Brighton and Hove Albion 3 Rushden & Diamonds 2

The Diamonds unbeaten run of eight matches came to an end in desperately unfortunate circumstances as they slipped out of the FA Cup to a late Brighton goal at the Withdean Stadium. An early goal by Liam Dickinson was cancelled out by a solo goal from Lee Tomlin. The Seagulls took the lead again when Nicky Forster scored from the spot, and an eventful first half ended 2-2 after Aaron O’Connor beat two men in the area to curl the ball into the net. The Diamonds had much the better of the second half, but a mistake in the centre of the field saw Nicky Forster set up Liam Dickinson to score the winner.

The Diamonds lost Cousins to a serious looking leg injury early in the first half, and his replacement Matt Pattison also had to be replaced before the break after picking up a facial injury.

With Jefferson Louis cup-tied and Paul Terry suspended, Justin Edinburgh switched Mark Byrne to central midfield, and brought in Neil Cousins on the right. Simon Downer was preferred at right back to Michael Corcoran. Aaron O’Connor and Craig Farrell were chosen up-front, with Sam Smith joining Cliff Akurang on the bench. There was also a recall to the bench for Nicky McNamara.

The game had still to settle down when the hosts took the lead after 3 minutes. A long ball over the top by El-Abd caused confusion between Jamie Stuart and Nathan Abbey, allowing Nicky Forster to work the ball back to Liam Dickinson who fired into an unguarded net.

Neil Cousins was stretchered from the field before the Diamonds equalised. A magnificent crossfield ball from Curtis Osano found Lee Tomlin on the left, who ran past Gavin Hoyte and planted the ball under keeper Smith after 14 minutes. Abbey made partial amends for his earlier error with a smart save from Adam Virgo.

Midway through the half the hosts took the lead again when Curtis Osano eased over Nicky Forster in the area, and he got up and slotted home the spot kick.

Lee Tomlin was giving Gavin Hoyte a torrid time, such that Gus Poyet switched the Arsenal man to the other flank, but Justin Edinburgh cannily followed suit and swapped Tomlin and Pattison over.

The Diamonds showed they weren’t beaten, and after this switch Lee Tomlin forced Hoyte to concede a corner on the right. Although the Seagulls had a chance to clear the danger, Curtis Osano nipped in to to win the ball, which was then worked out to Aaron O’Connor outside the left edge of the area. O’Connor beat two men as he ran into the box, then curled the ball into the far corner.

The hosts had a number of chances to score a third goal, with Forster shooting straight at Abbey when clean through, and Abbey had to save a ricochet off Curtis Osano, before watching another ricochet off Elphick go over the bar, as the home side threatened with their dead-ball opportunities. The Diamonds defence was looking vulnerable to the pace of Dickinson, as well as the aerial threat from both strikers.

Matt Pattison had replaced the injured Neil Cousins, but he too had to be replaced by Cliff Akurang before half-time, after he picked up a knock to the face, with Simon Parsell unable to stem the bleeding.

Half-Time: Brighton & Hove Albion 2 Rushden & Diamonds 2

The second half saw the Diamonds take control for a long period, dominating possession with significant territorial advantage, although they struggled to create any clear-cut chances, other than a number of freekicks and corners. The best attempt came when Jamie Stuart got ahead of his marker at the near post to flick on a Tomlin corner, but the ball went just wide of goal.

The weather changed rapidly during the half, with the Diamonds fans getting a soaking for the second weekend running, but this did at least see the stewards who had been paying them close attention in the first half retreat to take cover from the rain.

As so often happens, the team that has been dominating play is made to pay if they do not convert their pressure into a goal, and so it proved for the Diamonds. Simon Downer won the ball in midfield, but could not see an immediate outlet for a pass, and while he dwelt on the ball it was taken off his toes and swept out to Nicky Forster on the left. Although an initial challenge looked like it might clear the danger, the ball broke straight to Liam Dickinson, who had an easy task to slot home the winner.

There was one final moment of controversy, when the referee stopped play some moments after a challenge between Hoyte and Tomlin, with the Diamonds in possession, as the Brighton player appeared injured. With the trainer on the pitch Hoyte got up to remonstrate with Tomlin, then fell to the floor again, and as a result referee Gibbs allowed the Seagulls to restart play as if a free kick had been awarded, rather than returning it to the Diamonds.

The final whistle signalled that Brighton will be in the draw for the next round of the FA Cup, but they will certainly feel fortunate they do not at least have to face a replay with the Diamonds beforehand.

Full-Time: Brighton & Hove Albion 3 Rushden & Diamonds 2

The disappointment of the players at the end of the game was clear. They had scored the best two goals of a game against a League One side, yet had allowed them three soft goals. The Diamonds fans gave them a great ovation, despite getting thoroughly soaked during the second half, with no sign of the waterproofs being issued as they had been to the Leeds fans last weekend. The trip home for those loyal fans wouldn’t have been the best in the appalling weather, with even the 10 minute walk to the station being enough for a further drenching, but each one would have been proud of the performance on and off the pitch.

The Diamonds now have a couple of days to regroup before they face York City at Nene Park on Tuesday evening. Neil Cousins will be unavailable for that game after leaving the stadium on crutches with what is believed to be a ligament injury.

Teams

Brighton & Hove Albion: Graeme Smith, Gavin Hoyte, Adam Virgo, Tommy Elphick, Adam El-Abd, Kevin McLeod (Gary Hart 50), Elliott Bennett, Andrew Crofts, Alan Navarro (Gary Dicker 59), Nicky Forster, Liam Dickinson

Subs Not Used: Josh Pelling, Jake Wright, Dean Cox, James Tunnicliffe, Craig Davies

Rushden & Diamonds: Nathan Abbey, Simon Downer, Kurt Robinson, Max Porter, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Curtis Osano, Mark Byrne, Neil Cousins (Matt Pattison 9, (Cliff Akurang 45+2)), Aaron O’Connor (Nicky McNamara 78), Craig Farrell, Lee Tomlin

Subs Not Used: Sam Smith, Dale Roberts, Michael Corcoran, Jack Ainsley

Goals: Dickinson (1-0, 3mins), Tomlin (1-1, 14mins), Forster (pen) (2-1, 22mins), O’Connor (2-2, 40mins), Dickinson (3-2, 86mins)

Yellow Cards: Porter (4), Osano (21), Stuart (45+4), Ed-Abd

Referee: Phil Gibbs

Attendance: 3638 (away 261)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Lee Tomlin

Match Gallery Pictures courtesy of Mal Swinden

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