Lincoln City 1 Rushden & Diamonds 3

Diamonds recorded a fine victory at a warm Sincil bank to record their first league win this season.All three goals came from the Diamonds summer signings as Kevin Braniff, Alex Hay and Craig Dove all found the back off the net.

Ernie Tippett kept faith in the same starting line-up that played in the 1-0 defeat at Northampton Town on Tuesday whilst home boss Keith Alexander made one change with Marcus Richardson replacing Simon Yeo who was left on the bench along with Adrian Littlejohn, a midweek signing for the Imps.

Both sides started brightly but it was Diamonds who forced the first corner of the half inside the first three minutes.Craig Dove’s kick was launched into the six-yard-box before falling to Stuart Gray who blasted his effort over Alan Marriott’s crossbar.The Imps then saw former Diamond and Poppies midfielder Richard Butcher shoot from 25 yards, but just like Gray’s effort four minutes earlier, it flew over Billy Turley’s goal.

Despite plenty of midfield play neither side could find a way through in the final third in the opening quarter of the first half but gradually both sides managed to create some opportunities with Diamonds creating perhaps the brightest opening.Dove’s through pass found Kevin Braniff who was able to run free into the home side’s box where Paul Morgan managed to make a timely intervention.A minute later Gareth Taylor-Fletcher found space as Diamonds defence was stretched but his cross eluded the home frontline.Gary Mills then placed a shot from distance just over the bar with Marriott off his line.

With 29 minutes gone Michael Blackwood’s corner from the Diamonds left found Richardson but his header from the centre of the box went over the bar.Three minutes later Dove, who impressed on the right of midfield, placed a long diagonal pass across the field to Gray who got in ahead of Butcher, however Marriott rushed out in time to prevent a chance for the Diamonds skipper.Dove later took his corner short to Mills who found Braniff in the centre who pulled off his defender and connected well but his shot went just over the bar.

Tippett’s men were much more impressive going forward than in recent games and managed to take the lead with seven minutes of the first half remaining.Sean Connelly’s scissor kick from just inside the Diamonds own half found Andy Burgess on the left who controlled well before finding Braniff who placed a long low shot in the back of Marriott’s net at the keeper’s far right post.It was the first competitive goal for Braniff in a Diamonds shirt and the first goal Diamonds had managed to score in over 650 minutes of league football.

The visitors threatened further before the break with Dove finding his shot blocked by Morgan before Braniff’s ball across goal fell too far ahead of Hay giving Marriott the chance to smother the ball.

In an attempt to get back into the game the Imps replaced Francis Green with Simon Yeo at the start of the second half.The home side made a positive start as a cross into the area wasn’t cleared by the Diamonds defence and allowed Butcher the chance to head wide of Turley’s goal.Moments later Taylor-Fletcher’s cross from the right left Turley helpless but Richardson’s shot from 6 yards deflected off the post.Diamonds battled hard to prevent being overrun and Braniff’s header from a Dove corner offered some hope.

Tippett’s men were unable to thwart the early threat of the Imps though as Taylor-Fletcher found his way through to score on 54 minutes.Imps placed a long ball upfield which the goal scorer managed to get onto and beat the offside trap before slotting home a wonderful strike past the helpless Turley from just inside the left of the Diamonds area.It was Taylor-Fletcher’s third goal of the season as he maintained his impressive goal scoring record.Taylor-Fletcher then had another bright opening as he raced through the Diamonds defence again but this time he failed to test Turley with 62 minutes gone.

Lincoln looked increasingly impressive as the second half progressed but Diamonds still threatened on the break.Burgess’ through ball on 68 minutes found the on-rushing Hay in the area who managed to make a smart finish with his right foot past Marriott to restore Diamonds lead.Two minutes later Hay’s pressure created another opening but Marriott made a desperate save as he dashed out of his goal to dampen out any threat as Tippett’s men looked to further their lead.

The Imps struggled to re-establish themselves following the goal although Yeo’s cross almost found substitute Gareth McAuley as it swept across goal with 12 minutes to go.The home side’s cause was further weakened when, having used all three substitutes, Paul Morgan had to leave the field on a stretcher meaning that the Diamonds played against ten men for the closing stages of the game.

Diamonds saw an effort from Dove forced just wide after Braniff’s right wing cross with five minutes to go as they looked to take advantage of their extra man.The advantage told with just a minute or normal time to go as Braniff found Dove who cut inside and stuck a shot with his left foot which deflected and found its way into the Imps goal to give the Diamonds a comfortable cushion and cue a mad dash towards the exits by the home fans.

Dove’s strike proved to be enough to seal the victory for Diamonds.After struggling to find the net in the league since April before this game, Tippett’s men found no such problem at Sincil Bank to record a very welcome and morale boosting victory, the first this season and the first under the management of Ernie Tippett.

TEAMS:

Lincoln City:Marriott, Weaver, Morgan, Futcher, West (Sub McAuley 75), Butcher, Gain, Blackwood, Taylor-Fletcher, Richardson (Sub Littlejohn 60), Green (Sub Yeo 46).Subs not used: Toner, Peat.

Rushden & Diamonds: Turley, Connelly, Allen, Gulliver, Hawkins, Mills, Gray, Burgess, Dove, Braniff, Hay.Subs: Worgan, Dempster, Sambrook, Kelly, Jackson.

Goals: Braniff (38), Taylor-Fletcher (54), Hay (68), Dove (89)

Man of the Match: Kevin Braniff

Attendance: 4017 (257 away)

Referee: Mr C W Oliver

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