Grimsby Town 2 Rushden & Diamonds 0

 

Rushden and Diamonds fell to their first League Two defeat of the season as a John McDermott wonder goal and JPK Kalala penalty bagged the Mariner’s all three points, at Blundell Park.

Rushden and Diamonds boss Barry Hunter made one change to the starting eleven following the 1v1 draw with Lincoln City at the weekend.Dave Savage missed out due to a twisted ankle causing David Bell to move into the centre of Midfield with Greg Pearson filling the void left on the right.Pearson’s drop back from the front allowed Jason Taylor to make his first start of the campaign alongside Chris O’Grady.On the bench Daniel Chillingworth had recovered from his injury.

Diamonds made a bright start with Bell and Taylor both looking lively going forward although it was Grimsby that had the best early chance when Magnus Okounghae’s foul on Michael Reddy set up a free-kick which Tom Newey drifted in from the left, just outside the box, for Gary Jones to head narrowly over, on 7 minutes.

Just two minutes later though the Mariner’s were in front when John McDermott beat two Diamonds players and looked to have lost control of the ball before unleashing a mad 25 yard strike, from the right wing, which flew past Jamie Young into the far left corner of the net.

In response to falling behind Kelly broke free to strike from 20 yards but wide of the keeper’s left post on 17 minutes.Six minutes later O’Grady was fed by Pearson from the right and beat three players before seeming to be upended by Justin Whittle, although the referee thought otherwise and booked him for diving.

A minute after the booking McCafferty shot from long range but into the hands of keeper Steve Mildenhall.

The Mariner’s looked to have gone further infront when Newey’s left wing corner was drifted in and found the head of Rob Jones who put the ball home, however the "goal" was ruled out for a push, after 32 minutes.

A minute later Okounghae had to be alert to clear off the line after Jones’ head down found Reddy who flashed an angled drive across the face of Young’s goal.

With the Mariner’s enjoying their best spell of the first half Jones was again influential going forward when he headed into the path of Andy Parkinson however the midfielder blasted over the bar when it looked easier to score.

Diamonds couldn’t grab an equaliser before the break with Bell’s free-kick which fell straight into the hands of Mildenhall, the closest they came.

Newey drifted a free-kick narrowly over Young’s crossbar at the start of the second period, minutes later the Diamonds task became an uphill one when the Mariner’s doubled their lead.

Young rushed out from between the posts to try and thwart the threat of McDermott’s ball into the box; however he was adjudged to have fouled Reddy to concede a penalty.Mariner’s, who had missed seven of their last eight penalties, saw Kalala step up to take it and fire it low past Young and to his right.Kalala was then booked for his celebration.

Diamonds brought off Taylor for Daniel Chillingworth on 57 minutes in an attempt to get something from the game.Grimsby made a change five minutes later when Martin Gritton replaced the impressive Jones.

Diamonds struggled to make headway after falling further behind and Grimsby were content to sit on their lead.The closest Diamonds came was when Gulliver’s header was deflected wide for a corner on 71 minutes, following a Bell free-kick from the left six yards from the by-line.

At the other end Parkinson’s shot across goal from the left had to be tipped away by Young, before O’Grady found space infront of the Mariner’s goal but could only blast over the crossbar, after 75 minutes.

Reddy ran brilliantly through the centre before failing to connect with his strike just when it mattered most, to spare the Diamonds falling three behindon 77 minutes, when Young would have been otherwise beaten.The same player then wasted Parkinson’s ball back as he blasted well wide of Young’s far left post, from 15 yards.

As frustration began to show McCafferty was booked for dissent and Bell for a foul on Kalala after 80 minutes before Pearson was booked for a handball from Whittle’s free-kick, amid a poor refereeing performance.Hawkins later followed when he upended Reddy’s purge towards the Diamonds goal.

Grimsby made a late change to bring off Rob Jones for Tony Crane to ease time, however they came the closest to bagging a late goal when Gritton’s free header at the far post after Reddy’s cross from the right, went narrowly wide.

This was a disappointing afternoon for the Diamonds.Whilst they battled hard and showed determination when needed they failed to ever truly test Steve Mildenhall in the Mariner’s goal and must be more decisive when going forward if they are to get the points their performances are meriting.

