Evesham United 2 Rushden & Diamonds 0

 

FA Cup sponsored by e.on – 4th Qualifying Round

Saturday 25th October 2008 – 3pm

St Georges Lane, Worcester

On one of the darkest days in their history, Rushden & Diamonds were knocked out of the FA Cup by Evesham United by two goals to nil. The Robins deservedly go into the first round of the competition for the first time. Although the Diamonds lost Gareth Jelleyman to a straight red card midway through the second half, it did not appear that this affected the result, as a goal in either half sealed the win, and the Diamonds failed to create a serious threat on goal as they chased the game in the second half. Danny Scheppel was involved with both goals, although there was some doubt about whether the first goal might be credited as a Curtis Osano own goal. The Diamonds discipline was also poor, and as well as the red they picked up four yellow cards.

Manager Garry Hill made two changes from the York game, with new loan signing Brendan Moloney replacing Phil Gulliver in defence, although surprisingly Hill moved Curtis Osano into the centre of defence with Moloney playing at right back. The formation was 4-4-2 with Daryl Clare replacing Leon Knight to play up front with Lee Phillips.

The Robins had lost their captain Steve Lutz to suspension, but had Simon Fitter returning after a one match ban.

As in recent away games, the Diamonds started brightly, with Andy Burgess initially looking like he might influence the game. On five minutes it was his cross after a mazy run that saw him sidestep his man three times that Daryl Clare could only head wide.

At the other end though it was apparent that Gary Hay would be a real threat, and he narrowly missed connecting with a cross from Mark Hands a minute later. Lee Tomlin looked threatening on the right for the Diamonds early on, helping Daryl Clare to win a corner that was then squandered.

Slowly the Diamonds confidence and commitment seemed to ebb away, with passes going astray that were often down to the receiving player being on their heels. Dead ball opportunities were also continually being wasted – tame kicks not getting past the first defender by both Tomlin and Burgess summed up the waning efforts of the Conference-level players.

The home side were winning their share of ball in midfield and forced another corner as Hayden and Scheppel combined.

Although Gareth Jelleyman was looking troubled by the home side threat down the right he did manage to get a good ball forward to Daryl Clare who controlled well but shot over. Clare was getting little joy, seeing another shot blocked, and then trying a shot from 40 yards which keeper Vaughan had as much time as the competition sponsor to deal with.

The Robins took the lead on 19 minutes as a throw on the right saw Mark Hands pick out a Simon Fritter run towards the by-line, and his low cross was fired into the roof of the net as a result of a challenge between Danny Scheppel and Curtis Osano at the near post.

Brendan Moloney was looking dangerous going forwards, with two of his raids resulting in shots that were gathered by Vaughan, and a third run feeding Lee Tomlin whose run into the box was well stopped by the home defence amongst muted penalty appeals.

The home side had further goalscoring opportunities falling to Steve Hands, who shot wide on both occasions, as well as one to Mark Owen, who also failed to take that chance.

Lee Tomlin was looking far more of a threat on goal than either of the two strikers at this point, with one slick move where he flicked the ball over the head of a defender, Gazza-style, and then hit a powerful shot well saved by Vaughan.

After a quiet period Andy Burgess made one further impact on the game as he picked up a loose ball after Moloney and Tomlin shots had been blocked, he jinked inside and hit a shot with his weaker right foot that was just wide of the right-hand post.

Late in the half Lee Phillips saw his flick well saved by the home keeper after he had been put through by Daryl Clare who was looking more effective creating rather than taking chances – with both strikers criticising Lee Tomlin for his contribution despite the youngster finding the target more often.

In the dying seconds of the half Curtis Woodhouse appeared to unlock the referee’s notebook with a foul, and he was quickly followed by fellow captain Danny Hodnett.

The Diamonds thus went into half-time a goal behind, with the home side being good value for their lead, but also with the hope that the visitors might be able to put their experience and fitness to good use in the second half.

Half Time : Evesham Utd 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

After such a lack lustre performance in the first half, it was perhaps a surprise that no changes were made at half-time, but perhaps manager Hill was giving the starting 11 a chance to redeem themselves. Any thoughts that this might be one of those cup ties where the higher ranked team batter away at the opposition goal for 45 minutes against an 11-man defence were quickly dispelled when it became clear the Robins would keep their same shape and continue to play good football.

