Cambridge United 2 Rushden & Diamonds 2

 

The Diamonds put on another good performance at the Abbey Stadium, but they were unable to hold onto a 2-0 half-time lead as both teams took advantage of having the wind behind them. Goals by Lee Tomlin and Jefferson Louis gave the Diamonds a 2-0 lead in the first-half as they played with the wind at their backs, but a 35 yard strike from Paul Carden brought the U’s back into the game after the break, and Brian Saah headed home a Courtney Pitt free kick for the equaliser.

One major disappointment for the Diamonds was the yellow card shown to Paul Terry for dissent which will mean he will miss the FA Cup game at the weekend. In fact the Diamonds had four players booked, all for dissent of one kind or another.

Jefferson Louis and Aaron O’Connor were brought in up front , and Lee Tomlin replaced Matt Pattison. The U’s brought in Courtney Pitt and Darryl Coakley.

The Diamonds started very brightly, with Lee Tomlin and Kurt Robinson combining on the left to see Robinson burst into the area, only for keeper Potter to smother the shot.

The visitors opened the scoring after 12 minutes when Lee Tomlin beat two men and was pulled down by Parkinson for a free kick. He took the kick himself, and, spotting that keeper Potter was poorly positioned, struck the ball straight into the left hand side of the net..

The U’s had a couple of glorious chances to equalise, notably when both Andy Parkinson and Chris Holroyd broke clear, but Parkinson blasted over rather than squaring a simple ball to Holroyd for a tap-in. The hosts almost had another chance when Nathan Abbey failed to hold onto a Pitt freekick, but the follow-up shot was blocked. Another scare came when Michael Corcoran was shepherding a long ball towards Abbey, but it was clearly not going to reach the keeper in his area, and Pitt nipped in and squared to Holroyd who snatched at his shot and saw it go wide.

Tomlin was finding space on the left, and referee Barrett was giving him little protection, allowing fouls by Parkinson, Saah and Gleeson to go unpunished – yet he booked Paul Terry for dissent following an Osano challenge.

The Diamonds made their hosts pay for their poor finishing on 26 minutes when a great passing moving involving Tomlin, O’Connor, Louis and Byrne saw Byrne break clear on the right and hit a perfect low cross for Jefferson Louis to stroke home for his debut goal for the club.

There was still time for Mark Byrne to have a long range effort on goal after Potter came out of his area and mishit a clearance, but the first half ended with the Diamonds 2-0 ahead.

Half-Time: Cambridge United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 2

The Diamonds could have clinched a third goal right at the start of the second half, that might have wrapped the game up. Tomlin and Robinson played a neat one-two that allowed Robinson to break clear and hit a low cross that keeper Potter caught just ahead of Jefferson Louis. Another slick move a few minutes later saw Tomlin and O’Connor swap passes, and although the intended pass to Mark Byrne was cut out, a Jefferson Louis shot was defelcted away for a corner.

Although referee Barrett did finally take action against the constant fouls on Lee Tomlin, by booking Dan Gleeson for a late challenge, it has to be questioned whether the defender’s further action of grabbing Tomlin’s head as he tried to haul him up to avoid the inevitable yellow card might have merited further punishment. Other fouls on Louis and O’Connor also went unpunished as the frustration of the Diamonds team and management grew.

The hosts then started to use the strong wind to their advantage, and just before the hour mark they pulled a goal back out of nothing. The U’s gained possession in midfield and slipped the ball to Paul Carden about 40 yards from goal. The U’s captain took a step forwards and hit a powerful shot that went into the top left-hand corner of the net, leaving Abbey with little chance.

The home fans were critical of the Diamonds players failure to keep their feet when foul tackles brought them to the ground, but the clearest example of a player "going down easily" of the whole game came after 63 minutes when Danny Crow crumbled under the lightest of touches from Jamie Stuart, but referee Barrett was swayed by the protests of the home crowd, and gave the free kick. The impressive Courtney Pitt took the kick, placing it perfectly on the head of Brian Saah, and the tall defender headed home the equaliser.

With 25 minutes to go, there was concern that the hosts might maintain the ascendancy they had gained in the last 10 minutes, and go on to win the game, but the Diamonds players redoubled their efforts and managed to quieten the game back down, so there were a limited number of clear-cut chances in the remainder of the game.

It is credit to the Cambridge defence that the Diamonds midfield could not take advantage of the wind holding the ball up to hit the ball over the defence for a striker to run onto. The nearest the Diamonds came to retaking the lead was when Lee Tomlin slipped a quick free kick through to substitute Cliff Akurang, but the striker’s shot was deflected wide.

Full-Time: Cambridge United 2 Rushden & Diamonds 2

The Diamonds will now start to focus on the FA Cup tie at the weekend, but will also have the visit of York City to Nene Park next Tuesday evening in mind.

Cambridge United: Danny Potter, Dan Gleason, Brian Saah, Wayne Hatswell, Darryl Coakley, Andy Parkinson (Lee Phillips 58), Jai Reason, Paul Carden (capt), Courtney Pitt, Chris Holroyd, Danny Crow

Subs Not Used, Rory McAuley, Adam Marriott, Laurie Walker, Sam Ives

Rushden & Diamonds: Nathan Abbey, Michael Corcoran (Simon Downer 77), Jamie Stuart (Capt), Curtis Osano, Kurt Robinson, Mark Byrne, Max Porter, Paul Terry, Aaron O’Connor (Craig Farrell 86), Jefferson Louis (Cliff Akurang 68), Lee Tomlin

Subs Not Used: Neil Cousins, Dale Roberts

Goals: Tomlin (0-1, 13mins), Louis (0-2 26mins), Carden (1-2, 60mins), Saah (2-2 65mins)

Yellow Cards: Terry (dissent), Reason (foul), Carden (foul), Gleeson (foul), Stuart (dissent), Tomlin (dissent – kicking ball away), Robinson (obstructing free kick)

Referee : Wayne Barrett

Attendance : 2612 (away 253)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Kurt Robinson

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