Rushden & Diamonds 1 Oxford United 0

 

Title favourites Oxford United succumbed to only their second defeat of the season, with Diamonds finally ending their run of twelve games without a win. A Curtis Woodhouse header after 7 minutes was enough to take three points for the first time in six weeks.

Tony Godden’s team selection meant that Michael Rankine was on his own in attack, with Woodhouse and Shaw given the job to support as often as possible. Glenn Wilson was unavailable due to personal reasons, while Jon Ashton returned to the starting line up to face his former club. Nicky Eyre was preferred in goal, with Scott Tynan dropping to the bench.

Oxford manager Jim Smith was without Chris Willmott due to a knee ligament injury, with former Diamond John Dempster taking his place, while Steve Basham was preferred to Matthew Day in attack. Billy Turley kept his place in goal despite suffering slight concussion last weekend.

Diamonds started confidently despite being at opposite ends of the League table, It was Michael Rankine who had the first chance on 3 minutes when he received a through ball from Tom Shaw. Rankine fired a shot at goal, which Turley just managed to tip onto the post and away for a corner. Oxford’s first opportunity came shortly after, when Hatswell mis-timed a header, but former Diamond Robert Duffy was unable to take advantage.

On 7 minutes, the long suffering Diamonds supporters finally had something to cheer about. A long through ball from Chris Hope found Tyrone Berry on the right. After taking on the defender and getting to the by-line, he managed to despatch a cross to Curtis Woodhouse, who made a full length dive to head home his first goal for Diamonds.

The goal gave the team a lot of confidence, and although Oxford were dangerous pressing forward with Andy Burgess controlling midfield, Diamonds were able to extinguish any danger from the Oxford strikers.

Oxford tried to regain the initiative and had a number of free kicks over the next 15 minutes, but all were dealt with quite comfortably at the back. On 22 minutes, the ever dangerous Burgess crossed in from the right, but Duffy put his header wide of Nicky Eyre’s goal.

Shortly after, Curtis Woodhouse robbed Dempster in the centre circle, but just couldn’t keep his feet. Although the ball was played back to Turley, Rankine was very close to blocking the clearance.

After half an hour, Dempster tried a long shot, but again failed to trouble Eyre. Moments later, Burgess took a quick free-kick to Duffy but his diving header went wide of the goal. One could see Diamonds growing in confidence as the game progressed with some slick passing. Towards the end of the half, Oxford’s best chance came after Eyre punched the ball away. The ball went high into the air and a header back towards goal was cleared on the line by Ashton before a goalmouth scramble ended in a Diamonds free-kick.

Just before half time, Michael Rankine nearly got a second for Diamonds when he took the ball down the left and tried to curl the ball over Turley. Although the shot went over Turley, it also went over the bar.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 – 0 Oxford United

Oxford made one substitution at half time, with Matthew Day replacing Chris Hargreaves. As the second half progressed, Watson made a good run down the left pushing the ball forward to Kelly, but his cross just drifted over the bar. Rankine was winning most balls up front and his lone effort of holding the ball up was working quite well.

Yemi Odubade came on for Hargreaves on 56 minutes and appeared to improve Oxford’s attacking option, with the U’s having more possession. Diamonds were still dangerous on the break and on 59 minutes, Rankine nearly extended the lead after dispossessing an Oxford defender. His shot was blocked by Turley as he narrowed the angle.

Although Oxford played some nice football, they were unable to penetrate Diamonds with the tall defenders being able to clear virtually all of the danger. Paul Watson, playing his best game for some time, took a powerful free kick on 68 minutes but his shot was cleared by Day. Although Oxford were the more attacking of the two sides, the number of chances were fairly even. Oxford were dealt another blow on 71 minutes when Matthew Day appeared to twist on his right ankle and had to be stretchered down the tunnel.

On 80 minutes, Diamonds had another great chance, when Tom Shaw met Berry’s cross from the right. He beat Turley at the near post, but the ball went inches wide of the post and into the side netting.

Andy Burgess was continually dangerous with his free kicks and dangerous crosses but all were safely dealt with and there were little in the way of clear cut chances. As the 90 minutes ended, the determination was evident and this time, there was no danger of a goal in the four minutes of added time.

Tony Godden was delighted with the grit and determination shown by his side which proved to be the deciding factor in getting the result. It was difficult to single out a man of the match, but Curtis Woodhouse is improving with match fitness and the tireless Michael Rankine worked his socks off yet again. While the choice of playing a solitary striker may have raised some eyebrows, the tactics were spot on and gave the caretaker manager a boost after last week’s FA Cup defeat.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 – 0 Oxford United

 

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds: Nicky Eyre, Paul Watson, Jon Ashton, Chris Hope, Wayne Hatswell, Dave Savage, Michael Rankine (Daniel Chillingworth 77), Marcus Kelly, Tyr

one Berry (Simeon Jackson 87), Tom Shaw, Curtis Woodhouse.

Subs not used: Scott Tynan, Daniel Grainger, Ben Sedgemore.

Oxford United: Billy Turley, Eddie Anaclet, Gavin Johnson, Barry Quinn (Matthew Day HT, Jamie Slabber 71), Phil Gilchrist (c), Carl Pettefer, Steve Basham, Christian Hargreaves (Yemi Odubade 56), Andy Burgess, Robert Duffy, John Dempster.

Subs not used: Chris Tardif, Josh Kennet.

Booked: Paul Watson (58 – foul), John Dempster (67 – foul).

Sent Off:

Referee: Mr R.Fletcher

Attendance: 3,270 (Away 1,386).

Diamonds Man of the Match sponsored by Towergate: Curtis Woodhouse

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