In one of several parallels with the recent away disappointments at York and Oxford, levels of possession were fairly even, but it was the home side who looked far more threatening in the final third. Chris Hope gave away a free kick with a push on Hay about 25 yards from goal, and Simon Fitter nearly surprised everyone with a quick dipping free kick which has dropping under the bar before a retreating Roberts tipped it over the bar. The Diamonds keeper took a knock for his troubles and he fell into the back of the net off the post. For a while it appeared he might not continue, but he carried on after attention from Simon Parsell, albeit unable to take the dead ball kicks.

On the hour mark the ineffective Andy Burgess was replaced by Leon Knight, with Knight taking Tomlin’s role on the right, pushing Tomlin towards the left.

On 64 minutes Gareth Jelleyman went into what looked like a 50-50 tackle with Simon Fitter just in front of the Diamonds bench, with the ball squirting into touch. Fitter shouted out in apparent anguish, and referee Hayward quickly took Jelleyman to one side and brandished a red card to the Diamonds defender. Whilst the referee might have been rather harsh in his interpretation of the challenge as two footed, and influenced by the player reaction, he showed leniency towards Lee Tomlin in only showing him a yellow for what appeared to be serious dissent regarding the decision – if he felt that the comment was directed towards him.

With a certain amount of additional jostling from the Diamonds players, as well as animation from the bench, there was hope that this passion might transfer to the performance for the remaining half-hour, as it had done against Histon, but sadly that was not to be the case, and too many heads dropped, even though the deficit was only one goal at this point.

The Robins continued to threaten, with a great move between Owen and Scheppel finding the impressive Hay in space in the box, but Brendan Moloney saved his new team mates further embarrassment with an excellent tackle.

Michael Hayden then won a free kick an inch or so from the edge of the penalty area as he was brought down by Osano – again the Diamonds have referee Hayward to thank for his leniency in his interpretation of where the offence occurred, and this time the dead ball expert Fitter fired a powerful shot just wide of the right hand post, having now recovered from the pain he appeared to be in after the Jelleyman tackle.

Manager Hill brought on Smith and Kelly and moved to a 4-3-3 formation but it made little difference to a side that lacked urgency. As in recent away games Lee Phillips did still continue to put in the desired effort, but he had been pushed further back, and was seen as much in action in his own penalty area as in the opponents half – he too received a yellow card, evidently for a foul.

On the 80 minute mark the home side made the game safe, as a break down the left by Michael Hayden saw a cross headed home by Danny Scheppel, and this time there was no doubt about the scorer – even a fully fit Roberts would have struggled to get a hand to the powerful header.

Any Diamonds attacks were being snuffed out before Vaughan was called into action, and Knight joined Tomlin with a yellow card for dissent as the game entered injury time. That was the only evidence of passion in the last quarter – none of the mass attacks, keeper going forwards, one man left in defence tactics that are so often seen when teams chase the goals that will prevent their exit from the major cup competition in the country. Perhaps the only real threat from the Diamonds came in injury time from one of their few corners of the half, but Chris Hope could only direct his header wide.

The final whistle sounded to deserved celebrations by the home side and their fans, with the Diamonds players left to reflect on a second half where they had failed to muster a meaningful effort on the Robins’ goal, and a game where they had been second best in so many departments to a team two leagues below them – not least in terms of passion and will to win.

Evesham were certainly good value for their win, and in Gary Hay and Simon Fitter they had two players who looked more than capable at playing at a higher level. Whilst Diamonds fans will take time to get over their disappointment they will be wishing the Robins well as they go into the hat for the FA Cup First Round for the first time in their history, with dreams of a glamour tie against the likes of Leeds United.

For the Diamonds it was the first time that they had failed to reach the first round of the FA Cup for 11 seasons, and only the fourth time in their history that they have gone out of the competition at the first hurdle.

The Diamonds players and staff now have to lick their wounds, and consider what went so comprehensively wrong in so many aspects of their performance before facing high flying Cambridge United at the Abbey Stadium next weekend.

