Barnet 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

 

Manager Barry Hunter summed up this disappointing result by agreeing that his side had ‘made a major contribution to their own downfall’.

How right he was! Substitute goalkeeper Jamie Young gifted Barnet the opening goal on the stroke of half-time before John Dempster grabbed a deserved equalizer midway through the second half. Ben Strevens firm header won the game for the home side on 74 minutes before Drewe Broughton picked up a second red card of the season for violent conduct. Diamonds also lost the services of ‘keeper Andy Woodman with a serious Achilles heel injury.

Diamonds were looking to extend a three game unbeaten run and Hunter was forced into making two changes to the side that beat Shrewsbury a week earlier. David Bell replaced broken thumb victim Marcus Kelly on the left while Ashley Nicholls filled the gap left in midfield by the suspended Neil McCafferty. Diamonds welcomed back Andy Burgess to the bench following his recovery from a broken leg while new signing Alun Armstrong joined him amongst the substitutes.

After a fine start to the season, Conference champions Barnet had slipped alarmingly down the table and had failed to win any of their previous 11 league games. The home side surprisingly ‘rested’ striker Guiliano Grazioli while goalkeeper Ross Flitney took his place between the posts after his controversial midweek red card against Manchester United was correctly overturned.

Diamonds kicked off down the steep hill and enjoyed most of the early possession. However, the visitors could so nearly have gone behind on 8 minutes. Woodman

misjudged Dean Sinclair’s high cross under the challenge of Liam Hatch leaving the Barnet front man a seemingly easy tap in but miraculously Rob Gier made up the ground to somehow get in a block.

However, it was obvious that Woodman had fallen awkwardly under the challenge and he appeared to be in a lot of pain. After five minutes of treatment, the Diamonds goalkeeping coach was stretchered away from the field and taken to hospital having apparently sustained an Achilles tendon injury.

Young came on as a substitute and there was a nice touch from Broughton who came over to the sidelines to give the youngster some words of encouragement.

There was very little goalmouth action in the opening stages although Gier made another great interception to dispossess Nicky Bailey. On 24 minutes Broughton knocked the ball down intelligently to Chris O’Grady on the left and he beat Flitney from an acute angle but the shot went past the far post.

Two minutes later Hatch flashed a header wide from Ian Hendon’s cross before Diamonds should have taken the lead on 31 minutes. O’Grady’s superb ball found Broughton all alone on the edge of the penalty area but he spent too much time teeing up the shot which went wide of the right hand upright.

Bailey screwed a shot wide after the ball came back to him following a corner while not for the first time O’Grady picked out an unmarked Diamonds player but this time Nicholls’ blazed over with plenty of time to pick his spot.

Rushden went behind in bizarre circumstances on the stroke of the interval. Young collected a harmless cross and dropped the ball onto the floor in readiness to clear his lines. Unfortunately, the substitute ‘keeper lost his concentration having failed to spot Lee standing behind him. The Barnet midfielder pounced, dispossessed Young and coolly rolled the ball into an empty net from an acute angle. One for Question of Sport’s ‘What Happened Next ‘section I fear!

Half – time Barnet 1 – 0 Rushden & Diamonds

Diamonds came out scowling at the start of the second half and Barnet were finding it hard to cope with the pace and guile of O’Grady. Twice in successive minutes the loanee got round his marker but saw his shot blocked.

Diamonds took off Greg Pearson and replaced him with debutant Armstong up front. O’Grady switched to left of midfield with Bell moving to his favoured right flank.

The home side almost extended their lead on 59 minutes. Ian Hendon’s free – kick hung in the wind and then drifted towards the net. Young misjudged the angle and the ball bounced over the bar.

A slick move between Bell, Armstrong and Nicholls ended with the Cambridge loan man seeing his shot blocked while great play from O’Grady down the left saw his fine shot deflected away fro a corner. From Bell’s resultant corner, Broughton’s challenge caused Flitney to flap at the ball and when Armstrong’s follow up was blocked, John Dempster’s low shot went through a crowd of players and into the net for a deserved equaliser.

Diamonds looked ready for the kill and there was a huge cheer from the Diamonds fans on 67 minutes with the reappearance of Burgess after a long injury break. He slotted into the centre of midfield with Nicholls being substituted.

Young comfortably saved Sinclair’s low shot but the Diamonds ‘keeper wasn’t so sure about his positioning when he took two attempts to deal with Lee’s effort after he tried to capitalise on Peter Hawkins mistake.

On 71 minutes, Bell sent a 30-yard free – kick into Flitney’s midriff but Diamonds were undone three minutes later after yet more defensive frailties. Nobody closed down Hendon on the right and he had all the time in the world to get his cross in to Strevens who beat Young with a powerful header.

Worst was to follow on 84 minutes when Broughton was shown the red card for violent conduct after he tangled with Ismail Yakubu. As both players were moving towards the Barnet goal, the Assistant Referee pulled play back and called for referee Lee. After a moments deliberation Broughton was sent off. The visiting striker protested his innocence and indicated to Hunter that his shirt had been tugged but his game was over and a four match ban awaits.

So a disappointing result and performance by Diamonds but they still showed enough to suggests that positive results are just around the corner as they now prepare for Sunday’s trip to Halifax Town in the F.A Cup First Round

Teams:

Barnet: Ross Fltney, Ian Hendon, Ismail Yakubu, Anthony Charles, Adam Gross, Ben Strevens, Dwane Lee, Dean Sinclair, Nicky Bailey, Liam Hatch (Jason Norville 75)

Subs Not Used: Luke Hickie, Damian Batt, Richard Graham, Louie Soares

Rushden & Diamonds:

Andy Woodman (Jamie Young 12), Rob Gier, Peter Hawkins, Phil Gulliver, John Dempster, Greg Pearson (Alun Armstrong 58), Dave Savage, Ashley Nicholls (Andy Burgess 67), David Bell, Chris O’Grady, Drewe Broughton

Subs Not Used: Magnus Okuonghae, Lee Tomlin

Booked: Lee 54 (Foul). Roache 57 (Dissent), Dmpster 59 (Foul), Hawkins 69 (Foul)

Referee: Mr R Lee

Attendance: 2,564 (Away 447)

Diamonds MOM: Chris O’Grady – easily the best player on the pitch!

Report by Chris Barritt

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