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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