Rushden & Diamonds 0 Cambridge United 1

 

Rushden and Diamonds secured their League status for another season despite a disappointing defeat against the less fortunate Cambridge United.

A rare United penalty was enough to see the already relegated U’s snatch all three points and their first away win of the season, although Diamonds more than shaded the game in terms of chances and but for better finishing could have eased to three points.

Barry Hunter named himself in the team, all be it on the bench, whilst John Dempster started due to the injury to Mark Williams whilst the void left by the departure of Billy Sharp back to Sheffield United was filled by Alex Hay.

It was Cambridge who had the opening opportunity of the game as Ashley Nicholls chipped the ball forward to Tesfaye Bramble who flicked on for Iwan Roberts who flashed his shot narrowly wide of Scott Shearer’s left post, inside the opening minute.Bramble then spurned his shot wide from the left of the box at an angle, in glorious sunny conditions.

United continued to press forward and saw Daniel Chillingworth’s strike from just inside the area with his left foot superbly saved by Shearer, low to his right, after 10 minutes.Diamonds were then forced to make a change as McCafferty limped off injured to end his loan period at the club with Craig Dove replacing him, forcing Andy Burgess to move infield to the centre of midfield.

Diamonds took until the 15th minute to threaten.Drewe Broughton laid the ball off for Bell who put a wonderfulball forward down the right wing for Hay who showed a flash of pace to burst into the box before unleashing a wicked strike which rattled the left post from the right of the box, Dove’s follow up though was woeful as it curled well wide.

Diamonds were suddenly in the ascendancy and saw Andy Burgess chest down the ball before firing a 30 yard effort on the volley which John Ruddy had to tip over his crossbar, after 18 minutes.

Broughton missed a glorious opportunity to put Diamonds in front after 25 minutes as he turned and picked his spot well but with the Cambridge defence stranded and claiming for offside the ball somehow went wide, when it looked easier to score.

Diamonds were well on top but shot themselves in the foot when they conceded a penalty when Shearer brought down Bramble, the first for the U’s in 18 months, after 28 minutes. Bramble took the penalty and shot the ball home past Shearer, straight down the centre.

After the goal Peter Hawkins made his way into the book for a strong challenge from behind on Chillingworth after 32 minutes to concede a free-kick which Tom Newey drifted in from the right edges of the box, only to see Shearer divert the ball wide, with Dove completing the clearance.

Diamonds battled and saw Broughton shoot wide after turning his man well on 34 minutes, and three minutes later Hay was unlucky to see his firm header from a Bell chip hit the crossbar.

Diamonds forced the first chance of the second half as they searched for the equaliser when Sean Connelly’s cross found the head of Broughton, only for Ruddy to tip the ball over his crossbar, after 49 minutes.

Cambridge made a substitution to bring on John Turner in the 53rd minute for Bramble, a second change followed five minutes later with Stuart Bimson replacing Tom Newey.

Diamonds were firmly on top despite the changes and only a fine reflex save from Ruddy denied Phil Gulliver his first goal of the season when he smashed a half volleyed effort towards goal after Broughton’s header on from a Dove left-wing corner, after 60 minutes.

At the other end Shearer had to block Toner’s shot after he had burst his way into the box for Cambridge after 65 minutes, before United made a final change with Chillingworth coming off for Dan Gleeson.

As the game drew to a close Barry Hunter made his first appearance in a competitive match this season as the player-manager replaced John Dempster after 73 minutes but he couldn’t inspire the comeback and the closest the Diamonds came was from a Bell strike that went just over the bar from 35 yards, in the dying minutes.

Despite the defeat Diamonds will be simply happy that they will be playing League football again next season, something they can now start focussing on ahead of next weeks final game at Macclesfield.

TEAMS:

Rushden and Diamonds:

Shearer, Connelly, Hawkins, Hay, Gray, Bell, Burgess, Broughton, Dempster (Hunter 73), Gulliver, McCafferty (Dove 11).Subs not used: Afandiyev, Sambrook, Taylor.

Cambridge United:

Ruddy, Duncan, Tann, Goodhind, Toner, Chillingworth (Gleeson 68), Somner, Bramble (Turner 53), Nicholls, Roberts, Newey (Bimson 58).Subs not used: Webb, Quinton.

