Rushden & Diamonds 3 Exeter City 0

 

Rushden & Diamonds reached the third round of the FA Carlsberg Trophy with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Exeter City in an entertaining match at Nene Park, maintaining their 100% record at Nene Park over the Devon Club. Once again those fans who invested in watching the Diamonds in a Cup Game at Nene Park were rewarded with goals and an excellent performance.

Manager Hill made two changes to the sixteen that lined up last weekend against Salisbury with Simeon Jackson returning in place of Marcus Kelly, with Lee Tomlin moving to left midfield, and Martyn Margarson returned to the bench.

Exeter manager Paul Tisdale also made changes to the team that lost 1-0 at local rivals Torquay United on New Year’s Day, prior to their 11 day break, with neither Jamie Mackie or Andy Marriott in the squad.

As a low winter sun set over Nene Park to end a sunny winter afternoon the Grecians won the toss and elected to let Diamonds kick off with the sun in their faces – towards the Peter De Banke terrace. Credit must go to the groundstaff for preparing a pitch that showed no signs of the heavy rain that had fallen in the past 36 hours.

The Grecians had some initial pressure, forcing a couple of early corners, but from when the Diamonds forced their first corner on seven minutes it became one-way traffic for the remainder of the half.

This corner resulted in Curtis Woodhouse feeding Michael Rankine in a great position, but he dwelt too long on the ball, and although the blocked shot rebound back to him, he dwelt too long for a second time and the ball was cleared to safety.

Lee Tomlin was causing all kinds of threats down the left, with his running and his willingness to take the ball first time and move forwards towards goal, and it was from one of these runs that a corner was conceded on the right hand side after 9 minutes. Kelly hit a looping corner high across the area, Gulliver headed back to find Wayne Hatswell in space on the edge of the box, but his shot was just wide of the left-hand post.

Bertie Cozic picked up the first yellow of the game as he struggled to counter the threat of Tomlin, and it was the birthday-boy Tomlin who again got in a great cross from the left to find Rankine, but his header looped across the goal.

Both the Diamonds full backs were also presenting a threat going forwards, with Curtis Osano beating two men in a run that resulted in a corner, and from that kick Wayne Hatswell saw another effort, this time a header, well caught by Jones.

On 18 minutes an even nearer miss came when Tomlin and Burgess linked well down the left, and fed the overlapping Howell. His cross found Lee Hales, who hit a powerful shot from the edge of the box, which was half blocked, and although the ball was then knocked in the net by Tomlin the flag was already up for offside.

The chances were coming on a regular basis at this point, with a Simeon Jackson attempt with his left foot missing narrowly to the right of the goal after good work by Rankine to flick on a Bastock punt.

The Exeter threat was very rare at this point, with Hatswell and Gulliver having great games, although Paul Bastock did well to get his fingertips to a low cross from Stansfield from the left, just foiling the run of Wayne Carlisle. Curtis Woodhouse picked up a yellow card for a tackle in midfield to even up the card count.

On 26 minutes Hatswell narrowly missed with a header from a corner, and a minute later Michael Rankine could only head over an Andy Burgess cross after a sublime crossfield ball from Lee Tomlin.

On 28 minutes came the breakthrough that the Diamonds play deserved. A Diamonds corner on the right was headed out of the area to about 25 yards out, not far from the left hand edge of the "D", and Lee Hales hit a dipping volley which Jones did well to get a hand to, but he could only help it into the top right hand corner of his net. Such a spectacular goal was perhaps what was needed after so many easier chances had not been converted.

Curtis Woodhouse was another of many Diamonds players who was having a great game, and his surging run latched on to a great through ball from Lee Tomlin, hit on the volley from a Bastock clearance. The resultant cross found Michael Rankine with his back to goal, and as he superbly turned his man it looked like all of the hard work had been done, but he was unable to regain sufficient balance to hit a telling shot.

Andy Burgess forced a corner on 35 minutes as he helped on a long ball from Phil Gulliver, forcing Rob Edwards to concede a corner. Again the corner was half cleared, this time to Lee Hales in the right channel just outside the box, and he was able to change feet with a deft left and right flick and prod the ball to Andy Burgess in space just outside the left edge of the box, and he hit a dipping shot which again found the right hand corner of the net.

