Oxford United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

A Chris Beardsley second half header gave Diamonds their fourth consecutive win and ended Oxford United’s unbeaten home run. In front of the Sky TV cameras, Diamonds completed the double over a poor U’s side who have now gone nine League games without a win.

Graham Westley made two changes from the side that beat Cambridge United at Nene Park six days ago. Chris Hope was unavailable due to a family bereavement, while Marcus Kelly was rested, their places being taken by Paul Watson and David Perpetuini (who made his full debut). Recent signing Michael Bostwick was named on the bench. Injuries to Billy Turley, Carl Pettifer, Matt Day and Georges Santos added to Oxford boss Jim Smith’s woes with Eddie Hutchinson, Steve Basham and Chris Wilmott all suffering long term injuries. In fact, there were six changes to the side that lost at Woking the previous Tuesday. Chris Tardif was named in goal for the first time this season, while Andy Burgess and Eddie Anaclet had both recovered from injuries. Gregg Coombes (on loan from Cardiff City) made his debut, while Latvian striker Kris Grebis and youngster Andrew Gunn made their first home appearances for the U’s.

It took just 17 seconds for Diamonds to have the chance to open the scoring when Simeon Jackson had a great opportunity from ten yards, but blasted over the bar when he had time to aim a shot on target. In fact, it was Diamonds that looked more comfortable in the opening exchanges with Oxford showing why their form has dipped so remarkably over the last two months. Diamonds remained in control for most of the half, with Oxford being restricted to off target shots from Kris Grebis and Andy Burgess. The Diamonds defence looked confident with the back four snuffing out any danger.

Diamonds on the other hand had several chances to open the scoring. A poor punch by Oxford keeper Chris Tardif from a corner on 10 minutes gave Mark Albrighton the chance to shoot on goal, but Andrew Gunn blocked the goal bound shot. Chris Beardsley almost took advantage of a mix up between Tardif and Phil Gilchrist, but the keeper recovered in the nick of time.

Gary Mills had bad memories of his last visit here in September 2004 when he suffered a broken leg, and his determination during the first quarter earned him a yellow card after a foul on Manchester United loanee Danny Rose. Diamonds had two excellent chances to take the lead. On 25 minutes, a free kick from Jamie Cook led to a superb header from Wayne Hatswell, but the keeper just managed to knock the ball away for a corner. On 38 minutes, another free kick went over the defence to Jackson, but his shot was saved by the keeper’s feet. The ball rebounded off Duffy and fell to Mark Albrighton, but he somehow managed to scoop the ball over the bar from 5 yards.

Diamonds could feel well satisfied at the break, with Mills and Perpetuini controlling the midfield, with little danger from any of the Oxford forwards.

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

Oxford started the second half with a bit more urgency, with Eddie Anaclet starting to cause some problems coming forward more and more on the right flank. On 48 minutes Anaclet finally got a shot on target for the home side, but his chip was tipped over the bar by Tynan. At the other end, Beardsley headed narrowly wide. Rufus Brevett received a yellow card on 53 minutes after a foul on Beardsley deep in the Oxford half. Moments later, Jamie Cook stepped up to take free kick and sent a perfect ball in for Chris Beardsley to head home from ten yards.

It was nothing more than Diamonds deserved, and they continued to control the play as Oxford tried desperately to get back into the game. On the hour, Jackson again got beyond the back line and tried to pull the ball back into the middle, but Tardif cut out the danger. Gregg Coombes finally got another shot on target for the home side on 64 minutes with Tynan knocking the ball clear for a corner. Oxford started to get more of the ball but they lacked the cutting edge to cause much danger. Coombes had another shot moments later, but a deflection from Rose was easily held by Tynan.

Diamonds made a double substitution with twenty minutes remaining, with Dave Savage and Marcus Kelly replacing Glenn Wilson and David Perpetuini. They continued to cause problems for Oxford and a fierce shot from Beardsley after a Watson cross was only held by Tardif at the second attempt. Beardsley had another attempt on 72 minutes, but the shot was too close to the Oxford keeper. Some neat play between Mills, Savage and Kelly almost provided another chance, but the cross went behind everyone waiting in the area.

Diamonds safely saw out the remaining minutes of the ninety, but with five minutes added time shown by the fourth official, Oxford had an amazing chance to steal an equaliser. Yemi Odubade ran forward and received a pass back from Marvin Robinson. His shot was well saved by Tynan who pushed the shot away. Instead of clearing the ball, Jon Ashton stepped over it not realising Rob Duffy was right behind him. It must have completely surprised Rob Duffy as he incredibly put the ball into the side netting, with most of the home fans thinking he had scored. It would certainly have been an unjust end to the game, and Diamonds ran down the remaining minutes to deservedly take the three points.

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

Diamonds showed a lot more movement off the ball and a will to win has become evident over the past few games. They are now solid at the back – even without Chris Hope and the addition of Gary Mills in midfield has given them some fight. The win moves Diamonds up 5 places in the League table and a few more consistent performances will soon see them in mid table safety.

Teams:

Oxford United – Chris Tardif, Eddie Anaclet, Andrew Gunn, Barry Quinn, Phil Gilchrist, Rufus Brevett (Gavin Johnson 77), Gregg Coombes (Marvin Robinson 77), Danny Rose, Andy Burgess, Kris Grebis (Yemi Odubade 70), Rob Duffy.

Subs not used: Gareth Tucker(GK), Billy Beechers.

Rushden & Diamonds – Scott Tynan, Glenn Wilson (Dave Savage 70), Paul Watson, Jon Ashton, Wayne Hatswell (c), Simeon Jackson (Lee Tomlin 78), Gary Mills, Mark Albrighton, David Perpetuini (Marcus Kelly 70), Chris Beardsley, Jamie Cook.

Subs not used: Martyn Margarson(GK), Michael Bostwick.

Goals:             Beardsley 54 (0-1).

Booked:         Mills 24 (foul on Rose & dissent), Brevett 53 (foul on Beardsley), Wilson 68 (foul on Coombes), Gunn 82 (foul on Tomlin).

Referee:         Mr Andy Hendley (West Midlands)

Attendance:   5654 (313 away)

Reporters Man of the Match: Gary Mills.

By Dave Mason

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