Referee: Mr M Thorpe (M Darlow 76 minutes onwards)

Goals: Bramble (pen) 28,

Bookings: Hawkins 32

Darlington 2 Rushden & Diamonds 0

 

Diamonds secured their Division Two status despite going down to two second half penalties from Clyde Wijnhard.

Wijnhard struck in the 49th and 53rd minute to improve their own play-off chances but the main talking point was the controversial award of the first spot kickby referee Friend.

Rushden and Diamonds Manager Barry Hunter made two changes from the side that beat Boston united last weekend. Drewe Broughton replaced Adrian Littlejohn up front while Phil Gulliver came into the centre of defence for the suspended Rob Gier. Diamonds started the game in the knowledge that 3 points would all but guarantee Division Two football next season but they would also be looking over their shoulder at events involving relegation rivals Kidderminster and Cambridge United.

Play -off candidates Darlington started the game in 7th place and desperately needed a win after some recent indifferent form. Manager Alan Hodgson made just one change from the side that drew at Mansfield seven days ago. Brian Close came off the bench to replace the injured Joe Kendrick. The Quakers also included former Leeds striker Wijnhard who’d scored on each of his last four appearances.

Rushden kicked off in the impressive on a glorious day in the North East

An early misjudgement by Gulliver almost let Wijnhard in but Scott Shearer got down well to smother the ball. On 4 minutes, Matthew Bates headed back Wijnhard’s corner but Neil Wainwright blasted over the bar.

Twice Broughton found himself in space but both times Curtis Fleming denied him extra yardage, Then on 15 minutes Gulliver was adjudged to have fouled Wijnhard 25 yards out but the free-kick went harmlessly wide. Alun Armstrong was off target with a header before Sam Russell saved David Bell’s long range effort after the midfielder produced a superb 21st minute run up the centre of the field.

The home side started to put Diamonds under pressure but some of their passing left a little to be desired. Armstrong ran onto to another Wijnhard lay- off but narrowly shot wide before Darlo lost the services of injured midfielder Stephen Thomas on 36 minutes. He was replaced by Adrian Webster.

Diamonds confidence began to grow and twice almost went ahead just before the interval. First, Broughton produced a superb lay-off to Billy Sharp in the area but as the youngster shaped to shoot he was denied by Fleming’s tackle. Then in injury time, Gulliver should have done better with a free header from Bell’s right wing corner but he missed the target.

The second half started in controversial fashion when Darlington were awarded a penalty on 49 minutes. Only referee Friend will be able to confirm what it was given for but it was possibly for an alleged push by Scott Shearer on Wainwright.  A soft penalty award which Wijnhard accepted gratefully by scoring into the left hand corner of the net.

Four minutes later, Diamonds conceded another penalty although this time the decision was clear cut. There appeared to be no danger as Close turned away from goal near to the edge of the area but he was needlessly fouled by Stuart Gray and Wijnhard again found the net giving Shearer no chance to his left.

Darlington’s first shot on target in open play came on 63 minutes when Close forced a save from Shearer while at the other end, Diamonds had claims for a penalty turned down when a hand seemed to divert McCafferty’s free kick.

On 66 minutes, Diamonds came within a whisker of reducing the arrears when Gray’s thunderous half-volley hit the underside of the crossbar before being cleared.

Close tested Shearer again before the totally unmarked Mark Williams saw a 79th minute header go wide following Bell’s corner. Gray had another long range effort well saved by Russell while in the last minute Wainwright cleared Peter Hawkins’ fine strike off the line.

While Diamonds deserved something out of this game, results elsewhere went in their favour and manager Barry Hunter can now look to next season in the knowledge that Diamonds League status has been secured.