Full-time: Evesham Utd 2 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Teams:

Evesham United (Red / White stripes) : Nathan Vaughan, Anthony Watson, Michael Hayden, Danny Hodnett (Capt), Steve Luckett, Steve Hands, Simon Fitter, Danny Scheppel, Mark Owen, Gary Hay, Mark Hands

Subs : Danny Lennon (for Owen 78), Allando Davis (for Hay 87), Joe Clarke (for M Hands 90+1)

Subs not used : Michael Batchelor, Leon Woodley, Tom Etheridge

Rushden & Diamonds (Yellow) : Dale Roberts, Brendan Moloney, Curtis Osano, Chris Hope, Gareth Jelleyman, Lee Tomlin,  Curtis Woodhouse (Capt), Michael Corcoran, Andy Burgess, Daryl Clare, Lee Phillips

Subs : Leon Knight (for Burgess 60), Sam Smith (for Clare 75), Marcus Kelly (for Tomlin 77)

Subs Not Used : Alan Marriott, Phil Gulliver, Rob Wolleaston, Jake Beecroft

Goals: Scheppel 19, Scheppel 80

Yellow Cards: Woodhouse, Hodnett, Hayden, Phillips, Tomlin, Knight

Red Cards : Jelleyman

Referee: Mr K Hayward

Attendance : 609

York City 2 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Rushden & Diamonds lost by a goal in each half to York City at Bootham Crescent on Saturday afternoon. The first-half goal was scored after 18 minutes by Mark Robinson as he slotted home a Craig Farrell cross from the right that had been flicked on by Daniel McBreen. Although the Diamonds started the second half brightly, they were hit on the break by City, with Craig Farrell finding space in the area to knock a low shot past Roberts from a cross from the right.

Manager Garry Hill started with a 4-3-3 formation, that included Lee Tomlin up-front on the left, with Andy Burgess and Michael Corcoran joining Curtis Woodhouse in centre midfield. Daryl Clare was only on the bench, with Tomlin joined up-front by Leon Knight and Lee Phillips on the right. Gareth Jelleyman returned to the side at left-back.

The Diamonds had the lion’s share of the possession in the first half, playing against the wind, although they created few clearcut chances – the only real threat on goal came from an Andy Burgess shot that was easily caught by the York keeper. A series of corners followed, but neither Burgess nor Tomlin could find the ball to create a clear-cut chance, relying too much on looking for Hope flick-ons which failed to find a Diamonds player chasing the "second ball".

York began to threaten more, and as in the Torquay game the threat from a throw-in from Ben Purkiss was not dealt with, and as the ball was flicked over Chris Hope’s head it fell to Daniel McBreen but the striker’s shot was into the side netting.

The Diamonds seem to be coping quite well with playing into the wind, although there was one scare when Chris Hope appeared to underhit a backpass, but a combination of an alert Roberts and a certain amount of wind assistance meant the keeper was able to clear. Hope also struggled with a ball over the top, which he allowed to bounce twice as a striker closed in, and then failed to find touch as he realised he was too late to head back to Roberts.

York mostly relied on creating chances on the break in the first half via the pace of Farrell and their wide players. It was via this route that their opening goal was created, as Craig Farrell chased a Purkiss ball over the defence, reaching the by-line and squaring a ball which Daniel McBreen flicked on to Mark Robinson running in from the left, and he slotted home easily.

 

The Diamonds did show one other threat towards goal during the half, with a quickly taken Lee Tomlin free kick bisecting a badly formed wall to find Leon Knight on his own on the left edge of the box, but the striker needed too much time.

The Diamonds had a scare on 22 minutes, when a Purkiss free kick was pumped into the box, and Dale Roberts and Curits Osano allowed the ball to bounce between them, giving the Minstermen two strikes on goal as panic set in to the Diamonds defence, but the final shot was just wide of the left hand post.

Apart from that a Lee Phillips header across the box was wasted by Tomlin’s poor control, and a Woodhouse cross from the left was fielded by Ingham under pressure from Tomlin. A Curtis Osano shot was the closest to causing Ingham any concern, but a deflection took the sting out of the shot, but at least the shot did reach the keeper, unlike most Diamonds attempts during the half.

 

Half-Time :York City 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

The Diamonds started the second half very brightly, but again good work outside the box failed to create any chances that forced Michael Ingham into action, notably with two shooting chances for Andy Burgess that saw strikes straight at the defender closing him down. Five minutes into the half the home side scored their second goal, as a quick break down the right saw Rusk, Purkiss and Holmes combine for ex-Diamond Rusk fire the ball across the box from the right, finding an unmarked Craig Farrell in plenty of space, allowing him to shoot to the right of Dale Roberts.

Garry Hill made a number of changes to try to generate some kind of fire-power up front, with Daryl Clare, Sam Smith and Rob Wolleaston joining the action, but the Diamonds struggled to create clear-cut chances, with the best attempts on goal coming from Michael Corcoran and Curtis Osano. Corcoran shot just wide after good work between Lee Phillips and Curtis Osano saw an Osano cross headed out of the box for Corcoran to blast just wide. Osano combined well with a 1-2 with Andy Burgess, breaking into the box and shooting just over the bar.

