Exeter City 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

By Steven Dove
Rushden & Diamonds had to make do with a share of the spoils against Exeter City this afternoon despite a fantastic second half performance where the Northamptonshire side had plenty of chances to win the game.

Exeter went into the lead after only four minutes but a fine individual goal from Duane Darby meant Brian Talbot’s side took something from this game. The only downside saw Paul Underwood hobble off in the second half.

Prior to the game, Talbot welcomed Underwood to the starting line-up. The Diamonds defender had been struggling with a groin injury that had kept him out of the side in recent weeks.

Underwood was likely to play in a striker’s role with Darby. Onandi Lowe was missing for Diamonds because of his ongoing shoulder injury whilst Robert Duffy was included on the bench.

Exeter, who included former Wolves legend Don Goodman in their side, went into this match looking for their first victory in seven games. Their winless run had seen them sink to 21st in the Third Division and cost John Cornforth his job.

Both teams made an encouraging start. Exeter carved out the first opportunity of the game when James Coppinger’s cross found Goodman, whose chest pass nearly found Steve Flack but Mark Peters made a timely tackle.

Exeter began to enjoy more of the early possession and on five minutes the deadlock was broken. Andy Roscoe’s corner was perfectly delivered for Flack to rise above the Diamonds defence and power home a close range header.

The game was certainly a scrappy affair and Diamonds were struggling to find a way through the Exeter defence. Kevin Miller, in the Exeter goal, hadn’t had a save to make.

After 15 minutes: Exeter 1 Diamonds 0

The first opportunity for Diamonds arrived on 15 minutes. Underwood’s break down the left flank enabled him to deliver a cross into the penalty area that Darby was unable to connect to despite a brave attempted header.

But Exeter continued to dominate the game. Goodman was looking impressive and on 22 minutes the Exeter striker saw a header deflected over the crossbar and out for a corner.

Billy Turley came to the rescue on 25 minutes when he was equal to a Roscoe free-kick which would have crept into the top corner of the net.

But on 28 minutes, Diamonds were back on level terms with their first attack of the game. A delightful ball from Mark Peters found Darby, who had broken from the Exeter defence to waltz past Miller and side foot a shot into an empty net.

After 30 minutes: Exeter 1 Diamonds 1

The Diamonds were still struggling to get into this encounter as Exeter continued to be the stronger outfit. On 36 minutes, Goodman went close but was denied by a flying save from Turley.

However on 41 minutes, Diamonds nearly took the lead. Gary Setchell’s cross nearly found Darby but as the ball flew across the penalty box, Hall nearly snuck a shot at the back post but Miller reacted quickly.

As the half came to a close, Diamonds were, for the first time in the game, looking the stronger outfit and Underwood went close to giving his side a half-time lead.

Darby went close in the closing stages of the half while Exeter suffered a blow with Goodman forcing to go off with an injury. But both teams went in all square at the interval after an enjoyable 45 minutes of play.

After 45 minutes: Exeter 1 Diamonds 1

Diamonds started the second half brightly. Just a minute into the restart, Underwood delivered a cross from the left flank that Darby failed to direct a header on target.

On 52 minutes, Exeter should have taken the lead. Justin Walker skipped past a challenge from Setchell to leave substitute Reinier Moor with an empty net but he somehow hit his shot over the crossbar.

But just a minute later, Miller kept Exeter in the match with a breathtaking save. Turley’s free-kick found Hall who side-footed a pass to Underwood. But the Diamonds captain was only denied by an excellent reflex save from the Exeter shot-stopper.

Diamonds were now sustaining much of the pressure on the home-sides defence and a Hall corner on 59 minutes nearly caused confusion amongst the Exeter defence.

After 60 minutes: Exeter 1 Diamonds 1

On 61 minutes, Gray was gifted with a good opportunity at the far post but the former Reading and Celtic midfielder scuffed his opportunity high and wide after Hall delivered an inch perfect cross.

Then just a minutes later, Turley’s superb reflex save denied Moor, who had done everything right as he hit a shot from outside the penalty area.

There were problems for Diamonds on 65 minutes as Underwood went down to the deck clutching his leg. The Diamonds skipper later replaced by Duffy for his first taste of first-team action this season.

On 72 minutes, Peters made a vital stop from Kwame Ampadu when the Exeter midfielder made a pacey midfielder burst into the box. Moments later, Walker tried an effort from long range but it drifted wide of the goal.

After 75 minutes: Exeter 1 Diamonds 1

This game was swinging from one way to the other in the closing stages. On 78 minutes Hall went close then just moments later Flack saw a header go inches wide for the home side.

Wardley saw a volley blocked by the Exeter defence on 83 minutes as both sides continued to attack in this breathtaking second half whilst Mustafa somehow managed to keep the ball out of his own goal following a dangerous cross.

Both sides threw bodies forward in the closing stages but a point apiece was a fair reflection of an entertaining afternoon of football in Devon.

Exeter: Miller, Whitworth, Walker (Lock 90) , Simpkins, Hiley, Roscoe (Ampadu 69), Flack, Gaia, Goodman (Moor 45), Coppinger, Cronin.

Subs not used: Fraser, Power.

Bookings: Goodman (9), Cronin (69)

Diamonds: Turley, Mustafa, Underwood (Duffy 67), Hunter, Peters, Wardley, Darby (Talbot 82), Gray, Mills, Setchell, Hall.

Subs not used: Sollitt, Bell, Dempster.

Bookings: Setchell (24), Talbot (90)

Referee: Mr. Ray Olivier (West Midlands)

Attendance: 2,884

Diamonds’ MOTM: Duane Darby (Hard working performance)

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