Grays Athletic 0 Rushden & Diamonds 3

The Diamonds followed up their impressive victory at Hayes last weekend with another comfortable victory on the road, this time in Essex over Grays Athletic. Aaron O’Connor opened the scoring after 39 minutes after latching onto a reverse pass from Lee Tomlin. The Diamonds added two further goals in the second half, both coming in the aftermath of a missed penalty, Michael Corcoran missed the first, but headed home from the resultant corner. Jefferson Louis missed the second (after also missing an initial attempt that had to be retaken), but was able to knock home the rebound.

The Diamonds first victory at Grays also meant that they now have scored the most goals away from home in the Division, and join Oxford Utd as the first teams to score 50 goals in the season.

The one negative of the afternoon was that Lee Tomlin picked up his tenth yellow card of the season, and will miss the next two games as a result.

Justin Edinburgh made a single change to the team that started at Hayes and Yeading, with the injured Curtis Osano being replaced by Michael Corcoran. Matt Pattison was restored to the bench as a result.

Grays manager Julian Dicks was still integrating a number of new signings into his side, and he gave a start to Andrea Zola, son of West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola. He included a further loan signing Jonathan Glowacki from Colchester United in a total of 3 changes.

On a sunny afternoon, Jamie Stuart used his knowledge of the New Rec to choose to switch ends and force the home side to face the sun in the first half.

The Diamonds started in a similar manner to their recent game at Hayes, denying their opponents possession, and forcing them to rely on long balls for their attacking threat.

The first chance for the Diamonds fell to Michael Corcoran who saw a shot saved following a Diamonds free kick that Martin failed to gather.

Jefferson Louis showed a side of his game not previously seen by Diamonds fans, as twice he made good runs in a wide right position and hit powerful low crosses that narrowly evaded onrushing Diamonds players.

At the other end Harlee Dean was allowed a free header from a Zola free kick that could have threatened Roberts’ goal, but flew wide.

After 20 minutes the Diamonds should have opened the scoring, as Jefferson Louis found himself space in the area from a Tomlin corner, but his shot appeared to hit Aaron O’Connor, who then turned quickly in the six yard box, but could only fire wide.

Tomlin was giving Andrea Zola a torrid time, and his interchange with Jefferson Louis saw him with time and space in the Grays area, but his shot grazed the outside of the post when he really should have hit the target.

It began to look like the first goal was never going to arrive, and the Diamonds domination wouldn’t be reflected on the scoresheet, but in an instant the Diamonds were ahead. A clearance from Roberts was brought under control by Tomlin and his reverse pass into the area set Aaron O’Connor clear, and the ex-Grays striker made no mistake as he opened the scoring with 34 minutes on the clock.

The hosts threatened an immediate reply, as a long ball from Martin was allowed to go over the Diamonds defence for Richard Graham to run onto, but he fired wide.

The impressive Mark Byrne went close with a header that passed keeper Martin, but was headed off the line just before the break, and then in added time a Tomlin free kick from just inside the left touchline was headed over the bar from close range by Jefferson Louis.

Half-Time: Grays Athletic 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

The second half lacked quite as much incisive Diamonds attacking as the first, but they dominated the play throughout the period, with Kurt Robinson linking well with Lee Tomlin, and it was Tomlin who produced the best effort in the third quarter, as his run across the area from left to right saw a shot that went narrowly wide. Tomlin then picked up his tenth booking of the season, as he was frustrated when Jack Hunt was able to dispossess him and run clear with the ball before Tomlin brought him down.

With fewer clearcut chances in the second half, there was a thought that the Diamonds might regret not making more of their first half chances, but after the 70 minute mark was reached the Diamonds were awarded a penalty, as Tomlin ran down the left leaving two defenders in his wake, and was brought down in the box by Jonathan Glowacki, who received a yellow card. After recent failures from the spot, it was Michael Corcoran who stepped up to take it, following his success at Workington. Unfortunately his penalty was too close to Martin, who made a comfortable save, and saw the rebound cleared for a corner. Corcoran was quickly able to make amends though, as the well hit corner from the left by Tomlin went over the Grays defence, and Corcoran was able to stoop and head home at the far post.

Craig Farrell came on to replace Aaron O’Connor, and as in the Hayes game he immediately looked dangerous, and after 79 minutes was able to break into the penalty box on the end of a Byrne pass, and was brought down by keeper Martin. This time it was Jefferson Louis who stepped up to take the kick, but his penalty to Martin’s right was well saved, but referee Davies signalled there had been an offence by the defending team, and that the kick should be retaken. There was some debate involving Louis, Stuart and Downer about who should take this third penalty, but Louis stepped up again, this time hitting the penalty to Martin’s left – but again it lacked power and placement, and Martin pulled off another save, and was thus unfortunate to see Louis bundle the rebound home.

Matt Pattison replaced Tomlin, and should have done better with his first touch – a shot on goal when he found acres of space on the left side of the area.

Although Dale Roberts had very little to do in the second half, with the Diamonds back four in control throughout, his distribution was spot on, and it was reassuring to see that he had not been affected by recent transfer speculation, as he fully deserved his clean sheet.

Full-Time: Grays Athletic 0 Rushden & Diamonds 3

With nine goals in the two recent away games, the Diamonds are treating their travelling fans to excellent entertainment this season. The question of who will be the next Diamonds penalty taker was the subject of some debate amongst Diamonds fans, and those that have seen so many missed this season were reflecting that the best penalty they had seen from a Diamonds player this season was from goalkeeper Dale Roberts in the pre-season tournament in Devon.

The Diamonds now have to prepare to face Eastbourne Borough on Tuesday evening at Nene Park, a team who will be buoyed by a victory over in-form Wrexham on Saturday.

Teams:

Grays Athletic: Richard Martin, Jack Hunt, Andrea Zola, Jonathon Glowacki, Gavin Hoyte, Harry Baker (Alex Rhodes 57), Harlee Dean, Paolo Vernazza (Jordan Wilson 78), Wayne Gray, Richard Graham, Jamie Guy.

Subs Not Used: Danny Bunce, Kenny Davis, Preston Edwards

Diamonds: Dale Roberts, Michael Corcoran, Kurt Robinson, Paul Terry (Rob Wolleaston 78), Jamie Stuart (Capt), Simon Downer, Mark Byrne, Max Porter, Aaron O’Connor (Craig Farrell 74), Jefferson Louis, Lee Tomlin (Matt Pattison 84)

Subs Not Used: Joe Day (GK), Sam Smith

Goals: O’Connor (39), Corcoran (70), Louis (79)

Yellow Cards: Zola, Hunt, Tomlin, Glowacki

Referee: A Davies

Attendance: 476 (Away approx 150)

Diamonds Man of the Match: Lee Tomlin

See here for video highlights

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