Rushden & Diamonds 1 Cambridge United 1

 

Rushden & Diamonds drew with Cambridge United at the Nene Park on Bank Holiday Monday in a match dominated for long periods by the whistle of referee Rob Lewis. The Diamonds took the lead when Jamie Stuart rifled home a Lee Tomlin corner, but the visitors hit back when Wayne Hatswell headed home a Willmott free kick The game struggled to get any rhythm in the first half as Mr Lewis penalised much of the physical contact, but the sides adjusted to the referee’s approach to provide more entertainment in the second half.

Cambridge thus retained their unbeaten record on the road.

With Michael Corcoran suspended, Kurt Robinson returned to the starting line-up following his injury. Defender Bobby Aisien was given a place on the bench for the first time.

Cambridge Manager Martin Ling kept the same line-up that beat Gateshead 3-0 on Saturday, with ex-Diamond Wayne Hatswell in their defence, but no place in the squad for the injured Lee Phillips.

The first half was an even affair, but struggled to flow with the constant whistle from Mr Lewis, and reflected the Bank Holiday weather in its mood. The Diamonds early chances fell courtesy of a number of free kicks, with the best chance coming after 6 minutes when Matt Pattison was brought down by Anthony Tonkin just outside the right hand corner of the penalty area. The Lee Tomlin kick was headed back across the area towards Aaron O’Connor stealing in at the far post, but his attempt was blocked. O’Connor then saw a shot saved by Potter.

At the other end the U’s early chance came on 12 minutes, when Jamie Stuart misjudged a Willmott cross, but Danny Crow was unable to react quickly enough.

Dan Gleeson made good progress forward two minutes later, controlling a long ball and laying it off to Jai Reason who hit a powerful shot from the edge of the area which Roberts did well to save.

Reason then gave the ball away to Aaron O’Connor in the centre circle, and the striker did well to break clear of the chasing defenders, but would have been disappointed with his final shot.

Lee Tomlin was then fouled by Gleeson on the edge of the box, but once again the dead-ball opportunity was wasted as it was fired into the defensive wall.

The U’s next chance came from a Willmott corner which found Danny Gleason in space, but he fired just wide.

The Diamonds were getting little success through midfield, with each move being punctuated by the referee’s whistle before it got going, so switched to trying a long ball game, with Dale Roberts finding Cliff Akurang who showed he has a delicate touch to either set up his strike partner, or in one case after 28 minutes he brought the ball down, moved it past Hatswell and fired a shot that forced Potter into a decent save.

Akurang also linked up with Lee Tomlin after flicking on a Roberts long ball, and Tomlin forced a corner which he took short to Max Porter, picked up the return pass, and then delivered the ball into the area to see Jamie Stuart head the ball over the bar.

Ten minutes before the break the visitors had their best chance of the half, with a Willmott cross from the left finding Andy Parkinson in acres of space towards the right edge of the penalty box, but rather unselfishly he decided to square the ball to Danny Crow, who summed up his disappointing afternoon with shot that Roberts saved.

Wayne Hatswell was once again pulled up for what looked an innocuous foul on O’Connor, and from this dead-ball opportunity Tomlin fired just wide.

Akurang once again showed vision and control to divert a Roberts kick to Aaron O’Connor, and his strike partner laid the ball off to Mark Byrne, whose powerful shot looked goal-bound but is hit Hatswell, with some suggestion it might have hit a hand, but a penalty award would have been harsh.

Half Time : Rushden & Diamonds 0 Cambridge United 0

The Diamonds came out for the second half with a determination to dominate the action, and it seemed to have the desired effect, as they gave little cause for Referee Lewis to slow the game down, as he had done in the first, and at times he seemed content to remain more in the background, with inconsequential "peeps" on his whistle where loud controlling blasts had been in order in the first half.

This approach saw the Diamonds spend more time in the visitors half, winning a free kick in a dangerous position early on, which rebounded off the wall to Mark Byrne, whose shot was well saved by Potter. The improved play was coinciding with the improved weather as Nene Park was bathed in sunshine for much of the second half.