TEAMS:

Grimsby Town:

Milldenhall, McDermott, Newey, Whittle, Kalala, Jones (Crane 88), Croft, Andrew, Parkinson, Jones (Gritton 62), Reddy.Subs not used: Ramsden, Downey, Barwick.

Rushden and Diamonds:

Young, Gulliver, Hawkins, Pearson, Bell, Nicholls, O’Grady, Taylor (Chillingworth 57), McCafferty, Kelly, Okounghae.Subs not used: Dempster, Woodman, Grainger, Wark.

Referee: Mr Booth

Goals: McDermott 9, Kalala (penalty) 50,

Bookings: O’Grady 23 (diving), Kalala 50 (unsporting behaviour), Bell (foul) 80, McCafferty (dissent) 80, Pearson (handball) 81, Hawkins (foul) 86.

Attendance: 3774 (166 away)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Phil Gulliver (strong and determined).

Report by: Rich Beeby.

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Rushden & Diamonds 1 Lincoln City 1

 

A third consecutive score draw extended the Diamonds unbeaten start to the season as they came from behind yet again to earn themselves a deserved point.

Dean Keates scored with a brilliant free kick while Greg Pearson scored his first league goal for Diamonds midway through the second half. That was Rushden’s 1,000th league goal since it’s formation in 1992.

Diamonds came into the game boasting a three game unbeaten start to the campaign while Lincoln had taken 5 points from their opening four games with just one defeat at Notts County on their travels.

Diamond’s manager Barry Hunter made two changes from the side that started the Carling Cup game against Coventry City in midweek. Magnus Okuonghae came into the centre of defence to partner Phil Gulliver while Ashley Nicholls started at right back in place of the injured Rob Gier. Sixteen year old Lee Tomlin won a place on the bench.

Lincoln kept the same team that thrashed Championship side Crewe 5 – 1 in midweek.

Diamonds almost went ahead inside 2 minutes. Chris O’Grady forced an early corner and when David Bell’s flag kick came in Alan Marriott produced a superb save to deny Gulliver’s downward header and then somehow blocked Greg Pearson’s follow up.

Six minutes later the visitors went close thanks to a similar piece of action to Diamonds earlier close call, Dean Keates right wing corner was headed goalwards by Nat Brown but Jamie Young expertly turned the ball round the post.

O’Grady’s superb penalty area turn almost gave the loan man a shot at goal while at the other end Derek Asamoah saw his overhead kick sail over the bar after Jamie McCombe headed on.

On 16 minutes, Okuonghae redeemed himself with a great saving tackle after Gary Birch raced clear but 3 minutes later the visitors went in front. Gulliver gave away a free kick 25 yards out and Keates produced a superb left footed shot which gave Young absolutely no chance as the ball flew into the top left hand corner of the net.

A mistake by Peter Hawkins on 36 minutes let in Maheta Molango on the right. The midfielder tried to pick out Asamoah at the near post but quick thinking by Young put an end to the danger.

Three minutes later, a fine mazy run from Bell allowed O’Grady the chance to shoot but the chance went wide. The play then switched to the other end when Keates picked out Gary Birch running clear of the Diamonds defence but the striker hit his shot high and wide.

Half – timeRushden & Diamonds 0 – 1 Lincoln City

Rushden started the second half very positively as Bell went on an early mazy run towards the Peter De Banke Terrace but the midfielder failed to find the target. On 56 minutes, Marcus Kelly raced along the byline and found O’Grady in space but Marriott produced a fine save to touch over the teenager’s shot.

Bell then found himself on the byline and shot instinctively but Marriott was alert again to save.

After Diamonds had exerted their best spell of pressure in the game, Diamonds got back on level terms after 65 minutes. After Okuonghae pushed the ball forward to Gulliver the defender cleverly laid the ball into the path of Greg Pearson who beat Marriott with ease from the penalty spot.

The goalscorer almost made it two three minutes later when his shot on the turn was superbly turned round the post by Marriott who was having an inspired game between the Lincoln posts.

Dave Savage and Peter Hawkins linked well before the Diamonds skipper headed straight at the Lincoln ‘keeper.

That was the last action for the Irishman who left the field with a twisted ankle leaving him doubtful for the Bank Holiday fixture at Grimsby on Monday,

On 89 minutes, Young denied Birch with a fine save before Neil McCafferty scooped a 35 yard free – kick over the bar.

