Oxford United 2 Rushden & Diamonds 2

 

Rushden and Diamonds earned a precious point at the Kassam Stadium as they overturned a two goal half-time deficit against a side managed by former boss Brian Talbot.

Eric Sabin and Leo Roget had blasted United ahead but a fine second half showing proved Diamonds won’t be an easy ride for any team this season when Jason Taylor and Daniel Grainger drew Diamonds level.

Rushden and Diamonds Manger Barry Hunter was forced to make one change to his line-up from the side who were defeated against Peterborough United as Peter Hawkins sat out through suspension and Dave Savage returned from injury to face his former club.Diamonds fielded Ashley Nicholls at left-back and John Dempster continued at right-back.On the bench Ricardo Joseph continued the presence of youth whilst Daniel Chillingworth continued his return from injury.

Former Diamonds boss Brian Talbot included Billy Turley, Stuart Gray and Leo Roget in his side, whilst another former Diamonds player – Barry Quinn, was suspended.Oxford also featured former Northampton Town players Chris Hargreaves and recent signing Eric Sabin in their line-up, whilst another was on the bench in the form of Chris Willmott.

Diamonds started well and Pearson glanced a header wide of Turley’s left-hand post inside the opening minutes before Chris O’Grady beat off Turley after the latter had made a hashed clearance, only to shoot weakly straight at him.

Leo Roget had to receive lengthy treatment for Oxford to halt the Diamonds impressive opening and when play resumed a passage of even play yielded little by way of chances on goal for either side.

Diamonds began to get on top of the game and almost stamped their authority on it when Neil McCafferty played in Marcus Kelly down the left who fired a cross into the box where Pearson just failed to connect, with the Oxford defence carved open, on 10 minutes.

Magnus Okuonghae received a yellow card for a sloppy challenge on Sabin as he tried to break free, however Leo Roget could only head wide from the resultant free-kick from Chris Hackett.

Despite Diamonds having the better of the chances Oxford stole a lead, courtesy of a former Diamond and Cobbler.Gray was able to break free down the left and fired strongly at Jamie Young, who could only parry his effort with Sabin quick to fire home the rebound, after 17 minutes.

After the goal Jude Stirling forced Young into a brilliant save over the bar after 22 minutes from distance to force a corner, from which Oxford went further ahead.Hackett took the right-wing corner and launched it towards the far post where Leo Roget powered home with a header.

Diamonds injury woes then continued as McCafferty had to go off injured to be replaced by Daniel Grainger, after 24 minutes.

Diamonds struggled to respond from the setbacks and could only muster a weak Pearson effort from 15 yards when Savage set him up, on 35 minutes before half time.

Grainger received a word in the ear from the referee after his challenge left Lee Mansell in need of treatment to add to the first half stoppages.Moments after the delay Gray fed Stirling who beat off Dempster before unleashing a shot at an angle from the left, which went narrowly wide, after 40 minutes.

Diamonds faced a mountainous task going into the second half to overcome the deficit but started reasonably whenNicholls poked a shot from just inside the box a couple of yards wide of Turley’s right post.

Hackett stole past the Diamonds defence down the right before shooting at Young on 51 minutes for Oxford, however two minutes later the Diamonds were closing the deficit.

Marcus Kelly fired a free-kick from the right, 30 yards from goal, which Taylor latched onto at the far post to strike past Turley who didn’t even move off his spot.Just a minute later Nicholls received a yellow card for a foul.

Oxford A 2006 GraingerDiamonds were buoyed by the goal and five minutes later did what seemed the impossible as they drew level, courtesy of a fine strike.John Dempster threw the ball in from the Diamond’s right flank into the centre where Grainger fired a superb volley into the top corner from 25 yards, sending the Diamonds fans into raptures.

Brian Talbot brought off Jude Stirling for Lee Bradbury in response to the goal, on 59 minutes.

Diamonds were well on top and Kelly was unlucky not to earn Diamonds a penalty when he appeared to be fouled in the box on 67 minutes, but he still went on to shoot but the effort was blocked.

Andy Campbell came off for Craig Davies on 70 minutes as Oxford made a second change whilst seven minutes later Taylor was replaced by Chillingworth for Diamonds.A third booking was earned when John Dempster received a booking after he left a foot trailing to upend Craig Davies on 82 minutes.

Diamonds looked in little danger of conceding a third and even pushed for the three points but a Pearson blasted well over the bar from a 30 yard free-kick on 85 minutes, and a Chillingworth strike into the hands of Turley, was the closest they came.

Diamonds will be more than happy with the point -always valuable on the road – and especially pleasing following consecutive League Two defeats, even more so against a team managed by former boss Brian Talbot.

Diamonds now travel to the Moss Rose to face Macclesfield on Tuesday night.

TEAMS:

Oxford United:

Turley, Mansell, Robinson, Ashton, Hackett, Hargreaves, Gray, Stirling (Bradbury 59), Sabin, Roget, Campbell (Davies 70).Subs not used: Tardiff, Basham, Willmott.

Rushden and Diamonds:

Young, Gulliver, Pearson, Savage, Dempster, Nicholls, McCafferty (Grainger 24), O’Grady, Taylor (Chillingworth 77), Kelly, Okuonghae.Subs not used: Woodman, Wark, Joseph.

Referee: Mr Mathieson

Goals: Sabin 17, Roget 22, Taylor 53, Grainger 58

Bookings: Okuonghae 12 (foul), Nicholls 54 (foul), Dempster 82 (foul)

Attendance: 4189 (455 away)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Marcus Kelly

Report by Rich Beeby.

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