York picked up their second booking for kicking the ball away during the half, and although the yellow for Wilkinson may have been rather harsh, it was the only questionable decision of the afternoon by referee Martin who had handled the match in exemplary fashion – and he rightly booked Knight for a poor tackle on Purkiss.

Other than those attempts, the home side started to look more dangerous as the Diamonds chased the game, with substitute Simon Russell impressing down the left, but they too struggled to create clear cut chances to trouble Roberts, apart from an attempt from Craig Farrell when Gareth Jelleyman slipped in the area when trying to deal with a through ball – Roberts did well to get his body in the way of the shot.

Striker Farrell left the pitch to a deserved standing ovation, as it was his running that had been the main differentiator between the two teams.

Full-Time :York City 2 Rushden & Diamonds 0

With such a disappointing set of recent results in the league, with three defeats in the four October league games, the Diamonds have a chance to put that to one side as they face Evesham United in the FA Cup next weekend – the game to be played in Worcester.

York City : (Red / Blue) Michael Ingham, Ben Purkiss, Mark Robinson, Darren Kelly, David McGurk, Daniel Parslow, Daniel McBreen, Craig Farrell, Ben Wilkinson, Simon Rusk, Peter Holmes

Subs : Mark Greaves (for Kelly 63), Simon Russell (for Wilkinson 63), Richard Brodie (for Farrell 87), Josh Mimms, Adam Boyes

Rushden & Diamonds : (Yellow) : Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano, Gareth Jelleyman, Chris Hope, Phil Gulliver, Michael Corcoran, Curtis Woodhouse, Andy Burgess, Lee Tomlin, Lee Phillips, Leon Knight

Subs : Daryl Clare (for Tomlin 65), Rob Wolleaston (for Corcoran 69), Sam Smith (for Phillips 77), Jake Beecroft, Marcus Kelly

Goals : Robinson 18, Farrell 50

Booked : Holmes, Wilkinson, Knight.

Referee : Mr S Martin

Attendance :  2313 (Away 122)

Diamonds Man of the Match : Curtis Osano.

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Torquay United 3

Rushden & Diamonds were comprehensively beaten by a dominant Torquay side by three goals to one at Nene Park in a game that saw both sides reduced to 10 men. The victory was the Devon side’s first at Nene Park as goals by Carlisle and Sills in the first half were added to by Wroe early in the second before Manny Panter saw a straight red for the Diamonds, and Matt Green received similar treatment for the visitors.

Diamonds manager Garry Hill kept faith with the same starting eleven that beat lowly Grays in midweek, whilst Gulls manager Paul Buckle also retained the side that had drawn with Oxford United on Thursday evening.

With a strong Autumn sun making a pleasant afternoon in Northamptonshire, Chris Hargreaves elected to play with the sun at his team’s back in the first half, so the Diamonds kicked off towards the Peter De Banke end, and had an early chance when Curtis Woodhouse disposed Matt Green near the centre circle and ran towards the edge of the box before shooting just over.

After that initial optimism it was clear that Torquay were starting much the brighter, and they almost scored in the third minute when a long throw from Nicholson on the left was flicked on by Tim Sills to Wayne Carlisle at the far post, but his shot was saved at close quarters by Dale Roberts and scrambled away for a corner.

For the second game running Daryl Clare failed to threaten with a free kick from 25 yards after Lee Phillips was fouled – this time the ball found the wall rather than sailing towards the A6.

However, just after the sixth minute mark, Phil Gulliver conceded a throw after a tussle with Matt Green. This time Curtis Osano reached the identical Nicholson throw ahead of Sills, but the ball flicked across the area to Wayne Carlisle who this time made no mistake to give the visitors the lead.

Carlisle almost added a second three minutes later when Stevens hit a ball into space for Matt Green who outpaced Gulliver

There was more to come from the visitors though, after 14 minutes, after Phil Gulliver picked up a yellow card for a challenge on Green, and the long freekick from Steve Woods was met with a looping header 15 yards out from Tim Sills, which found the top corner of the net.

The Diamonds did wake from their stupor to create a couple of chances in the remainder of the first half, with Curtis Osano making a great run into the area but saw his shot blocked – with some fans claiming it had involved a defender’s hand. Marcus Kelly also had a great chance to slide in and knock home a Lee Phillips cross after good work by Manny Panther, but the ball eluded him. Phillips too had a chance after a great crossfield ball from Curtis Osano found Marcus Kelly, who held the ball up until Michael Corcoran was able to support him, and the defender’s was headed back across the box by Andy Burgess to Phillips who could have done better with his header.