TEAMS:

Rushden and Diamonds:

Young,Gulliver,Hawkins, Savage (Capt) (Grainger 77), Pearson (Pearson 89), Bell, Nicholls, McCafferty,O’Grady,Kelly, Okuonghae

Subs not used: Woodman, Dempster, Tomlin.

Lincoln City:

Marriott, Beevers, McCombe (Capt) Asamoah (Mayo 60), Birch, Kerr, Bloomer, Cryan, Keates (Morgan 67), Brown, Molango.

Subs not used: Coleman, Hughes, Robinson.

Referee: J Singh

Goals: Keates 19, Pearson 65

Bookings: Beevers 61, McCafferty 71

Attendance: 2,860 (Away 668)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Marcus Kelly

Match Report by Chris Barritt

Rushden & Diamonds 0 Coventry City 3

 

Diamonds entertained Coventry City in the Carling Cup 1st Round hoping for a better result from the one they endured the last time the two sides met in this competition three seasons ago.

After the draw against Chester on Saturday Barry Hunter made two changes to his starting line up.Graham Allen and Daniel Chillingworth were unable to play and were replaced by John Dempster and Chris O’Grady.Coventry made five changes to their starting eleven from their 3 nil Victory over Q.P.R,with Ince,Whing,Williams,Morrell and John all getting the nod.

In the first minute good play down the left saw Peter Hawkins driving forward and hit a powerful shot just wide of the far post, as Diamonds tried to start positively. However Coventry soon went ahead when Dempster missed a tackle in the centre of defence allowing John to release Hall down the left whose first time low cross was tapped home by McSheffrey in the 7th minute.

Seven minutes later Pearson chased a ball into the box for Diamonds and gave a little nudge to Williams and as the ball bounced free was allowed to play on but blasted high over the bar.Pearson again went close when he turned just inside the box but could not quite stretch far enough to get a good shot on target.

Coventry were buoyed by the early goal and their superior passing was causing Diamonds trouble. However Diamonds responded midway through the half with O’Grady firing a fierce low drive across the box, with Bell recovering the ball and curling it back in for Savage to head and win a corner.

Diamonds were certainly not overawed and O’Grady and Bell were showing up well. Another centre by Bell found Gier in the area but his stooping header glanced just wide. This was his last contribution as he limped off soon after to be replaced by Ashley Nicholls who slotted in at right back.

Just past the half hour mark Pearson again had the ball in the penalty area but his pull back couldn’t find one of his colleagues. In the 38th minute Savage drove through the midfield, played a neat one two with Pearson but shot wide of the target.Following that chance Coventry went straight upfield and won a free kick. It was half cleared to the edge of the area where Doyle’s shot luckily fell at the feet of Heath who obligingly tucked it away for a two goal lead.

As half time approached O’Grady tried his luck from long range but didn’t trouble Ince in the Coventry goal. However Diamonds could be pleased with their first half performance despite being two goals down. They had created chances and acquitted themselves well troubling the Coventry defence with O’Grady prominent

Half Time: Rushden and Diamonds 0Coventry City2.

At the start of the second half Hunter decided to replace Dempster with Okuonghae in the centre of the defence.

Diamonds started where they left offwith Bell firing high from their first attack and continuing to try and impose themselves in their search for a goal. They had the ball in the net in the 53rd minute when Bell raced down the centre and drilled in a powerful low shot, Ince saved it but Pearson was adjudged to be offside before he slotted home. A minute later Bell was again instrumental in the build up that released Nicholls who’s driven cross was just too far ahead of the onrushing O’Grady.

Coventry were stung into actionand could have done better with two chances they blasted wide, and nearly increased their lead when Diamonds keeper Young missed a through ball but recovered to fall on it in his area under pressure from John.

Diamonds responded just after the hour mark with Pearson shooting straight at Ince as they continued to give their fans hope of a comeback. But Coventry were holding firm just managing to keep Diamonds at bay.

With thirteen minutes to go Coventry earned a corner from which Morrell’s header was superbly saved by Young.O’Grady replied for Diamonds with a shot which fell just too high. But with ten minutes to go Doyle threaded an incisive ball into the area for Morrell to poke home for the third goal of the night, and effectively finish any chances of a comeback.