The period of domination culminated with the Diamonds taking the lead on 57 minutes, when a long ball by Roberts was fired at goal by Cliff Akurang, forcing Potter to concede a corner. The Tomlin kick went straight to Jamie Stuart on the edge of the penalty box, and he fired a powerful volley into the corner of the net for his first Diamonds goal.

A minute later Lee Tomlin might have increased the lead, as he set of on a run down the left that saw him leave three defenders trailing, but his well hit shot was just wide of the far post.

Danny Crow had a chance to made amends for his earlier misses when he chased a long ball to the byline, and tried to lob Roberts from an acute angle, but the attempt was high and wide.

At the other end Kurt Robinson made a rare run through the middle, and saw his attempt on goal blocked. Aaron O’Connor was helping out his defence whilst the likes of Robinson and Downer made runs forward, but he fouled Paul Carded just inside the Diamonds half, picking up a yellow card despite it being one of his few fouls of the game. The kick was taken by Jai Reason, and it found Wayne Hatswell on the left-hand side of the box, having peeled away from his marker, and the former Diamond made no mistake in heading home the equaliser on 63 minutes.

Lee Tomlin was continuing to cause the U’s defence many problems, and he set up Aaron O’Connor with a good chance which the striker fired over, with the suspicion it may have taken a deflection. On the right Matt Pattison was also causing a significant threat, and his impact increased with the introduction of Sam Smith and Craig Farrell, who offered support in the right channel, as well as distributing the ball quickly to the right. Farrell did well to take a quick free kick to Pattison, who burst to the edge of the area and fired a shot that was blocked.

The U’s had brought on Mark Beesley, who has found Nene Park a happy hunting ground in the past, and this helped them start threatening the Diamonds defence again, with Roberts called into action twice to face onrushing strikers, clearing once from Beesley, and then seeing Willmott push the ball past him, but just wide of the post. Curtis Osano then made a game-saving tackle on Beesley just as he was about to shoot from midway inside the penalty box.

Simon Downer started a move that almost saw him get his first goal of the season, as the ball went via Farrell and Byrne back to him, but his shot was wide. Byrne then almost capped an impressive game with an excellent crossfield ball to Matt Pattison, whose cross found the head of Craig Farrell, but the header was just over.

There was still time for one final dangerous Diamonds move down the right, with Matt Pattison setting up Curtis Osano for a run at the U’s defence that saw him fire a shot just over the bar.

Although a draw is disappointing after being ahead in the game, it was a fair result, and there were plenty of positive things to come out of the game, not least the number of goal attempts the Diamonds are making – contrasting to those sequence of games at Nene Park in previous season where the visiting keeper has been complexly underemployed.

Full Time : Rushden & Diamonds 1 Cambridge United 1

The Diamonds now have to prepare for a road-trip that takes in Barrow and Ebbsfleet before returning to Nene Park to face Grays Athletic on 12th September.

Diamonds (White) :- Dale Roberts, Curtis Osano, Kurt Robinson, Max Porter, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Simon Downer, Lee Tomlin, Mark Byrne, Cliff Akurang (Sam Smith 76), Aaron O’Connor (Craig Farrell 69), Matt Pattison

Subs Not Used: James Reid, Neil Cousins, Bobby Aisien

Cambridge (Amber / Black): Danny Potter, Dan Gleeson, Brian Saah, Wayne Hatswell, Anthony Tonkin, Andy Parkinson (Sam Ives 76), Paul Carden (capt), Jai Reason, Robbie Willmott, Chris Holroyd (Mark Beesley 76), Danny Crow

Subs Not Used: Josh Coulson, Courtney Pitt, Rory McAuley

Goals: Stuart (57), Hatswell (63)

Yellow Cards : Hatswell, O’Connor, Stuart, Saah

Referee: Mr Rob Lewis (Shropshire)

Attendance : 2344 (away 1088)

Diamonds Man of the Match (sponsored by Flagship Fruit & Nut Ltd) : Dale Roberts

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