Wycombe Wanderers 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

 

Ten man Diamonds secured a well deserved point at Wycombe after seeing Graham Allen sent off late in the second half.

In a pulsating first half, Adam Birchall scored after 14 minutes only for Gary Mulligan to equalise on his full debut.

Rushden boss Ernie Tippett made two changes to the starting line-up from the side which lost narrowly against Chester City at the weekend. Alex Hay was ruled out with a calf injury allowing on-loan striker Gary Mulligan to make his full debut up front alongside Drewe Broughton. Peter Hawkins had recovered from his calf injury and returned to the left back position leaving Andy Burgess to switch back to midfield in place of John Dempster. Graham Allen had shaken off his calf injury to keep his place at the heart of the Diamonds defence.

Wycombe were looking to end a run of 5 league games without a win and they also made two changes to the side that lost 2-0 at Boston on Saturday. Clint Easton replaced Gus Uhlenbeek at right back while Adam Birchall came in for Ian Stonebridge in midfield.

Fortunately, the heavy afternoon rain had ceased shortly before the start and while the pitch was very moist, it was Diamonds who kicked off towards their own supporters on a mild night in the impressive Causeway Stadium.

The home side took just 34 seconds to test the Diamonds defence. Matt Bloomfield’s long ball out of defence allowed Nathan Tyson to run clear on the left but as he cut into the penalty area his shot could only find the side netting.

Two minutes later Diamonds created an excellent opportunity to take the lead after Mulligan and Broughton combined nicely to set up David Bell but with the ‘keeper off his line, the midfielder’s lob fell onto the roof of the net.

A slip by Hawkins gave Tyson another chance to run clear of the Diamonds defence but the striker crucially lost control as he approached the penalty area allowing Billy Turley to come out and smother the ball.

The game seemed to be settling down after the early goalmouth action until two superb goals in five minutes changed all that.

The home side took the lead on 14 minutes with a wonderfully worked move. Danny Senda picked the ball up 35 yards out and struck a deft lob over the top of the visitors defence to Birchall who brought the ball down before giving Turley no chance from 12 yards.

Diamonds equaliser was just as impressive but the finish was spectacular. Sean Connolly’s cross from the left picked out Broughton and when Wycombe failed to clear his knock down, Mulligan, with his back towards goal, produced a superb overhead kick which went into the net with the aid of the right hand post.

On 23 minutes, both teams were reduced, temporarily, to ten men when first Easton had to leave the field with a gashed left knee and then Phil Gulliver had to receive treatment for a facial injury. Gulliver resumed play with a change of shirt but Easton had to be substituted by Charlie Comyn – Platt.

The game continued at pace with both sides keen to attack. Broughton and Mulligan were starting to forge an encouraging understanding and beginning to pose more and more questions to the home defence.

On the stroke of half-time, Diamonds came close to an interval lead when Graham Allen’s header from David Bell’s corner was well saved by Frank Talia diving to his left.

Rushden had to make an early substitution in the second half when Burgess failed to run off a twisted ankle and had to be replaced by Dempster.

Nine minutes later Mulligan did well to flick the ball back to Craig Dove 20 yards out and while the youngster’s shot beat Talia the ball whistled inches past the upright.

After a scrappy opening to the second period, Diamonds were starting to take control of midfield and they came close to taking the lead on 70 minutes. Broughton found himself all alone with just the ‘keeper to beat but Talia pulled off a fine save to deny the midfielders well struck volley.

Straight from that piece of action, Diamonds found themselves reduced to ten men when Allen was adjudged to have hauled back Tyson as the striker tried to break clear. Referee Tomlin reached for the red card despite understandable protests from the Rushden players.

Manager Tippett made a change bringing on Gier for Dove and the substitute made an immediate impact. From the resulting free kick , Williamson’s shot was parried by Turley but only as far as Senda and when he sent the follow up goalwards, Gier made an excellent sliding clearance to clear the danger.

Wycombe had two late chances to win the game. Zema Abbey headed wide from Tyson teasing cross while six minutes from time Tyson was again the villain for Wycombe when, not for the first time, he got clear of the Rushden defence but with Turley in front, Tyson somehow found the stands instead of the target.

This was a battling performance by Diamonds and one that will give them great heart as they go on to face Bury at the weekend.

TEAMS:

Wycombe Wanderers: Talia (capt), Silk, Easton (Comyn-Platt 17), Johnson, Williamson, Bloomfield, Burnell, Senda, Birchall, Abbey, Tyson.

Subs not used: Williams, Uhlenbeek, Stonebridge, Ryan’

Rushden and Diamonds: Turley, Connelly, Hawkins, Allen, Gray (capt), Bell, Burgess (Dempster 47), Broughton, Gulliver, Dove (Gier 72), Mulligan.

Subs not used: Sambrook, Worgan, Braniff.

Referee: Mr S Tomlin

Goals: Birchall 14, Mulligan 18
Attendance: 3,844

Bookings: Dove 42 – Foul

Diamonds Man of the Match: Gary Mulligan

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