Diamonds weren’t finished though and kept pressing right to the end. Their endeavour was very nearly rewarded in injury time when Nicholls fed O’Grady ten yards out. The impressive striker held the ball up, turned and curled a shot narrowly wide of the far post that would have given his side a deserved goal on the night. It wasn’t to be but the home faithful can be proud of their team’s play on the night. They showed plenty of character against a team two leagues above them and performed with skill and resilience.

TEAMS:

Rushden and Diamonds:

Young,Gulliver,Hawkins,Gier (Nicholls 32), Savage,Pearson (Taylor 74),Bell,Dempster (Okuonghae 46),McCafferty,O’Grady,Kelly.Subs not used: Woodman, Grainger.

Coventry City:

Ince,Whing,Hall,Williams,Doyle,McSheffrey (Adebola 77),Osbourne,Morrell,John,Jorgensen (Wood 67), Heath.Subs not used:

Tuffy,Page, Wood.

Referee: L.Probert.

Goals: McSheffrey 7, Heath 40, Morrell 81.

Bookings: Osbourne, Savage, Hawkins, John, Gulliver, Pearson, Heath, Hall.

Attendance: 3240 (1254 away)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Chris O’Grady

Match Report by Phil Harris-Ward

Rushden & Diamonds1 Chester City 1

 

Rushden and Diamonds earned another point to continue their unbeaten start to the season against Chester City, at Nene Park.

Just like in the opening day draw with Darlington, the Diamonds were forced to come from behind to equalise and did so soon after Chester had opened the scoring on 55 minutes through Ryan Lowe with young Leicester City striker Chris O’Grady levelling superbly six minutes later.

Both sides came into the game having enjoyed an unbeaten start to the season and also both enforced to endure a matchless weekend last time round having had games postponed.

Diamonds Manager Barry Hunter faced a selection poser with Dave Savage fit again in Midfield whilst youngster Chris O’Grady added to the options upfront following his loan signing from Leicester City.Hunter left Ashley Nicholls on the bench in favour of Savage whilst O’Grady was on the bench with Daniel Chillingworth and Greg Pearson preferred upfront.

Chester made two changes to the line-up fielded in the last game against Lincoln City as Luke Dimech and Tom Curtis were dropped to the bench in favour of David Artell and Justin Walker.

Diamonds shaded the better of the chances in a tight first half and started the game brightly.In the opening minute Chillingworth’s header down found Pearson to set up David Bell who blazed a shot across the face of Chris Mackenzie’s goal.Four minutes later Bell’s cross from the right found Savage who could only head weakly into the keeper’s hands from close range.

Mackenzie had to save at the second attempt to deny a low Chillingworth strike before Chester forced their first real chance when Ben Davies tested Jamie Young infront of the Peter De Banke terrace, after 14 minutes.

Savage worked his way into the book following a tough tackle on Justin Walker after 17 minutes.Three minutes later Chester came close when Scott McNiven broke free of Marcus Kelly before chipping the ball toward goal, from the edge of the box, however the shot went narrowly over the crossbar.

Neil McCafferty played a part in some good moves in the opening period, one of which saw his header feed Bell who advanced forward before striking narrowly wide of the far right post, on 28 minutes.

Three minutes later McCafferty’s hassling of Davies allowed him to break free before playing a good ball across to Chillingworth who took a touch too many with the goal at his mercy.

Justin Walker and Carl Regan both received yellow cards for an accumulation of fouls on 39 and 42 minutes respectively for Chester, Walker’s booking coming after he hacked down Savage from behind.

Diamonds had one final chance as the first half came to a close when Bell ran well and held the ball up superbly before noting Chillingworth’s good run and crossing, however with the goal at his mercy Chillingworth glanced his header wide of the far post.

Bell scooped horribly wide after a fine run from Kelly at the start of the second half before Pearson’s turn and shot went narrowly wide of the left post on 49 minutes.

Chester saw Scott McNiven’s shot deflected over the bar for a corner on 54 minutes, from which came the opening goal of the game.Walker played the ball short before it was launched into the box where David Artell headed back to the unmarked Ryan Lowe who fired past a helpless Young.

In response to the goal Diamonds brought off Savage to be replaced by O’Grady, forcing Greg Pearson to the right of midfield with Kelly moving to the left and Bell moving into the centre.

