Cambridge United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 2

 

Rushden & Diamonds beat Cambridge United for the second time in four days at the Abbey Stadium. Two first half goals gave the Diamonds a clear lead at the interval, as they played into a strong wind, and they held this until the end of the game. Aaron O’Connor took advantage of a long ball being held up in the wind to break clear and score after 14 minutes. Jamie Day scored his debut goal for the Diamonds mid-way through the half, after he took a short corner, received the ball back and rifled the ball home. Although the U’s threatened more in the second half, especially from corners, the Diamonds held out to extend their unbeaten run.

Justin Edinburgh brought back Luke Prosser following his injury, with Eddie Oshodi dropping to the bench at the expense of Justin Miller. For the U’s Jez George brought in the experience of Daryl Clare, Dave Partridge and Brian Saah.

The two teams changed ends before kick off, meaning the Diamonds would be playing with a fading sun in their eyes in the first half, as well as facing the strong wind that was blowing straight down the field. In the early stages the game almost resembled a game of Rugby Union as the ball was constantly finding touch, and the flow of the game was not helped by the fact that referee Bratt wasn’t prepared to make any extra allowance for the conditions.

Ex-Diamond Daryl Clare had little joy against the solid Diamonds defence all afternoon, but when Michael Corcoran misjudged the wind as he tried to scoop the ball clear about 12 yards from goal he appeared to have presented Clare with an excellent chance, but the striker failed to connect properly.

The Diamonds were otherwise coping better with the windy conditions, and they took advantage of them after 14 minutes to create the opening goal, The ball was cleared towards the half-way line, and Michael Gash pumped the ball forwards into space. Although Sam Smith was returning from an offside position, he was a long way from the action as a clearly onside Aaron O’Connor ran onto the ball which held up short of the U’s area. There was some indecision in the defence, and O’Connor was able to close in to within 10 yards of goal before checking across the despairing challenge from a U’s defender and firing home the opening goal.

The Diamonds pressure had resulted in a number of corners, and both Alan Power and Jamie Day were coping well with the conditions to create danger from these dead ball situations, but it was a short corner that produced the Diamonds second goal. Jamie Day took a corner on the right, and seeing only Paul Carden trying to close down the short corner he interchanged a short pass with Gary Mills before firing a powerful left footed shot from a narrow angle that tore into the net.

Although recent games had seen Jamie Day and Alan Power take most of the free kicks, when the Diamonds won one following a challenge by Rory McAuley on Aaron O’Connor about 30 yards out they handed responsibility to Sam Smith. Smith almost increased the Diamonds lead as he showed his shooting power to fire a kick through the U’s wall, and saw it bounce off keeper Brown, but the U’s defence managed to clear the loose ball.

Further danger from a Diamonds corner saw Sam Smith penalised for what looked an innocuous challenge on keeper Brown.

Luke Prosser was showing no after-effects of the knock that kept him out of game between the two teams in midweek, and he was commanding the Diamonds defence, breaking down U’s moves and linking well with Gary Mills to start any Diamonds counter attack.

Late in the half the U’s had perhaps only their second chance of the half after Michael Corcoran conceded a free kick for a foul on Daryl Clare. The Paul Carden kick found the head of Danny Wright, but he headed over the bar to allow the Diamonds to keep their two goal lead at the interval. Corcoran had been booked for the foul, and those that knew referee Bratt was officiating when the Diamonds faced York at Nene Park earlier in the season, dismissing Jamie Day, would have been concerned whilst the referee decided which card to award.

Half-Time: Cambridge United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 2

The Diamonds had taken advantage of playing into the wind as it held the ball up for the forwards to run onto, so it was expected the U’s might repeat this tactic in the second half. Although they were playing 4-4-2 rather than the 4-5-1 formation they used on Tuesday, their only danger up front was coming from Danny Wright, who did turn past his marker on a couple of occasions, but the Diamonds defence, along with Gary Mills were always on hand to clear the danger.

The U’s did manage to force several corners, and from one of these Paul Carden bent the ball against the wind and into the net, but Daryl Clare was penalised for a foul on Joe Day.

At the other end, midway through the half, Aaron O’Connor was unfortunate to see a goal-bound shot hit Coulson and bounce away from danger. Gary Mills also tried an audacious shot from 40 yards out from a quickly taken free kick, but his wind-assisted shot didn’t trouble Brown.

The Diamonds brought on Ryan Charles, Craig Farrell and Matt Johnson during the half, but each of them quickly got used to the conditions, and the Diamonds held on for only their second league victory in seven attempts at the Abbey Stadium.

Full-Time: Cambridge United 0 Rushden & Diamonds 2

Their have been a number of games this season that have been compared to the equivalent game in the last campaign, and those that remember the Diamonds side conceding a two-goal lead at the Abbey last season, will have been pleased to see how the team coped with the pressure (and the elements) to preserve the lead, their clean sheet, and to continue their unbeaten run.

Teams:

Cambridge United: Simon Brown, Rory McAuley, Brian Saah, Josh Coulson, Dave Partridge, Luke Berry, Paul Carden (Capt), Conal Platt (Sam Ives HT), Danny Wright, Jordan Patrick, Daryl Clare (Adam Marriott 71).

Subs Not Used Kevin Roberts, Liam Hughes, James Brighton

Rushden & Diamonds:Joe Day, Curtis Osano, Jamie Day, Luke Prosser, Michael Corcoran, Max Porter, Alan Power (Matt Johnson 84), Gary Mills, Aaron O’Connor (Capt), Michael Gash (Craig Farrell 80), Sam Smith (Ryan Charles 61)

Subs Not Used: Simon Evans (GK), Eddie Oshodi

Goals: Aaron O’Connor (14mins, 0-1), Jamie Day (21, 0-2)

Yellow Cards: Power, Corcoran, Partridge

Referee: Mr S Bratt (West Midlands)

Attendance: 2366 (Away 243)

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