Rushden & Diamonds 1 Oxford United 1

The Diamonds battled to a draw with high-flying Oxford United at Nene Park. A Craig Farrell free-kick had given the Diamonds the lead just before the hour mark, with a deflection helping the ball into the net. The lead lasted less than 10 minutes before a defensive mix-up allowed substitute Sam Deering to chip the ball into an empty net. Neither goalkeeper was called upon to make more than one significant save, so the draw seemed a fair result, and takes the Diamonds back to fourth in the league on goal difference.

Justin Edinburgh kept faith with the team that started at Altrincham on Saturday, with Simon Downer returning to take a place on the bench.

Oxford manager Chris Wilder brought in veteran Chris Hargreaves and ex-Diamond John Grant in his starting line-up.

The first half-hour was very even, with the Diamonds playing the ball through midfield, and also making use of the flanks, with Craig Farrell constantly putting the U’s defenders under pressure. The visitors adopted a long ball approach, and twice threaten the Diamonds defence with a long ball over the top, with Curtis Osano using his pace to quash one threat, and the other proving to be a break by from an offside position. John Grant was also caught narrowly offside when running onto a pass from James Constable.  Dale Roberts was forced into his one meaningful save of the game after 11 minutes when he caught a shot by Francis Green.

The Diamonds best chance in this period came when Francis Green hauled down Jefferson Louis towards the left-hand corner of the penalty box, and the resulting Tomlin free kick curled just away from a charging Paul Terry as he beat a static U’s defence into the six-yard box. Michael Corcoran also went close when Craig Farrell beat Anthony Tonkin a challenge before backheeling the ball into the path of the Diamonds defender, but Corcoran’s shot was just over the bar.

Referee Naylor played a good advantage when he allowed Lee Tomlin to continue a run despite having his arm pulled back, but the Diamonds player delayed a split-second too long and it was blocked.

The last fifteen minutes of the half saw the U’s best period of the game, with the Diamonds forced back in their own half for a long period, but Jamie Stuart marshalled the defence and prevented a real threat on Dale Roberts’ goal. The closest they came was when Michael Corcoran deflected away a Simon Clist cross for a corner.

As half-time approach the Diamonds produced one of the best moves of the half, with Craig Farrell winning the ball in midfield and working it out to Lee Tomlin on the left. Tomlin’s curling ball across the area looked to be an ideal ball for Jefferson Louis to get on the end of – but the striker was a fraction too late to get the touch on the ball that would have surely beaten keeper Clarke.

Half-Time : Rushden & Diamonds 0 Oxford United 0

The second half started with the Diamonds looking the more threatening team, and a clever ball from Lee Tomlin on the half-way line saw Mark Byrne break free on the left, but his cross was cut out just in front of Craig Farrell.

As the hour mark approached, Lee Tomlin made a break down the Diamonds left, and was hauled down by Damian Batt towards the left-hand side of the Oxford penalty area, which earned the U’s player a booking. Craig Farrell took only his second free-kick of the game, and his powerful shot was knocked into the roof of the net by Rhys Day just as it was crossing the goal-line, with the Diamonds management confirming they expected the goal to be awarded to Farrell, as the shot was curling into the net and beating keeper Clarke anyway.

With the visiting fans silenced, the Diamonds brought on Aaron O’Connor for Jefferson Louis, and this almost brought an immediate return when O’Connor and Farrell burst past the U’s defence, with Farrell appearing to be clear on goal before being pulled back for offside. Michael Corcoran then set up Lee Tomlin for a shot that was blocked as the Diamonds looked to increase their lead.

The Diamonds only remained in front for ten minutes, and as at Altrincham they conceded an equaliser that owed more to a defensive mix-up that saw Simon Clist put Dale Roberts and Kurt Robinson under pressure, and as Robinson mishit his attempted clearance under pressure from Deering, Clist got to the ball ahead of Roberts and it fell to Sam Deering who was able to chip the ball into an undefended net.

The goal was an unjustified return for a Diamonds defence that had silenced the threat of Constable and Grant so comprehensively all evening, and once again the sight of a clipped shot dropping into an unguarded Diamonds net will have disappointed both the team and those fans who were at Altrincham on Saturday.

Chances for the remainder of the game were fairly sparse, with Max Porter emulating James Constable in firing a shot over the roof of the Peter De Banke terrace as he failed to make it four games in a row where he has been on the scoresheet.

Full-Time : Rushden & Diamonds 1 Oxford United 1

The Diamonds now have one less day to prepare for the vital game in Kingston on Saturday when they face AFC Wimbledon. Ex-Diamonds Billy Turley, Ray Warburton and Jon Brady were able to discuss "old times" after the game, with Brady perhaps recalling one of his free-kick goals at Kingsmeadow. With Chris Hope also in attendance along with a number of Conference managers the Wednesday fixture had allowed a larger than normal number of scouting missions.

Teams: Rushden & Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Michael Corcoran, Kurt Robinson, Max Porter, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Curtis Osano, Mark Byrne, Paul Terry, Jefferson Louis (Aaron O’Connor 62), Craig Farrell (Cliff Akurang 90), Lee Tomlin

Subs Not Used: Joe Day (GK), Simon Downer, Matt Pattison

Oxford United: Ryan Clarke, Damian Batt, Rhys Day, Jake Wright, Anthony Tonkin, Dannie Bulman, Simon Clist, Chris Hargreaves, John Grant, James Constable, Francis Green (Sam Deering 63)

Subs Not Used: Billy Turley (GK), Matthew Green, Mark Creighton, Lewis Chalmers

Goals: Farrell (58, 1-0), Deering (67, 1-1)

Yellow Cards: Robinson, Batt, Corcoran

Referee: M Naylor (S Yorks)

Attendance: 2970 (Away 1353)

Diamonds Man of the Match sponsored by Paul Lewcock: Paul Terry

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