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

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