O’Grady made an instant impact on the game as, just like against Darlington on the opening game of the season, Diamonds produced a fine response to going behind by levelling.Chillingworth passed to O’Grady who shot sharply on the turn, a yard into the box, past Mackenzie into the far corner of the net, after 61 minutes.

Diamonds brought on Jason Taylor after 64 minutes for Chillingworth whilst Chester made their first change of the game when they took off the influential Justin Walker to be replaced by Tom Curtis on 69 minutes.

Taylor struck straight at Mackenzie from a matter of yards on 77 minutes whilst two minutes later Marcus Richardson became the third Chester player to be booked for persistent fouling whilst O’Grady was harshly booked for a foul on Artell after 80 minutes.

McCafferty hit the ball hard and low from 20 yards, but straight at the keeper with five minutes remaining before another Chester change saw Richardson replaced by Sean Hessey.

Late on Chester could have stolen all three points when Davies cross into the box from the left found Lowe who saw his clear shot go narrowly wide, after 87 minutes.

There was still time for Lowe to be sent off for foul and abusive language whilst Pearson was booked for the Diamonds.Despite the bookings though this was hardly a dirty game, with few real bad tackles.

All in all this was a fair result for both teams, and for Diamonds plenty of encouragement was given from their new loan stiker O’Grady whose goal on his debut forces him very much into Hunter’s plans in the coming weeks.

TEAMS:

Rushden and Diamonds:

Young, Gulliver, Hawkins, Allen, Gier, Savage (O’Grady 58), Pearson, Bell, Chillingworth (Taylor 64), McCafferty, Kelly.Subs not used: Woodman, Dempster, Nicholls.

Chester City:

Mackenzie, Regan, Bolland, Drummons, Branch, Lowe, Davies, Artell, McNiven, Richardson (Hessey 86), Walker (Curtis 69).Subs not used: Vaughan,Dimech, Brookfield.

Referee: Mr Deadman

Goals: Lowe 55, O’Grady 61

Bookings: Savage 17 (foul), Walker 39, Regan 42, Richardson 79 (accumulation of fouls), O’Grady 80 (foul), Pearson 90 (persistent fouling).

Sent off: Lowe 89 (foul and abusive language)

Attendance: 2682 (341 away)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Neil McCafferty

Match Report by Rich Beeby

Mansfield Town 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

 

Rushden and Diamonds claimed their first league win on the road since last October’s triumph at Shrewsbury as they showed true character to overcome a determined Mansfield side.

Graham Allen’s goal a minute before the break was enough to separate the two sides, although Jamie Young was forced to make a string of saves between the posts to guarantee the deserved win.

Rushden and Diamonds Manager Barry Hunter made one enforced change to his starting line-up as Diamonds made the visit to Field Mill.Dave Savage’s calf injury meant that new loan signing Ashley Nicholls was able to make his debut on the day he joined the club on a 3 month spell from Cambridge United.Nicholls started in the centre with David Bell moving back to the right wing having temporarily moved to the centre in Saturday’s game.

Mansfield made a storming start to the game and almost went ahead inside the opening two minutes.Jamie Young was unable to collect from a Gareth Jelleyman right-wing corner allowing Adam Birchall to fire a low shot, which Greg Pearson hastily cleared off the line, at the far post.

Young had to save superbly to deny Matthew Tipton a goal from his strong, angled drive, on ten minutes as The Stags continued to dominate, with Diamonds struggling to make any headway in the game early on.

In response to the early onslaught Diamonds saw Neil McCafferty’s long, looming ball find Greg Pearson who used his pace to get behind the Stags defence but could only fire into the side netting, with little in support, after 14 minutes.

Young saved at the second attempt from Adam Birchall’s close range dinked shot on 16 minutes as Mansfield relentlessly pressed, although this did begin to calm as Diamonds stoutly stuck to their task.

Marcus Kelly blazed his shot over the Mansfield crossbar after 30 minutes after a far post clearance from a David Bell corner whilst at the other end Gus Uhlenbeek tested the reactions of Young once more.

As the first half drew to a close Stags saw Stephen Dawson fire his shot from a squared ball across the box, narrowly wide of Young’s left hand post, on 35 minutes.

Diamonds finally managed to dose down the chances peppered on their goal and forced several chances of their own before half-time.

