Oxford United 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Diamonds unbeaten run of seven League games came to an end after Adam Chapman converted a late penalty – the second awarded during the game in favour of Oxford United. James Constable missed a spot kick awarded in first half stoppage time, but both penalties appeared to be controversial, the referee seemingly letting the home players and crowd influence his decisions.

Justin Edinburgh made two changes, with Lee Tomlin returning after suspension in place of Craig Farrell and Rob Wolleaston being favoured in place of Max Porter in midfield. There was still no place in the team for Curtis Osano and Cliff Akurang, who remained on the bench, together with Porter and Farrell.

U’s manager Chris Wilder named just one change – Alfie Potter (on loan from Peterborough) was out with a hamstring injury, and was replaced by leading scorer James Constable returning after suspension. Captain Adam Murray was still missing with a back injury so Constable took the armband.

Diamonds kicked off attempting to close the gap on the League leaders, but it was the home side who looked more comfortable early on. Simon Downer’s foul on Constable just outside the area saw Sam Deering tap the free kick to Anthony Tonkin – his shot being deflected away from goal. Constable also had an early chance smothered by keeper Dale Roberts. At the other end, Ryan Clarke’s fumble nearly gifted a Diamonds a chance, but the home side looked to be in charge during the opening period.

Constable and Jack Midson looked lively in attack for the U’s, but Diamonds were quick to close down at every opportunity and despite possession, Oxford had little in the way of clear cut chances. In fact it was Diamonds who had a glorious chance to take the lead on 29 minutes after Rhys Day’s header back to the keeper was intercepted by Tomlin. With the keeper stranded off his line, Tomlin fired a weak shot straight at Clarke.

Diamonds continued to defend well, but suffered the loss of central defender Simon Downer when he was shoved off the ball during another U’s attack. He was clearly suffering and Curtis Osano came on to replace him on 37 minutes.

Another great chance fell to Diamonds on 43 minutes when another defensive error left the keeper stranded on the right side of his area. The ball was swept in to the centre where Paul Terry hurried his shot towards the undefended goal, but the ball went wide of the post. Moments later, Tomlin robbed Batt deep in the Oxford half and sent Aaron O’Connor clear down the left but like Tomlin’s effort, his shot also went straight into the keepers arms.

As the first half entered stoppage time, a poor decision from the referee saw Wolleaston’s challenge on Jake Wright deemed unfair. Deering’s free-kick into the area went through to Roberts, but Jefferson Louis was adjudged to have blocked Wright’s challenge and the referee awarded a penalty, booking Louis for dissent as he protested the award. As the game entered the third minute of added time, James Constable stepped up and blasted the spot kick over the bar.

Half-time: Oxford United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

 

Craig Farrell replaced Louis at the start of the second half as Diamonds tried to bring more bite to the attack. It looked like the home side would continue where they left off in the first half as Midson fired an early shot over the bar, and then forced Roberts into a save at the near post, but Diamonds gradually started to look more dangerous and take advantage of some wayward defending from the home side.

Tomlin was set clear again by Wolleaston, but his attempted chip was easy for Clarke and then on 61 minutes, it was Tomlin again who caught Batt in possession and raced towards goal. He was brought down just outside the area by Jake Wright, who received a caution for his actions. Farrell fired the free kick over the bar.

U’s made a couple of changes midway through the second half as they tried to regain the initiative, Matt Green and Adam Chapman replacing Midson and Dannie Bulman. Diamonds continued to look in control as the second half progressed.

Oxford’s best attack of the game came on 77 minutes when some flowing passing between Chapman, Tonkin and Simon Clist led to Tonkin being fouled just outside the area. Chapman’s free-kick however went straight into the wall. Paul Terry went off shortly afterwards, with Max Porter replacing him in midfield.

On 84 minutes, there was another strong penalty appeal after Kurt Robinson made an excellent tackle to deny Constable, the U’s captain berating the official. As the ball was cleared away, Matt Green made a run back into the area only to be denied this time by Jamie Stuart. To Diamonds disgust, the referee pointed to the penalty spot. During the confusion which followed, referee Creighton booked Jamie Stuart and Michael Corcoran for dissent. Adam Chapman stepped up and this time made no mistake, firing the spot kick down the middle and past Roberts.

As Diamonds pushed forward, Matt Green latched on to a long ball forward but skyed his effort high over the bar. In the final three of five minutes added time, Mark Byrne tried his luck twice from just outside the area, but his shot was saved by Clarke on both occasions.

Full Time: Oxford United 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

 

Diamonds could feel aggrieved at having been denied a well earned draw by some weak refereeing. Justin Edinburgh conceded that the first penalty decision was probably correct, but the second clearly was not. Diamonds must put the defeat out of their minds as they face another tough away fixture next Saturday when they visit fellow play-off hopefuls, Mansfield Town.

 

Teams:

Oxford United: Ryan Clarke, Damian Batt, Dannie Bulman (Adam Chapman 69), Chris Hargreaves, James Constable (c), Jack Midson (Matt Green 63), Simon Clist, Jake Wright, Rhys Day, Anthony Tonkin, Sam Deering (Francis Green 90+3).

Subs not used: Billy Turley, Mark Creighton.

 

Rushden & Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Kurt Robinson, Jamie Stuart (c), Simon Downer, (Curtis Osano 37) Aaron O’Connor, Rob Wolleaston, Lee Tomlin, Michael Corcoran, Mark Byrne, Paul Terry (Max Porter 82), Jefferson Louis (Craig Farrell HT).

Subs not used: Joe Day, Cliff Akurang.

Goals: Adam Chapman 86pen (1-0).

Booked: Jefferson Louis 45+2 (dissent), Jake Wright 61 (foul), Jamie Stuart 85 (dissent), Michael Corcoran 85 (dissent), Damian Batt 90+1 (foul).

Sent off: Nil

Referee: Mr Steve Creighton (Berks)

 

Attendance: 7625 (382 away)

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