Grays Athletic 3 Rushden & Diamonds 0

Rushden suffered a third defeat in five days as Grays Athletic coasted to a three goal victory. Defensive errors led to first half goals for Jamie Taylor and Danny Kedwell, while substitute Scott Taylor added another midway through the second half.

Manager Garry Hill made four changes to the side which lost at Oxford United on Tuesday night. On loan keeper Mikkel Andersen had returned to Reading Wednesday morning, leaving Martyn Margarson to take over between the posts. The three other changes were all in midfield with Andy Burgess, Curtis Woodhouse and Michael Corcoran all rested for Saturday’s game against the Conference champions. In came Tom Shaw, Andy Gooding and Abdou El-Kholti. Sam Smith and Conal Platt continued their partnership up front.

Grays were also having keeper problems with both Ross Flitney (broken arm) and Nicky Eyre (ankle) both out – Danny Knowles being recalled from Fisher Athletic on Monday. Manager Mike Woodward also made four changes with his side also suffering from fixture congestion following the postponement of the original game between the two clubs back in February due to fog. Jon Ashton picked up a knock during their 1-1 draw against Salisbury on Tuesday while Cam Mawer, Barry Cogan and Jeff Goulding all dropped down to the bench. Former Diamonds players Andy Sambrook replaced Mawer at the back, while Neil McCafferty replaced Cogan in midfield with Aaron O’Connor playing an attacking role in the middle. Jamie Taylor came in for Goulding in attack.

 

Diamonds kicked off towards the few faithful fans that had made the journey into Essex, but most of the early possession belonged to the home side. The Rushden defence appeared to be coping well with Margarson having little difficulty, and in fact the first real chance fell to Sam Smith after 8 minutes when he headed Cutis Osano’s cross wide.

 

A second Diamonds attack after 15 minutes saw El-Kholti send in a dangerous cross from the left but Smith was unable to get a touch as the ball was put out for a corner. From Tom Shaw’s corner however, the ball was cleared quickly up to Marlon Patterson on the half way line, leaving Chris Hope and Curtis Osano out of position. After the ball was pumped forward to Jamie Taylor down the left, Dean Howell allowed the Gray’s No.9 to slip inside and fire a fierce shot past Margarson.

 

Rushden tried to get back into the game and although Chris Hope struck the bar from around 12 yards following a free-kick, he was ruled offside. But the home side continued to look more likely to score and had several chances in the space of around ten minutes. Danny Kedwell sent in a dangerous cross which was put behind before there was a lucky escape when Taylor was unable to take advantage of a poor kick from Margarson. Taylor also fired into the side netting, while Aaron O’Connor should have done better from close range, miscuing his shot across the face of the goal.

 

The second goal finally came on 36 minutes and it was following a mistake from Margarson. The young keeper came out of the area to clear the ball, but he failed to get proper contact and the ball struck Danny Kedwell and bounced nicely for him to slot the ball home.

 

Grays continued to look for another goal, and a deft little chip from Kedwell just before the break saw Margarson scampering back with the ball landing on the roof of the net.

 

Half-time: Grays Athletic 2 – 0 Rushden & Diamonds

 

Towards the end of the first half, Jon Challinor picked up a knock on the ankle and Lawrence Lambley, back from a loan spells with Bromsgrove Rovers and Bourne Town, replaced him. Rushden tried to step up a gear as the second half progressed and a goalmouth scramble saw efforts from both Sam Smith and Lambley blocked as the ball was cleared away.

 

Grays made a couple of changes with Barry Cogan and Scott Taylor replacing Aaron O’Connor and Stuart Thurgood which seemed to steady the ship, although on 63 minutes, Diamonds had another good chance as Abdou El-Kholti played in Conal Platt. The makeshift striker sent a fierce shot towards goal which Knowles was unable to hold – and with Smith following up, the keeper did well to dive at his feet onto the loose ball.

 

What little chance Rushden had of getting back in the game was snuffed out however on 68 minutes as Grays got a third. Patterson chipped the ball up to substitute Scott Taylor as Gooding and Gulliver seemed to be in two minds and he made no mistake from 10 yards. Two minutes later Taylor had another effort just wide.

 

As the time ticked away, youngsters Jake Beecroft and Ben Nunn (making his League debut) replaced Gooding and Hope, while Grays went to a 3-4-3 with the introduction of Jeff Goulding as they looked for another goal. Beecroft went in to the central midfield, while Nunn went to his preferred right back position, with Osano moving inside.

 

Grays gained in confidence over the closing fifteen minutes, with Danny Kedwell and Jeff Goulding going close on several occasion, while in the dying moments Platt shot wide as Diamonds failed to find the target again – some 292 minutes since Jon Challinor’s goal against Torquay United.   

 

Full-time: Grays Athletic 3 – 0 Rushden & Diamonds

 

Although there are not many positives in a three goal defeat, Sam Smith’s deserves credit for his tireless effort up front, while Lambley, Beecroft and Nunn all did well when they came on in the second half. This third consecutive defeat leaves Diamonds in danger of finishing on a losing run with the final League game of the season against Conference Champions Aldershot Town on Saturday (5.15pm kick-off).

 

Teams:

Grays Athletic – Knowles, Sambrook (Goulding 73), Gross, Stuart (c), Downer, Thurgood (S.Taylor 61), O’Connor (Cogan 52), J.Taylor, Kedwell, Patterson, McCafferty.

Subs not used: Whincup, Mawer.

 

Rushden & Diamonds – Margarson, Osano, Gulliver, Hope (Nunn 77), Challinor (Lambley HT), Shaw, Gooding (Beecroft 71), Platt, Howell, El-Kholti, Smith.

Subs not used: Woodhouse, Bolt.

 

Goals: J.Taylor 16 (1-0), Kedwell 36 (2-0), S.Taylor 68 (3-0).

 

Booked: Nil.

 

Referee: Mr Andy Hendley (West Midlands)

 

Attendance: 542 (25 away).

 

Reporters Man of the Match: Sam Smith.

 

 

By Dave Mason

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