That proved to be Phillips’ last contribution, as again he suffered a head injury and had to be replaced by Sam Smith.

At the other end the visitors continued to present the greater threat, with Matt Green giving Gulliver a torrid time, and he saw a shot blocked after being fed by Tim Sills. Manny Panther forced Scott Bevan to make one of the few saves he was required to make all game – the stand-in Gulls keeper was dealing confortably with corners and crosses, but the Diamonds could not test his agility beyond this – the keeper appeared to be carrying an injury and relied on Kevin Nicholson to take the goalkicks, but the Diamonds strikeforce could not take advantage of this. That save was in first half injury time, and the ball was cleared to Cutis Woodhouse, whose follow-up attempt was also saved and although the ball was then put into the net the Diamonds strikers had been flagged offside.

Before the half ended the visitors also saw a goal ruled out for offside, with a Green strike ruled out to end an entertaining half, but one which the Diamonds defence would prefer to forget.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Torquay United 2

Despite a chance of formation by the Diamonds at half-time, with Leon Knight replacing Michael Corcoran to allow a 3-4-3 formation, the visitors sliced through their defence early in the second half, with a real route one goal. Dale Roberts could only parry a Matt Green shot after the striker ran onto a ball threaded through by Tim Sills from a Nicholson goal kick, with Nicky Wroe easily knocking home the rebound.

Within two minutes things went from bad to worse for the Diamonds, as Manny Panther received his straight red card for a two footed challenge on Steve Woods in the process of winning the ball cleanly.

Within a few minutes though it was 10 versus 10 as ex-Cardiff striker Matt Green saw the same for a challenge on Curtis Osano. Chris Hope also picked up a yellow card for remonstrating with Green for the clash which saw a bloodied Osano needing a replacement shirt, but neither Sills nor Hargreaves saw any sanctions despite giving the impression of lack of respect for the match officials following the dismissal.

The Diamonds fans hoped this might be the catalyst for a revival, and they did have some hope when Leon Knight showed control and touch just ouside the centre circle to flick the ball into space for Sam Smith to run onto and fire into the left-hand corner of the net.

However, these hopes were shortlived, as the Diamonds failed to lift their game in the remaining 20 minutes, and were unable to seriously test Bevan in that period. In fact it was the visitors that had the best chance, and it came after they had embarrassed the left-hand side of the Diamonds defence, with Lee Mansell pushing forwards to interchange passes with Carlisle and Wroe, and as the trio bamboozled Gulliver (who didn’t have the support he might have expected), the final pass found Wroe free in the area, but he failed to find the target. The introduction of Mustapha Carayol meant that the Diamonds defence was also tormented on their right during the remaining few minutes of the game

The game ended after four minutes of injury time, with Manager Hill offering no excuses for a defeat by a better side. The visit to York next weekend has now taken on a greater significance, with a gap opening up to the top teams that is now equalling the gap to the bottom four in the division.  With the period up until Christmas always being one disrupted by Cup and Trophy dates, is it important to avoid becoming a "mid-table side" at this stage of the season.

 

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Torquay United 3

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (White) : Dale Roberts : Curtis Osano – Phil Gulliver – Chris Hope – Michael Corcoran : Andy Burgess – Manny Panther – Curtis Woodhouse (Capt) – Marcus Kelly : Lee Phillips – Daryl Clare

Subs : Sam Smith (for Phillips 40), Leon Knight (for Corcoran 45), Lee Tomlin (for Clare 67)

Subs Not Used : Gareth Jelleyman – Rob Wolleaston

Torquay United (Yellow) : Scott Bevan, Kevin Nicholson, Steve Woods, Chris Robertson, Lee Mansell, Tim Sills, Nicky Wroe, Chris Hargreaves (Capt), Wayne Carlisle, Matt Green, Danny Stevens

Subs : Lee Hodges (for Woods 71), Mustapha Carayol (for Stevens 76), Tyrone Thompson (for Sills 88)

Subs Not Used : Elliott Benyon, Steve Adams

Goals : Wayne Carlisle (7), Tim Sills (14), Nicky Wroe (50), Sam Smith (68)

Yellow Cards: Gulliver, Hope

Red Cards: Panther (52), Green (54)

Referee: Mr I Cooper

Attendance: 1649 (Away 259)

Man of the Match chosen by Richard Marriott of H Squared : Manny Panther

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Grays Athletic 0

 

Rushden & Diamonds achieved their first victory over Grays Athletic in their history with a 1-0 win at Nene Park. A Marcus Kelly goal in the first half was enough to settle the game.

