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

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