Cambridge United 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Cambridge United 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Rushden & Diamonds saw their unbeaten streak of nine games come to an end in front of the Setanta TV cameras at the Abbey Stadium. After a very poor first half the game livened up in the second, and after a great save by Danny Potter for Cambridge, it was his opposite number Paul Nicholls who will be avoiding watching the TV highlights after he could only push a header from Scott Rendell into his own net.

Manager Garry Hill made one unenforced change to the team that won at Altrincham on Saturday, with Andy Burgess being replaced by Simon Rusk.

Cambridge manager Jimmy Quinn made several changes, starting with ex-Diamonds Mark Peters, Mark Albrighton, Lee Fortune-West and Marvin Robinson. Lee Boylan returned to the bench alongside leading scorer Scott Rendell in a line up with apparent attacking intent.

On an autumnal evening Cambridge kicked off towards the home end, and it was the home side that quickly started to dominate. Their two wide players were finding acres of space on the wings, with Courtney Pitt getting in a succession of decent looking crosses towards the two tall strikers. Paul Nicholls was struggling to field these, and was resorting to punching the ball clear, only to see it quickly return into his area.

Cambridge continued to dominate the first quarter, with Mark Peters being allowed a free header as he came up for a corner, but he could only direct his effort wide.

On 20 minutes, Simon Rusk received another booking for a foul tackle on Leo Fortune-West taking his tally for the season to six.

As the game reached the half-hour the Cambridge threat began to diminish, with the Diamonds midfield getting to grips with the Cambridge style of play, and their attacking threat receded to the level shown by the Diamonds strikeforce, who failed to force Potter into any kind of a save in the first half.

So the half ended with a whimper, and thoughts turned to how much of an improvement might be possible in the second half.

Half-time: Cambridge United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

As had been witnessed several times in recent weeks. R&DFC are capable of transforming themselves at half-time – and again that was the case. Suddenly there was a real attacking threat, and the Cambridge defence began to look stretched.

Simeon Jackson won a free kick on the edge of the area, and a good delivery from Kelly was headed out by Mark Peters, and as the ball returned into the area it was Leo Fortune-West that helped out his defence by outmuscling Michael Rankine. Shots from Rusk, Jackson and Rankine were all blocked without reaching Potter, but on 53 minutes good work by Michael Rankine found Simon Rusk in space on the edge of the area, and as his shot took a big deflection Danny Potter made a great save low to his right. The save was even more impressive given this was Potter’s first real save of the game.

Shortly afterwards Marvin Robinson appeared clean through, but his touch let him down, and he fell under a challenge from Howell. Leo Fortune-West had a similar opportunity a minute later, and he was fouled by Wayne Hatswell.

On the hour mark Diamonds forced a rare corner, and again Leo Fortune-West helped out his defence by clearing the threat. A free kick move saw Simeon Jackson find space in the area, but he dwelt on the ball long enough for Michael Morrison to lunge and block his shot. Marcus Kelly found enough space in the area to get in one of the best headed attempts on goal from the Diamonds, but it went just wide.

Perhaps it became clear that Diamonds were unlikely to score on the night when a Michael Rankine attempt on goal on the 77th minute cleared the home end and headed in the direction of the choice of Chinese or Indian restaurants in the Newmarket Road.

By this point U’s manager Quinn had shown he was prepared to throw on all three of his substitutes in quick succession in an attempt to reverse the tide, and indeed this had the desired effect, as first Reed, then Rendell then Boylan all had decent attempts on goal – as did Darren Quinton.

On 80 minutes a long kick by Potter fell to Boylan, who laid it back to Gleeson, and his cross was met the head of Scott Rendell and although well directed it looked like Paul Nicholls could easily deal with it, but he only managed to palm it with both hands into the side of the net.

After the goal Garry Hill quickly brought on three substitutes, but the impact these had contrasted with the positive impact seen from the Cambridge substitutes earlier. In fact apart from a couple of attempts by Burgess, on his 250th appearance for the club, to perform tricks in front of the TV camera, neither he, Tomlin or Shaw made any impact, although Jon Challinor did have one attempt on goal which flew just wide. Simeon Jackson found his way into the box, but could only shoot wide under pressure from Mark Albrighton on the corner of the six-yard box.

At the other end a great cross from Pitt was met by Rendell, but his shot was just wide of wrapping up the game.

The U’s managed to soak up any final pressure from the Diamonds, and the game ended with victory for the home side.

Full-time: Cambridge United 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

The improved performance in the second half once again showed that the team has the potential if only it can be applied for 90 minutes, and arguably the Cambridge winner came against the run of play, However, with manager Hill handing over the reins for the next fortnight, the priority for his stand-in will be to ensure that the team bounce back as soon as Friday night against in-form Forest Green.

Teams:

Cambridge United (Amber / Black): Danny Potter, Michael Morrison, Mark Albrighton,Mark Peters, Dan Gleeson, Rob Wolleaston, Darren Quinton, Mark Convery (Stephen Reed 66), Courtney Pitt, Marvin Robinson (Lee Boylan 76), Leo Fortune-West (Scott Rendell 72)

Subs Not Used :Stephen Smith, Gavin Hoyte

Rushden & Diamonds (Red)

Paul Nicholls, Curtis Osano, Dean Howell, Chris Hope, Wayne Hatswell, Simon Rusk (Tom Shaw 86), Martin Foster, Jon Challinor, Marcus Kelly (Andy Burgess 84), Michael Rankine (Lee Tomlin 84), Simeon Jackson.

Subs Not Used : Paul Bastock, Phil Gulliver

Goal : Scott Rendell (80)

Yellow Cards : Rusk (21),

Referee: Mr R Fletcher

Attendance: 3009 (Away approx 263)

Diamonds Man of the Match : Wayne Hatswell

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