Oxford United 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

After failing to win any of the past eight meetings between the two sides, a Yemi Odubade goal seven minutes from time finally ended Oxford’s poor run of results against Rushden. In a game of few chances, it appeared both sides recent good run of results would continue with a draw until the lively Oxford forward struck for his third goal in four games.

Manager Garry Hill made four changes from the side which lost against play-off contenders Exeter City on Saturday. Michael Rankine had received a head injury during that game and is unlikely to play any further part in Diamonds League campaign, so youngster Sam Smith made his first senior start partnering Conal Platt up front. In midfield, Andy Gooding and Lee Tomlin dropped down to the bench, with Jon Challinor coming in and former U’s defender Michael Corcoran moving up from the back. Phil Gulliver replaced Adbou El-Kholti.

Oxford’s recent run of results had moved them into the top half of the table, and only Aldershot were above them in the recent form table. Manager Darren Patterson made just one change to the side which beat Woking on Saturday, with Luke Foster (who received the club’s ‘player of the year’ award before the game) replacing James Clarke. Michael Howard had recovered from a knock at the weekend to play at the back, but former Diamonds Marvin Robinson and Rob Duffy remain sidelined through injury.

 

Oxford set the game in motion and Michael Howard was lucky not to enter the referee’s notebook early on after a poor tackle on Conal Platt. The home side looked lively with Yemi Odubade and former Diamond Craig McAllister leading the attack. It was McAllister who had the first effort on goal forcing loan keeper Mikkel Andersen to save low down. Another Oxford attack on 11 minutes saw Odubade weave past Phil Gulliver on the right and cross the ball to the far post, but Phil Trainer fired his shot over the crossbar.

 

Diamonds, playing in their red strip, had a lucky escape on 14 minutes when Luke Foster’s header appeared to strike the hand of Chris Hope but the referee waved away the penalty appeals. Both sides were fairly evenly matched with the home side determined to avenge the 5-0 defeat at Nene Park earlier in the season. Conal Platt was looking more confident going forward than he had done in previous games with some strong running, and also did well to cover back and foil another effort from McAllister after Odubade had turned inside Curtis Osano.

 

Although Oxford had the better chances, Diamonds were looking fairly comfortable and were in quick with challenges not allowing the home side any time on the ball as both teams kept the ball on the ground. On 30 minutes, Andy Burgess, playing on the left, sent Dean Howell away down the wing, but no-one was able to get on the end of his dangerous cross as the ball whizzed across the box.

 

Oxford continued to press forward and Andersen had to back-peddle to get to Odubade’s deflected shot. Their best chance of the half fell on 34 minutes, when Jamie Hand’s shot from the edge of the area was blocked. The ball fell to Adam Murray, who chipped the ball over the stranded Andersen, but the ball bounced off the op of the crossbar to be cleared away. As helf time approached, both sides had final chances, with Odubade chipping over the bar for the home side, and urges shooting wide for Diamonds.

 

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

 

Yemi Odebade continued to cause Rushden problems as the second half got underway and on 52 minutes, Eddie Anaclet set up the striker again as Hope did well to block the shot away for a corner. Matt Green came on to replace McAllister before Adam Murray sent the corner kick into the centre. Although Mikkel Andersen dropped the centre, he made up for his error with afine save from Luke Foster at point blank range.

 

Diamonds were not causing Billy Turley much of a problem and when they did have a chance to put the former Diamonds keeper under pressure, Burgess fired a free kick from just outside the area over the bar. Andersen did well again just before the hour, saving well from Odubade’s flick. Danny Rose replaced Phil Trainer on 60 minutes and almost immediately, Michael Corcoran received a yellow card for a foul on the former Manchester United midfielder.

 

The arrival of Lee Tomlin for Sam Smith on 64 minutes provided some much needed pace into the attack and he created a couple of chances within minutes of his arrival. His cross to Jon Challinor at the far post was intercepted well, while a neat lay-off to Conal Platt produced a good save from Turley.

 

In the final fifteen minutes, Oxford tried to push forward as they continued to look more dangerous going forward. Dean Howell was fortunate when he allowed a high ball to bounce in the area allowing Odubade to get a shot on goal, Andersen saving brilliantly from close range. Moments later, Jamie Hand’s cross saw Rose rise at the far post and head just wide, but Diamonds luck finally ran out with seven minutes remaining. Yemi Odubade ran on to a flick from Matt Green and held off Gulliver’s challenge to send a right foot shot past Andersen.

 

As the minutes ticked away, Tom Shaw and Abdou El-Kholti replaced Corcoran and Platt as Diamonds pushed for an equaliser. Green fired over for Oxford, while Challinor shot wide from Howell’s cross. A flare up in injury time saw Curtis Woodhouse receive a yellow card for a challenge on Rose as Diamonds slipped to a second defeat on three days.

 

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

 

After five games in eleven days, Diamonds look ready for a rest, but they still have another game to complete before the final game of the season next Saturday. They play the re-arranged fixture against Grays Athletic at the Recreation Ground on Thursday evening (1945 kick-off), after the original game scheduled for February had been postponed due to fog.

 

Teams:

Oxford United – Turley, Anaclet, Quinn(c), Odubade, McAllister (Green 52), Howard, Foster, Trainer (Rose 60), Day, Murray, Hand.

Subs not used: Hutchinson, Fisher, Clarke.

 

Rushden & Diamonds – Andersen, Osano, Gulliver, Hope (c), Challinor, Woodhouse, Burgess, Platt (El-Kholti 84), Howell, Corcoran (Shaw 84), Smith (Tomlin 64).

Subs not used: Gooding, Beecroft.

 

Goals: Odubade 83 (1-0).

 

Booked: Corcoran 64 (foul), Hand 72 (foul), Woodhouse 90+2 (foul).

 

Referee: Mr Steven Rushton (Staffs).

 

Attendance: 4631 (169 away).

 

Reporters Man of the Match: Mikkel Andersen.

 

 

Report by Dave Mason

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