Rushden & Diamonds 0 Cheltenham Town 1

 

 

Rushden went down to a fourth successive home defeat after Grant McCann’s second half free-kick gave Cheltenham victory.

 

Diamonds were hoping to improve on their recent record of four defeats in five games and also bounce back from their 5 – 1 defeat at Leyton Orient on Boxing Day.

 

With John Dempster suspended, Andy Burgess started at left – back; Rob Gier switched to central defence and Peter Hawkins played on the right. Alun Armstrong was preferred to Chris O’Grady in attack. 

 

Cheltenham were enjoying an impressive run having lost just one of their last eleven games. They made just one change from the side that beat Chester City 1 – 0. Jamie Victory had recovered from injury and returned at left-back.

 

On a bitterly cold night, a minute’s silence was impeccably observed by both sets of fans in memory of Dave Joyce who sadly passed away earlier this month.

 

Drewe Broughton won an early free-kick in a good position after he was fouled by Gavin Caines. Unfortunately, Marcus Kelly hit the ball into the crowd.

 

On 15 minutes McCann saw his shot held at the second attempt by Jamie Young while 4 minutes later the same player struck a long range effort over the bar.

 

Diamonds had to wait until the 26th minute to enjoy their first shot on target although Dave Savage’s effort from the edge of the area was weak and failed to trouble Shane Higgs.

 

On the half-hour Brian Wilson lifted a shot over the crossbar before Diamonds were forced to make a change five minutes later. O’Grady replaced Armstrong in attack after the ex-Middlesbrough man had to leave the field with an eye injury.

 

The home side were fortunate not to go behind shortly after when Burgess’ attempted clearance rebounded off John Melligan leaving Young to produce a fine point blank stop.

 

Young got down well to deny John Finnigan while the Diamonds ‘keeper made an even better stop on 41 minutes when he tipped over Melligan’s short range blast.

 

O’Grady then let fly from fully 25 yards and while his shot beat Higgs it whistled narrowly past the right hand post.

 

On the stroke of half-time there was controversy when Cheltenham had a goal disallowed. Wilson’s cross looked as though it evaded everybody before landing up in the right hand corner of the net. However, after the referee had initially awarded the visitors a goal it was disallowed, presumably for offside, after Mr Lewis consulted the referee’s assistant. Cheltenham players were incensed by the decision and manager John Ward had to pull some of them away as they crowded round the officials at the interval.

 

Half – Time   Rushden & Diamonds 0 – 0 Cheltenham Town

 

The second half was no more than three minutes old when the visitors took the lead. McCann took a free-kick and gave Young no chance with an absolute beauty from 25 yards.

 

Young, who was having an inspired game, got Hawkins out of trouble after Kayode Odejayi’s shot deflected off the Diamonds defender before Gary Mills stubbed a loose ball well wide.

 

Just after the hour Cheltenham missed a glorious chance to extend their lead when Odejayi put Steve Guinan clean through but Young spotted the danger well and saved at the striker’s feet.

 

As Diamonds started to make inroads into the Cheltenham defence, Burgess hit a fine shot just wide before Savage tested Higgs from the edge of the area.

 

On 71 minutes Young produced a miraculous save to give Diamonds continued hope. Melligan’s corner was headed back across goal by Shane Duff and Young somehow took the ball of Guinan’s head as the striker shaped to head into a gaping net.

 

Three minutes later Higgs produced a marvellous save diving to his left to turn Savage’s blast round the post.

 

Lee Tomlin was sent on and immediately gave Diamonds hope. McCann made two excellent blocks to deny the youngster and then there were loud appeals for a penalty when a Cheltenham defender appeared to handle the ball on the line.

 

But it was the visitors who finished in the ascendancy. Substitute Damian Spencer shrugged off Hawkins and then forced Young into a fine block. Seconds later Steven Gillespie got the better of Gier but Young was equal to the challenge.

 

So another home defeat for Diamonds and another injury problem. David Bell was the victim of a late horror tackle which has left him with a nasty gash above the ankle and the prospect of several weeks out of the game.

 

 

Teams:

 

Rushden & Diamonds: – Jamie Young, Phil Gulliver, Peter Hawkins, Gary Mills (Lee Tomlin 77), Rob Gier, Dave Savage (c), Drewe Broughton (Greg Pearson 87), David Bell, Andy Burgess, Alun Armstrong (Chris O’Grady 35), Marcus Kelly,

 

Subs Not Used: Neil McCafferty, Magnus Okuonghae,

 

Cheltenham Town: – Shane Higgs, Jeremy Gill, Jamie Victory (David Bird 83), Shane Duff, Gavin Caines, Brian Wilson, John Finnigan (c), Stephen Guinan (Damian Spencer 77), Grant McCann, Kayode Odejayi (Steven Gillespie 63), John Melligan  

 

Subs Not Used:  Scott Brown, Michael Townsend,

 

Booked:  Savage 15 (Foul), Hawkins 26 (Foul), McCann 35 (Persistent Fouling), Gier 61 (Foul), Broughton 85 (Foul)

 

Sent off:

 

Referee: Mr R Lewis

 

Attendance: 2,244 (Away 353)

 

Diamonds Man of the Match:  Jamie Young

 

By Chris Barritt 

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