Rushden & Diamonds 1 Cambridge United 2

 

Rushden & Diamonds were beaten by a late Phil Bolland header in a 2-1 defeat by Cambridge United after they had fought back from a goal down, and put in an improved second half performance that merited a share of the points. Although the visitors had the best of the first half, taking the lead through a Chris Holroyd penalty after 20 minutes, the Diamonds struck back just before the break when Sam Smith hit a low shot past Danny Potter. The victory was the U’s first away victory since August, helped by an impressive away following of over 1000 in the AirWair stand.

Garry Hill had brought back Lee Tomlin after suspension to replace Andy Burgess who was absent due to illness, and he started up front alongside Sam Smith who was replacing Michael Rankine, who had reported feeling unwell shortly before kickoff. United had made several changes from the side that drew with Oxford United, with Daryl McMahon, Anthony Tonkin and Scott Rendell missing, meaning there were starts for ex-Diamonds Wayne Hatswell and Jon Challinor. The visitors favoured a 3-5-2 system with Courtney Pitt and Danny Gleeson playing as wing-backs.

The game started quietly with the Diamonds playing into the cold easterly wind towards the visiting supporters. Although the visitors had the better of the early possession, it was the Diamonds that came closest to scoring in the first quarter. Jon Challinor fouled the impressive Lee Tomlin in the right corner, and from the Marcus Kelly free kick it was Tomlin who "ghosted in" on the far post to direct a header on goal, and Challinor who was able to clear it off the line for a corner.

The next 20 minutes were dominated by the visitors as the Diamonds struggled in midfield. A Danny Gleeson cross from the right was directed to Mark Beesley, who laid it off to Chris Holroyd, but Roberts deflected the attempt away for a corner with his foot. From the resultant corner on the left the ball was fed backwards to Paul Carden, still in a wide position, and he hit a powerful shot that Roberts had to be alert to direct around the post for another corner.

United took the lead after 22 minutes. Wayne Hatswell was able to support his midfield, and got in a cross towards Danny Crow, but he fell to the ground whilst challenged by Chris Hope, and referee Brown signalled a penalty. Chris Holroyd fired home a well struck penalty into the roof of the net.

The visitors had a chance to increase their lead shortly afterwards when a quick break saw Danny Crow with a clear run on goal, and the supporting Holroyd unmarked to his right, but Curtis Osano showed his pace in getting in a challenge before Crow could get in a telling shot or pass, much to the delight of the Diamonds fans who had been giving him "the bird" after his part in the penalty decision.

A Pitt freekick eluded the Diamonds defence as it curled over their heads, and Phil Bolland had slipped his marker, and almost had a free header on goal. Other chances fell to Holroyd, Hatswell and Carden as the visitors threatened to extend the lead.

Lee Tomlin continued to provide the Diamonds main threat, whether alongside Cousins on the right, or through the middle supporting Smith. He took on several defenders just after the half-hour mark, but his shot was deflected. It was Tomlin that made a major contribution to the equalising goal, as he ran through the middle and laid the ball forwards to Sam Smith, who did really well to outmuscle the experienced Bolland and fire a low shot into the right corner of the net.

Half Time : Rushden & Diamonds 1 Cambridge United 1

With a suddenly snow flurry in their faces the visitors started the second half on the back-foot, as the Diamonds started to put their passes together and force their opponents into a rearguard action to protect their goal.

The snow had started to settle on the pitch, and a number of players were finding it difficult to keep their feet, but before thoughts turned to whether an orange ball might be required the weather improved, and eased up for the rest of the game.

Marcus Kelly and Kurt Robinson were providing a real threat down the Diamonds left, and both were able to get in crosses that only just eluded Neil Cousins at the far post.

The first talking-point of the half came when the Diamonds had a claim for a penalty as Lee Tomlin was brought down in the box by a tackle by Bolland after good work by Rob Wolleaston had set him clear on the right. Tomlin was also winning a high percentage of the balls through the middle, and it was from a long kick by Dale Roberts that he flicked on to Sam Smith who ran towards goal, only to be body-checked by Bolland. It looked like the main decision for Mr Brown was whether Bolland had denied a clear goal scoring opportunity, but instead he waved play on.

The visitors were then mirroring the Diamonds contribution during the first half, with the odd breakaway threatening Roberts goal. Marcus Kelly was starting to run at the visiting defence, and from one of these he won a free kick just outside the area that Lee Tomlin curled over the well, but Potter tipped around the post.

Michael Corcoran followed up his impressive performance at Mansfield with a display that was capped with coolness under pressure after Rob Wolleaston’s attempt to help out his defence had put the Irish defender in a position where he was under threat by three attackers on the corner of his own penalty box, but he was able to out-think all three and take the ball clear.

The Diamonds had a scare from a Wilmott corner when Roberts and Osano appeared to leave the ball to each other, and Josh Coulson fired the chance over. Courtney Pitt was also guilty of missing a couple of chances to get in telling crosses as he seemed to struggle to keep his feet.

At the other end, Chris Hope beat his old defensive partner Wayne Hatswell in the air at a Lee Tomlin free kick but saw his header saved.

Just as the game appeared to be heading to the draw that would have reflected the overall play, it was the visitors that scored the winner two minutes before time. The Diamonds defence appeared tired as they were slow getting out after an initial clearance from a corner, allowing Courtney Pitt to cross onto the head of Phil Bolland only 10 yards from goal who easily nodded the ball past Roberts. With only a few minutes left it was too late for the Diamonds to reply, and they slipped to another Nene Park defeat.

Garry Hill praised his team for their fighting second-half performance, as well as the Diamonds fans for getting behind their team after several recent disappointments. The Diamonds now have a few days to regroup before facing runaway league leaders Burton Albion on Thursday evening in the televised game.

Full Time : Rushden & Diamonds 1 Cambridge United 2

Teams :

Rushden & Diamonds (White): Dale Roberts, Michael Corcoran, Curtis Osano, Chris Hope (Capt), Kurt Robinson, Lee Tomlin, Rob Wolleaston , Jake Beecroft, Marcus Kelly (Danny Broadbent 90), Sam Smith, Neil Cousins (Jamie McGuinness 84)

Subs Not Used: Joe Day, Lewis Hilliard, George Cox

Cambridge United (Amber / Black) : Danny Potter, Danny Gleeson, Phil Bolland, Wayne Hatswell, Mark Beesley (Robbie Wilmott 65), Jon Challinor, Courtney Pitt, Josh Coulson, Paul Carden (Capt), Chris Holroyd, Danny Crow

Subs Not Used: Ben Farrell, Gavin Hoyte, Felino Jardim, Rory McAuley

Goals : Chris Holroyd (20), Sam Smith (42), Phil Bolland (88)

Yellow Cards : Crow (Foul), Broadbent (foul), Corcoran (Dissent)

Referee : Mr M Brown

Sponsors Man-of-The-Match : Lee Tomlin – as chosen by our matchday sponsors Domino’s Pizza of Rushden

Attendance : 2058 (away 1020)

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