Torquay United 3 Rushden & Diamonds 2

 

Rushden & Diamonds fell to their first away defeat of the 2007-08 Blue Square Premier campaign with a controversial 3-2 defeat by Torquay United at Plainmoor.

Manager Garry Hill gave a Diamonds league debut to Martin Foster, and Andy Burgess returned to the squad with a place on the bench after his sabbatical at Oxford. Michael Rankine returned to the starting line-up at the expense of Lee Tomlin. Those changes meant Paul Watson dropped to the bench and Ryan Semple dropped out of the squad as the team started in a 3-5-2 formation.

Torquay United manager Paul Buckle fielded a the side that started the game at Northwich Victoria, with Tim Sills facing the Diamonds after the speculation of a possible move to Nene Park during the summer.

On a hot summer afternoon Torquay kicked off attacking the empty Sparkworld Away Stand – the travelling Diamonds fans had been corralled into a corner of the main stand..

Some initial attacking breaks by Torquay saw Phil Gulliver under some pressure, and in one of these he was hustled off the ball by Tim Sills, with the ball falling to the lively Chris Zebroski whose shot was easily gathered by Paul Bastock.

It was then the Diamonds that dominated the remainder of first quarter with a number of chances. A quick free kick by Jon Challinor found Dean Howell, and his cross was well controlled by Michael Rankine, but his shot on the turn was blocked, coming out of the box to Curtis Woodhouse, whose shot was well over the bar.

On 8 minutes, Simeon Jackson then did very well to chest down a long ball into the path of Michael Rankine, but the striker’s powerful shot was well saved by Simon Rayner down to his right.

A minute later Jacko again fed Rankine, this time with his head, and this time Rankine went on a run, feeding Jon Challinor, but his shot was blocked by a defender.

On 10 minutes Curtis Woodhouse jumped into a tackle with Lee Mansell, and earned the first yellow card of the game, with the ex-Oxford midfielder having to leave the pitch, and he was replaced by Matt Hockley.

The match then evened up, with both sides continuing to find space in midfield, with a powerful Martin Foster shot flying just wide of Rayner’s goal, and at the other end a Gulls freekick was flicked on to the post by Sills.

After a scare in the area when Paul Bastock lost his grip on a cross as he fell backwards, Diamonds had their best chance of the half on 28 minutes. Gulls defender Woods was booked for a challenge on Jackson, and in a rehearsed free kick move, Jon Challinor hit a short ball to Simeon Jackson, who quickly laid it off to Wayne Hatswell on the edge of the six-yard box, but his shot was smothered by Rayner.

On 38 minutes, Michael Rankine made a threatening run towards the box, but the run proved much better than a very wayward shot. Dean Howell continued to threaten down the left, with several dangerous looking crosses from the left.

The final action of the half was at the other end, as an increasingly rare Torquay attack saw a headed attempt from Lee Phillips almost get flicked on by Chris Zebroski, but the Diamonds defence managed to smother.

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

After Diamonds had seen the best of the first half, Torquay manager Paul Buckle had clearly fired up his players for the second half, and for the first 15 minutes it was one way traffic on the Diamonds goal.

Firstly, Phil Gulliver was outpaced by Tim Sills but Paul Bastock managed to block the striker’s attempt on goal, but as it looped back down into the area Curtis Osano helped out to get the ball away from an oncoming attacker, and finally the ball was cleared by Martin Foster.

Five minutes in to the half, Tim Sills again threatened on the right, and Wayne Hatswell was forced to concede a corner – the first of the game for Torquay. Kevin Nicholson took a powerful inswinging corner with his left foot, which went over the heads of the Diamonds defence and Tim Sills was able to head home.

Worse was to follow within two minutes, as an innocuous ball into the box took an uneven bounce, and Curtis Osano was too slow to get his arm out of the way. Views will differ whether a penalty should have been awarded, but it was certainly a soft one. Lee Phillips easily despatched the penalty to Bastock’s left.

Chris Zebroski was continuing to give Phil Gulliver plenty of problems, but the defender stuck to his task doggedly. Chris Hargreaves illustrated the extent of the Diamonds’ defence stupor at this stage of the game with a run straight past three of them, but his shot was dragged just wide of goal.

The third goal wasn’t too long coming though, as on 67 minutes Torquay won a corner, this time on the left hand side, so Nicholson hit an outswinger, finding Chris Zebroski in far too much space to hit a shot low to Bastock’s right.

At this point Diamonds finally woke up, and after a false alarm with an offside "goal", Simeon Jackson showed great touch to find Tom Shaw on the edge of the box, and his vision allowed him to find Michael Rankine unmarked inside the box, and he was able to beat Rayner down to his right.

Andy Burgess then made his return to the Diamonds side, as Diamonds reverted to 4-4-2, and for a while the game calmed down, with just a variety of substitutions, but, just before the 90 minute mark was reached, a run by Lee Tomlin saw him fall in the box under a challenge, and a penalty was awarded.

Curtis Woodhouse converted his attempt at the spot-kick easily, but the referee had seen some encroachment in the area and ordered a retake. On his second attempt, Woodhouse pulled up and stepped over the ball, apparently in response to a shout to him to stop. However, referee Phillips saw this as an offence, and one worthy of a Yellow Card – which meant that Woodhouse was shown a red card. Dean Howell then stepped up to convert the spot kick at the third attempt.

As the match moved into injury time, Diamonds had one further meaningful attack, with Tom Shaw finding space in the area, but his shot only found the side netting. Referee Phillips continued to be the centre of attention with further bookings until he blew the final whistle.

So the game ended with a Torquay win, and a lively interchange between players and team officials at the end, with the Torquay fans staying behind to applaud the referee’s performance.

The five goals in the second half certainly livened up the hot afternoon at Plainmoor, but it appeared that Diamonds had decided to have a siesta in the summer sunshine at the start of the second half. Once awoken the battle really started as the Diamonds pulled two goals back and saw Curtis Woodhouse sent off in controversial fashion, then saw Tom Shaw almost snatch an equaliser in a moment that had shades of the game at St Albans last season. Apart from the fifteen minutes at the start of the second half Diamonds were able to match Torquay for most of the game, but it will be a long trip back to Northamptonshire for the 120 or so Diamonds fans, as they contemplate the visit of old rivals Kidderminster on Monday.

Full-time: Torquay United 3 – 2 Rushden & Diamonds

Teams:

Torquay United (Yellow):

Simon Rayner, Kevin Nicholson, Steve Woods, Chris Robertson, Chris Todd, Lee Mansell (Matt Hockley 14m), Tim Sills (Ishmael Welsh 75m), Lee Phillips, Chris Hargreaves, Danny Stevens, Chris Zebroski (Benyon Elliott 80m)

Subs Not Used: Martin Rice, Danny Wring

Rushden & Diamonds (Red) Paul Bastock, Curtis Osano, Phil Gulliver, Chris Hope(c), Wayne Hatswell (Andy Burgess 71m), Jon Challinor, Curtis Woodhouse, Martin Foster (Tom Shaw 60m), Simeon Jackson (Lee Tomlin 77m), Michael Rankine, Dean Howell.

Subs not used:Paul Nicholls, Paul Watson

Goals : Sills, Phillips (Pen), Zebroski, Rankine, Howell (Pen)

Yellow Cards : Woodhouse, Woods, Howell, Benyon, Hockley, Tomlin

Red Card : Woodhouse

Referee: Mr D Phillips

Attendance: 3017 (Away approx 120)

Diamonds Man of the Match : Dean Howell

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