Rushden & Diamonds 2 Bristol Rovers 3

A last minute header from Jamie Forrester broke Diamonds hearts as Diamonds tasted defeat for the fourth consecutive game.

Stuart Campbell scored Rovers first direct from a free kick before Drewe Broughton headed home the equaliser. A Jamie Young mistake gifted the visitors a second before Broughton scored his second just six minutes from time. The Pirates had James Hunt sent off for a dreadful challenge on Alun Armstrong who was also shown the red card for retaliation.

Diamonds were playing West Country opposition for the third consecutive game and they were desperate to take their first points of the holiday period following defeats against Leyton Orient, Cheltenham and Torquay. Peter Hawkins had failed to shrug off a neck and shoulder problem so Ashley Nicholls made his reappearance at right back. Armstrong came into attack for Chris O’Grady who had returned to Leicester City.

Bristol Rovers were unbeaten away from home in four matches but they were forced into making their first changes in 9 matches. Lewis Haldane and Forrester made their first starts of the season in place of Ali Gibb and Junior Agogo who’d failed to recover from a hamstring injury.

The visitors had the first shot of the game on 2 minutes when Forrester tried his luck from 20 yards but Young superbly tipped the ball over the bar.

A great turn from Andy Burgess allowed Broughton to stoop and get in a header which was easily held by Scott Shearer. Broughton then had a free shot from 12 yards which was screwed horribly wide.

Haldane worked an opening on the left but Young dived full length to make the save before Diamonds put together a super move which so nearly brought them a goal. Broughton found Neil McCafferty on the right and Armstrong drilled the pass goalwards only to see Shearer pull off a great save and divert the ball away for a corner.

Broughton struck a long range effort narrowly wide before Young denied the lively Haldane with a smart save which flicked the ball over the bar.

On 25 minutes Shearer produced a point blank save to thwart Armstrong who got in a bullet header following Burgess’ great cross. Unfortunately, Broughton couldn’t get on the end of the rebound.

Greg Pearson saw a drive whistle past the post before superb play from Gary Mills almost earned the home side a dramatic opener. The diminutive little midfielder ghosted past two defenders before testing Shearer but the former Diamonds loanee saved above his head.

The game exploded into life on 37 minutes. Hunt and Armstrong were both shown the red card following a dreadful two footed tackle by the ex-Northampton man on Armstrong. Unfortunately, Armstrong reacted to the challenge by getting up and pushing the Rovers midfielder with both hands leaving referee Bates with little option other than to send both men off.

With both teams down to ten men, Rovers took the lead on 41 minutes. Nicholls fouled Campbell out on the Diamonds right and the midfielder picked himself up before sending in a cross-cum-shot which beat everyone before ending up in the right hand corner of the net.

But a minute before the interval Diamonds equalised. Andy Burgess swung in a free kick from the right and when the ball broke back to him, Burgess found Broughton all alone and the striker made no mistake with a well placed header.

Half – Time   Rushden & Diamonds    1 – 1 Bristol Rovers

Diamonds went behind again three minutes after the interval following a mistake from Jamie Young. Campbell swung in the corner from the left and young failed to make the catch allowing Steve Elliott to hook the ball home.

Rushden sent on Lee Tomlin in place of Pearson on 54 minutes as Diamonds changed their attacking options.

Gary Mills wasn’t too far away with a 30 – yard shot while Phil Gulliver produced a great block to deny Haldane after he’d skipped past Burgess.

Diamonds scored a deserved equaliser six minutes from time thanks to the industry of Tomlin. The youngster got to the byline and crossed to the waiting Broughton who turned superbly before firing home.

Rather than sit back and take protect the point, Rovers went on the attack and after Forrester had somehow lifted the ball over the bar, the visitors snatched a dramatic victory deep in injury time.

Richard Walker won the ball on the right and his cross picked out the unmarked Forrester who beat the scrambling Young with a perfectly placed header.

It was tough luck on Diamonds who had done more than enough to take a point but yet again luck was very much against them.

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds: – Jamie Young, Phil Gulliver, Gary Mills, Rob Gier, Dave Savage (c), Greg Pearson (Lee Tomlin 54), Drewe Broughton, Andy Burgess, Ashley Nicholls, Neil McCafferty (Daniel Grainger 73), Alun Armstrong

Subs Not Used: Graham Allen, Magnus Okuonghae, Ricardo Joseph.

Bristol Rovers: – Scott Shearer, Craig Hinton, Steve Elliott, Stuart Campbell, James Hunt (C), Richard Walker, Chris Carruthers, Jamie Forrester, Craig Disley, Lewis Haldane (Ali Gibb 75), Aaaron Lescott.

Subs Not Used: Steve Book, Christian Edwards, John Anderson, Chris Lines.

Booked:  Nicholls 15 (Foul), Gier 38 (Dissent), Lescott 48 (Foul), Savage 51 (Foul)

Sent off: Hunt 37 (Serious Foul Play) Armstrong 37 (Retaliation),

Referee: Mr T Bates

Attendance: 2,720 (Away 592)

Diamonds Man of the Match:  Gary Mills

By Chris Barritt

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