Exeter City 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Rushden & Diamonds failed to extend their winning run, but will have been happy to earn a point at St James’ Park against high-flying Exeter City. The R&DFC fans that made the trip to Devon were rewarded with a battling performance throughout the team, and although there was a late scare when Exeter had a goal disallowed in injury time, the draw was a fair result.

Manager Westley made several changes to the starting line up seen at Nene Park on Saturday, with David Perpetuini making a start in left midfield, along with the three substitutes from Saturday, Michael Rankine, Michael Bostwick and Dino Maamria. Glenn Wilson, Chris Beardsley and Jamie Cook dropped to the bench and although Marcus Kelly travelled he didn’t make the cut for the final 16.

Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale kept the same team that won on Saturday at Kidderminster.

On a mild winter’s evening, Rushden made a bright start, having a couple of chances inside the first couple of minutes, notably a Simeon Jackson header across goal from a Michael Rankine flick-on, and then when Jackson slipped his marker a was able to angle the ball across the area, but nether Rankine or the Exeter defenders were able to get a touch.

Exeter then entered their best spell of the game, with a number of chances being created, notably one that fell to ex-Diamond Jon Challinor who hit a powerful shot which was well parried by Scott Tynan, who then athletically stretched whilst on the floor to kick the dropping ball away from danger.

Rankine was holding the ball up well, and was often able to feed Jackson, but this usually resulted in one of them being out-numbered by defenders without an outlet as there was little support from the midfield. Very little was going wide, as neither Bostwick or Perpetuini were attempting to break down the flanks. On the odd occasion they did get forwards their crossing was poor.

Exeter continued to pose the odd threat, with a powerful cross from the right by Tully being met by Mackie in a lot of space, but his header was straight at Tynan.

Diamonds best threat appeared to be on the break, and on 20 minutes a threatening Exeter move involving a Lee Elam cross which had to be scrambled clear resulted in a break for Simeon Jackson, and as he neared the penalty area he was fouled. The resulting Hatswell free kick only found the defensive wall. Exeter too had a number of freekicks in dangerous positions, but they too wasted them all.

The other possible threats to solid defences on both sides looked to be the pitch, with a number of odd bounces. Jon Challinor and Jamie Mackie rarely threatened, and when they did get past a defender their shooting was wayward.

Diamonds were continuing to show the determination that had been so significant in their recent run, most notably demonstrated by Michael Rankine as he chased an apparent "lost cause" down the touchline and into the corner, and managed to get in a decent cross that almost found Jackson.

As half-time neared, Exeter continued to have more of the possession but with little end-product, and indeed in first half stoppage time a decent chance fell from a free kick taken by Wayne Carlisle to Centre Back Rob Edwards, but his header sailed over the bar.

Half-time: Exeter City 0 – 0 Rushden & Diamonds

Neither side made any changes at the interval, and although the Exeter fans would have expected their team to come out fired up, it was the Diamonds who showed an improvement early on in the half, with Dino Maamria being subjected to a number of fouls as he tried to push forwards.

The only scare for the team in blue during this period came when Mark Albrighton made an uncharacteristic error, stepping over a low cross into the box, but luckily Jamie Mackie wasn’t sufficiently alert, and Chris Hope cleared the danger for a corner.

The game continued to be very stop-start, with both sides willing to concede throw-ins at will, as well as a number of free kicks. However, on the hour Diamonds had the best attempt on goal of the game, as the ball fell to Michael Rankine about 12 yards out, and his powerful shot was tipped onto the bar and over by goalkeeper Paul Jones.

On 65 minutes Exeter made their first changes, with the ineffective Jamie Mackie being replaced by Richard Logan, who immediately appeared to offer a greater threat. Shortly afterwards the Diamonds defence was nearly breached as Jon Ashton allowed a ball to go over his head and present a chance to Lee Elam, but luckily the chance was wasted, giving Scott Tynan a chance to advise Ashton on how to clear such danger – perhaps a little forcibly.

The temperature was stepped up a notch, as both Hatswell and Albrighton received yellow cards at the same time – Wayne for a foul challenge, with his defensive partner clearing the ball over the stand as it ran free, but just a shade too late for Mr Linnington, who regarded that as dissent.

Dino Maamria had been continuing to suffer foul challenges throughout the half, including several from Jon Challinor, but he perhaps unwisely committed two fouls in quick succession himself, and became the third Diamonds player in the book.

On 75 minutes, Diamonds had their best chance of the half, with a break down the right involving Bostwick resulting in a ball across the edge of the area which found David Perpetuini in acres of space, but he hurried his shot and missed the goal by some margin.

The last 10 minutes were notable for the Diamonds players committing a number of unnecessary fouls, but Exeter continued to waste these opportunities. Just as the 90 minutes was up, Jamie Cook was able to make a run down the middle, and looked to be getting clear of his marker, until he came down just outside the box. Cook claimed his shorts were being pulled, but received little joy from either referee or linesman.

As the match entered injury time there was a further stoppage involving an injury to Chris Hope, and the play remained very disjointed, but there was still time for a dangerous Exeter break down the right, as Wayne Hatswell made perhaps his only mistake of the night, but although the cross towards Richard Logan was forced into the net, it was clear he had been climbing all over Jon Ashton, so the referee silenced the celebrating Exeter fans by awarding a free kick.

The match then ended goalless, a result met with a lot more celebration by the 45 travelling fans than the 3000 locals, as Diamonds once again were able to celebrate a battling draw at St James’ Park.

This was definitely a case of a point gained rather than two points lost against a decent Exeter team, and the same sort of performance will be required a Nene Park in the return fixture in a couple of weeks time.

Full-time: Exeter City 0 – 0 Rushden & Diamonds

Teams:

Exeter City (Red/ White):

Paul Jones, Steve Tully, Billy Jones, Chris Todd, Rob Edwards, Wayne Carlisle (Adam Stansfield 75), Paul Buckle, Matthew Gill (Betrand Cozic 83), Lee Elam, Jamie Mackie (Richard Logan 65), Jon Challinor

Subs not Used Martin Rice, Jon Richardson,

Rushden & Diamonds (Blue)

Scott Tynan, Jon Ashton, Wayne Hatswell, Chris Hope, Mark Albrighton, Michael Bostwick, Gary Mills, David Perpetuini, Dino Maamria, Michael Rankine (Chris Beardsley 71), Simeon Jackson (Jamie Cook 71)

Subs Not Used Martin Margarson (GK), Glenn Wilson, Jason Goodliffe,

Yellow Cards : Hatswell, Albrighton, Maamria

Referee: James Linnington

Attendance: 3135 (Away 45).

Reporters Man of the Match : Wayne Hatswell

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