TEAMS:

Darlington:

Russell, Close, Bates, Fleming, Valentine, Wainwright, Appleby, Thomas (Wbster 36), Petta (St Juste 55), Armstrong (Sodje 86), Wijnhard. Subs not used: Price, Convery,

Rushden and Diamonds:

Shearer, Connelly, Williams, Gulliver, Hawkins, Bell (Hay 81), Gray, McCafferty, Burgess, Broughton (Taylor 75), Sharp.Subs not used: Dempster, Dove, Afendiyev

Referee: Mr K Friend

Goals: Wijnhard 49 & 53 (both pens)

Bookings: Gray 53, Sharp 90

Diamonds Man of the Match: Sean Connelly

Attendance: 4,579

By Chris Barritt.

Rushden & Diamonds 4 Boston United 2

 

Three goals inside thirty second half minutes from teenage whiz-kid Billy Sharp helped earn Rushden and Diamonds three crucial points after they twice came from behind to win, at Nene Park.

Sharp, playing in his last home game of a three month loan from Sheffield United, was simply sensational as he turned an entertaining tussle on its head with three well taken goals showing maturity well beyond his years.

Rushden and Diamonds Manager Barry Hunter had made no changes to the starting line-up despite the disappointing defeat at Bristol Rovers in the previous week as his side went into the game.The only changes came on the bench where John Dempster and Jason Taylor lost their places in favour of Craig Dove and the retuning Drewe Broughton.

Boston Manager Steve Evans made two changes to his side from last weeks defeat at Chester with former Cobbler Daryl Clare and Danny Thomas starting in place of the suspended skipper Paul Elender and Jermaine Easter who was benched.

Boston made the better start and saw Brad Maylett fire wide from a right hand angle after 6 minutes before winning a dubious penalty.Rob Gier was adjudged to have fouled the lively Maylett going in with a high foot on 12 minutes and earning himself a yellow card in the process.From the spot kick, Clare tucked home with a low right footed kick to the left of Shearer leaving him with no chance.

Chris Holland received a yellow card for a foul on Andy Burgess after 20 minutes before Adrian Littlejohn was replaced by Drewe Broughton immediately after, with Barry Hunter clearly sensing a need for improvement after a poor start by his side.

Diamonds were soon inspired by the change as they grabbed an equaliser moments after Stuart Gray and Billy Sharp had linked up well for the latter to see his shot deflected wide of Abbey’s right hand post.From the resultant corner Bell launched the ball in to the box where Mark Williams hooked the ball back for Gier to head on towards Gray who smashed a hard and low shot, which Abbey only half saved, with Broughton quickest to tap the ball home with his first real touch after 25 minutes.

Three minutes after the goal Sharp turned Jason Lee and hit a scorching effort from the edge of the box which went just inches over Abbey’s crossbar, before Maylett was then booked for a late and tough tackle on Hawkins.

Boston still threatened going forward and Shearer had to pull off a superb left handed save to deny David Noble’s 35 yard dipping shot, after 31 minutes, but three minutes later Shearer was beaten for the second time.Courtney Pitt was able to centre the ball to find the unmarked Maylett who headed home past a desperate Shearer to put Boston back in-front.

Diamonds battled hard to grab a second equaliser before the break and Simon Rusk’s foul on Sharp earned the Diamonds a free-kick from 20 yards, to the left of the D, which McCafferty curled onto Abbey’s crossbar before Williams headed the ball back towards Gray who saw his firm header cleared off the line by Danny Thomas, after 37 minutes.

Boston almost went further in-front at the start of the second half as brilliant link up play between Pitt and Noble ended in the former missing a guilt edged chance when one on one with Shearer as he put his shot wide from eight yards, when it looked easier to score.

Despite Boston’s bright start Diamonds managed to grab themselves a second equaliser.Gier and Gray put together a neat passing move before Gray’s pass into the box found Sharp who turned superbly and buried his shot past Abbey who dived desperately to his right but had no chance to deny the goal, on 54 minutes.

Straight after the goal Boston saw Pitt’s hard shot from the left edge of the box shave Shearer’s left post before Alan White worked his way into the book on 56 minutes.

As the referee’s poor performance continued Bell crossed into the box after getting the better of Thomas, towards Burgess, who was clearly bundled over by Maylett for what should have been a penalty, however the referee incredibly refused to point to the spot sparking angry exchanges between both Abbey and Burgess.

Lee was finally booked after a succession of fouls on 63 minutes as the Pilgrims notched up their fourth booking of the game before Diamonds edged in-front for the first time.