Manager Garry Hill made five changes to the line-up that started at Oxford, reverting to the back four that started against Wrexham, with Manny Panther and Andy Burgess returning in midfield, allowing Lee Tomlin and Rob Wolleaston to be rested, and the strike partnership of Clare and Phillips starting for the first time.

The Diamonds dominated the early play, and should have gone ahead in the first minute, as Kelly and Corcoran combined on the left, and Corcoran hit an excellent cross which Lee Phillips could only head over when it looked certain he would score.

Marcus Kelly was getting involved in the game, and although some of his short layoffs went astray, he was able to run at a defence that was struggling to keep their feet on a pitch made slippery by heavy rain shortly before kick off. On the 10 minute mark Andy Burgess made one of his trademark 40 yard passes across the field to Kelly allowing him to run past a defender and in to the area, but his shot was easily gathered by Button in the Grays goal.

Burgess then tried his luck from 10 yards inside his own half, but his audacious shot was just wide as Button scrambled back to cover.

Kelly and Corcoran combined a second time to see a dangerous cross reach Lee Phillips, but his shot was blocked for a corner. Although the resultant corner was cleared, Burgess fired it back in to the unmarked Phil Gulliver near the left-hard corner of the six yard box, and his header across the box was punched clear by Button.

Other attempts on goal came from a Burgess chip and a Manny Panther run through the centre that saw a powerful shot blocked. The threat down the right via Osano and Burgess usually ended in possession lost, but Phillips and Clare were a constant handful for the Grays defence, and once they have had more time playing alongside each other some of the linking play will prove more threatening,

Gray did threaten briefly on the 20 minute mark, with Sean Rigg hitting the post as he latched onto a cross from the left, and then running past Hope and Gulliver before the covering Curtis Osano conceded a corner.

However, with the Diamonds midfield dominant at this stage, it was no surprise when the Diamonds took the lead, Marcus Kelly picked a loose ball up in central midfield and quickly beat two opponents and hit an early shot from 25 yards out which skimmed off the wet turf into the right hand corner of the net.

A dipping Curtis Woodhouse shot that skimmed the bar and hit the top of the net threatened a Diamonds second goal, but the Diamonds pressure seemed to decrease once the goal was scored.

Referee Rushton brought the half to a close – he too had contributed to the quality of the game with an unfussy approach to controlling the game.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Grays Athletic 0

The third quarter of the game was largely uneventful, with the Diamonds failing to trouble Button, and the visitors failing to take advantage of a couple of defensive errors from the Diamonds. To their credit the Diamonds defence were able to cover for each other or to recover from their own error – and Dale Roberts produced another impressive performance between the sticks.

Andy Burgess was brought down by Stuart Elliott 25 yards from goal, but any thoughts of a repeat effort from Daryl Clare at the freekick were dispelled when his shot cleared the roof of the Peter De Banke terrace.

Manny Panther was also willing to move into space to offer Roberts an outlet when he caught the ball – and from one of these breaks Panther easily outstripped the Grays defence and was unlucky his ball across the edge of the box to Daryl Clare was blocked. In a repeat move, Panther hit a ball that would have reached Clare, but this time the striker was offside.

As the game moved into the last quarter a number of substitutions livened the game up, and Lee Phillips made a surging run that was only narrowly thwarted but the ball went to Marcus Kelly whose cross towards Andy Burgess was deflected off the far post as a defender came in to challenge.

Three Diamonds corners followed, but the Diamonds couldn’t get the second goal to seal the game. Grays still managed to get forwards regularly, but lacked any penetration in the final third.

The game opened up in the last few minutes, with a powerful shot by Andy Burgess being saved at the second attempt by Button. One concern for the Diamonds was that Curtis Woodhouse limped off after a challenge from Stefan Bailey, but referee Rushton continued to control the game in a highly proficient manner.

The best chance of the half for Grays came when a shot by St Aimie looped into the air as it deflected off a defender, falling straight to an unmarked Rigg who netted, but not before hearing the whistle for offside.

Final chances to seal the game fell to Phillips and then Knight, but both failed to convert decent chances by firing wide of the right hand post.