Again, the 2-0 lead was no more than the Diamonds deserved, although they did have one scare when Phil Gulliver appeared to hold down Cozic just outside the box, but the Carlisle freekick was well over the bar.

A further cross by Andy Burgess resulted after a marvellous move in which he fed Lee Tomlin with a great reverse ball, and Tomlin similarly showed great vision to return the complement. The cross found Michael Rankine, but his header was deflected wide.

So the half ended with the Diamonds team applauded off the pitch after another great cup performance at Nene Park, with all eleven players making a contribution to the team effort.

Half time: Rushden & Diamonds 2 Exeter City 0

The Grecians made one change was made at half-time, bringing on Steve Basham for Richard Logan, and again they started the half more brightly, but the Diamonds defence continued to have an excellent afternoon mopping up any threat on goal.

Curtis Osano showed great skill with a run past several defenders and a shot that was unfortunate to be deflected over the bar. Michael Rankine was holding the ball up well, and twice fed in Simeon Jackson, with the second of these runs resulting in a penalty claim.

The Diamonds won a free kick on the edge of the area on 53 minutes, with Wayne Hatswell again getting forward to hit a powerful shot just over the bar.

Wayne Carlisle continued to do his best to try to help the Exeter strike pair, but his shot went across the area with neither of them getting the touch needed.

Lee Tomlin was taken off to great applause on 65 minutes, and he will be able to reflect on another impressive performance as he celebrates his birthday this evening. Marcus Kelly resumed his role on the left.

On 73 minutes Simeon Jackson and Kelly combined, after a Rankine flick-on and the winger was able to cut into the area, but his right foot shot was straight at Jones.

Another Rankine flick-on on 79 minutes saw Simeon Jackson running through on goal, only to be tackled to the ground by Jon Richardson. The only decision to be made was whether it was a foul, and once referee Rushton decided it was then the inevitable red card followed.

Phil Gulliver had a go with the freekick this time, but his powerful shot was wide of the left-hand post.

The 10 man Exeter side tried to continue pressing forwards by playing three at the back, but on 83 minutes the game was over when a Hatswell freekick on the half-way line found Andy Burgess on the left. He combined with Marcus Kelly, and their one-two allowed the winger to break into the area and switch the ball back onto his left foot as his marker floundered, and hit a shot past Jones to make it 3-0.

The Exeter fans nearly all showed sporting appreciation for Jon Challinor as he replaced Simeon Jackson, and apart from one last chance for Michael Rankine as he was allowed to play on from what looked an offside position, and a good save from Paul Bastock from Welsh International Rob Edwards’ free-kick, the match ended 3-0.

So, a deserved win for the Diamonds with all of those on the pitch putting in worthy performances, and the manager also getting the credit for his formation change and playing Lee Tomlin wide left. He will be especially happy to see the three goals coming from midfield as for the second game running his strikeforce had plenty of chances without getting the desired ratio of goals.

The excellent cup form at Nene Park will perhaps get another opportunity this season as the Diamonds await Monday’s draw, but next weekend it will be back to league action at Crawley. The third round of the FA Trophy is on 2nd February, so the planned game at Burton that day will need to be rearranged.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 3 Exeter City 0

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (White):

Paul Bastock, Curtis Osano, Dean Howell, Wayne Hatswell, Phil Gulliver, Lee Hales (Tom Shaw 88), Andy Burgess, Curtis Woodhouse, Simeon Jackson (Jon Challinor 84), Lee Tomlin (Marcus Kelly 65), Michael Rankine

Subs Not Used: Chris Hope, Lawrence Lambley

Exeter City (Blue) : Paul Jones, Steve Tully, George Friend, Matt Gill, Adam Stansfield, Wayne Carlisle, Bertie Cozic (Ryan Harley 70), Rob Edwards, John Richardson, Richard Logan (Steve Basham 45), Dean Moxey (Liam Sercombe 59)

Subs Not Used : Andy Taylor, Lee Elam

Goals: Hales (28), Burgess 36), Kelly (84)

Yellow Cards: Cozic, Woodhouse

Red Card: Richardson

Referee: Mr S Rushton

Attendance: 1098 (Away 147).

Man of the Match nominated by Alan Bailey : Wayne Hatswell

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