Luton Town 0 Rushden & Diamonds 2

The Diamonds made history as they picked up their first win over Luton Town to make it four wins in a row. An excellent second half performance saw goals from Lee Tomlin and Mark Byrne give the Diamonds a deserved win. The Diamonds took the lead when Tomlin capitalised on a slip by Kevin Nicholls to race clear and slot the ball home with his left foot after 84 minutes, and then Mark Byrne broke clear and chipped Tyler to make the game safe deep into injury time.

Diamonds Manager Justin Edinburgh made one change from the team that beat Workington in the FA Cup last weekend, with Captain Jamie Stuart returning in place of Simon Downer who had picked up an injury in midweek. Dale Roberts and Matt Pattison were joined on the bench by Cliff Akurang, Mark Byrne and loan striker Danny Mills.

The Hatters welcomed their new manager Richard Money, whose appointment had only been confirmed the day before the game. His new assistant Alan Neilson had been caretaker manager, and the pair were able to select from a big squad that included several players returning from injury and suspension. This meant a return for Rossi Jarvis and Kevin Gallen. Money and chief scout Gary Brabin watched the game from the stand.

The first half ended even, but there had been many chances at either end during the half, although the Diamonds rode their luck somewhat. The Hatters had the ball in the net twice, but both were flagged offside, and Kevin Gallen failed to find an empty net with a lob after an Abbey clearance had been blocked. Abbey also made two excellent saves, and Tom Craddock hit the post when clean through. The Diamonds struggled to cope with the threat of the impressive Adam Newton down the Luton right, but Jamie Stuart made an impressive return to the side, as he and Curtis Osano coped with the threat of Kevin Gallen and Tom Craddock.

At the other end the Diamonds threatened on occasions, but had to be content with half-a-dozen corners rather than forcing Tyler into a meaningful save. The best chance fell to Lee Tomlin who was found in acres of space in the penalty box by a Neil Cousins cross. Tomlin had plenty of time to steady himself and shoot, but only managed to fire high and wide. A neat Diamonds move had also seen a chance created for Curtis Osano, but his shot threatened the Diamonds fans behind the goal more than Mark Tyler. The Diamonds had also seen an early claim for a penalty turned down when Lee Tomlin broke into the area in the first minute, and appeared to be stopped by a high tackle.

The half ended with the scores level, with Nathan Abbey responding well to the taunts he was getting from the home crowd to keep the scorelines level with his two excellent saves.

Half-Time: Luton Town 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Justin Edinburgh’s half-time team talk must have given his players the encouragement they needed to take the game to Luton, as they started the second half in totally dominant fashion. Whereas Mark Tyler in the Hatters goal had not really been called into action in the first half, he had to make the first of several good saves from Aaron O’Connor after Craig Farrell had directed a Jamie Stuart pass into his path.

Lee Tomlin also went close after a good run down the left, and Max Porter saw a shot go over the bar as he ran onto an O’Connor layoff as the Diamonds completely dominated play.

Farrell and O’Connor were continuing to link up well, and a chest-pass from the ex-York City striker allowed O’Connor an attempt on goal that forced another save from Tyler.

The first of the Diamonds substitutions was to replace Neil Cousins with Mark Byrne, but it was the two Luton substitutions around this time that introduced controversy, as a vocal minority in the home crowd made their feelings clearly known about the changes being made. Rossi Jarvis was called into the England C team this week, but would not have been happy to see his week end the way it did.

The Hatters main threat was coming from Claude Gnakpa, and Abbey was forced to pull off another excellent save to a well hit Gnakpa shot that also took a slight deflection.

The Diamonds made their second substitution after 77 minutes with Cliff Akurang replacing Aaron O’Connor. Special mention must be made of O’Connor’s contribution, as he chased the Luton defence for the entire period he was on the pitch, linking well with Farrell and the midfield, and with a bit more luck would have scored the goal his performance deserved. Whereas the Diamonds had been content to slow the game down in the first half, their total domination of the second half meant that a positive substitution was made as the Diamonds looked to win the game.

That intent almost paid immediate dividends as Mark Byrne made space on the right to hit a powerful shot towards the corner of the goal that Tyler could only parry, and Lee Tomlin picked up the loose ball after a hurried attempted clearance by Pilkington, but could only fire wide.

The Diamonds breakthrough came after 84 minutes, as the Diamonds defence broke down a Hatters attack, forcing them to play the ball back to Ed Asafu-Adjaye on the edge of the box, and he in turn was pressured to knock the ball quickly to Kevin Nicholls ten yards inside the Diamonds half. Although the Hatters captain was a clear favourite to get to the ball first, Lee Tomlin made the effort to put him under pressure, and this paid off as Nicholls slipped, allowing Tomlin to race clear and coolly slot home past Tyler with his left foot, despite pressure from Nicholls and another defender.

The Hatters looked shell-shocked by the goal, but did manage one more meaningful attack down the right channel via the impressive Gnakpa, and his cross to the far post was headed towards Andy Burgess by Tom Craddock, but the ex-Diamonds captain could only direct his header wide, towards the Diamonds fans who were really getting behind their team.

After five minutes of added time were signalled, those travelling Diamonds fans who have witnessed late disappointment many times before would have been nervously checking their watches, but any doubt about the result was removed in the fourth minute of injury time, as Mark Byrne capped a cameo performance by running onto a ball worked forward by Michael Corcoran, starting the run from inside his own half, allowing him to run into the penalty box, compose himself, and hit a neat chip over Tyler to start the Diamonds fans celebrations for their first victory over Luton Town – and their first return of any kind from a trip to Kenilworth Road.

Full-Time: Luton Town 0 Rushden & Diamonds 2

The Luton fans further showed their displeasure to their players as they left the pitch, and Messrs Money and Brabin, watching from the stand, would have begun to appreciate the pressures they will be under in terms of team selection, performances and expectations.

With the victory taking the Diamonds into sixth place in the table, they will now be able to put any thoughts of a push for the playoffs aside as they prepare for the visit of Hinckley United in the FA Cup next weekend.

The four wins out of the five games in October must also given Justin Edinburgh a chance of claiming the Manager of the Month prize, and he was quick to praise his players for their second half performance in his interview after the game. He will be watching Hinckley United on Monday evening in preparation for the Cup Game, the same evening that the Diamonds Youth team play Northampton Town at Nene Park.

Luton Town: Mark Tyler, Ed Asafu-Adjaye, Alan White (Fred Murray 75), George Pilkington, Jake Howells, Adam Newton, Kevin Nicholls (Capt), Asa Hall (Andy Burgess 60), Kevin Gallen, Tom Craddock, Rossi Jarvis (Claude Gnakpa 71).

Subs Not Used: Ryan Charles, Shane Gore

Rushden & Diamonds: Nathan Abbey, Michael Corcoran, Kurt Robinson, Max Porter, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Curtis Osano, Neil Cousins (Mark Byrne 57), Paul Terry, Craig Farrell, Aaron O’Connor (Cliff Akurang 77), Lee Tomlin (Matt Pattison 86)

Subs Not Used: Danny Mills, Dale Roberts.

Goals: Lee Tomlin (84), Mark Byrne (90+4)

Yellow Cards: Craddock (deliberate handball), Cousins (timewasting (albeit accidental)), Tomlin (foul (plus earlier offences))

Referee: A Bennett

Attendance: 7101 (away 402)

Diamonds Man of the Match: A team performance, especially in the second half !

For video highlights see here.

Images courtesy of Mal Swinden ©2012 Malcolm Swinden Photography


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