Rushden & Diamonds 3 Oxford United 3

 

Rushden and Diamonds came from behind twice to lead before being forced to settle for a draw in an entertaining match at Nene Park where six goals were shared with Oxford United.

Diamonds boss Ernie Tippett made two changes to the starting line-up from the previous game against Scunthorpe United.Lee Worgan deputised in goal and made only his 3rd league start, and Diamonds league debut, for the suspended Billy Turley whilst Graham Allen returned to the starting line-up in place of Phil Gulliver who was dropped to the bench.Andy Sambrook kept his place in the starting eleven after an impressive performance against Scunthorpe to keep the returning Sean Connelly out on the bench.Oxford United meanwhile kept an unchanged side which included former Diamonds Leo Roget and Barry Quinn.

Diamonds started brightly and saw Craig Dove move inside from the left to shoot from 30 yards only to see his effort flash wide, after three minutes.Two minutes later Dove whipped in a ball, again from the left, which Alex Hay fed through to Gary Mulligan who shot from ten yards but saw the U’s defender David Woozley block.Stuart Gray also came close with a first time, left footed shot that drifted wide of the keeper’s right hand post from the edge of the area, following good Diamonds play after nine minutes.

Despite the positive start Diamonds afternoon started to go downhill.An injury to Gary Mulligan ended the youngster’s game as he was replaced by Jason Taylor, after 11 minutes.Diamonds then fell behind after 14 minutes following a quick break from the visitors, on their first real attack of the game.Jamie Brooks broke free on the left with a surging run before crossing the ball through to Chris Hackett who banged home from 6 yards past a helpless Worgan.

David Bell went close to levelling for the Diamonds on 32 minutes with a shot from the right, 30 yards from goal, but Bradie Clarke palmed the ball away well to his right to concede a corner.Five minutes later a good lay-off from Peter Hawkins to his left found Dove who shot hard and low from the left, almost level with the box, to score past Clarke who looked destined to make the save but somehow saw the ball slip through into the back of the net.Minutes later Hawkins, who looked to be playing very forward, almost hit the target with a right-footed shot, towards the left edges of the box only to see it narrowly miss and hit the side netting.

After almost going ahead the Diamonds went behind again following a set piece.Brooks drifted in a corner from the Oxford left which was headed out by Andy Burgess but only fell to Lee Bradbury who volleyed home from just inside the area, past Worgan’s right post, with 41 minutes gone.With one minute of added time remaining the Diamonds had a wonderful opportunity to equalise as Gray placed a ball out to the left to Dove who crossed a brilliant ball in but missed Taylor who was late arriving towards goal.

Diamonds were quick out of their blocks in the second half and saw Burgess’ shot deflected but picked up well by Hay who played in Bell, who crossed from the right, only to see Taylor shoot his effort wide of Clarke’s left post, after 47 minutes.A minute later Oxford forward Craig Davies finally got booked following a series of fouls to earn the first caution of the game.

The good start was continued as Diamonds equalised after 51 minutes.Bell latched on to a ball off Matt Robinson before switching onto his right foot to strike hard and low into the net from the edge of the area with the keeper again beaten at his near post.

Worgan handled well from Brook’s header from six yards following Tommy Mooney’s cross from the left before a lucky escape when Hackett blasted a shot well over the bar after a surging run, with several players better placed.

At the other end Dove’s cross from the left found the diving head of Taylor but the keeper saved brilliantly at his right post, after 58 minutes.A minute later Graham Allen was harshly booked for his first foul.

Brooks was replaced on the hour by Rob Wolleaston as Oxford looked to turn the tide in the second half but two minutes later they fell behind for the first time in the game.Bell, who was in inspired form, crossed with his left foot from the right hand corner of the box towards the far post where Taylor headed home strongly past a helpless Clarke.

After the goal Oxford threatened and saw Wolleaston go close with an effort from 35 yards that edged wide of Worgan’s left post, after 68 minutes and a minute later Bradbury’s effort from distance was well saved by Worgan at his near post.Mooney was booked for dissent after 70 minutes as Oxford became aggravated whilst Hawkins was booked a minute later for the home side.

Diamonds failure to hold a lead saw Oxford equalise.Davies, who was incredibly lucky to still be on the field following a number of fouls, took advantage of poor defending to beat Worgan after 77 minutes.Diamonds then were forced to make a change as Andy Sambrook hobbled off injured to be replaced by Sean Connelly before a Taylor header into the back of the net was ruled out for offside.

Oxford were knocked down to ten men as Mooney received a second yellow card for a late challenge on Andy Burgess.With the man advantage Diamonds strode forward and Hawkins cross found Taylor but he saw Robinson cut out his shot after 86 minutes.Oxford then made two changes to ease time bringing on Mark E’Beyer in place of Bradbury and Lee Molyneaux for Hackett.

Deep into stoppage time Diamonds almost got the winner amid a desperate goal mouth scurry which ended with a Burgess blast over the bar from the edge of the box.Dove then saw his effort from the angle on the left go just wide.

Ultimately, despite much determination Diamonds had to settle for a point but anyone watching at Nene Park in the bumper Boxing Day crowd would have surely seen enough to encourage them that the tide will finally turn in the Diamonds favour.With games coming thick and fast against Leyton Orient, Southend and Swansea over the next couple of weeks Diamonds will be hoping that similar performances can merit more points.

TEAMS:

Rushden and Diamonds:

Worgan, Hawkins, Allen, Gier, Hay, Gray, Bell, Burgess, Sambrook (sub Connelly 78), Dove, Mulligan (sub Taylor 11).Subs not used: Dempster, Gulliver, Kelly.

Oxford United:

Clarke, Mackay, Robinson, Roget, Woozley, Hackett (sub Molyneaux 88), Mooney, Bradbury (sub E’Beyer 86), Quinn, Brooks (Wolleaston 62), Davies.Subs not used: Tardif, Morgan..

Referee: Mr M Fletcher

Goals: Hackett 14, Dove 37, Bradbury 41, Bell 51, Taylor 62, Davies 77

Bookings: Davies 47, Allen 59, Mooney 70, Hawkins 71

Sending off: Mooney 83 (second bookable offence)

Attendance: 4140 (1490 away)

Diamonds Man of the Match: David Bell (scored a goal and set up Taylor for the third.)

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