Rushden & Diamonds 3 Oxford United 0

Marcus Kelly scored his first ever league goals to inspire Diamonds to a much needed and well deserved win over Oxford at Nene Park.

Kelly struck either side of Phil Gulliver’s header as Diamonds scored three goals in 8 first half minutes to move off the bottom and leapfrog Stockport.

Manager Barry Hunter sprang a surprise by naming two new signings in the squad. Striker Petr Mikolanda signed on loan from West Ham United was named in attack while midfielder Darren Caskey was on the bench. Central defender Wayne Hatswell made his home debut while Scott Tynan was preferred to Danny Crane in goal.

Oxford boss Brian Talbot made his first return to Nene Park since his departure in March 2004. He brought with him some familiar old faces in Barry Quinn, John Dempster, Andy Burgess, Billy Turley and Leo Roget although the latter two were on the bench.

Diamonds created a chance as early as the third minute but Tony Stokes should have done better than blasting over after latching onto a Marcus Kelly pass.

Three minutes later there were loud appeals for a penalty when Mikolanda appeared to have been brought down in the penalty area by Jon Ashton but referee Tanner waived play on.

Quinn tried his luck from 20 yards, but his shot went wide of the right hand post.

Diamonds took the lead on 14 minutes when a mistake by Burgess allowed Tyrone Berry the chance to cross from the left. The cross evaded the entire Oxford defence only for Kelly to superbly skip round a defender before curling a right foot shot into the top corner of the net.

Five minutes later Diamonds extended their lead. Drewe Broughton was fouled 20 yards out and when Tony Stokes floated the cross in Phil Gulliver rose to head past Chris Tardiff.

Rushden fans were pinching themselves on 22 minutes when a rampant Diamonds side went 3 goals ahead. Berry received the ball on the right and laid an accurate pass into the path of Kelly who slid the ball under the advancing ‘keeper to send the Diamonds fans wild with delight.

Chris Hargreaves saw a long range effort comfortably saved by Tynan as Oxford struggled to make any impression on the game. Indeed manager Talbot made two tactical substitutions on 33 minutes replacing Yemi Odubade and Jamie Brooks with Steve Basham and 16 year old Ben Weedon who was making his league debut.

Three minutes before the interval, Diamonds could have scored a fourth goal but the unmarked Broughton didn’t get enough head on Stokes’ free kick and the ‘keeper saved easily. Diamonds lost the services of skipper Dave Savage moments later with a thigh strain and he was replaced by Ashley Nicholls.

As the half – time whistle blew, Diamonds left the field to resounding cheers and deservedly so.

Half – time    Rushden & Diamonds 3 – 0 Oxford United

Oxford came out with renewed vigour and started to squeeze the midfield. Neville Roach forced Tynan to turn his shot round the post.

But there was very little goalmouth action during the next twenty minutes although Weedon somehow failed to get a head on a Burgess cross with an empty net beckoning while Basham fired over a minute later.

The visitors were enjoying more of the possession in the second half but failed to penetrate the Daimonds defence marshalled superbly by Gulliver and Hatswell. Substitute Basham shot over from long range on 73 minutes but that was the best that Oxford could offer. Ten minutes from time, Kelly did well again to find Broughton in space but only Diamonds leading scorer will know how he failed to find the target with a free header.

In the dying minutes Oxford’s dismal day was complete when former Diamond Dempster was red carded after pushing substitute Caskey who was then booked for the original foul on Burgess.

So three very important points for Diamonds who can now look forward to the big derby at Northampton next week with renewed confidence.

Rushden & Diamonds: – Scott Tynan, Phil Gulliver, Rob Gier, Dave Savage (Capt) (Ashley Nicholls 42), Drewe Broughton (Simeon Jackson 88), Petr Mikolanda (Darren Caskey 77), Wayne Hatswell, Ronnie Bull, Marcus Kelly, Tony Stokes, Tyrone Berry

Subs Not Used: Danny Crane, Magnus Okuonghae,

Oxford United: – Chris Tardiff, Lee Mansell, Barry Quinn, Chris Willmott, Jon Ashton, Yemi Odubade (Steve Basham 33), Chris Hargreaves (Capt), John Dempster, Neville Roache, Andy Burgess, Jamie Brooks (Ben Weedon 33)

Subs Not Used: Billy Turley, Mark E’Beyer, Leo Roget.

Booked:  Mansell 51 (Foul), Bull 59 (Foul), Willmott 76 (Foul), Broughton 88 (Foul)

Sent off:  Dempster 84

Referee: Mr S Tanner

Attendance:  3,283  (Away 774)

Diamonds Man of the Match:  Marcus Kelly – scored first goals for the club

Report by Chris Barritt

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