Rushden & D 4 Cambridge United 1

Rushden consolidated their second place with an emphatic victory over Cambridge and now look a good bet for automatic promotion.

It was Cambridge who started the better of the two sides and Billy Turley in the Rushden goal was forced to make several good saves in the opening stages.

Firstly, denying Shane Tudor when he tipped his shot around the post and on 19 minutes makinge another excellent save to deny Tom Youngs.

On the half hour Rushden began to come more into the game and after 28 minutes Onandi Lowe saw his free-kick brilliantly tipped over by Shaun Marshall.

Rushden took the lead in the 39th minute when teenager David Bell produced some good work on the right and when Cambridge failed to clear his cross Stuart Gray followed up to shoot home from six yards out.

Play was very scrappy in the early stages of the second half but Rushden increased their lead after 59 minutes.

Man-of-the-match Bell intercepted a bad pass on the half way line and then raced on, beating two defenders and slotting the ball coolly past Marshall from 18-yards out.

After 79 minutes Cambridge substitute Daniel Chillingworth created a good chance for fellow substitute Luke Guttridge, but he wasted the chance shooting wide from only five yards out.

After 82 minutes Jamaican international Paul Hall saw his shot hit the crossbar and rebound to safety.

But Hall got his reward two minutes later when he cut in from the right and shot past the helpless Marshall.

This appeared to have won the game for Rushden, but Cambridge pulled a goal back in the 87th minute when Dave Kitson was tripped by Rushden defender Mark Peters, and Paul Wanless struck the penalty past Turley.

Any anxieties Rushden had ended in the 90th minute, when Hall scored his second of the game when he hit a superb shot past Marshall from 20 yards out.

Rushden are now 12 points clear of the team in fourth place and if they maintain their present form they will be a good bet for automatic promotion.

Cambridge however must have been disappointed with the result and they have a lot of work to do to get themselves back into the play-off places.

Cambridge manager John Taylor was disappointed with the result, commenting: "We could have buried the game in the first 30 minutes and we did not take our chances which we normally do.

"We huffed and puffed second half without creating chances.

Diamonds Brian Talbot was obviously pleased with the result, saying: " We rode our luck in the first half but he was delighted with the performance of his makeshift midfield and particularly David Bell who has been attracting the attention of Premier league scouts."