Rushden & Diamonds 1 Cambridge United 2

 

Rushden & Diamonds lost by the odd goal to local rivals Cambridge United. In a game that livened up in the second half, the left-wing play of Courtney Pitt and the finishing of Mark Beesley was the difference between the two sides.

Diamonds Manager Garry Hill picked a strong side, with the injury absentees Osano and Kelly replaced by Michael Corcoran and Lee Tomlin. Andy Burgess started on the left-side, with Tomlin on the right.

U’s manager Jimmy Quinn was also able to name a strong line-up, with ex-Diamonds Wayne Hatswell and Mark Albrighton making their return to Nene Park. Diamonds legend Mark Peters was not able to take his usual place on the bench due to illness.

The game started rather more quietly on the pitch than from the stands, as the 1176 travelling fans took advantage of being grouped together in the Airwair stand to get behind their team.

The U’s had a couple of early attempts on goal that didn’t trouble Roberts, and a couple of corners, the second of which saw corner taker Pitt get in a follow-up cross which Roberts had to punch away but his punch only fell to Wayne Hatswell whose shot was on target but was blocked.

It was Jon Challinor who had the chance to make a telling contribution to the evening, first of all as he took part in a break down the right after a poor header by Brown, but his shot skimmed across the face of the goal.

On 21 minutes a Corcoran cross found Challinor in space in the middle of the penalty box, but his free header lacked power and was easily caught by Potter.Just a minute later Mark Albrighton missed a defensive header and Andy Burgess was able to cross to find Challinor in a similar amount of space, albeit nearer the six yard box, but this time his header was just wide of the right-hand post.

The half ended with Diamonds down to 10 men as Curtis Woodhouse had left the field for attention after a clash of heads with Paul Carden, but the half-time score was a reasonable reflection of the game so far, although the Diamonds had possibly shaded the play.

Half time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Cambridge United 0

The incident just before half-time meant that Paul Carden didn’t appear for the second half, being replaced by Stephen Reed four minutes into the half after the U’s started it with only 10 men. Curtis Woodhouse was able to continue, with the main change for the Diamonds being that Burgess and Tomlin switched wings.

Early interplay between Challinor and Rankine saw Tom Shaw making a run on goal the reminded fans of his goal at the Abbey Stadium in the Setanta Shield, but his shot was just over the bar.

Good work by Pitt on the left after 53 minutes forced Michael Corcoran to concede a corner on the left, and this was followed by a second one on the right as Chris Hope headed behind. From the second corner Wayne Hatswell found space in the area and his downward header was bouncing back up towards the top left hand corner before Dale Robert leapt across his goal to make a great save.

This was followed by a dangerous cross by Stephen Reed that saw Lee Boylan getting just ahead of his marker, but his header was just wide.

The U’s continued to force the pace until the 64th minute, when Pitt made a break down the left, and Stephen Reed quickly relayed his ball infield to Rob Wolleaston, who had the vision to thread a defence splitting pass between the two Diamonds centre backs for Mark Beesley to run onto on the right side of the box and hit a low shot into the net.

The Diamonds threatened a quick reply and great work by Andy Burgess saw him feed the a great ball to Lee Tomlin who appeared to run onto it past the defenders and hit a great shot into the net, but the linesman on the far side had his flag raised.

On 73 minutes the U’s appeared to have wrapped the game up, as Courtney Pitt showed excellent control to bring down a high ball out of defence about 35 yards out, beat Corcoran to the byline, and then have a further touch along the line before hitting a hard low cross that Mark Beesley had a simple job of forcing home.

The Diamonds were not finished however, and within two minutes they had pulled one back, as Lee Tomlin again showed quality out wide to beat his marker and fire a cross from the left that Michael Rankine was able to force home to celebrate his 100th appearance for the club.

Approaching the 80th minute there was a bizarre incident when Michael Rankine was flagged offside despite the fact there was U’s defender Danny Brown lying injured between him and the Cambridge goal. Despite Diamonds protests, and a booking for Andy Burgess, the referee allowed the decision to stand.

Garry Hill then made his single change of the evening, bringing on Sam Smith for his debut to replace Jon Challinor, but the change of formation seemed to bring Lee Tomlin inside and much of the attacking threat was reduced.

There was one more big scare for the Diamonds as a Pitt run found Mark Beesley in space, but his long shot attempt for his hattrick was rather nervously squeezed around the post by Roberts.

The game came to conclusion with the U’s doing a good job at keeping the ball in front of their travelling fans who greeted the final whistle with celebrations in the AirWair not seen since they had a similar turnout in their last away game in the Football league.

The Diamonds now have their last significant rest period of the season before the Forest Green game on Saturday starts a sequence of three games a week to the end of the season.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Cambridge United 2

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (White): Dale Roberts, Michael Corcoran, Dean Howell, Chris Hope (Capt), Phil Gulliver, Tom Shaw, Andy Burgess, Curtis Woodhouse, Jon Challinor (Sam Smith 85), Michael Rankine, Lee Tomlin

Subs Not Used : Martyn Margarson, Andy Gooding, Conal Platt, Abdou El-Kholti

Cambridge United (Amber / Black) : Danny Potter, Ben Farrell, Danny Brown (Jack Jeffery 81), Mark Albrighton, Rob Wolleaston, Lee Boylan (Magno Viera 94), Courtney Pitt, Paul Carden (Stephen Reed 45), Michael Morrison, Wayne Hatswell, Mark Beesley

Subs Not Used : Robbie Willmott, Phil Smith,

Goals: Beesley 65, Beesley 73, Rankine 75

Yellow Cards: Rankine, Brown, Challinor, Burgess,

Referee: Mr B Malone

Attendance: 2358 (Away 1176)

Man of the Match sponsored by Pestfree : Dean Howell

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