Rushden & Diamonds 0 Exeter City 2

 

Rushden & Diamonds failed to make it four wins in a week as Exeter City kept up their challenge for the play-offs with a 2-0 victory over the Diamonds, their first victory at Nene Park.

Diamonds Manager Garry Hill made four changes from the team that defeated Torquay United two days earlier, with Abdou El-Kholti, Andy Gooding, Michael Corcoran and Lee Tomlin returning to the side.

Grecian’s manager Paul Tisdale left top scorer Richard Logan on the bench, starting with Adam Stansfield and Steve Basham up front.

The Diamonds kicked off towards the AirWair end, and started the game very brightly, making all of the early running with some direct play through the middle. Michael Rankine quickly started making himself space, and he won a free kick in a dangerous position on three minutes as he was fouled by Seabourne. Andy Gooding was given the responsibility of trying to make something of a free kick 20 yards out, but he could only hit the ball into the wall and the danger was cleared.

Two minutes later Chris Hope’s ball forwards was flicked on by Lee Tomlin finding Michael Rankine in space, but although he controlled the ball well, his shot went wide of the left hand post.

A minute later Rankine had another chance to reward Diamonds early pressure with a goal, as he showed great ball control with a long ball from Andy Gooding, but again his finishing let him down as he blazed over the bar.

It was thus against the run of play that Exeter took the lead on 9 minutes. Good work in midfield by Rob Edwards saw Steve Basham in a great shooting position on the edge of the box. Mikkel Anderson appeared to get down well to save the powerfully hit shot, but he could only knock it towards the corner of the 6-yard box, allowing Adam Stansfield to run on and knock the ball across the line from a narrow angle, with the linesman on the North Stand side confirming that the ball had crossed the line.

The Grecians fans appealed for a penalty a few minutes later as the ball struck Michael Corcoran in the area, but referee Coote dismissed the claims.

Andy Burgess had moved into third place in the all-time Diamonds appearance list by playing in this game, and he came close with a left foot shot after good play by Curtis Woodhouse, but might have done better than a rather weak header after El Kholti and Howell combined on the left for Howell to hit a dangerous looking cross.

The Diamonds had a scare when a mix-up between Woodhouse and Andersen saw a back-pass almost intercepted by Stansfield, but the Diamonds goalie showed his worth a minute later as a poor Corcoran clearance resulted in a chance for Wayne Carlisle, and his powerful shot was tipped over the bar by the Danish keeper.

The game remained fairly even for the remainder of the half, with Andy Burgess again showing his skill on 39 minutes as he beat two men just outside of the box and found Abdou El-Kholti in space on the left, but he could only win a corner with his attempt on goal.

Gooding and Burgess combined with a snappy one-two a minute later, but Lee Tomlin’s shot hit a defender. As half time approached Tomlin had a chance to get the equaliser in a similar fashion to Thursday evening, but on this occasion his well hit shot was caught by the excellent Paul Jones in the Exeter goal.

There was just time for a Curtis Woodhouse cross to elude everyone after two attempts at capitalising on the Rankine long throw on the left saw him fed the ball by Lee Tomlin on the right.

The half ended with Diamonds perhaps feeling that they had done enough to go in level at the break, but it was the Grecians that held the half-time lead.

Half time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Exeter City 1

Unlike Thursday evening, the Diamonds second half showing did not match what they had showed in the first – perhaps a sign that the four games in the past week were taking their toll.

Adam Stansfield was getting a lot of freedom on the right side, and Dean Moxey should have done better with his free header on the end of a Stansfield cross. This was then followed by a series of corners and half-chances to the visitors, but they did not trouble Andersen.

At the other end a Rankine long throw was knocked out for a corner by Friend, and the Burgess corner wasn’t gather by Jones, falling to Chris Hope, but his shot was rather weak.

Lee Tomlin was only getting into the game on rare occasions, and when he did it was mostly outside of the box, as on the hour he ran on to a quick free-kick taken by Andy Burgess on the right, got to the byline, and hit what looked like an excellent cross, low and hard into the 6 yard box, but although Michael Rankine got his head to the cross he couldn’t divert the ball into the goal for the equaliser.

A Moxey corner for Exeter saw Matt Taylor head over after he escaped from his marker, as the Diamonds defence started to come under more pressure at a time they needed to be threatening at the other end. Recognising this, Manager Hill decided to bring on Sam Smith for Chris Hope, but this move quickly backfired. Initially it looked like Abdou El-Kholti might drop back to allow Dean Howell to move into the middle, but as they tried to sort this out Adam Stansfield took advantage to reach the by-line on that side, and hit a powerful low cross for Ryan Harley to ghost in and knock the ball easily past the stranded Andersen.

This second goal confirmed that Diamonds would play with three at the back, but their tactics were almost immediately forced to change following an incident when Michael Rankine ran on to a long ball to challenge with Jones. The big striker took a blow to the head which required him to be stretchered off after a three minute delay. Ex-Grecian Jon Challinor came on to replace him, but he had to watch as most of the action was now in front of the Grecians fans as their team looked like increasing their lead. Poor finishes by Moxey, Harley and Carlisle meant that the scoreline remained 2-0, and Michael Corcoran had to pick up a yellow card to thwart a run on goal by Adam Stansfield.

As promised, Garry Hill also gave a chance to Jake Beecroft, as he replaced Curtis Woodhouse, and he was part of the only real chance the Diamonds had to reduce the deficit as he latched on to a pass from Lee Tomlin to feed Andy Burgess, but the shot could only force a corner.

There was still time for two further excellent chances for the Grecians to increase their lead as the late substitute Watson immediately got involved, laying the ball into space for Dean Moxey who fed Wayne Carlisle but he could only shoot over the bar.

The Diamonds run of three wins came to an end as the Grecians claimed their first win at Nene Park, and although by the end of the game the visitors had seen the lion’s share of possession and chances, the Diamonds had not been disgraced against a team desperate for points in their push for a play-off place.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Exeter City 2

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (White): Mikkel Andersen, Curtis Osano, Dean Howell, Chris Hope (Sam Smith 61), Michael Corcoran, Andy Gooding, Andy Burgess, Curtis Woodhouse (Jake Beecroft 73), Lee Tomlin, Michael Rankine (Jon Challinor 66), Abdou El-Kholti.

Subs Not Used : Phil Gulliver, Conal Platt

Exeter City (Blue) : Paul Jones, Steve Tully, George Friend, Matt Gill, Dan Seabourne, Matt Taylor, Rob Edwards, Dean Moxey, Ryan Harley, Adam Stansfield (Ben Watson 92), Steve Basham (Wayne Carlisle 21)

Subs Not Used : Andy Marriott, Bertie Cozic, Richard Logan,

Goals: Stansfield 9, Harley 63

Yellow Cards: Corcoran

Referee: Mr D Coote

Attendance: 1572 (359 away)

Man of the Match chosen by Mr Wiggs : Curtis Woodhouse.

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