Rushden & Diamonds 2 Ebbsfleet United 0

 

Rushden & Diamonds maintained their winning start to the Blue Square Premier season with a battling 2-0 victory over a classy Ebbsfleet United side at Nene Park. With the visitors playing a expansive passing game not seen in Irthlingborough since the visits of Grays and Morecambe two seasons ago, it was evidence of the spirit and determination of Garry Hill’s side that they were able to keep the game scoreless until a series of substitutions in the second half gave them the edge in the last third of the game.

After the series of dour games that were witnessed at Nene Park at the start of last season, it was a welcome sight to see such entertainment early in the season, with the bonus of two home league goals (something not seen until November last season) and three points.

Ebbsfleet will feel that their performance in the first hour should have merited something from the game, but both sides were guilty of missing several gilt-edged chances, as well as hitting the woodwork in the first half.

On a chilly August evening the Diamonds lined up with one change from the game at the weekend, with Phil Gulliver starting at the expense of Sagi Burton. Jake Beecroft took a place on the bench at the expense of Scott Mitchell.

Ebbsfleet United were unchanged from the side that drew with Mansfield Town.

Ebbsfleet kicked off towards the Peter De Banke terrace, and, as with the Eastbourne game on Saturday, the Diamonds could have gone behind in the first minute, as a Charles free-kick found its way through to Luke Moore, who forced an excellent one-handed save from Marriott.

Almost immediately the Diamonds had a chance to take the lead themselves, as a deft McDonald back-flick found Lee Phillips but his left foot shot was wide of the left-hand post. The pair combined to set up Lee Tomlin for a shot a minute later, but he was wide of the other post.

Ebbsfleet then dominated much of the rest of the half, starting with a Stacy Long corner which James Smith headed against the post, and then Marriott and Woodhouse cleared up as Luke Moore tried to follow up with a shot.

Further attempts followed from the dangerous wide men Long and Shakes, as well as the impressive Michael Gash. Moore almost turned provider at his cross gave Neil Barrett a chance to break the deadlock. The Fleet won a series of corners, but failed to take advantage

It wasn’t quite all one-way traffic though, and the Diamonds forced a couple of corners, the first that Chris Hope might have done better with his header, and then the next one floated over Hope’s head toward Andy Burgess, who let it drop over his head as he turned and hit a left foot shot that flew back off the bar.

Curtis Osano was called upon to block several good moves down the Fleet left, with Moore and Long combining well, but the Diamonds managed to hold out until half-time, and must have been feeling relieved to have reached the interval without conceding a goal, given the number of chances the Fleet had generated.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Ebbsfleet United 0

The second half started in a similar vein to the first, with Ebbsfleet dominant, and Alan Marriott’s handling was tested on a series of free-kicks and corners, and Michael Gash failed to convert a Barrett cross.

The game started to tilt in the Diamonds favour after 55 minutes, when Garry Hill brought on Michael Corcoran to assist in midfield in place of Kelly, and immediately Curtis Woodhouse was freed to start getting forwards and threaten the visitors defence. A Jelleyman free-kick reached Lee Phillips in the corner of the box, and his deft turn and flick allowed Dean McDonald to prod towards the goal, but Cronin was able to smother.

A further Diamonds change on the hour saw Sam Smith replace McDonald, and this change also produced a rapid result, as within five minutes Sam Smith had collected a Woodhouse pass in the left channel and smashed a shot from 25 yards low into the left-hand side of the goal.

A few minutes later a Diamonds break saw an excellent ball forwards from Lee Tomlin give Smith a chance to show his speed and run clear of the defence, but his shot was wide to the left of goal. A few minutes later he combined with Burgess to lay the ball to Woodhouse, whose cross presented Lee Phillips with his second excellent chance of the game, but the striker could only lever the ball over the bar.

On 77 minutes the Diamonds got the second goal that was surely needed against such a threatening opponent. A quick Woodhouse throw on the left was picked up by Smith and he threaded a pass between two defenders for Lee Phillips to latch onto and score his debut league goal for the club.

Fleet continued to try to force their way back into the game, and perhaps their best chance came when Curtis Osano tried to play a bit too much football on the right edge of the area, and ended up putting Marriott in trouble with a pass across the area, which Marriott kicked against Akinde, and the ball screwed across the area towards the waiting Michael Gash, but fortunately the spin on the ball meant he misjudged his shot and Sagi Burton was able to clear.

The game ended with Garry Hill able to reflect on the courage and determination of his side in the second half, who were able to put the first half onslaught behind them, and go on to win the game.

This sort of determination will be needed again on Sunday when Wrexham are the visitors, and if the level of entertainment is maintained then the favourable comparison with last season will be maintained.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 2 Ebbsfleet United 0

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (White) : Alan Marriott : Curtis Osano -Gareth Jelleyman – Chris Hope – Phil Gulliver : Lee Tomlin – Curtis Woodhouse (Capt) – Andy Burgess – Marcus Kelly : Lee Phillips – Dean McDonald

Subs : Michael Corcoran (for Kelly 56), Sam Smith (for McDonald 61), Sagi Burton (for Gulliver 72)

Subs Not Used : Jake Beecroft, Rob Wolleaston

Ebbsfleet United (Red) : Lance Cronin, Peter Hawkins, Sacha Opinel, James Smith (Capt), Stacy Long, Michael Gash, Craig Stone, Neil Barrett, Ricky Shakes, Luke Moore, Darius Charles

Subs : George Purcell (for Barrett 71), John Akinde (for Hawkins 79), Kwesi Appiah (for Gash 83)

Subs Not Used : Sam Mott, Mark Ricketts

Goals: Smith 64, Phillips 77

Yellow Cards: Jelleyman

Referee: Mr A Hendley

Attendance: 1467 (86 away)

Man of the Match chosen by a representative of the NFA : Lee Phillips

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