Rushden & Diamonds 1 Grays Athletic 3

Diamonds suffered a second consecutive Conference defeat when they were clinically beaten by Grays Athletic at Nene Park

 

Glenn Poole opened the scoring before Michael Rankine equalised. Aaron Mclean regained the lead for the visitors before Michael Kightly’s late stunner wrapped up the points.

 

After defeat in their first game back in the Conference, Diamonds boss Paul Hart named an unchanged team from that which lost disappointingly at Crawley Town. Goalkeeper Nicky Eyre was facing the team that he left just three weeks ago.

 

Grays Athletic enjoyed a superb debut season in the Conference losing to Halifax Town in the play-offs but retaining the F A Trophy in the process. Manager Frank Gray named the same team that drew 1-1 against newcomers Stafford Rangers at the weekend. Although John Turner failed to make the squad through injury, former Diamonds Ashley Nicholls and Andy Sambrook were both named in the Grays starting line-up.

 

Diamonds had a great chance to take an early lead after just 90 seconds when Leo Fortune-West flicked on Eyre’s long clearance to Michael Rankine but Ashley Bayes got down well to produce a fine one handed save.

 

Moments later Dave Savage saw his shot blocked after the ball ran free via Marcus Kelly.

 

Diamonds had started well and were knocking the ball around with confidence. Not surprisingly, both teams were committed to the cause and Daniel Chillingworth received a long lecture from referee Fletcher for a very late tackle on Adam Green.

 

Chillingworth responded with a fine long range shot which was superbly turned away by Bayes diving to his right while on 8 minutes Rushden had the ball in the net but Rankine’s close range shot was ruled out for offside.

 

The visitor’s first real attack came a minute later but ex- Diamond Nicholls saw his close range effort blocked by the home defence. Grays were getting more into the game and Glenn Poole’s 25-yard shot was comfortably tipped over the bar by Eyre before the same player blazed over from a similar distance on 15 minutes.

 

Grays were looking the more likely to score at this stage and 11 minutes later captain Jamie Stuart was guilty of a bad miss when he shot over after the ball rebounded kindly off Michael Kightly’s back.

 

Following a break from Aaron McLean, the visitors took a 29th minute lead. The nippy winger reached the edge of the area before being denied by a superb double block from Glenn Wilson and Wayne Hatswell but the ball ran into the path of Poole on the left and he drilled the ball into the far corner of the net. 

 

Diamonds were guilty of a glaring miss two minutes later. Great interplay between Kelly and Paul Watson allowed the Diamonds left back to pick out the unmarked Rankine but the striker failed to find the target with a free header.

 

However, the former Alfreton striker made amends three minutes from the interval. Referee Fletcher played a good advantage after Kelly had been flattened by Sambrook but the ball ran onto Chillingworth who then found Wilson on the right. The defender produced an excellent cross which Rankine gleefully headed past the despairing Bayes.

 

 

Half-time Rushden & Diamonds            1 – 1 Grays Athletic

 

It was a scrappy opening to the second period but Savage, having one of his best games in a Rushden shirt, forced a fine diving save from Bayes who did well to palm the ball away for a corner.

 

On 56 minutes, Rushden’s club captain almost got on the scoresheet after Chris Hope’s free kick rebounded from the visitor’s wall. Savage took the chance to turn well but his shot was saved comfortably by the well placed Bayes.

 

The Essex side regained the lead on 59 minutes with a well worked set piece. Kightly’s left wing corner was headed back across goal by Jamie Stuart and Eyre was given absolutely no chance when he was beaten by a bullet header from Mclean.

 

Diamonds were finding it hard to break through Grays defence although Kelly

saw a shot blocked midway through the second half. On 70 minutes, Savage burst into the area and received a fine lay off from Chillingworth but the midfielder was denied again by a brilliant save from Bayes who somehow turned the ball over the bar.

 

At the other end, Poole broke dangerously on the left only to find the side netting but that didn’t matter seven minutes from time when the visitors sealed the points with a goal out of nothing. Kightly collected the ball 25-yards out before unleashing an unstoppable shot past Eyre and into the top left hand corner.

 

Diamonds tried to get back into the game but despite the best efforts of substitute Simeon Jackson they had to accept their second consecutive defeat at the hands of a side that will be surely challenging for honours come the season end.

 

Teams:

 

 

Rushden & Diamonds: -  Nicky Eyre, Glenn Wilson, Paul Watson, Jon Ashton, Chris Hope (c) Wayne Hatswell, Dave Savage, Michael Rankine, Leo Fortune-West (Simeon Jackson 80), Daniel Chillingworth (Tyrone Berry 73), Marcus Kelly

 

Subs Not Used: Danny Crane, Lee Tomlin, Andrew Rigby.

 

Grays Athletic – Ashley Bayes, Andy Sambrook, Adam Green, Jamie Stuart (c), Lee Boylan (Dennis Oli 77), John Martin, Aaron McLean, Michael Kightly, Jay Smith, Ashley Nicholls, Glenn Poole.

 

Subs Not Used: Danny Knowles, Tom Williamson, Nathan Moulds, Jamie Slabber.

 

Booked: Hatswell 16 (Foul), Sambrook 42 (Foul), Boylan 72 (Foul)

 

Sent off:

 

Referee: Mr R Fletcher

 

Attendance: 2,015 (Away fans 93)

 

Diamonds Men of the Match: Dave Savage

 

 

By Chris Barritt 

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