Rushden & Diamonds 3 Southend 0

By Steven Dove

Stuart Gray claimed a brace as Rushden & Diamonds made easy work of dispatching a woeful Southend side in an entertaining encounter at Nene Park.

Paul Hall also got on the score sheet for the Diamonds to round off the victory while Billy Turley showed why he is one of the best goalkeepers in the Third Division with his second penalty save of the season.

Diamonds boss Brian Talbot made two changes to the starting line-up that were defeated against Cambridge United last week, as the Northamptonshire side looked to maintain their impressive start to the season.

Mark Peters started his first game of the season and partnered Barry Hunter in the centre of defence. Andy Tillson, who had been struggling with an injury prior to the game, was left out of the side while John Dempster was amongst the substitutes.

Stuart Wardley returned to the side and partnered Gary Mills in the centre of midfielder meaning Gray was pushed out on the left wing leaving Andy Burgess on the bench.

Southend United boss Rob Newman had the luxury of naming an unchanged line-up from the one that began proceedings against Rochdale meaning Mark Rawle and Graeme Jones started in attack.

The game started at a slow pace but on three minutes, following some good play in midfield, Mills found time and space outside the Southend penalty area to strike a shot which beat goalkeeper Darryl Flahavan but rattled the crossbar.

But on eight minutes, Diamonds took the lead. Onandi Lowe displayed his powerful pace to beat Southend defender Stephen Broad for pace.

The Jamaican international was then brought down in the penalty area by the Southend defender in which the linesman flagged for a penalty. Gray had no hesitation from the spot and blasted it past Flahavan.

After 15 minutes: Diamonds 1 Southend 0

Diamonds continued to attack the Southend goal, with the visitors really struggling to get out of the blocks. Billy Turley hadn’t had any notable save in the opening 20 minutes.

Duane Darby was unlucky not to connect with a diving header when Paul Underwood sent over a cross from the left. Diamonds continued to look the stronger side.

Lowe tried his luck from around 40-yards that flew inches wide of the post as chances remained few and far between.

After 30 minutes: Diamonds 1 Southend 0

But then, out of the blue, on 33 minutes, Diamonds extended their lead. Darby found Hall out on the right and the Jamaican international midfielder delivered an excellent cross for Gray to volley past Flahavan for his second goal of the game.

Just moments later, Southend nearly reduced the lead when Neil Jenkins’ shot brought out a reflex save from Billy Turley, with their first shot of the game.

Wardley headed inches wide on 41 minutes as Diamonds continued to be the only side in this game. Southend were really struggling to mount any serious challenge on the Diamonds goal and their attacks were rare.

Hall floated a free-kick over the wall on 44 minutes but it failed to trouble Flahavan while Rawle hit the side netting moments before the half-time whistle.

At half-time: Diamonds 2 Southend 0

The Diamonds came storming out of the blocks in the second half and for the second time in the match Mills drove forward an beat Flahavan but brush the outside of a post.

Mustafa found space in the Southend defence moments later but his effort was well saved by Flahavan, who was having a busy afternoon in the visitor’s goal.

On 53 minutes, Mustafa put Hall through on goal and although the midfielder beat Flahavan, his effort was cleared off the line by the Southend defence.

After 60 minutes: Diamonds 2 Southend 0

Darby nearly got a sniff at goal when Hall put him in the clear but Broad kept his nerve in the Southend defence and denied the Diamonds striker.

Bramble should have done better when he skipped past a challenge from Mustafa but the Southend midfielder failed to get his effort on target and trouble Turley.

Lowe tried his luck from a free-kick but it went high and wide of the target and into the Peter De Banke terrace. The Diamonds remained comfortable throughout the game.

Southend were soon getting frustrated and two players went into the referee’s book in quick succession.

After 75 minutes: Diamonds 2 Southend 0

Jay Smith should have reduced Southend’s lead on 78 minutes but he was denied by an excellent save from Turley as the visitors mounted some late pressure.

But despite the late pressure from the visitors, the game was put beyond doubt as Lowe fed his international team-mate Hall, who coolly slotted home past Flahavan from 12-yards.

Southend had the chance to get a consolation when Underwood was deemed to have handled in the penalty area after Jones had a shot from inside the penalty area.

Jones steeped up to take responsibility from the spot but Turley saved his second penalty of the season as Rawle fired over the target from the rebound.

It brought and exciting end to the game as Diamonds’ unbeaten home record remained firmly intact.

Full-time: Diamonds 3 Southend 0 

Diamonds: Turley, Mustafa, Underwood, Hunter, Peters, Wardley, Darby, Gray, Mills (Bell 87), Hall, Lowe

Subs not used: Partridge, Burgess, Sollitt, Dempster

Bookings: 

Southend: Flahavan, Broad (Belgrave 74), Searle, Cort, Maher, Bramble, Rawle, Beard (Whelan 74), Jenkins (Clarke 56), Jones, Smith

Subs not used: Gay, Maye.

Bookings: Beard (72), Cort (73), Jones (75)

Referee: Trevor Parkes (West Midlands)

Attendance: 4,176

Diamonds’ MOTM: Gary Mills (Impressive performance)

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