Diamonds launched a long ball forward which Broughton was able to head on towards Sharp who raced forward into the box before tucking the ball wide of Abbey to his right, with a finish way beyond his years, after 64 minutes.

Boston made a quick change after falling behind as Clare was brought off for Lee Thompson on 65 minutes.Diamonds then saw Williams harshly booked on 70 minutes for a ‘foul’ just outside the box on Thomas.

Pitt saw Shearer deny him with his feet after turning Williams, after 75 minutes, before the striker came off to be replaced by Tom Hurst with Hurst allowing Lee to move further forward.

Diamonds then fell down to ten men with Gier receiving his second booking for a tackle from behind on Rusk on 79 minutes, before Sean Connelly was booked for time wasting at a free-kick.

From the free-kick Hawkins found Sharp who turned his defender superbly before firing home towards Abbey’s far post to complete a memorable hat-trick in his last home game of his loan period.

Diamonds made a change to bring on Hay for Bell after 86 minutes before another change saw a standing ovation for Billy Sharp as he was replaced by Phil Gulliver.

As time ticked away Rusk’s volley from six yards hit the topside of the bar but Boston could do little to overturn the deficit after a superb second half performance by the Diamonds, and in particular whiz kid Sharp whose goals have undoubtedly edged the Diamonds to the brink of League Two safety, in a superb loan spell at the club.

TEAMS:

Rushden and Diamonds:

Shearer, Connelly, Hawkins, Gier, Gray, Sharp (sub Gulliver 88), Bell (sub Hay 86), Burgess, Littlejohn (sub Broughton 21), McCafferty, Williams.Subs not used: Worgan, Gulliver, Dove.

Boston United:

Abbey, White, Maylett, Noble, Lee, Holland, Rusk, McCann, Thomas, Pitt (sub Hurst 77), Clare (sub Thompson 65).Subs not used: Easter, O’Donnell, West.

Referee: Mr P Taylor

Goals: Clare 12 (pen), Broughton 25, Maylett 34, Sharp 54, Sharp 64, Sharp 82

Bookings: Gier 12, Holland 20, Maylett 28, White 56, Lee 63, Williams 70, Connelly 81.

Sent off: Gier 79 (second bookable offence).

Diamonds Man of the Match: Billy Sharp (sensational hat-trick)

Attendance: 3671 (424 away)

By Rich Beeby.

Bristol Rovers 3 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Diamonds went down to a disappointing defeat at The Memorial Stadium.

Goals from Richard Walker, Craig Disley and a Scott Shearer own goal gave Rovers their first ever league victory against Diamonds who never really got into the game.

Rushden were looking to end a run of 14 games on the road without a win and not surprisingly, manager Barry Hunter kept the same team that impressively beat high-flying Yeovil last week. Rushden went into the game 5 points clear of their nearest relegation rivals Kidderminster Harriers who were at home to rejuvenated Bury.Hunter made one change on the bench recalling John Dempster in place of Craig Dove.

Rovers needed just a point to ensure Division Two football next season. Despite having only lost one game at home all season, The Pirate’s had drawn 12 games at The Memorial Stadium including the last four. Manager Ian Atkins made two changes from the side that lost 2-0 at leaders Southend last Friday. Craig Hinton and James Hunt were both injured allowing Christian Edwards and Ryan Williams to come into the side.

Diamonds kicked off on a well worn pitch in blustery conditions and they had the first shot of the game on 3 minutes when Billy Sharp latched onto Sean Connolly’s lob but the on-loan youngster’s shot went over the bar.

The home side were unlucky not to take the lead in the 10th minute. Williams corner on the left was headed against the upright by John Anderson who then struck the crossbar with the rebound.

Rovers were using the swirling wind to their advantage with some slick passing. On 19 minutes, Shearer made a vital save with his legs after Walker got the better of Rob Gier.

However, two minutes later The Pirates went in front. With Diamonds defenders appealing in vain for offside, Walker ran onto a long clearance before beating Shearer with the aid of the right hand post.

