Cambridge United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Graham Westley got his Diamonds managerial debut off to the perfect start with Diamonds recording their first ever victory at the Abbey Stadium thanks to a Marcus Kelly first half goal.

Diamonds new manager announced three changes to the side that narrowly beat Scarborough some ten days ago. Scott Tynan replaced Nicky Eyre in goal after the former No.1 was released just before Christmas. In came Glenn Wilson and Simeon Jackson to replace Tyrone Berry and Curtis Woodhouse, who were both named on the bench.

Cambridge boss Jimmy Quinn made six changes to the side that lost 5-0 at Histon in the FA Carlsberg Trophy. Defender Danny Brown was suspended, while out through injury were David Bridges (ankle), Tommy Jaszczun (toe) and former Diamond Ritchie Hanlon (knee). Captain Andy Duncan returned to the side, with Paul Crichton resuming in goal after serving a suspension for the Histon game. Left back Jordan Collins was given his first team debut for the U’s, while former Diamonds favourites Rob Gier and Jon Brady were also in the starting line-up. Michael Gash joined Robbie Simpson in attack.

During the opening exchanges, Cambridge were clearly trying to erase the memory of their previous game, and were pushing forward at every occasion. Diamonds defence looked fairly resolute and despite the U’s possession, appeared to be dealing confidently with any threat on goal. Neither side was troubling the opposing keeper however and the first effort on goal eventually came from Michael Rankine on 10 minutes, but his shot went wide of the right hand post.

Cambridge continued to push forward but without any real penetration. Paul Watson received a yellow card on 19 minutes after a foul on Robbie Simpson. The resultant free kick found Collins able to put in a dangerous cross for Michael Gash, but his header was safely gathered in by Tynan. Both Courtney Pitt and Jon Brady were managing to get in a number of crosses. On 22 minutes, Pitt’s cross was put out for a corner. Captain Andy Duncan got his head onto the corner kick, but was unable to get any direction, heading over the bar.

Cambridge had a strong appeal for a penalty on 26 minutes when Wayne Hatswell and Robbie Simpson went up for the same ball, but the referee waved play on as the ball was cleared. As Cambridge continued to press forward, a Brady free kick found Morrison with a free header, but Tynan had the ball covered at the near post. On 28 minutes, Cambridge had the ball in the net. Courney Pitt floated in a cross for Michael Gash, who slotted the ball into the net, but the linesman flagged for offside and the goal disallowed. Despite all the Cambridge pressure, the number of clear-cut chances was very limited with Tynan punching clear whenever the defence were unable to deal with the danger. During a Diamonds break, Jackson was fouled and the free kick from Watson headed over by Chillingworth.

Diamonds got another breakaway on 40 minutes when Brady gave the ball away to Simeon Jackson in the centre circle. Brady tried to retrieve the situation, but brought down Jackson receiving a yellow card for his troubles. The free kick by Watson was aimed at Wayne Hatswell, but Crichton in the Cambridge goal managed to punch the ball away to safety.

Scott Tynan was looking quite confident in goal having replaced Nicky Eyre as No.1 keeper. He was called into action again on 43 minutes when he had to punch away another cross, this time from Collins, but the clearance gave Diamonds the chance to start another attack down the right flank. Wilson put in a long throw, which was cleared out for a Diamonds corner. Marcus Kelly took the inswinging corner and the keeper was totally distracted as Rankine and Chillingworth both tried to get on the end of it. The ball bypassed everyone and went in at the far post without another touch to give Kelly his fourth goal of the season. For all the U’s pressure, it was Diamonds who took the chance when it came their way, and although the home side were disappointed to go into the break a goal behind, they had paid the price for poor finishing.

Half-time Cambridge United 0 – 1 Rushden & Diamonds

Cambridge went immediately on the attack again at the start of the second half. Brady had a shot blocked and Collins had a shot saved by Tynan on the line in the opening minutes. Wayne Hatswell received a yellow card after protesting too severely over an alleged foul that the referee failed to award. Stephen Smith came on to replace Rob Wolleaston in the Cambridge midfield and had an effort on goal that went well wide. Cambridge continued to squander chances with Robbie Simpson  unable to direct a header on target. Diamonds continued to defend well, and were satisfied to attack the U’s on the break. Kelly put in a good cross on the hour mark, but the Cambridge defence cleared before Jackson could get a shot away. Moments later, it was Diamonds who had a goal disallowed when Rankine challenged Crichton in the Cambridge goal forcing him to drop the ball, but a free kick was given for a foul on the keeper. In addition, Rankine received a yellow card.

Robbie Simpson headed wide, on 64 minutes, and Tynan continued to punch away any danger rather than attempt to catch the ball, which was proving most effective. Diamonds had another break midway through the second half, but as Jackson and Kelly ran at the U’s defence, both were brought down. This time, it was Stephen Smith who received a yellow card. In fact Jackson had to go off following the challange, with Curtis Woodhouse coming on as an extra midfielder.

Kelly made a good run on 69 minutes, which resulted in another corner. This time, Kelly played it short and received the ball back. His shot was saved at the second attempt. At the other end, Gash had another header straight at Tynan, and the keeper saved well from Brady as the second half entered its final phase. Diamonds had overcome everything Cambridge had to offer and started to mount more and more attacks in the final ten minutes. A Chillingworth shot went wide, while another effort went out for a corner. Apart from an attempt by Stephen Smith, Diamonds looked quite secure and even the five minutes of extra time failed to affect their resolve. In extra time, a Woodhouse free kick was put out for a corner. Both Wilson and Watson supported to keep the ball in the Cambridge half.

Only in the final seconds was their the slightest moment of panic when Ashton and Tynan couldn’t decide who should clear the ball and it ended with a Cambridge corner. It was all too late and Diamonds had secured their first away victory since September 12th!

Graham Westley had spent his first week at Nene Park trying to instil a “will to win” attitude, and it seemed to work a treat. Although the game was a poor spectacle for those present, Diamonds third victory in three games is something that hadn’t been achieved for over three and a half years since the Division 3 championship winning season. It certainly gave the five hundred visiting supporters an extra Christmas present and the mutual applause at the end of the game was much appreciated.

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

Teams:

Cambridge United – Paul Crichton, Andy Duncan (c), Jordan Collins, Jon Brady, Rob Gier, Courtney Pitt, Michael Gash (Danny Carey-Bertram 88), Joshua Simpson, Rob Wolleaston (Stephen Smith 51), Michael Morrison, Robbie Simpson (Liam Marum 71).

Subs not used: Mark Peters, Shane Herbert(GK).

Rushden & Diamonds – Scott Tynan, Glenn Wilson, Paul Watson, Jon Ashton, Chris Hope (c), Wayne Hatswell, Dave Savage, Michael Rankine, Daniel Chillingworth (Tyrone Berry 87), Marcus Kelly, Simeon Jackson (Curtis Woodhouse 67).

Subs not used: Martyn Margarson(GK), Lee Tomlin, Ben Sedgemore.

Booked: Paul Watson (19 – foul), Jon Brady (40 – foul), Wayne Hatswell (52 – dissent), Michael Rankine (61 – foul), Stephen Smith (66 – foul).

Referee:         Mr N.Kinseley (Essex)

Attendance:   3,000 (498 visiting supporters)

Reporters Man of the Match: Scott Tynan.

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