Cheltenham Town 3 Rushden & Diamonds 1

 

Diamonds 4 game unbeaten run came to an abrupt end at Whaddon Road after three first half goals saw off the visitors.

JJ Melligan’s header gave The Robins an early lead before Brian Wilson’s free kick extended the home sides lead. John Finnigan wrapped up the points before Simeon Jackson scored a consolation goal early in the second half.

Manager Barry Hunter made two changes to the side that beat Leyton Orient a week earlier. Magnus Okuonghae replace hamstring victim Phil Gulliver while John Turner was preferred to Tyrone Berry on the right side of midfield.

Cheltenham named the same side that drew with Wrexham in midweek.

Diamonds made the worst possible start when they went behind on seven minutes. Kayode Odejayi found Wilson on the left and when the cross came in Melligan was all alone to place a simple header past Scott Tynan.

After Ronnie Bull had fired over after good work by Drewe Broughton, Cheltenham increased their lead on 13 minutes.  Diamonds gave away a free-kick 25 yards out after Grant McCann was fouled and Wilson stepped up to rifle a shot past Tynan.

Moments later goalkeeper Shane Higgs pulled off a superb save to deny Darren Caskey’s free-kick but there appeared no way back for Diamonds when they conceded a third goal on the half – hour. Wilson played the ball past the Rushden defence and Finnigan turned and fired home with the help of the right hand upright.

It could easily have been four three minutes later when McCann saw his 25 yard free-kick rebound off the crossbar before Higgs made another smart save to deny Jackson. Caskey  was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet when Higgs palmed over a shot.

Half-time Cheltenham Town 3 – 1 Rushden & Diamonds

Diamonds made two substitutions at the interval bringing on Tony Stokes and Berry for Ashley Nicholls and Broughton. Taylor joined Jackson up front and within eight minutes of the restart Diamonds had pulled a goal back.

After Melligan had seen a lob ruled out for offside, Caskey found Jackson on the left and he breezed past Jerry Gill before beating Higgs with a peach of a shot under his body.

Cheltenham almost regained their three goal lead when Finnigan’s long range shot was glanced over the bar by Gavin Caines. Then Stokes saw his free-kick ricochet off the Cheltenham wall before falling into the path of Turner but the substitute’s effort was blocked by the home defence.

There was more dismay for the visitors when Wayne Hatswell received his tenth booking of the season leaving him suspended for the visit to Bristol Rovers.

Twenty minutes from the end Diamonds missed a great chance to reduce the arrears when Marcus Kelly’s cross from the left resulted in a goalmouth scramble but neither Wayne Hatswell or Turner could turn the ball in.

This was a much better performance from the visitors in the second – half but they just couldn’t turn possession into goals. However, defeat was all the more disappinting with the news that most of Diamonds relegation rivals had picked up victories making next week’s game against Torquay all the more vital.

Teams:

Cheltenham Town: Higgs, Gill, Caines, Townsend, Armstrong, Melligan, Finnigan (Captain), McCann (Bird 58), Wilson (Bell 87), Guinan, Odejayi (Spencer 73),

Subs not used: Duff, Brown

Diamonds: Tynan, Gier (Captain), Okuonghae (Tomlin 88), Hatswell, Bull, Turner, Nicholls (Stokes 46), Caskey, Kelly, Jackson, Broughton (Berry 46).

Subs not used: Savage, Hunter

Attendance: 3,447

Bookings: Caskey, McCann. Wilson, Hatswell, Guinan, Finnigan

Diamonds MOM: Simeon Jackson – just keeps on scoring!

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