Junior Agogo then tested Shearer after cutting inside but the Diamonds ‘keeper did well to deal with an indifferent bounce. On 27 minutes, referee Drysdale waived away strong appeals for a Bristol Rovers penalty after Williams tangled with Connolly in the penalty area.

The home side continued to press forward and Agogo linked well with the impressive Williams before shooting wide. At the other end, Diamonds enjoyed a rare attack when Andy Burgess was wide with a long range effort after good work from Peter Hawkins.

Eight minutes from half-time, Agogo was again the Rovers villain when he should have done better with a header after Williams found him with a fine cross.

Diamonds started the second half with the wind in their favour but it was Rovers who had the first chance. Walker put Agogo in space again but Shearer produced another high quality save to deny the busy striker.

Agogo then threaded the ball through to Disley but with the midfielder in acres of space his first-time shot went wide.

Diamonds went further behind on 59 minutes. Williams’ corner was headed on by Steve Elliott to Disley who hit the bar with his first attempt before hooking the reboundl into the roof of the net.

Adrian Littlejohn saw a 61st minute shot deflected before the home side created another clear cut scoring chance. Agogo dispossessed Connolly near the half-way line and picked out Williams on the left but the little winger shot wide with just Shearer to beat.

Agogo then tried an audacious 35 yard shot which fell just wide while on 65 minutes the same player struck the bar with another long range shot.

Rovers continued to slice open the Diamonds defence. Elliott moved up from defence to play a 1-2 with Agogo before setting Walker free but the striker’s shot was well wide.

Seven minutes from time, Rushden conceded another goal in bizarre circumstances. There appeared to be no danger when Shearer collected Williams’ right wing corner but the goalkeeper inexplicably dropped the ball over his own goal -line to gift Rovers a third goal.

Near the end Shearer blocked another Agogo rocket before Burgess tested Ryan Clarke with a shot from outside the area.

This was a disappointing result for diamonds but with Bury scoring a late equalizer at Kidderminster the gap is still 4 points.

N.B. After the game the referee announced he had awarded the third goal to Richard Walker, the Press Association will be notified of this on Monday.

.

TEAMS:

Bristol Rovers: Clarke, Lescott, Edwards, Anderson, Elliott, Ryan, Disley, Savage, Williams (Sinclair 88), Agogo, Walker. Subs not used: Trollope, Forrester, Lines, Carruthers.

Rushden and Diamonds: Shearer, Connelly, Gier, Williams, Hawkins, Bell, Gray, McCafferty, Burgess, Littlejohn (Taylor 63), Sharp (Hay 78).Subs not used: Worgan, Gulliver, Dempster,

Referee: Mr D Drysdale

Goals: Walker 21, Disley 59, (Shearer o.g 83) third goal awarded after the match to Richard Walker.

Bookings: 0

Attendance: 5740 (287 Away)

 

Diamonds Man of the Match: Scott Shearer

By Chris Barritt

Rushden & Diamonds 2 Yeovil Town 0

Rushden and Diamonds grabbed two late goals in a dramatic finish to secure a well deserved victory, at Nene Park.

Diamonds, desperate for points in their bid to avoid relegation more than matched the League Two highfliers as they put one over on their former Conference foes with goals courtesy of Stuart Gray and loan star Billy Sharp whilst keeping a second consecutive clean sheet.

Rushden and Diamonds Manager Barry Hunter made two changes with a reversal to a more favoured 4-4-2 style having switched to 4-5-1 at Grimsby.Mark Williams replaced Phil Gulliver who started on the bench after his return from International duty with Northern Ireland whilst Adrian Littlejohn started alongside Sharp upfront.

Yeovil Town boss Gary Johnson made four changes to his starting line-up following the shock 3-1 defeat at home to Notts County.Goalkeeper Chris Weale, Kevin Gall, Bartozs Tarachulski and Andrejs Stolcers were all dropped to the bench.In the place of the dropped four came Marcus Richardson, Steve Collis, Arron Davies and Efe Sodje, who made his Glovers debut in central defence.

Yeovil started on the attack and saw long serving midfielder Darren Way fire his fierce volley inches over the bar from just outside the box, inside the first two minutes.Three minutes later Phil Jevons fired across the box and saw his effort go wide.

