Rochdale 2 Rushden & Diamonds 0

 

Rushden and Diamonds fell to their first ever defeat to Rochdale as a determined home side put in a strong second half display to snatch all three points courtesy of goals from Ernie Cooksey and Grant Holt.

Rushden and Diamonds Caretaker Manager Barry Hunter made just one change to the starting line-up following the previous week’s victory over Leyton Orient as Charlton Athletic youngster Neil McCafferty lined up in central midfield to make his debut loan appearance.On the bench Alex Hay returned from suspension whilst Marcus Kelly was left out of the squad.Rochdale lined up in a 4-3-3 formation with former Northampton Town man Daryl Burgess left on the bench whilst Gary Jones missed out due to suspension allowing Holt to return from the suspension he served at Yeovil in midweek.

Diamonds started brightly and saw Billy Sharp cut inside from the left to fire a shot from 12 yards straight at the keeper Matthew Gilks, inside the first minute.Little was seen from either side in the form of attack and the next moment of note didn’t arrive until the 12th minute when Sharp received a yellow card for a series of dives, moments later Scott Warner’s drive flew wide of Alan Blayney’s right post.

Craig Dove’s right wing, out-swinging corner gave Sharp the opportunity to head from six yards, but his effort went a couple of yards over the bar in the 18th minute.Grant Holt’s brilliant ball through the centre unleashed Leo Bertos for Dale as he got behind the Diamonds backline in the 21st minute, but Rob Gier tracked back superbly to nullify the threat with a great challenge to prevent damage to the Diamonds goal.

As Diamonds pressed, Jamie Clarke’s foul on Burgess set up a good opportunity from a free-kick on the left channel as Dove saw his in-swinging kick palmed away by Gilks before a further superb stop from a Burgess smash from 10 yards, just two minutes later, with Sharp seeing his effort blocked in the follow up.

In response Rochdale saw Gareth Griffiths head wide of the post from a Clarke right-wing corner, after 42 minutes and two minutes later McCafferty volleyed into the hands of the keeper after being supplied by Sharp, as the first half came to a close.

Dale started the second half the brighter of the two sides and saw a good opportunity after 50 minutes as Blayney was forced to save with his legs from Grant Holt before Leo Bertos’ follow up had to be blocked on the line by Gier.As Rochdale stepped up the pace they took the lead, after 56 minutes.Holt stole the ball and cut inside from the right before finding Ernie Cooksey who drove home a shot from just outside the area, left of centre, to give Blayney no chance in the Diamonds goal.

Alan Goodall and Scott Warner both received yellow cards for a scuffle which led to a Diamonds free-kick after 62 minutes and a minute later Blayney had to save well from Tait’s close range effort as Dale bossed the second period.In attempt to liven things up Jason Taylor replaced Adrian Littlejohn on 67 minutes.

Blayney had to save at full stretch to deny Warner after 69 minutes as he dived low to his left following the shot from outside the area, as Dale looked increasingly likely to bag a second.Diamonds made a second change bringing off Dove for Hay after 75 minutes.

Bertos burst through on the counter-attack following a rare Diamonds corner only to see his run ended by Sean Connelly, however the referee harshly ruled the challenge was a foul and booked Connelly, after 80 minutes.Just a minute later the game was wrapped up for Dale as they bagged a second goal.Clarke’s right wing corner found Holt at the far post who climed to power home his header and claim his 20th goal of the season.

Peter Hawkins was booked after 82 minutes to become the second Diamonds player in the referee’s notebook, before Gier had to head over his own crossbar from a Holt header following another Clarke corner.Successive Diamonds corners looked to have given Diamonds a precious late goal as Taylor headed at the far post, but the referee deemed the ball had not crossed the line despite the belief of the Diamonds players.

Despite Diamonds attempts to make headway going forward little could be done to reverse the deficit as Barry Hunter saw his side fall to defeat, but enough spirit was shown to suggest that Diamonds can return to winning ways at Chester next week.

Rochdale:

Gilks, Evans, Griffiths, Heald, Goodall, Warner, Clarke, Cooksey, Bertos, Tait, Holt.Subs not used:Woodhall, Burgess, Gallimore, Kitchen, McGivern.

Rushden and Diamonds:

Blayney, Connelly, Hawkins, Gier, Sharp, Bell, Burgess, Littlejohn (sub Taylor 67), Gulliver, Dove (sub Hay 75), McCafferty.Subs not used: Allen, Dempster, Worgan.

Referee: Mr G Laws

Goals: Cooksey 56, Holt 81

Bookings: Sharp (diving) 12, Goodall 62, Warner 62, Connelly 80 (foul), Hawkins 82

Attendance: 2664

Diamonds Man of the Match: Rob Gier

By Richard Beeby

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