Manager Hill expressed his satisfaction with the result, and the quality of the first half performance, which he felt was reward for fans after the two recent games, and he was hoping for a good turnout on Sunday as the Diamonds take on Torquay, a team that was one of the favourites to win the Blue Square Premier at the start of the season, and one whose form has improved in recent weeks.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Grays Athletic 0

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (White) : Dale Roberts : Curtis Osano – Phil Gulliver – Chris Hope – Michael Corcoran : Andy Burgess – Manny Panther – Curtis Woodhouse (Capt) – Marcus Kelly : Lee Phillips – Daryl Clare .

Subs : Leon Knight (for Clare 76) – Lee Tomlin (for Kelly 79) – Rob Wolleaston (for Woodhouse 86)

Subs Not Used : Sagi Burton – Sam Smith .

Grays Athletic (Blue) : David Button, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Sam Sloma, Sean Rigg, Ishmael Welsh, Stefan Bailey, Fabian Wilnius, Stuart Elliott, Luke Hickie, Ken Davis, Simon Thomas

Subs : Kieron St Amie (for Thomas 58), Jonny Dixon (for Hickie 76)

Subs Not Used : Steve Arnold, Mark Haines, Barry Cogan,

Goals : Marcus Kelly (24)

Yellow Cards: None

Referee: Mr S Rushton

Attendance: 1124 (Away 44)

Man of the Match sponsored by Pest Free : Andy Burgess

Oxford United 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

 

After Rushden & Diamonds produced one of their best team performances in five seasons when they won at Wrexham under two weeks ago, it was very disappointing to witness the lack-lustre performance at the Kassam Stadium, especially in the first half.

Although things did improve in the second half, it was only after the team had gone two goals down, and meant that the dismissal of Gareth Jelleyman, whilst puzzling, should not be used as an excuse for the final scoreline.

Given that the Diamonds were facing Oxford after their opponents had suffered a difficult week, with a change of chairman following a defeat at Lewes, they failed to put an pressure on the home side during the first half that might have tested their abilities under pressure – in fact ex-Diamonds keeper Billy Turley was largely a spectator during that half.

Manager Garry Hill made four changes to the team that was so impressive in Wales at the end of September, with Phil Gulliver, Michael Corcoran and Andy Burgess all being relegated to the bench. One enforced change was the introduction of loan goalkeeper Dale Roberts in place of the injured Alan Marriott. Those preferred in the starting line-up and aiming to reproduce the performance of their team-mates at Wrexham were Sagi Burton, Gareth Jelleyman and Marcus Kelly.

Oxford manager Darren Patterson brought in Lewis Haldane for his injured top-scorer James Constable, and Barry Quinn also returned to the starting line-up.

The Diamonds started fairly brightly, and had the lion’s share of the possession in the first 10 minutes, but failed to create any attempts on the Oxford goal that forced Billy Turley into action. The pattern for the remainder of the half was then set when sloppy play first by Curtis Osano and then Rob Wolleaston gave the home team attacking opportunities. Sagi Burton then became the worst offender in terms of careless play, as he failed to make a simple header back to Roberts, and Jamie Guy was allowed to run through and shoot, with Dale Roberts producing a great save, although if Guy had spotted Haldane in space across the box the outcome would have been different. When the ball was fired back in Phil Trainer narrowly fired wide as he ran in towards the left-hand side of goal.

A couple of minutes later the home side won a throw near the right corner flag, and the Clarke long throw was flicked across the area towards Trainer ghosting in on the far post, but again Roberts saved the day.

The only action at the other end of the pitch was a Lee Tomlin run that was halted by Chris Carruthers with Tomlin going to ground in the area. The Diamonds lacked any attacking threat on the left, and Curtis Osano was more occupied covering for his fellow defenders than supporting Tomlin on the right.

All the Oxford midfield were getting into the action in the area, with Yemi Odubade also firing over, and on 25 minutes Sagi Burton made another poor error conceding the ball to Lewis Haldane, and again Dale Roberts had to make an excellent save.

It began to look as if the Diamonds might survive until half-time, and perhaps be able to restructure, but with five minutes to go Sagi Burton was again caught in possession in the centre of the pitch, although he looked unfortunate to be penalised as he fell on the ball. The U’s Joe Burnell took a quick free kick, with Curtis Osano playing Lewis Haldane onside. Although Osano did well to recover and stop Haldane getting through on goal, he was forced to concede a corner. That was taken by Chris Carruthers, and Barry Quinn found space from whoever was meant to be marking him to head high in the net past the defenders on the line.

Half Time : Oxford United 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

After such a poor performance in the first half, it was perhaps a surprise that no changes were made at half-time, allowing any formation and role changes to be agreed, but equally it was surprising that the changes were then made without the traditional "give it fifteen minutes", as Lee Phillips replaced Sagi Burton seven minutes into the half.

