded a throw; however Damian Spencer failed to take advantage of the possibility of a quick throw with Turley still out of his goal.

Burgess’ cross from the left found the head of Dove, with his effort cannoning off the post after 67 minutes whilst Spencer was thwarted by Turley following a neat ball up-field, just two minutes later.Cheltenham then made their final substitution bringing off former Hereford United forward Steve Guinan to be replaced by Ashley Vincent.

Martin Devaney’s cross caused Turley to save one handed after 77 minutes, however from the rebound Melligan shot wide before Diamonds saw Dove’s volley get a deflection and get saved superbly for a corner by Higgs.Jason Taylor replaced Braniff who limped off after 83 minutes, with what looked like a hamstring injury.

Cheltenham looked strong in the closing stages and only a brilliant stop from Turley thwarted McCann following Devaney’s 84th minute cross from the left.Despite the Robins trying to force Diamonds onto the back foot they were able to hold firm to secure only their second home victory this season, and another clean sheet.

TEAMS:

Rushden and Diamonds: Turley, Connelly, Hawkins, Allen, Hay, Bell, Burgess, Dempster, Braniff (sub Taylor 83), Gulliver, Dove.Subs not used: Worgan, Gier, Sambrook, Kelly.

Cheltenham Town:Higgs, Wilson (sub Melligan 55), Victory, Duff, Taylor (sub Brough 44), Devaney, Finnigan, Guinan (sub Vincent 71), Spencer, McCann, Gill. Subs not used: Odejayi, Brown.

Referee: Mr Kettle

Goals: Braniff 31,

Attendance: 2601 (474 away)

Diamonds Man of the Match: John Dempster

By Richard Beeby

Oxford United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Both sides put in a committed performance in an often dull game at the Kassam Stadium.Little entertainment was found in the first half, which was marred by an injury to Gary Mills, before a slightly more entertaining second period, but in truth neither side ever looked like going on to win all three points.

Ernie Tippett made three changes to the starting line-up from the team that lost to Southend United.Andy Burgess missed the game due to an ankle injury and Rob Gier was suspended for his sending off against Southend whilst Marcus Kelly was placed on the bench.Craig Dove started for only the third time this season along with Billy Turley, Stuart Gray, Kevin Braniff, Sean Connelly, Graham Allen and Gary Mills, all of which had shaken off recent injuries.Oxford meanwhile were without former Diamonds man Leo Roget, due to injury.

Oxford made a bright start to the game with plenty of neat forward play.Julian Alsop ran onto a long punt up-field before playing the ball to Matt Robinson who supplied the cross from the Oxford left, only for it to elude Steve Basham in the fifth minute.A clash in the area following another Oxford attack left Alsop and Turley needing treatment, but both were able to remain on the pitch.At the other end a Braniff strike from outside the area got a deflection for a corner with ten minutes gone.

A spell of good play from both teams failed to result from anything promising in front of goal with Alex Hay and Alsop both caught offside, before a lengthy stoppage.Jamie Hand was booked for a tackle from behind on Mills, which left the player needing a stretcher as he left the field with what looked like a serious injury, with John Dempster his replacement.

Mooney blasted over from 16 yards following a long ball up-field after 29 minutes and Diamonds saw Gray’s pass through to Peter Hawkins set up a neat passage of play but Braniff’s shot went wide of Chris Tardiff’s far right post, just two minutes later.Rob Wolleaston, who impressed in the centre of Oxford’s midfield, made a great run forward before laying the ball off to Mooney who again shot over before Braniff also saw a shot go wide, this time from the Diamonds left from some distance.

The assistant referee signalled five additional minutes of time at the end of a disappointing first half, due to Mills’ injury, in which Wolleaston shot tamely at Turley from the centre, just outside the box, and Connelly fired ten yards wide to the left of the Oxford goal from distance.

Braniff shot well, but only at the keeper, from an angle inside the first three minutes of the second half for Diamonds whilst Basham forced Turley to make a smart save for a corner, after his shot from just outside the area, as both sides looked to up the tempo.Turley then saved from Alsop’s cross and Mooney’s 40 yard strike as Oxford took hold of the game temporarily, before another comfortable save to deny Jon Ashton’s header for the hosts.Alsop was then booked following a scuffle in the Diamonds box.

Dove’s snap shot on the turn after a ball from David Bell failed to test Tardiff after 59 minutes before Mooney was spoken to by the referee for a supposed challenge on Allen, and Braniff came off worse following a late challenge at the other end and later had to be replaced by Jason Taylor, after 69 minutes.Julian Alsop was then substituted for the hosts, making way for youngster Craig Davies.

Diamonds made a lucky escape when it seemed Basham had scored following a corner from substitute Tom Winters after 79 minutes, but the referee instead gave Diamonds a free-kick due to a foul on Turley by Mooney, who was booked for the challenge.Mooney again was in the spotlight as his header from Davies cross was saved well by Turley, low down to his right, with eight minutes remaining.

Hay broke free from Lee Molyneaux as Diamonds looked to press on the break, but his effort went over the bar as time ticked away. Gray then saw his header from Bell’s corner go over, although the referee blew up for a foul just moments later.

In the end both sides had to be content with just a point, although the hosts are likely to have been a little more disappointed than the visitors, for whom this represented a good, solid and well earned away point against a side hotly tipped to challenge for promotion.

 

TEAMS:

Oxford United: Tardiff, Mackay, Robinson (sub Winters 57), Ashton, Mooney, Basham, Wolleaston, Alsop (sub Davies 72), Parker, Molyneaux (sub Woozley 87), Hand.Subs not used: Cox, Wanless.

