Rushden & Diamonds 1 Oxford United 3

Although the scoreline might suggest an easy win for the visitors, the Diamonds were a match for their opponents for much of the game, conceding two goals against the run of play, one of them to a disputed penalty. The Diamonds had dominated possession in the first quarter, but they went behind to a goal from James Constable after Michael Corcoran had failed to deal with a tame looking cross, and this inspired the visitors to dominate the remainder of the first half. The Diamonds then started the second half in similar fashion, with several near misses before Rob Wolleaston lobbed Billy Turley for the equaliser just before the hour mark. Oxford again took the lead against the run of play, with James Constable scoring a penalty after he was deemed to have been fouled in the area. As the Diamonds pressed for an equaliser Constable broke clear to set up Simon Clist for the third goal to the visitors.

Justin Edinburgh was able to name an unchanged team, with Simon Downer returning from injury to take a place on the bench, alongside new signing Nicky McNamara.

On a wet evening the Diamonds kicked off towards the Peter De Banke terrace, and quickly showed the sort of form that they had displayed in two recent away games as they dominated midfield, although they struggled to create too many clear-cut chances. The Diamonds had to make an early change when Curtis Osano picked up a knock after 9 minutes, and Simon Downer took his place at right back. The closest they came in this 20 minutes of dominance was to see a Chris Hope header cleared by Luke Foster from in front of Billy Turley, and an Andy Burgess shot that was deflected over the bar by Chris Wilmott. As in recent games the Diamonds failed to show sufficient sharpness in the last quarter, and although they won a number of corners they failed to capitalise upon them.

It was thus against the run of play that the U’s took the lead following a quick break down their left, with Chris Carruthers getting forward for the first time, playing a 1-2 with Craig Nelthorpe that took him to the edge of the penalty box, but he appeared to mishit his cross, only to see Michael Corcoran lose control of the ball as it bounced, presenting a chance to James Constable who netted with ease.

Getting the goal seemed to inspire the visitors to produce the kind of performance that had been behind their recent impressive run, and they looked a threat from a number of corners, The Diamonds had a narrow escape when a long throw from Adam Chapman skewed off the head of Chris Hope and came close to being an own goal.

Turley was also called upon to make a point blank save from Michael Rankine late in the half after Hope got his head on one of Diamonds many corners. The Diamonds also had a threatening move down the right thwarted just as Rob Wolleaston flicked the ball over the head of his marker, as referee Smedley chose that moment to stop play as Luke Foster had gone down with a leg injury.

Half Time : Rushden & Diamonds 0 Oxford United 1

The Diamonds regained their domination at the start of the second half, with several chances to get a deserved equaliser. Chris Hope flicked an Andy Burgess free kick to Lee Tomlin, whose volley deflected off a U’s defender and over the bar for a corner. Marcus Kelly almost embarrassed Billy Turley as he showed great skill to bring a crossfield pass under control via his chest, and hit a powerful volley that Turley mishandled, but was fortunate to see the ball squirm over the bar.

Michael Rankine then outjumped Billy Turley as they challenged at a corner, but Clist was able to clear off the line. The striker then showed he has the ability to turn in the area, as he received a pass from Chris Hope, turned and shot, but the ball was straight at the outstretched arm of Turley,

Finally the Diamonds pressure was rewarded with the equaliser on 59 minutes, as Andy Burgess cleared up on the edge of his own area, and hit a crossfield ball to set the impressive Marcus Kelly free down the left, he squared the ball to Lee Tomlin, who hit a pin-point first-time pass to Rob Wolleaston, who ran into the area and lobbed the ball over the advancing Turley, despite a despairing attempt by Luke Foster to stop the ball going over the line.

At this point the Diamonds looked the most likely to go on and win the game, with Kelly, Tomlin and Wolleaston looking dangerous, and Andy Burgess controlling the midfield – but it was the visitors that took the lead in controversial fashion. Chris Hope was adjudged to have fouled James Constable as he challenged him in the penalty area. Constable stepped up himself and hit an unstoppable penalty.

The Diamonds tried hard to get an equaliser, and Tomlin did get the ball in the net following a corner, but referee Smedley had spotted he had handled the ball, despite his protests that it had come off his chest. As the game neared the final whistle, James Constable broke clear of the Diamonds offside trap and squared to present Simon Clist with an easy chance to give an unrealistic feel to the scoreline.

The Diamonds now have to think again about how to convert their recent domination of possession and territory into goals before they travel to play Northwich Victoria at the weekend.

Full Time : Rushden & Diamonds 1 Oxford United 3

Teams

Rushden & Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano (Simon Downer 10), Michael Corcoran, Chris Hope, Kurt Robinson, Andy Burgess (Capt), Jake Beecroft (Neil Cousins 71), Rob Wolleaston, Marcus Kelly, Lee Tomlin, Michael Rankine (Sam Smith 78)

Subs Not Used : Nicky McNamara, Chris Arthur

Oxford United : Billy Turley, Chris Carruthers, Luke Foster, Yemi Odubade (Lewis Haldane 71), Adam Murray (Capt) (Eddie Hutchinson 81), James Constable (Craig Farrell 90+4), Damian Batt, Chris Willmott, Simon Clist, Adam Chapman, Craig Nelthorpe

Subs Not Used : Matt Day, Ben Hinchcliffe

Goals : Constable (26), Wolleaston (59), Constable (70 (pen)), Clist (90)

Yellow Cards : Tomlin (foul), Foster (foul), Cousins (foul), Robinson (foul)

Referee : Mr Ian Smedley

Attendance : 2085 (away 922)

Man of the Match chosen by the Caesar party : Marcus Kelly

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