Rushden & Diamonds 1 Grays Athletic 0

 

Rushden & Diamonds achieved their first victory over Grays Athletic in their history with a 1-0 win at Nene Park. A Marcus Kelly goal in the first half was enough to settle the game.

Manager Garry Hill made five changes to the line-up that started at Oxford, reverting to the back four that started against Wrexham, with Manny Panther and Andy Burgess returning in midfield, allowing Lee Tomlin and Rob Wolleaston to be rested, and the strike partnership of Clare and Phillips starting for the first time.

The Diamonds dominated the early play, and should have gone ahead in the first minute, as Kelly and Corcoran combined on the left, and Corcoran hit an excellent cross which Lee Phillips could only head over when it looked certain he would score.

Marcus Kelly was getting involved in the game, and although some of his short layoffs went astray, he was able to run at a defence that was struggling to keep their feet on a pitch made slippery by heavy rain shortly before kick off. On the 10 minute mark Andy Burgess made one of his trademark 40 yard passes across the field to Kelly allowing him to run past a defender and in to the area, but his shot was easily gathered by Button in the Grays goal.

Burgess then tried his luck from 10 yards inside his own half, but his audacious shot was just wide as Button scrambled back to cover.

Kelly and Corcoran combined a second time to see a dangerous cross reach Lee Phillips, but his shot was blocked for a corner. Although the resultant corner was cleared, Burgess fired it back in to the unmarked Phil Gulliver near the left-hard corner of the six yard box, and his header across the box was punched clear by Button.

Other attempts on goal came from a Burgess chip and a Manny Panther run through the centre that saw a powerful shot blocked. The threat down the right via Osano and Burgess usually ended in possession lost, but Phillips and Clare were a constant handful for the Grays defence, and once they have had more time playing alongside each other some of the linking play will prove more threatening,

Gray did threaten briefly on the 20 minute mark, with Sean Rigg hitting the post as he latched onto a cross from the left, and then running past Hope and Gulliver before the covering Curtis Osano conceded a corner.

However, with the Diamonds midfield dominant at this stage, it was no surprise when the Diamonds took the lead, Marcus Kelly picked a loose ball up in central midfield and quickly beat two opponents and hit an early shot from 25 yards out which skimmed off the wet turf into the right hand corner of the net.

A dipping Curtis Woodhouse shot that skimmed the bar and hit the top of the net threatened a Diamonds second goal, but the Diamonds pressure seemed to decrease once the goal was scored.

Referee Rushton brought the half to a close – he too had contributed to the quality of the game with an unfussy approach to controlling the game.

Half-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Grays Athletic 0

The third quarter of the game was largely uneventful, with the Diamonds failing to trouble Button, and the visitors failing to take advantage of a couple of defensive errors from the Diamonds. To their credit the Diamonds defence were able to cover for each other or to recover from their own error – and Dale Roberts produced another impressive performance between the sticks.

Andy Burgess was brought down by Stuart Elliott 25 yards from goal, but any thoughts of a repeat effort from Daryl Clare at the freekick were dispelled when his shot cleared the roof of the Peter De Banke terrace.

Manny Panther was also willing to move into space to offer Roberts an outlet when he caught the ball – and from one of these breaks Panther easily outstripped the Grays defence and was unlucky his ball across the edge of the box to Daryl Clare was blocked. In a repeat move, Panther hit a ball that would have reached Clare, but this time the striker was offside.

As the game moved into the last quarter a number of substitutions livened the game up, and Lee Phillips made a surging run that was only narrowly thwarted but the ball went to Marcus Kelly whose cross towards Andy Burgess was deflected off the far post as a defender came in to challenge.

Three Diamonds corners followed, but the Diamonds couldn’t get the second goal to seal the game. Grays still managed to get forwards regularly, but lacked any penetration in the final third.

The game opened up in the last few minutes, with a powerful shot by Andy Burgess being saved at the second attempt by Button. One concern for the Diamonds was that Curtis Woodhouse limped off after a challenge from Stefan Bailey, but referee Rushton continued to control the game in a highly proficient manner.

The best chance of the half for Grays came when a shot by St Aimie looped into the air as it deflected off a defender, falling straight to an unmarked Rigg who netted, but not before hearing the whistle for offside.

Final chances to seal the game fell to Phillips and then Knight, but both failed to convert decent chances by firing wide of the right hand post.

Manager Hill expressed his satisfaction with the result, and the quality of the first half performance, which he felt was reward for fans after the two recent games, and he was hoping for a good turnout on Sunday as the Diamonds take on Torquay, a team that was one of the favourites to win the Blue Square Premier at the start of the season, and one whose form has improved in recent weeks.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 1 Grays Athletic 0

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (White) : Dale Roberts : Curtis Osano – Phil Gulliver – Chris Hope – Michael Corcoran : Andy Burgess – Manny Panther – Curtis Woodhouse (Capt) – Marcus Kelly : Lee Phillips – Daryl Clare .

Subs : Leon Knight (for Clare 76) – Lee Tomlin (for Kelly 79) – Rob Wolleaston (for Woodhouse 86)

Subs Not Used : Sagi Burton – Sam Smith .

Grays Athletic (Blue) : David Button, Jamie Stuart (Capt), Sam Sloma, Sean Rigg, Ishmael Welsh, Stefan Bailey, Fabian Wilnius, Stuart Elliott, Luke Hickie, Ken Davis, Simon Thomas

Subs : Kieron St Amie (for Thomas 58), Jonny Dixon (for Hickie 76)

Subs Not Used : Steve Arnold, Mark Haines, Barry Cogan,

Goals : Marcus Kelly (24)

Yellow Cards: None

Referee: Mr S Rushton

Attendance: 1124 (Away 44)

Man of the Match sponsored by Pest Free : Andy Burgess

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