Rushden and Diamonds:Turley, Connelly, Hawkins, Mills (sub Dempster), Allen, Hay, Gray, Bell, Braniff (sub Taylor 69), Gulliver, Dove.Subs not used: Sambrook, Worgan, Kelly.

Referee: Russell Booth

Bookings: Braniff, Hand, Alsop, Mooney

Attendance: 4756 (283 away)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Peter Hawkins.

Report by Richard Beeby.

Rushden & Diamonds1 Southend United 4

 

Rushden and Diamonds had a nightmare as they went down comfortably at home to Southend United.The Shrimpers, without an away win since March, eased past their League Two opponents who weren’t helped with injuries and a sending off.

Ernie Tippett made one change to the starting line-up with Gary Mills being replaced by Marcus Kelly due to a sore thigh, whilst Graham Allen returned on the bench.Steve Tilson meanwhile made no changes to his entire squad of 16.

Southend made a bright start with ex- Northampton man Lawrie Dudfield testing Billy Turley from close range inside the first minute, before Tesfaye Bramble and Mark Gower both wasted promising openings.Kelly’s failure to connect with a ball in the centre of the park almost cost Diamonds dear on 14 minutes as Kevin Maher was able to run free before passing through to Gower who was fouled by Sean Connelly.From the free-kick on the left corner of the box, Gower saw his shot saved smartly by Turley, low to his left.

Diamonds came under increasing pressure and it was no surprise when they fell behind on 18 minutes.Gower’s corner was headed down well at Turley’s far left post by Adam Barrett, leaving Dudfield to knock the ball home from six yards.

Diamonds were in desperate need of a breakthrough and Kelly was soon replaced by Craig Dove on 21 minutes, with Dove slotting in behind the Diamonds front men.The first opening for the hosts came 2 minutes after the change as Gulliver’s header from Gray’s corner went over the bar.Andy Sambrook then replaced Connelly, with the latter looking injured as he left the field.

The Shrimpers looked unlucky not to have been given a penalty when Peter Hawkins appeared to push Bramble over in the area.Minutes later Carl Pettefer ran well before seeing his hard low shot, from the edge of the box go wide after 31 minutes.Two minutes later Braniff’s ball through almost broke for Alex Hay but the keeper managed to get out in time, and despite the danger being averted the collision with Hay left Bart Griemink unable to continue as he was stretchered off and Daryl Flahavan took to the goal.

Diamonds struggled to get into the game but did see the occasional bright opening.Andy Burgess played a neat ball to Hay on the Diamonds left who found Hawkins; he then switched the ball onto his right foot before shooting from the edges of the box straight at Flahavan.Then just a minute before the break Bell’s left foot shot from the right flew far wide of the goal to sum up a disappointing first half performance by the hosts.

Diamonds began the second half much more brightly with Gulliver’s long ball forward causing Flahavan to punch with Hay pressuring, before they equalised on 49 minutes.Spencer Prior lost the ball on Southend’s right allowing Burgess to connect, before running forward and striking the ball home from 12 yards past the keeper.

Gower’s long ball forward fell for Dudfield after 53 minutes who was upended in the box by Rob Gier to concede a penalty.The referee sent Gier off for the challenge, which saw Dudfield appear to fall rather too easily, before the resultant spot kick was put home by the former Cobbler, despite Turley diving the right way down to his left.

Diamonds faced an uphill task with ten men, and being a goal behind, but Hay’s lay off did allow a chance as Braniff shot hard and low after 56 minutes, but the effort went wide.At the other end Dudfield broke well on the right before attempting to lob the ball past Turley, but thankfully for Diamonds the shot strayed wide.

The referee failed to notice a blatant foul on Burgess as Adrian Jupp then found Gower who tested Turley from long range, after 63 minutes.Two minutes later Che Wilson’s two footed tackle on Bell caused a scuffle, with the former lucky to escape with just a yellow card.

The Diamonds afternoon went from bad to worse as they went a further goal behind with 21 minutes left.Kevin Maher’s corner was drifted in well to find Bramble who placed his header from the centre of the six yard box, past a helpless Turley.The cause was further harmed when Burgess had to limp off with an injury, leaving Diamonds with just nine players, having used all the three available substitutes.

Braniff’s shot from the centre was easily saved by Flahavan, from 25 yards before a neat block by Turley at the other end prevented a further goal for the Shrimpers after 82 minutes.Late on Braniff failed to test Flahavan as another long shot went a yard over the bar, but Diamonds could do little to turn around the game and it was Southend who always looked the likelier of the sides to claim another goal.That goal was claimed with just a minute remaining as Barrett claimed a free header from Maher’s free kick to complete the thrashing.

Ernie Tippett will have been majorly disappointed by this loss, which was the first home league loss of the season.Diamonds never looked at the races and injuries and sendings off did little to help the cause as the Diamonds faithful went home disappointed.

TEAMS:

Rushden and Diamonds: Turley, Connelly (sub Sambrook 24), Hawkins, Gier, Hay, Gray (for Allen 62), Bell, Burgess, Braniff, Gulliver, Kelly (for Dove 21).Subs not used: Dempster, Taylor.

Southend United:Griemink (for Flahavan 33), Jupp, Barrett, Gower (for Corbett 77), Maher, Bentley, Pettefer, Dudfield, Prior, Wilson, Bramble (for Broughton 77).Subs not used: Hunt, Edwards.

Referee: Mr L Probert

Goals: Dudfield 18 mins, Burgess 49, Dudfield 53 pen, Bramble 69, Barrett 89.

Booking: Hawkins, Wilson

Sending off: Gier (last man)

Attendance: 2804 (579 away)

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