Rushden & Diamonds 1 Darlington 2

 

Rushden and Diamonds were extremely unlucky to be on the end of a 2-1 defeat at Nene Park. Diamonds battled well throughout but were regularly thwarted by the impressive Sam Russell in the Quakers goal.

Rushden and Diamonds boss Ernie Tippett made one enforced change to the side that triumphed 5-1 against Notts County last weekend as Peter Hawkins was replaced by Andy Burgess at left back due to suspension.Darlington boss David Hodgson also made just one change due to injury to Alun Armstrong with Craig Russell replacing him.

Both sides looked bright in the opening stages but it was Diamonds who created the first clear cut opportunity. Following a neat move, Burgess crossed from the left to find the head of Drewe Broughton at the far post but his effort went wide, after eight minutes.

Darlington plugged away and showed some neat passing movements and eventually the pressure told.Adolfo Gregorio and Clyde Wijnhard combined well with a neat one two as the Quakers moved into the box, Billy Turley rushed out to avert the danger and appeared to bring down Gregorio however the referee waved play on, allowing Craig Hignett to close in and slot home into an empty net from the left angle, after 20 minutes.

Rob Gier limped off the pitch to be replaced by Sean Connelly after 26 minutes and Diamonds battled hard to try and find a breakthrough.Stuart Gray was booked for a foul after 33 minutes, followed a minute later by Broughton for persistent fouling, in between a brilliant effort by Gary Mulligan.The on-loan Wolves youngster latched onto Hay’s header and stepped inside before shooting from 15 yards, only to see his strong effort saved well by Russell in the Darlington goal.

A flurry of corners from the Diamonds ended in a comfortable save by Russell from Gray’s volley from the edge of the box, following Dove’s out-swinging corner from the Diamonds right, after 39 minutes.Three minutes later Burgess’ cross from the left found Broughton but his header went straight into the hands of the goalkeeper.

Gray saw his chip go narrowly over the bar at the start of the second half as the Diamonds came firing out of the blocks.A minute later Mulligan turned well and struck an impressive snap shot from 10 yards which was drew a superb reflex save by Russell.

Much of the second half was played inside Darlington’s own half with Diamonds doggedly sticking to their task, however finding a breakthrough was difficult.Phil Gulliver surged forward to shoot from distance but saw his effort comfortably saved by Russell, after 61 minutes.

David Bell struck a free-kick straight into the arms of Russell from the centre, just outside the box after 80 minutes as Diamonds still rallied; however two minutes later Darlington doubled their lead in their first strike on target in the second half.Substitute Neil Wainwright supplied a deep cross from the right which seemed to be heading safely for the hands of Turley, however Hignett managed to nip in and tuck the ball away from close range at the far post, before being substituted and replaced by Adrian Webster.

Despite the further set back within two minute’s Diamonds reduced the deficit.Dove’s free-kick from the Diamonds left was headed by Gray, before falling to Mulligan who struck home from 10 yards leaving the keeper with no chance. The goal however proved too little too late and the Diamonds ended up on the end of an undeserved defeat.

TEAMS:

Rushden and Diamonds: Turley, Allen, Gier (for Connelly 26), Hay, Gray, Bell, Burgess, Broughton, Gulliver, Dove, Mulligan.Subs not used: Worgan, Dempster, Kelly, Taylor.

Darlington: Russell, Valentine, Wijnhard, Clarke, Clark, Gregorio (for Wainwright 69), Russell, Kendrick, Hignett (sub Webster 83), Maddison, Close.Subs not used: Price, Keltie, McGurk.

Referee: Mr K Hill

Bookings: Gray, Broughton.

Goals: Hignett 20, Hignett 82.

Attendance: 3036 (281 away)

Diamonds Man of the match: Gary Mulligan (committed display and denied more goals).

By Richard Beeby.

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