Shrewsbury Town 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

 

Two changes to the Diamonds team that played out the 0-0 draw with Rochdale six days earlier, with captain Stuart Gray returning after injury in central midfield for Andy Sambrook and Jason Taylor preferred up front to Kevin Braniff.

Shrewsbury started with Diamonds cult hero Duane Darby on the bench and on-loan Manchester Utd youngster David Fox coming into the Shrewsbury midfield for Jamie Tolley, on international duty with the Wales U-21 team.

A bright start from the Diamonds saw Alex Hay hit the base of the right-hand post after just three minutes after being set up well by the Diamonds midfield. It begs the question of just how unlucky Hay is, as he did absolutely everything right and fully deserved a second goal in Diamonds colours.

Taylor made a decent impression early on, but it was David Bell, who seems to be saving his best form for away games these days, who shone most in the early exchanges. And it was from a Bell corner that Gulliver headed just wide after 11 minutes.

After 16 minutes we had the first real sighting of Luke Rodgers, who so tormented Diamonds on their last visit here, when he left Gulliver for dead cutting in from the right and shot early, but Billy Turley dealt with it relatively comfortably.

The next chance came after an excellent Bell corner on 16 minutes, which no Diamonds player could get on the end of. The ball eventually came out to Gray, whose shot from distance went tamely wide.

Logan then probably had the best chance of the game on 22 minutes, but Turley came out and made an excellent save from the forward’s shot.

David Bell slightly spoiled his very good first half by picking up a needless booking for not retreating at a Shrewsbury free-kick – which was almost by the opposition’s corner flag!

Shrewsbury proceeded to waste a couple of headed chances from a McGrath free-kick and corner, before something of a lull descended upon the game, with the Diamonds more than holding their own.

A good run and cross by Bell on 39 minutes seemed to wake Shrewsbury up and from an only half-cleared corner debutant Fox just cleared the bar with a fierce volley. Another good chance followed shortly afterwards with Rodgers again through on goal, but his effort was tame to say the least, little more than a back pass to Turley.

Shortly after the fourth official raised his board to signal one minute of added time, Diamonds won a corner on the left. Shrewsbury failed to clear yet another good delivery by Bell and the ball eventually emerged from the melee to fall invitingly for Dove to hammer home with his left foot from about eight yards out.

A spirited performance by the visitors in the first half, with Shrewsbury at no time applying any concerted pressure and, although Rodgers and Logan did have some good chances, who could begrudge the Diamonds a half-time lead after some of the luck they’ve had recently?

After the break, as would be expected, Shrewsbury put the Diamonds under a bit of pressure, but without ever really looking like drawing level.

Instead, the first really good chance of the second half came nine minutes in at the other end when Hawkins swung over a cross from the left, with Taylor heading down well, but unfortunately against the outside of the right post.

After Taylor had another headed chance, this time under more pressure, a Rodgers breakaway saw Turley magnificently push a Lowe shot around the post on 63 minutes.

Next up it was Lowe serving Rodgers, but his shot went just wide.

However, Shrewsbury chances were still few and far between halfway through the second period, with Diamonds, on the whole, looking pretty comfortable.

On 71 minutes a dangerous McGrath free-kick from just outside the box, harshly awarded against Bell for what looked like a fair challenge on Rodgers, was punched clear by a diving Turley. From the ensuing corner an unmarked Tinson headed into the side netting.

With just under 20 minutes remaining, Shrewsbury made a substitution, but not just any old substitution – as "Lord" Darby came off the bench to take Logan’s place in attack. Thankfully, his rousing reception from the away fans did not inspire him to great things, and he did little of any note after coming on.

After 82 minutes sub Aiston went on a good run and played a one-two with Rodgers, only for Gulliver to clear for a corner.

Next up was a long-distance shot from Bell at the other end, followed shortly afterwards by a Burgess cross that Hay headed back across the keeper but unfortunately also just wide of the post. Hay also had a break and shot that just cleared the bar.

A groan from the away end accompanied the board showing four minutes of injury time, but really, only a long-range shot that flashed wide presented any danger to the Diamonds goal, again very well defended by the back four and Billy Turley. But, while Bell was just pipped as man of the match at the last away game in Swansea, he has to share it this time round with the big keeper.

A word, too, about Jason Taylor on his full debut. After a bright start he struggled at times for the rest of the first half, but in the second 45 minutes he provided a good focal point for the Diamonds attacks and was unlucky not to open his account. Encouraging stuff.

A very impressive performance by the Diamonds and a richly deserved win. Seven clean sheets in 12 league games, just one defeat and one goal conceded in the last five league games and a comfortable mid-table position after their second away win of the season. Crisis? What crisis?

TEAMS:

Shrewsbury Town: Howie; Moss, Challis (sub Ridler 45), Tinson, Whitehead; McGrath (sub Aiston 80), Street, Fox, Lowe; Rodgers, Logan (sub Darby 72)

Rushden and Diamonds: Turley; Connolly, Hawkins, Allen, Gulliver; Gray (sub Dempster 76), Dove, Bell, Burgess; Taylor, Hay

Referee: Mr Stroud

Goals: Dove 45

Attendance: 3,882

Diamonds Men of the Match: Turley, Bell

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