Rushden & Diamonds 3 Cambridge United 1

Diamonds ended up comfortable winners in this bottom of the table battle. Goals from Simeon Jackson, Chris Beardsley and Michael Rankine secured the three points, before conceding a disputed injury time goal.

Diamonds were looking for a third win in ten days after victories over Stafford Rangers and Witton Albion, while the U’s had suffered six consecutive defeats before today’s game, losing to Stevenage Borough at the weekend. Amongst those six defeats was the Boxing Day defeat against the Diamonds at the Abbey Stadium when Marcus Kelly scored the only goal direct from a corner. Their last victory was at Woking some six weeks ago.

Graham Westley announced the same team that beat Stafford Rangers at the weekend. Fit again Dave Savage replaced Paul Watson on the bench.  Cambridge manager Jimmy Quinn named young full back Jordan Collins in the starting eleven replacing Josh Simpson, while Courtney Pitt passed a late fitness test. Paul Crichton replaced Shane Herbert in goal. Tommy Jaszczun, David Bridges and Danny Brown all remained sidelined due to injury.

Cambridge looked to stamp their authority on the game early on with some strong challenges and had much of the possession in the opening minutes. Diamonds had a couple of early opportunities with Chris Hope’s long header out of defence just finding Jackson offside. Another quick ball away went just beyond the reach of Cook and it wasn’t long before they took advantage of a shaky U’s defence. Glenn Wilson broke away down the right and received a return ball beyond the defence. His fierce cross from the by-line was parried by Crichton, but Simeon Jackson was on hand to fire the ball into the roof of the net after just 7 minutes of play.

Despite possession being fairly equal, Diamonds never really looked under much pressure and the goal seemed to give everyone a confidence boost. A few minutes after the goal, Jamie Cook had a shot saved by the Cambridge keeper at the foot of the post, then had another just wide with the keeper beaten.

Diamonds started to pass the ball more and more, with the U’s getting frustrated at their lack of chances. Jordan Collins being booked early on after a couple of rash fouls. On 24 minutes, Diamonds had another good chance when Jamie Cook received a cross from Marcus Kelly. Cook shot across the area, but too close to the keeper as Beardsley challenged. A free kick was awarded and after some protests from the Cambridge defenders, the referee consulted the linesman and amazingly cautioned Simeon Jackson, who must have been some considerable distance from the incident.

Despite having a lot of the possession, Cambridge didn’t have much in the way of attempts on goal, but were unlucky after 29 minutes, when Michael Morrison’s shot was cleared off the line by Jamie Cook. Although the ball fell to Dean Holdsworth, Tynan made an excellent save to keep Diamonds in front. Moments later, the ball was cleared off the line again after Holdsworth’s snapshot from the edge of the area. Jon Brady followed up but his shot was deflected for a corner.

With three Cambridge players being booked for numerous fouls, plus Jackson’s strange booking, the constant stop / start never allowed either side to dominate. As the half ended, both Cook and Mills fired shots well over the bar.

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

Both sides remained unchanged as the second half commenced. Jamie Cook made a good early run down the flank and cut into the middle. His shot/pass found Chris Beardsley whose shot was well saved by the keeper. He tried to follow up the lose ball but fired into the side netting. Cambridge started to try to up the pace and put Diamonds under more pressure. A Dean Holdsworth quick free kick nearly caught out Tynan, but the defenders were aware to the danger. Wayne Purser was just unable to connect with a through ball from Pitt, but their best chance came on 65 minutes from another free kick. Dean Holdsworth was again at the centre of the set piece, and although he got the ball around the wall, it was brilliantly saved by Tynan.

With twenty minutes remaining, Dave Savage and Michael Rankine were brought on for Glenn Wilson and Simeon Jackson to provide some fresh legs. Their arrival seemed to give control of the game back to Diamonds and within ten minutes, Diamonds had the game won. On 75 minutes, Rankine received a pass from the impressive Mark Albrighton and sent in a quick shot which a surprised Chrichton who pushed the ball away for a corner. Gary Mills sent in a perfect corner kick straight to an unmarked Chris Beardsley who headed into the back of the net.

Five minutes later, another set piece from Gary Mills found the Cambridge defence in sixes and sevens. The ball went through the area, for Michael Rankine to knock in at the far post. Cambridge looked well beaten and a long shot from Rob Wolleaston and a dangerous ball from Pitt just before the end of the 90 minutes failed to trouble Diamonds.

Cambridge did manage to get a goal back in the 3rd minute of injury time. As they continued to press forward, a lob towards goal by Courtney Pitt over the defence bounced ahead of Tynan. As he went up to gather the ball, he was challenged by Michael Morrison, who barged the keeper away and got a touch to take it over the line.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 3 – 1 Cambridge United

Diamonds can feel well satisfied with a good all round performance. Mark Albrighton in defence was exceptional, and Jamie Cook now seems to be settling in well and looked dangerous all evening.  The three points lifts Diamonds up another place and away from the relegation zone and the team must be full of confidence going into Monday evening’s game at the Kassam Stadium.

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds – Scott Tynan, Glenn Wilson (Dave Savage 69), Jon Ashton, Chris Hope (c), Wayne Hatswell, Marcus Kelly (David Perpetuini 59), Simeon Jackson (Micheal Rankine 69), Gary Mills, Mark Albrighton, Chris Beardsley, Jamie Cook.

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

Cambridge United – Paul Crichton, Andy Duncan, Mark Peters, Dean Hooper (Matt Bloomer 54), Jon Brady, Courney Pitt, Wayne Purser, Rob Wolleaston, Michael Morrison, Jordan Collins (Stephen Smith 57), Dean Holdsworth (Robbie Simpson 68) .

Subs not used: Shane Herbert(GK), Josh Simpson.

Goals: Jackson 7 (1-0); Beardsley 75 (2-0); Rankine 80 (3-0); Morrison 90+3 (3-1).

Booked: Collins 15 (foul), Jackson 24 (foul), Duncan 37 (foul), Holdsworth 40 (foul), Wilson 48 (foul), Albrighton 67 (foul), Pitt 79 (foul).

Referee:            Mr Darren Cann (Norfolk)

Attendance:            2,239 (511 away)

Towergate Solutions Man of the Match: Mark Albrighton

By Dave Mason

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