Following three consecutive Stags corners Diamonds hit back on the break superbly, with David Bell bursting through the centre of the pitch before firing a strong shot, from the edges of the box, which Pressman diverted wide for a corner, on 40 minutes.Seconds later Gulliver saw his 25 yard shot fire narrowly wide of Pressman’s left post.

With the game appearing to be going into the break goalless the Diamonds sneaked what at that time could be considered a lucky lead following a David Bell right-wing corner, on 44 minutes.Bell played the corner low towards the 6 yard box where Graham Allen was able to pounce to fire home at the near post past a helpless Pressman, much to the admiration of his team mates and the loyal Diamonds support behind Pressman’s goal.

Mansfield made a change at the start of the second half bringing on Jake Buxton for Jon Hjelde but it was Diamonds who bossed the opening stages.

Bell fired over the bar from a Kelly free-kick, on 52 minutes.Two minutes later Simon Brown came on for Gus Uhlenbeek as The Stags made their second change.

Mansfield missed a glorious chance to equalise on 58 minutes when Barker set off Birchall to race clear of the Diamonds defence; however the striker could only fire directly at Young who was more than equal to his shot.

With Mansfield struggling to equal their first half performance, Carlton Palmer made his final change with Adam Rundle replacing Tipton, on 64 minutes.

Within a minute of the change Mansfield forced Young into a fine save as he smartly denied Fraser McLachlan’s 18 yard strike.Diamonds made a change on 68 minutes as Pearson was replaced by Jason Taylor, to vary the Diamonds attacking options.

Jelleyman struck a curling left-footed free-kick into the hands of Young, who saved at the far post, on 72 minutes before a low Chillingworth strike from 25 yards had Pressman stooping low to save, at the other end.

Diamonds were in dominant mood in the second period and came close to doubling their lead when Pressman had to tip over Gulliver’s header from a Chillingworth ball, on 75 minutes.Young though had to be lively and saved low to deny Rundle on the break after Dawson’s superb run and lay off, immediately following the Diamonds attack.

McLachlan worked his way into the referee’s book after halting the run of Chillingworth on 81 minutes.Chillingworth was racing towards goal following a fine burst through the centre and lay off by Kelly; disappointingly Bell could only strike the resultant free-kick at the wall.

With Diamonds desperate to hold onto their lead and wanting to run down the clock Magnus Okuonghae was brought on for Chillingworth on 84 minutes, seconds after the change Diamonds saw Young save well after it looked like Brown had struck the equaliser from close range for Mansfield following a throw.

With four minutes of time added on at the end of the game Diamonds threw men back to hang on amid the inevitable late bid from Mansfield to steal a point.Barker’s deflected 25 yard free-kick was saved low to Young’s right and Birchall’s right-wing cross flashed across the face of the goal but Mansfield could not force a dramatic late equaliser.

Diamonds delight at the final whistle was clear to see.This first League win on the road since last October will come as a massive boost to Barry Hunter and his team, and with a trip fast approaching to Macclesfield on Saturday there is a perfect opportunity for Hunter’s men to build where they left off at Field Mill.

TEAMS:

 

Mansfield Town:

Pressman, Peers, Jelleyman, Uhlenbeek (Brown 54), Day, Dawson, Tipton (Rundle 64), Barker, Birchall, McLachlan, Hjelde (Buxton 46).Subs not used: Lloyd, Rundle, Beardsley, Brown.

Rushden and Diamonds:

Young, Gulliver, Hawkins, Allen, Gier, Pearson (Taylor 68), Bell, Chillingworth (Okuonghae 84) Nicholls, McCafferty, Kelly.Subs not used: Woodman, Wark, Grainger.

Referee: Mr N Swarbrick

Goals: Allen 44

Bookings: McLachlan 81

Attendance: 3402 (243 away)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Jamie Young (Fine saves, always alert.One of many strong performances.)

Report by Rich Beeby.

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Darlington 1

 

Rushden and Diamonds registered their first point of the season on the opening day of the new League Two campaign against a much fancied Darlington side, at Nene Park.

Two goals inside five second half minutes saw Darlington take the lead from the penalty spot before a fine solo goal from David Bell soon levelled the scores.

Rushden and Diamonds boss Barry Hunter named five of his summer signings in the starting line-up.Reading loanee Jamie Young started in goal whilst Dave Savage and Neil McCafferty lined up in centre midfield with Greg Pearson and Daniel Chillingworth leading the front line.