Diamonds struggled to make any purge on the Yeovil goal of note before the 13th minute when McCafferty ran through the centre of the pitch before laying the ball off left to Littlejohn who hit a drive at a slight angle from 12 yards; however his effort hit Collis’ left post.

Lee Johnson’s right wing corner fell to Adam Lockwood only for Way to head totally off target from six yards, after 20 minutes.Then followed a passage of play with little in the way of chances until Sodje’s free header from an Arron Davies left wing corner went narrowly over the crossbar from 6 yards, after 36 minutes.

Poor defending let in Lockwood for a close range volley to the right of the box, which went just wide of Shearer’s left post after 41 minutes, to complete the chances in a fairly drab first half.

Yeovil made an early change in the second half to bring on Bartozs Tarachulski in place of Marcus Richardson and again started brightly.

Hawkins did well to defend a Yeovil attack before losing out to Davies who struck a great shot from the right hand edges of the box only to see Shearer tip away superbly, after 55 minutes.From the resultant Johnson corner Shearer again had to save well, this time with his feet, to deny Sodje’s header.

At the other end Diamonds broke quickly courtesy of Hawkins, allowing Littlejohn to make a good run downfield, however his cross failed to find the in-rushing Hawkins who had kept up with the play and instead it flew wide of the far post.

In search of a breakthrough, The Glovers made another change to bring on Andrejs Stolcers for Phil Jevons on 59 minutes, sensing a need to change the course of the game.

Williams rather harshly received a yellow card for a foul on Johnson after 68 minutes, before Diamonds began to get firmly on top for the first time in the game.Two minutes after the booking Sharp did well to get past Skiverton and square the ball across from the right to Littlejohn who should have scored but instead put his stabbed effort narrowly wide of the keeper’s left hand post.

Diamonds battled hard and should have taken the lead with thirteen minutes remaining.McCafferty did brilliantly to find Burgess from the left-hand edges of the box, allowing Burgess to strike firmly with his favoured left foot only for Collis to get across, low to his right, to push the ball wide of his right hand post.

Tarachulski was booked for a series of fouls on 80 minutes before he was strangely brought off for Kevin Gall two minutes later, in between Diamonds grabbed a breakthrough that their play deserved.

Bell fed Sean Connelly who crossed from the right, into the box, where Sodje made a hash of his defensive duties, allowing the ball to fall for Gray who struck home a strong shot which went in off the post to send Nene Park into wild raptures, after 81 minutes.

Both Hawkins and then Sodje were booked after the goal whilst Jason Taylor replaced Littlejohn before Diamonds grabbed a second to make the game safe.Bell turned on his skills to cross from the right, towards the by-line; his cross evaded Taylor at the near post but was struck home on the volley at the far post by Sharp to leave the keeper absolutely helpless, after 87 minutes.

Alex Hay then came on for Bell to ease time after 89 minutes of normal time and despite three further minutes of time at the end of the 90, Yeovil could offer scarce little as they fell to a second defeat inside a week.

With massive defeats for both Cambridge United and Kidderminster Harriers these three points for the Diamonds become even more precious; more precious still would be a further maximum haul away at Bristol Rovers next weekend as Diamonds look to break their away day duck with their first win on the road since October, in League Two.With two encouraging displays and two consecutive clean sheets, they will certainly travel to Bristol in a confident mood.

TEAMS:

Rushden and Diamonds:

Shearer, Connelly, Hawkins, Gier, Gray, Sharp, Bell (Hay 89), Burgess, Littlejohn (Taylor 84), McCafferty, Williams.Subs not used: Worgan, Gulliver, Dove.

Yeovil Town:

Collis, Lockwood, Skiverton, Way, Terry, Johnson, Richardson (Tarachulski 51) (Gall 80), Jevons (Stoclcers 59), Sodje, Lindegaard, Davies.Subs not used: Weale, Rose.

Referee: Mr T Bates

Goals: Gray 81, Sharp 87

Bookings: Williams 68, Tarachulski 80, Hawkins 82, Sodje 86.

Attendance: 3726 (1053 away)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Andy Burgess

By Rich Beeby.

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