This change was designed to allow the Diamonds to change to a 3-4-3 formation, but before Curtis Osano had settled into his more central role he was beaten in the air by Yemi Odubade, who headed into acres of space on the left for Phil Trainer to run onto – the space where Osano would have been, and where Lee Tomlin should have been briefed to cover in the new formation. Trainer coolly slotted past Roberts to give the home side a two goal lead which their play to that point deserved,

The Diamonds had managed to force Turley to make his first save of the game, with a Curtis Woodhouse run and shot down the left, and the home side saw Yemi Odubade booked for diving prior to the second goal.

Finally the Diamonds side seemed to get into top gear, and Daryl Clare won a free-kick as he was fouled by Adam Murray about 25 yards out. The 352 travelling fans expected, Daryl Clare to reproduce the free-kick effort seen in the Burton Albion game, and he duly delivered a carbon copy shot that easily beat Turley.

The Diamonds then showed what they were capable of, with a period of concerted pressure, forcing a series of corners that seemed unerringly to end on the head of a home defender.

Mid-way through the half came what could have been the turning point of the game. Daryl Clare showed great touch near the half-way line to flick a ball out of defence into space for Leon Knight to run onto. He easily outpaced the chasing defenders, and rounded Turley, but in doing so allowed Chris Carruthers to catch up and cover on the goalline. Knight chose to blast the ball at Carruthers rather than placing it past him, and the ball bounced out to safety.

Futher substitutions were made with 20 minutes left, with Diamonds danger man Daryl Clare being replaced by Michael Rankine, and Andy Burgess replacing Tomlin, but again the impact of these changes was to the advantage of the home side as Jamie Guy found space on the right to make a run on goal, challenged by Gareth Jelleyman. It appeared Jelleyman had made a good tackle inside the six-yard box to concede a corner, but the whole ground was surprised to see Mr Coote suddenly brandish a second yellow card of the game to Jelleyman, Many were unsure of the reason, as clearly if Jelleyman’s final tackle had been a foul then a penalty would have been awarded, and there was no obvious serious foul in the move that might have warranted a retrospective card. It transpired later that Mr Coote felt that Jelleyman had tugged Guy’s shirt early in the move, and although the striker was still able to run twenty yards the referee felt this still deserved a yellow.

This meant the Diamonds needed to make further positional changes, and as a result had very little in the way of attempts on goal for the remainder of the game – in fact it was the home side that came closest when Haldane cut across the area from right to left, and hit a left foot shot that rattled the bar. Andy Burgess was perhaps fortunate to receive only a yellow card as he hauled down Yemi Odubade whilst in his makeshift centre-back role as the player ran through on goal – but Odubade himself might have seen a second yellow moments earlier when he hauled down Marcus Kelly.

The game thus ended with the home side victorious for only the third time this season.

The Diamonds now have only three days to conduct an appropriate enquiry into why the performance was in such contrast to that seen at Wrexham, with Grays Athletic visiting Nene Park on Tuesday evening. The performances of Burton, Kelly and Jelleyman will be under particular scrutiny given they had been preferred to others that had won in Wales.

Full-time: Oxford United 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Teams:

Oxford United (Yellow / Black) : Billy Turley, James Clarke, Barry Quinn, Luke Foster, Chris Carruthers, Joe Burnell, Adam Murray, Phil Trainer, Yemi Odubade, Jamie Guy, Lewis Haldane

Subs : Chris Wilmott (for Quinn 70)

Subs Not Used : Ben Hinchcliffe, Sam Deering, Matt Taylor, Eddie Hutchinson

Rushden & Diamonds (White) : Dale Roberts : Curtis Osano – Sagi Burton – Chris Hope – Gareth Jelleyman : Lee Tomlin – Curtis Woodhouse (Capt) – Rob Wolleaston – Marcus Kelly : Daryl Clare – Leon Knight

Subs : Lee Phillips (for Burton 52), Michael Rankine (for Clare 69), Andy Burgess (for Tomlin 71)

Subs Not Used : Michael Corcoran, Phil Gulliver

Goals: Barry Quinn (41), Phil Trainer (54), Daryl Clare (56)

Yellow Cards: Jelleyman, Odubade, Burgess

Red Cards : Jelleyman

Referee: Mr D Coote

Attendance : 4645 (away 352)

Reporter’s Man of the Match : Dale Roberts

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