Penalty pain brings end to unbeaten run

Next season this fixture could be back where it probably belongs – on the Football League calendar.

Rushden & Diamonds were relegated into the Conference with Oxford United in May 2006.

Justin Edinburgh's in-form side had to win at the Kassam Stadium last night for a realistic chance of challenging Oxford, Stevenage Borough and York City at the top of the table.

In a tale of two debatable penalties James Constable's miss in first-half stoppage-time was followed by a late winner from Adam Chapman.

Diamonds have never been in the title race anyway. So nothing changes as they focus on a promotion play-off place with the dream of a Wembley final to go up again.

Rearranged from Boxing Day's late postponement, this was Diamonds' second successive game against the Blue Square Premier leaders following Saturday's last-gasp home win over Stevenage Borough.

Intriguingly it pitted the division's top scorers away against a formidable home record.

Lee Tomlin and Constable both returned from bans while Jefferson Louis, Rob Wolleaston, Michael Corcoran and Craig Farrell all faced their former clubs.

Diamonds struggled to create clear-cut chances before the break – although Tomlin and Paul Terry should have punished basic errors in the U's defence.

Tomlin only produced a weak effort when Rhys Day's poor header put him clean through and then Terry missed an open goal from 30 yards after keeper Ryan Clarke came out to challenge Aaron O'Connor.

Clarke again denied O'Connor just before the controversial penalty incident on the stroke of half-time.

Louis was punished for pulling back Jake Wright. It was a soft decision – especially as the referee was standing outside the 18-yard box so his view must have been blocked by several players.

But justice was done as Constable blasted the spot-kick high over the bar into the car park.

Constable had already been kept out when Dale Roberts raced off his line while Sam Deering posed a few problems, particularly with an early free-kick which was deflected wide.

Another set-piece saw Farrell fire over and, unsurprisingly, the bumper home crowd became unsettled as Diamonds showed signs of claiming another impressive victory.

Tomlin couldn't take advantage of Clarke's sliced clearance but overall the second-half performance was much better.

Kurt Robinson's last-ditch tackle foiled Constable and it looked as though Diamonds would hold out for another clean sheet.

However that changed as Jamie Stuart – who was otherwise exceptional – brought down Matt Green and fellow substitute Chapman converted from 12 yards past Roberts.

It was harsh on Diamonds who deserved a draw and Mark Byrne twice threatened to level during five minutes added on. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be.