Darlington boss Dave Hodgson was without new signing David Duke due to suspension but was able to field the experienced ex-Leeds United star Clyde Wijnhard upfront.

Diamonds kicked off attacking towards the Airwair stand and made a bright start forcing two corners inside the opening two minutes; however it was Darlington who came closest when Jonjo Dickman fired a long range effort narrowly over the bar on 5 minutes.

Darlington came more into the game and forced Young into a superb save as Carlos Logan’s curling free-kick from 20 yards was saved onto the post, with Young springing high to his right, after 13 minutes.

Diamonds were forced to defend another set piece when Matthew Appleby was fouled on the edges of the box, however from the resultant free-kick Wijnhard hit the ball diagonally and wide, after 29 minutes.

Daniel Grainger DebutDiamonds made a change on 32 minutes when Dave Savage went off injured to be replaced by Daniel Grainger who played on the right-wing with David Bell moving into the centre.

Diamonds forced Sam Russell into a decent save when Bell shot from 35 yards on 33 minutes to register Diamonds first shot on target.

Despite struggling to truly test Russell whilst going forward Diamonds looked to be strong at the back and keen to win the second balls.

As the quiet first half came to an end, Darlington went close to scoring courtesy of  Diamonds Marcus Kelly as his block to Adrian Webster’s telling pass into the box went narrowly wide of Young’s far right post.

Diamonds made a strong start to the second half, just like the first.Matthew Clarke’s foul on Pearson created a decent set piece opportunity for Diamonds, two yards outside the box and to the left of centre.Bell struck the free-kick hard and low but saw his effort go wide of Russell’s right hand post, after 53 minutes.

Minutes after the opportunity, Diamonds conceded a penalty when McCafferty was adjudged to have handled the ball by the assistant referee whilst Gier was booked for dissent on 56 minutes.From the resultant spot-kick Wijnhard made no mistake firing the ball home low, down the centre, with Young diving to his right.

Diamonds produced a superb response to going behind when Bell raced clear and outpaced the Darlington defence to fire home low and with plenty of intent past Russell, for a fine solo goal on 59 minutes.

Bell struck from 40 yards over Russell’s crossbar on 62 minutes before Darlington’s Dickman headed narrowly over from close range.Darlington later made a change as scorer Wijnhard was replaced by Akpo Sodje on 69 minutes.

Diamonds started to enjoy their best spell of the game having levelled and saw McCafferty’s free-kick find Pearson but the former West Ham youngster could only head softly towards Russell on 72 minutes.

Stephen Thomas replaced Adrian Webster on 77 minutes for Darlington before the Diamonds made their second change to bring on Jason Taylor for Daniel Chillingworth who had worked hard without reward for much of the afternoon.

Phil Gulliver was booked for a foul on Simon Johnson on 82 minutes to concede a free-kick just outside the box but Thomas could only blast the resultant kick into the Diamonds wall.Darlington made their final change as Johnson came off for Guylain Nsungu with six minutes remaining.

In the dying minutes Pearson shot on the turn, but saw his effort go high over the bar and Grainger narrowly failed to connect with a telling ball into the box at the far post, for what would have been a memorable goal on his league debut.In-between the Diamonds two chances, at the other end, Thomas’ left wing corner was hit right footed towards the far post where Sodje headed narrowly wide.

Despite the chances for both sides a stalemate always appeared the most likely result after the Diamonds equaliser and so it proved although this could be a very precious point against a much fancied Darlington side.

TEAMS:

 

Rushden and Diamonds:

Young, Gulliver, Hawkins, Allen, Gier, Savage (Grainger 32), Pearson, Bell, Chillingworth (Taylor 80), McCafferty, Kelly.Subs not used: Woodman, Dempster, Okuonghae.

Darlington:

Russell, Valentine, Appleby, Clarke, Hutchinson, Webster (Thomas 77), Wijnhard (Sodje 69), Dickman, Johnson (Nsungu 84), Martis, Logan.Subs not used: Kendrick, Peacock.

Referee: Mr Trevor Parkes

Goals: Wijnhard (penalty) 56, Bell 59.

Bookings: Gier (dissent) 56, Gulliver (foul) 82.

Attendance: 2832 (475 away)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Marcus Kelly (Strong and lively performance from the youngster.)

By Rich Beeby

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