Rushden & Diamonds 3 Exeter City 0

New Diamonds boss Garry Hill got his term in charge off to the perfect start with a 3-0 win against high flying Exeter City. First half goals from Simeon Jackson and Mark Albrighton, plus a wonder strike from Curtis Woodhouse after the break secured the points.

The win was a climax to a rather hectic week off the field which saw the departure of Graham Westley. Diamonds were seven games unbeaten, while 3rd placed Exeter had not lost or conceded a goal in the previous five games, dropping their only points in the 0-0 draw with Diamonds eleven days ago.

After much speculation about the team selection, suspensions and injuries played a big part in who was available. Michael Bostwick was out following his sending off at Aldershot, while Wayne Hatswell was also suspended after picking up his fifth booking. Five changes were announced to the team which started at Aldershot. Paul Watson, Michael Rankine, Marcus Kelly and new signings Curtis Woodhouse and Danny Williams all started. Jamie Cook remained side-lined with a foot injury, while Gary Mills had recovered from a toe injury. There was no place in the squad for Dino Maamria or David Perpetuini.

Grecians boss Paul Tisdale was able to field Lee Elam in midfield after serving his suspension, while former Diamond Jon Challinor was out after picking up his fifth caution in last weekends 3-0 win against Burton Albion. Richard Logan and Adam Stansfield replaced Jamie Mackie and Dean Moxey.

As Diamonds kicked-off towards the Airwair Stand, the home supporters must have wondered how much the events of the last seven days had affected the players. Exeter probably had the better of the early exchanges with a couple of corners, and Adam Stansfield nearly got behind the defence, although Scott Tynan came out quickly to claim the ball. Diamonds looked confident passing the ball around, with both Curtis Woodhouse and debutant Danny Williams showing some good touches.

Diamonds first chance fell to Woodhouse, when his shot from outside the area was deflected off a defender for a corner. Williams’s first corner for the club on 10 minutes proved to be something special. As the big players were jostling for positions at the far post, he sent a perfect ball for Simeon Jackson to nip in at the near post and guide the ball into the net.

With a midfield of Kelly, Mills, Woodhouse and Williams, Diamonds seemed to be taking control of the game, and Exeter were not allowed time on the ball to open up the defence. On 19 minutes, the lead was extended as Danny Williams won another corner on the right. Woodhouse lifted in another superb kick to the far post. Mark Albrighton had time to aim a header at goal, beating the keeper and dropping inside the far post off the underside of the bar.

Marcus Kelly was harshly yellow carded after the restart for a foul on Wayne Carlisle. Both Carlisle and Richard Logan looked capable of causing some damage, with Lee Elam’s trickery always likely to cause problems, but as the half progressed, they lacked any cutting edge, with the Diamonds defence standing firm. Diamonds were so close to a third on 26 minutes, when Kelly sent Woodhouse away down the right. He unselfishly turned the ball back to Jackson, but the attempt on goal was charged down.

Just after the half hour, Exeter nearly got one back when Tully lobbed the ball into the area. Tynan seemed to hesitate before finally coming for the ball, almost allowing Matthew Gill to sneak in. Some good movement between Logan and Carlisle saw a shot skim across the front of the goal, but the ball evaded players from both teams. Moments later, Carlisle tried to catch Diamonds out with a quick free kick, but Mills was alert and put the ball out for a corner.

With Exeter threatening more and more, it allowed Diamonds to make some quick breaks out of defence and three great chances fell in quick succession in the final five minutes of the half. Woodhouse had a shot well saved after a quick ball from Rankine sent Jackson away, and a Rankine shot from a Williams cross was just tipped away by Exeter keeper Paul Jones. Finally Jackson had a snap shot tipped over after receiving a through ball from Woodhouse.

Half-time Rushden & Diamonds  2 – 0 Exeter City

As the second half commenced, Exeter tried to recover an early goal, pressing forward at every opportunity. Carlisle put in a dangerous cross, but Tynan gathered easily. Despite the attempts to push forward, the Diamonds defenders rarely looked troubled.

On 52 minutes, Curtis Woodhouse made the game safe for Diamonds with a special goal. Michael Rankine received the ball inside the Exeter half and took it forward. As his path was blocked, he sent a cross field ball for Kelly on the left. Kelly laid the ball off with one touch to Curtis Woodhouse, who sent a stunning 20 yard volley into the back of the net.

City continued to press forward trying to get something out of the game. Stansfield had a shot tipped over by Tynan on 56 minutes, and Carlisle’s corner was nearly turned in by Rankine, his header just clearing the bar. They certainly started to have greater possession, but Diamonds were able to cope without too much difficulty. Elam continued to cause a headache but the final ball did not have the accuracy to beat the Hope and Albrighton.

Exeter made a couple of changes with Bertrand Cozic and Lee Phillips replacing Buckle and Logan in an attempt to change things around. Phillips nearly nipped in behind the defence, but Paul Watson was on hand to nod the ball back to Tynan. With 15 minutes left on the clock, Stansfield was brought down by Albrighton on the edge of the area, earning the on loan defender another yellow card, his tenth of the season. The free kick was scrambled away and the danger cleared.

Stansfield had a shot palmed away by Tynan on 77 minutes as Diamonds tried to keep a clean sheet. Both Rankine and Gill were yellow carded for some rather innocuous fouls. With 5 minutes left, Lee Tomlin was brought on for Jackson, while Rankine made way for Chris Beardsley. As Diamonds played out the remaining time, both teams had chances in added time. A Woodhouse free-kick found Beardsley clear, but his header struck the bar and away to safety. At the other end, Jamie Mackie, who had come on for Stansfield blasted a long range shot just over the bar. Tomlin also tried some fancy footwork in the box but was just unable to get a shot away before the ball was cleared.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 3 – 0 Exeter City

A great start for the new manager, who was full of praise for the two young strikers – Rankine providing the strength and Jackson the skill causing the Exeter defence problems. The score line might have been a bit harsh on the visitors, but Diamonds took their chances well and in fact could have had more. Mark Albrighton’s tenth booking will mean a suspension commencing next Saturday, but Diamonds will be looking for another battling performance against Morecambe at Nene Park next Tuesday evening.

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds – Scott Tynan, Paul Watson, Jon Ashton, Chris Hope (c), Michael Rankine (Chris Beardsley 89), Marcus Kelly, Simeon Jackson (Lee Tomlin 86), Gary Mills, Mark Albrighton, Curtis Woodhouse, Danny Williams.

Subs not used: Matt Baker(GK), Glenn Wilson, Jason Goodliffe.

Exeter City – Paul Jones, Billy Jones, Matthew Gill, Chris Todd (c), Adam Stansfield (Jamie Mackie 86), Rob Edwards, Steve Tully, Richard Logan (Lee Phillips 70), Lee Elam, Wayne Carlisle, Paul Buckle (Bertrand Cozic 58).

Subs not used: Martin Rice(GK), Jon Richardson..

Goals: Jackson 10 (1-0); Albrighton 19 (2-0); Woodhouse 52 (3-0).

Booked: Kelly (21 – foul on Carlisle); Albrighton (76 – foul on Stansfield); Rankine (83 – foul on Todd); Gill (85 – foul on Jackson).

Referee:         D.Coote (Newark)

Attendance:   2344 (351 away)

Gap Personnel Man of the Match: Curtis Woodhouse

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