Danny Powell’s first goal for the club had put Darlington ahead but their run of poor form continued as Rushden fought back and were full value for their victory.

Manager Mark Cooper could not hide his frustration and even said that had his side been awarded an injury-time penalty, when a Rushden player appeared to handle in the box, they would not have deserved a draw.

"There was a lack of leadership, guts and courage to try and extend a 1-0 lead," said Cooper, who was unable to bring in a new striker in time for the match.

"I’m getting tired of the saying the same old things and something has to change. We’ve given different players a chance, we’ve tried different formations but still we’re not firing.

"Paul Terry was a different class tonight but you take away his leadership and what are you left with? That wasn’t a Mark Cooper team out there, big changes have to happen."

Powell gave Darlington the lead by ramming the ball into an empty net on 14 minutes.

The goal arrived after Paul Arnison, playing in a wide position to the right of midfield as Quakers tried a 3-4-3 formation, found Michael Smith, whose shot was parried by keeper Joe Day straight to Powell.

Arnison, Smith and Jamie Chandler were all recalled, with Gary Smith and Liam Hatch injured and John McReady also not involved.

Smith and Hatch had been below par in Saturday’s defeat to Wrexham when Quakers struggled to create chances, but after going a goal up last night Cooper’s men did little to further trouble the home keeper.

They allowed Diamonds back into the contest with their biggest threat coming from Rene Howe.

The bulky striker headed across goal with Aaron O’Connor just unable to get a touch on the ball, before drawing a smart save from Sam Russell with a powerful header from a corner.

With Quakers restricted to playing on the counter-attack, Rushden continued to press with Russell making a stunning save to stop Tim Sills’ towering header, though the linesman’s offside flag was raised.

Howe, who scored twice against Darlington for Lincoln last season, then struck a post from 12 yards before marauding right-back Justin Miller was afforded too much space in which to fire in a left-footed effort that rolled narrowly wide of goal.

Darlington showed some improvement with Chris Senior trying a daisy-cutter that Day collected easily, before a Quakers counter-attack led to Powell playing in Chandler but his deft effort was saved.

After the break, Russell was inches from scoring after a huge goal kick deceived Day. The ball bounced over the home side’s keeper but, much to Day’s relief, skimmed the top of the crossbar.

A goal then would have put Darlington in a strong position, but two quick goals turned the game in the hosts’ favour with the first coming from Howe.

He cut inside from the left on 65 minutes before unleashing a powerful effort that Russell parried into the net.

It was a goal that Howe had been threatening, although sub Ryan Charles tried to claim it by following the ball into the net.

Then, on 71 minutes, an O’Connor shot from 18 yards deflected past Russell off Kevin Austin.

Darlington were shell-shocked but rarely did they appear likely to level.

Cooper sent on substitutes Tommy Wright and Gareth Waite, both making their comebacks after injury, but Rushden were in the ascendancy as they pressed for a third while Russell survived a strong penalty appeal when O’Connor tumbled.

But, in injury-time, Powell believed he should had a penalty for handball when his header towards goal struck Diamonds’ Shane Huke.

Rushden leapfrog Darlington in the table, with Cooper's side, who have won just one of their last six matches, now 11th.


Goals: Powell (14, 0-1); Howe (65, 1-1), O’Connor (71, 2-1)

Bookings: Senior (48, foul)

Referee: Andy Madley (West Yorkshire) 7

Attendance: 1,034

Rushden & Diamonds (4-3-3): Joe Day 5; Miller 6 (Robinson 57, 6), Stuart 8, Osano 7, Jamie Day 6; Porter 7, Johnson 7, Huke 7; Sills 5 (Charles 62, 6), HOWE 8, O'Connor 7. Subs (not used): Key (gk), Power, Spence

Darlington (3-4-3): Russell 6; Miller 6, Hone 6, Austin 6, Arnison 6, TERRY 7, Chandler 6 (Wright 67, 6), Brown 5; Powell 6, M Smith 5, Senior 5 (Waite 67). Subs (not used): Lowson (gk), P Gray, Clarke

Man of the Match

RENE Howe - Darlington simply could not deal with the burly striker