Torquay United 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Rushden & Diamonds fought back to gain a creditable draw against Torquay United at Plainmoor with a great strike by Lee Tomlin in the second half equalising the first half header by Tim Sills. After a slow start the Diamonds had their fair share of possession and chances, and could have won the game late on, when a Marcus Kelly strike hit the bar. The goal for Tomlin was his eighth league goal of the season, making him the top scorer for the Diamonds in that competition. The result (and performance) was even more satisfying given the way that the Gulls had beaten the Diamonds so easily in the fixture at Nene Park earlier in the season.

The Diamonds had brought in loanee Chris Arthur for his first start, and the absences of Michael Corcoran and Neil Cousins due to injury meant that Jake Beecroft and Michael Rankine both started. Gareth Jelleyman returned after a long lay-off to take a place on the bench. Paul Buckle was able to name a strong unchanged Torquay side, with Wayne Carlisle, Danny Stevens and Tyrone Thompson only gaining places on the bench. Youngsters Jamie McGuinness (18) and Lewis Hilliard (18) were on the Diamonds bench alongside Sam Smith (18), Kelly and Jelleyman.

The pitch conditions were good, but light rain greeted the teams at Kick off, with a strong wind assisting the Gulls in the first half.

The first quarter of the game was played almost exclusively in the Diamonds half, with a chance falling inside the first minute to Steve Woods, then further chances to Mansell (blocked by Downer), Benyon (deflected onto the crossbar), and Sills (saved by Roberts), before the Diamonds had their first meaningful attack on 22 minutes.

That first incisive attack came when Lee Tomlin robbed Woods and forced a corner, and then fire a powerful volley just over the bar in a rehearsed corner move, and this seemed to inspire his teammates. The Diamonds then started to dominate play, with a succession of corners, none of which earned any reward. On 38 minutes the Diamonds should have taken the lead, as a great move through midfield saw Beecroft find Burgess on the right, and his low ball towards the box saw an excellent flick by Lee Tomlin to Rob Wolleaston in plenty of space on the right side of the goal, about 15 yards out, but his shot was straight at Bevan.

Although the Gulls had been on the back foot, they took the lead shortly afterwards, as a long ball from Woods to Matt Green saw Curtis Osano concede a corner, and from the Carayol kick Tim Sills headed home with some ease as he escaped the close attentions of his marker.

The Diamonds had a great chance for an equaliser before half-time, as a further corner from the left was flicked across to Rob Wolleaston on the right, and his flicked cross found the head of Curtis Osano, but the header was well over the bar.

The first half thus ended with the home side ahead, but the Diamonds would have reflected on a “half of two halves” where they were decidedly second best to start with, but then had the better of the play during the period that the Gulls took the lead.

Half Time : Torquay United 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

The Diamonds had the benefit of the wind at their back in the second half, which meant it was Scott Bevan that was struggling with his clearances.

The Diamonds had an injury blow early in the half, with Kurt Robinson picking up a knock in a clash with Tim Sills, but the Diamonds had an appropriate replacement on the bench – Gareth Jelleyman. Manager Edinburgh also made a further change by bringing on Marcus Kelly in place of the ineffective Arthur, taking the opportunity to allow Andy Burgess to move more into central midfield, with Jake Beecroft moving into a wider role. Tim Sills was also replaced by Danny Stevens, which meant that Matt Green moved up front, allowing Mustafa Carayol to switch to the left midfield, and Stevens went to the right wing.

Referee Johnson was adding to the strong breeze with plentiful use of his whistle, and awarded the yellow card to Lee Tomlin that looked inevitable since he penalised him for easing his marker off the ball early in the first half in what looked the normal actions of any striker. Carayol was also winning free kicks rather easily, and from one of these, on the left by the corner flag, the Kevin Nicholson kick went to Danny Stevens whose powerful shot brought the save of the game from Dale Roberts.

As the game was about the move into the final quarter the Diamonds got the goal their improved performance deserved, and it came from a long ball downfield to Lee Tomlin towards the left of the goal, and he was able to check past Steve Woods, beat Lee Mansell as he cut across the pitch then fire a powerful shot with his right foot into the right hand side of the net.

Tomlin cropped up on the right a couple of minutes later, as Jake Beecroft broke forwards, and a deft Tomlin back flick found the young midfield player in space, and he then fed the ball back to Tomlin, who saw his shot cleared off the line. Michael Rankine was having an excellent game in most areas of the pitch, linking up well with Tomlin as well as helping out in defence, although it was his strike partner who looked the more dangerous in front of goal. Rankine also flicked on to Simon Downer at a Diamonds corner, but the effort on goal was blocked.

Marcus Kelly was providing more of a threat on the left, but he was also able to move inside, and a shot on the turn with his right foot saw an excellent save from Bevan to his left prevent the Diamonds taking the lead.

Curtis Osano was also able to threaten going forwards more than in recent weeks, but he also had his hands full with Carayol, and was mostly able to deal with the threat, although he did pick up a deserved yellow for one desperate challenge. Gareth Jelleyman was involved with the action too, and he blocked a dangerous looking shot from Kevin Nicholson, who also saw another shot well caught by Roberts.

Despite a number of other chances for the home side, it was the Diamonds who came the nearest to getting the winner, as more good work from Marcus Kelly saw him turn and hit a powerful dipping shot that rebounded off the crossbar.

The Gulls chased the winner rather more than the visitors, with Chris Robertson playing up front in the last few minutes, and Dale Roberts had to come to the Diamonds rescue twice more, but the Diamonds also had a late chance with an Andy Burgess shot from the edge of the “D” being gathered by Bevan.

It was notable that the local sponsors gave their Gulls man of the match award to keeper Scott Bevan (as they did in the FA Trophy game back in January), and although he didn’t have too many saves to make, the two key saves he made perhaps prevented the Diamonds coming home with all three points. The Diamonds fans would have been happy with the performance other than that in the first quarter, and to see Gareth Jelleyman return from injury and look as if he hadn’t been away. Marcus Kelly also showed the determination to prove that being left on the bench had not affected his game.

Full Time : Torquay United 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Caretaker Manager Justin Edinburgh felt that the point was well deserved, especially after the start that the home side made. He reported that both Kurt Robinson and Rob Wolleaston picked up knocks, and will be assessed for their fitness for the game against Lewes at Nene Park on Tuesday evening.

Teams : Scott Bevan, Kevin Nicholson, Steve Woods, Lee Mansell, Chris Robertson, Nicky Wroe, Chris Hargreaves (Capt), Elliot Benyon, Mustafa Carayol, Matt Green, Tim Sills (Danny Stevens 59)

Subs Not Used: Wayne Carlisle, Lee Hodges, Tyrone Thompson, Mark Ellis

Rushden & Diamonds : Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano, Kurt Robinson (Gareth Jelleyman 51), Chris Hope, Simon Downer, Andy Burgess (Capt), Rob Wolleaston, Jake Beecroft, Chris Arthur (Marcus Kelly 57), Michael Rankine (Sam Smith 89), Lee Tomlin

Subs Not Used : Jamie McGuinness, Lewis Hilliard

Goals : Tim Sills (41), Lee Tomlin (65)

Yellow Cards : Kurt Robinson (foul), Lee Tomlin (accumulated fouls), Curtis Osano (foul), Chris Hargreaves (foul)

Diamonds Man of the Match : Simon Downer

Attendance : 2161 (Away 45)

Referee : Mr K Johnson

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