Exeter City 2 Rushden & Diamonds 2

Diamonds had to settle for a draw in an entertaining game at St.James’ Park. Simeon Jackson scored twice early in the second half after a Wayne Hatswell own goal had given the home side a first half lead. Jamie Mackie got the home side level again, with Diamonds holding out under pressure during the closing moments.

 

With manager Garry Hill still serving his suspension, assistant Kevin Hales again took charge. There was just one change to the starting line-up from the previous Saturday’s defeat against Forest Green Rovers, with Phil Gulliver replacing Simon Rusk in the back four. Gulliver and Wayne Hatswell line-up in the centre, while Chris Hope moved out to the right side. Abdelhalim El Kholti had recovered from injury to take his place on the bench. Midfielder Jon Challinor was returning to his former club for the first time since his departure in the summer.

 

Grecians manager Paul Tisdale made two changes from his side which drew 0 – 0 at Northwich Victoria last weekend. Adam Stansfield and Lee Elam were dropped to the bench, with Wayne Carlisle and Jamie Mackie starting.

 

Both sides started cautiously with an equal amount of possession, but Diamonds were pushing forward and had a couple of early chances. Andy Burgess had a shot deflected for a corner in the opening few minutes, and then had a really good chance to open the scoring on 12 minutes when he headed over Dean Howell’s cross from 10 yards after the full back had made a surging run down the left.

 

Almost immediately, Exeter took the lead. From the goal kick, Richard Logan took the ball into the Diamonds half, and sent a through ball right to Jamie Mackie. His cross was met by Wayne Hatswell, who was caught in two minds and headed the ball past Paul Nicholls to give the home side the lead.

 

Until the goal, Diamonds had been holding their own, and the home side seemed fairly lacking in ideas during the opening 25 minutes. Wayne Hatswell was having a private battle with Jamie Mackie which earned him a yellow card when he brought him down 10 yards outside the area. Matthew Gill’s free-kick found Dean Moxey, but Nicholls was alert and saved at the near post. Moments later, Nicholls was guilty of a poor clearance throwing out to Matthew Gill. The midfielder ran towards goal, but both Challinor and Gulliver challenged and cleared, the referee ignoring appeals for a penalty.

 

Andy Burgess had started off on the right side of midfield, but after switching to the left side just before the half hour, Diamonds looked far more dangerous. On 29 minutes, Exeter were caught napping from a free-kick. Howell passed to Marcus Kelly who ran towards goal and shot from 25 yards, striking the post. Diamonds were having their best period with keeper Andy Marriott saving Chris Hope’s flicked header, Matthew Taylor blocking a Challinor shot and Simeon Jackson heading over from an Andy Burgess cross.  At the other end, George Friend headed wide but Diamonds continued to press forward with Challinor heading wide just before the half time whistle.

 

Half-time: Exeter City 1 – 0 Rushden & Diamonds

 

Encouraged by the final fifteen minutes of the first half, Burgess continued on the left, with Kelly seemingly having more freedom on the right. Chris Hope was moving forward at every opportunity. Martin Foster received a yellow card from referee Darren Sheldrake for an innocuous challenge, having been warned in the first half.

 

Diamonds got back on level terms after 52 minutes when Phil Gulliver headed the ball forward from the halfway line. Craig McAllister flicked the ball on for Simeon Jackson to head past Marriott. They were starting to take control and were first to nearly every ball. Just three minutes later, Jackson got clear on the right and passed back to Chris Hope who was supporting well. Hope’s cross was controlled well by Kelly in the area, and he turned and shot against the foot of the post, the ball bouncing out to safety.

 

Moments later on 56 minutes with the Exeter defence under siege, the ball was played forward to Simeon Jackson in the area who had space to fire a shot at goal. Marriott did well to block the shot, but the ball rebounded straight back to Jackson who made no mistake with the second effort. Diamonds were playing the best football they had played all season and every time they went forward, looked likely to get another goal.

 

Chris Hope had a header blocked as Diamonds tried to make the game safe, but on 64 minutes against the run of play, another defensive error handed Exeter an equaliser. A long ball out of defence led to hesitation between Phil Gulliver and Paul Nicholls. Jamie Mackie nipped in and shot past Nicholls, his shot striking the post. Wayne Carlisle followed up on the right side and fired in a shot which went across the goal and found Mackie on the other side and fired a shot past the helpless Nicholls from 12 yards.

 

The goal gave the home side more confidence and ended Diamonds dominance during the opening period of the second half. Challinor had a shot deflected for a corner on 66 minutes, but Matthew Gill shot wide for the home side and Nicholls did well to gather a dangerous cross from Jon Richardson.

 

Diamonds came under more pressure during the final 10 minutes, and Chris Hope became the third player to enter the referee’s notebook after kicking the ball away. Adam Stansfield came on for George Friend as Exeter put three up front, and it was Stansfield who had a great chance five minutes from time but fired his shot across goal after getting clear on the right.  Stansfield had another chance as the clock ticked down, slicing a shot wide. Steve Basham came on to provide even more firepower and the former Oxford striker had the chance to get the winner in the 89th minute. Adam Stansfield provided him with the perfect cross, but an amazing one handed save from Paul Nicholls denied him a goal. In the final few seconds, Rankine blocked another shot from Basham and Diamonds were relieved when the final whistle blew.

 

Full-time: Exeter City 2 – 2 Rushden & Diamonds

 

Two defensive errors cost Diamonds dearly in a game they should have gone on to win after Jackson’s double in four second half minutes. At times, they played some of their best football of the season and when Andy Burgess switched to left, they looked far more dangerous going forward. They could have got another before the Grecian’s equalised, but with the home side putting Diamonds under a lot of pressure in the final few minutes, perhaps a draw was a fair result. For those that braved the long trip down to Devon, it was an encouraging performance and one hopes they can improve on their home displays in next Saturday’s FA Cup tie against Solihull Moors.

 

Teams:

Exeter City – Marriott, Friend (Stansfield 79), Gill (c), Mackie, Carlisle, Cozic, Edwards, Taylor, Richardson, Logan (Basham 85), Moxey.

Subs not used: Jones, Tully, Elam.

 

Rushden & Diamonds – Nicholls, Gulliver, Hope (c), Hatswell (El Kholti 74), Challinor, McAllister (Rankine 78), Jackson, Burgess, Foster, Kelly (Shaw 90), Howell.

Subs not used: Bastock, Malcolm.

 

Goals: Hatswell-og 13 (1-0), Jackson 52 (1-1),

           Jackson 56 (1-2), Mackie 64 (2-2).

 

Booked: Hatswell 26 (foul), Foster 50 (foul),

              Hope 81 (unsporting behaviour).

 

Referee: Mr D.Sheldrake (Surrey)

 

Attendance: 3106 (55 away).

 

Reporters Man of the Match: Marcus Kelly.

 

 

By Dave Mason

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