Cambridge United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

 

Rushden & Diamonds earned a creditable draw with Cambridge United at the Trade Recruitment Stadium on a very wet Saturday afternoon. Good defending throughout the game was combined with a late attacking surge which saw Daryl Clare and Andy Burgess threaten a late winner.

Garry Hill made only three changes from the side that lost to Evesham United, with Rob Wolleaston replacing Gareth Jelleyman (with Michael Corcoran moving to left back), Marcus Kelly starting in place of Lee Tomlin (switching sides with Andy Burgess) and Sam Smith starting up front in place of Lee Phillips.

The Diamonds bench had a very youthful look, being made up of teenagers – with Jamie McGuinness earning a rare place as well as two of the four new recruits to the first team squad from the youth setup – Lewis Hilliard and Aynsley McDonald.

Cambridge were still without the suspended Lee McEvilly so started up front with Mark Beesley and Danny Crow.

After the disappointment of the Evesham game the eleven that took to the field showed a distinct togetherness, starting with a pre-match huddle and followed by strong communication on the pitch linked to the instructions from the sideline by Hill and Edinburgh.

The first ten minutes set the scene for the first half, with the home side relying on an expansive game, with Robbie Willmott looking especially threatening on the left wing. On the right was the pacy Felino Jardim, and although he did not live up to the promise suggested in the first few minutes, he too caused problems, especially after left-back Michael Corcoran was give an early booking for a sliding challenge on Paul Carden.

Brendan Moloney was looking impressive in the right back role, and Curtis Osano was providing pace to the central defence. The threat down the left saw Beesley set up Willmott to hit a dangerous cross on 9 minutes, but Danny Crow didn’t manage to get far enough in front of his man to produce a telling strike, with his flick deflecting for a corner.

The Diamonds countered the threats by applying a wide game of their own, although early crosses from Burgess and Kelly failed to find a striker in a good position to threaten Potter’s goal, although a cross with his right foot by Kelly found Burgess whose volley was deflected to force the Diamonds first corner of the game. Although Kelly’s corner was cleared, it fell to Curtis Osano as he made his way back to defence, and he showed he is still willing to run at a defence, even when he is playing centre-back himself.

On 18 minutes Willmott did manage to get past Moloney right on the goalline and hit a powerful cross towards Mark Beesley, but as Chris Hope managed to intercept the cross, he and Beesley clashed heads, and the striker had to leave with blood streaming from his head.

Wayne Hatswell was having a good game against his old club, but he was guilty of conceding possession to Daryl Clare before making amends by clearing an Andy Burgess attempt on goal, albeit to Curtis Woodhouse whose strike was well wide. Woodhouse then showed great commitment by chasing back to support his defence, making a last ditch clearance as Robbie Wilmott cut into the centre. Sam Smith too showed the all around commitment to the cause as he was able to help out his defence on a couple of occasions.

On the half-hour mark ex-Diamond Jon Challinor made his mark on the game for the first time, having been kept quiet by Woodhouse and Wolleaston prior to that. First he hit a long shot that didn’t trouble Roberts, but a minute or so later he hit a much better shot that was well saved by Roberts.

Danny Crow was starting to show his frustration as he was going to ground more and more often under very innocuous challenges, although this tactic did result in a number of free kicks in dangerous positions. This approach spread to Robbie Willmott as the Diamonds defence were starting to negate his threat, and he went down after the slightest of touches from Curtis Osano.

As the half neared its end, Jon Challinor found himself in far too much space towards the corner of the box, as a corner was headed out in his direction, with the defence slow to close him down, hitting a powerful shot that brought a great save out of Roberts.

Half-time: Cambridge United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

The second half started in similar fashion, with the home side dominating play, with the rain now lashing down, as it did for the remainder of the half.

Chris Hope was now playing with a bandaged head and he and Osano continued to build an impressive partnership.

Up front Daryl Clare was starting to make an impression with a long shot over his shoulder, and then going narrowly wide when set up by Sam Smith.

Both Woodhouse and Burgess were making significant contributions to the Diamonds midfield, with Burgess picking up a yellow card for his tackle on substitute Chris Holroyd. Burgess won a free kick in a dangerous position that saw old team-mates Chris Hope and Wayne Hatswell challenge for a header that they both made contact but the ball squirmed wide for a corner.

At this stage the Diamonds had been struggling to give Danny Potter very much to do, but this all changed in the last quarter. An Andy Burgess free kick deceived the home defence to reach Marcus Kelly at the far post but his header was into the side netting.

Brendan Moloney was continuing to impress in all areas of the park, and he combined with Andy Burgess on the right to allow Burgess to reach the byline and square the ball to Daryl Clare for one of the Diamonds best chances of the game, but he could only poke the ball wide under a last ditch challenge.

The U’s threat was now significantly diminished with some reliance on long throws from Jon Challinor

Andy Burgess then almost surprised the home defence on two occasions, firstly with a quickly taken free kick that nearly found Rob Wolleaston, and then from a powerfully hit shot from inside the centre circle which had Potter scrambling and the keeper had to concede a corner.

Michael Corcoran was also earning praise for his performance after the early booking, not only in defence, as he quashed the threat of Jardim, but also with his distribution as he hit several crossfield balls towards Andy Burgess. From one of these Burgess switched the ball inside to Curtis Woodhouse and his shot was saved low down by Potter who was now by far the busier of the two keepers.

As full time approached both sides had a chance to clinch the game, firstly as Daryl Clare broke into the box, but slipped under a challenge from Bolland, shortly before being replaced by Jake Beecroft, and then for the U’s as Holroyd latched onto a loose ball whilst in an offside position. Despite the assistant referee having put up her flag well before the ball was netted there were still some in the crowd who thought a goal had been scored.

The game thus ended goalless, perhaps a fair result over the 90 minutes, and certainly an appropriate reward from a fighting team performance from the Diamonds.

Garry Hill must now review the performance, deciding on his line-ups for both the Setanta Shield on Tuesday at home to Stevenage and the Blue Square Premier game versus Weymouth on Saturday. Given the youthful nature of the Diamonds bench he must also take into account the fact that the youth team have a key FA Youth Cup game on Wednesday at home to NorthamptonTown.

Full-time: Cambridge United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Teams:

Cambridge United (Amber / Black): Danny Potter, Dan Gleeson, Anthony Tonkin, Philip Bolland, Wayne Hatswell, Mark Beesley (Chris Holroyd 19), Jon Challinor, Paul Carden, Robbie Willmott, Felino Jardim, Danny Crow

Subs Not Used : Josh Coulson, Mark Convery, Ben Farrell, Stephen Drench

Rushden & Diamonds (White) : Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano, Michael Corcoran, Chris Hope, Brendan Moloney, Rob Wolleaston, Curtis Woodhouse, Andy Burgess, Marcus Kelly, Daryl Clare (Jake Beecroft 90), Sam Smith.

Subs Not Used: Joe Day, Jamie McGuinness, Lewis Hilliard, Aynsley McDonald.

Goals : None

Yellow Cards : Corcoran (4), Burgess (54)

Referee: Mr G Sutton (Lincs)

Attendance: 3547 (Away 227)

Diamonds Man of the Match: The Diamonds Back Five

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