3 March 2007.
Rushden and Diamonds (a)
On the Road- Report by Jim Tucker.
Saturday 3rd March 2007
RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS 3
EXETER CITY 0
Rushden is one of our longer trips, up the M1 to Northampton and then across, but with the team going well, third in the Conference, tails are up and I set off on a bright, if blustery day, with a full car of family and friends.
Rushden and Diamonds was formed by a merger a few years back, between Rushden Town and Irthlingborough Diamonds, two neighbouring sides in the Northamptonshire shoe-making belt, and their then-benefactor built them a lovely little ground. The seated stand behind the goal for visiting fans is excellent, and the facilities second to none.
So in front of the usual 3-400 supporters, City were forced to make changes, with Jon Challinor suspended. So we had Adam Stansfield and Richard Logan up front. Otherwise the side was unchanged, looking to keep up their excellent recent form and defensive record.
It was the home side who showed first, several aggressive attacking runs needing all the confidence and composure we associate with our back four to keep them out. Rushden had recently dispensed with manager Graham Westley's services and recruited instead Garry Hill, late of Weymouth, so we knew we were in for a fight
City's midfield eventually got going, Adam Stansfield beng denied access to a through ball by the keeper. Then we won the first two corners of the match, courtesy of wingers Wayne Carlisle and Lee Elam, but they came saves. to nothing. But before 10 minutes had passed, optimism turned to horror when City conceded a corner, Matty Gill deflecting a shot away. When it came in from our right, there seemed little movement from the home attackers, but there was none from the defence. Little Simeon Jackson, who was a handful all afternoon, was unchallenged in the middle of the goal, and bundled it home without needing a clean header. Talk of defensive record-breaking defence was made to look a bit sad, but at least we had loads of time to get back in the match. Elam had a cross intercepted, and we had a series of throws in good positions.
Stansfield was involved now, but Logan was well patrolled by the home defence and found it hard going. Bad soon went to worse, as it was 2-0 before 20 minutes had been played. It started with Billy Jones missing his tackle, and Rob Edwards coming to the rescue at the expense of a corner. This time it was on City's left, and what a disaster it was.
Edwards appeared to slip when trying to mark Rushden central defender Mark Albrighton - there was no question of a foul - making it look for all the world as though he were kneeling to present Albrighton with the freedom of the City penalty area, which is certainly what he got. It was a decent header into the corner, but the lad must have thought it was Christmas and Easter rolled into one. Once again City, playing in away kit royal blue, tried to get back into things, Carlisle and Elam continuing to be at the centre of most worthwhile moves. Wayne's free kick bobbled around the home area before being cleared, Stansfield was trying hard to find a way through, but all the incisive attacking was on the City goal in front of us, against defenders who still looked asleep.
Edwards was certainly working hard to stop the rot, and got us out of more than one sticky spot. But that man Jackson got clear much too easily and fed Michael Rankine. Paul Jones showed his class with an excellent save from the shot, but it should have been three.
Then Jonesy pulled off a regulation save from Jackson's header from a corner, and magnificently tipped a lob from the same player over the bar after our offside trap went missing. So an awful half ended 2-0 down, but 4-0 would not have been unfair.
The first five minutes of the second 45 looked encouraging. Stansfield shot wide, the ball ricocheted off the keeper from a corner, and Gill moved strongly down the left. But real chances were hard to come by. And in their first real attack of the half, the home side got their third goal. The shot by Curtis Woodhouse from the edge of the area was a good one, which Paul Jones did well to get a hand to, though he couldn't keep it out. But the fact is that Mr Woodhouse would have needed binoculars to spot the nearest defender.
By now it was looking more like a humiliation than a defeat, the prospect of an Indian takeaway back in Maidenhead being the only thing keeping your correspondent going. We soon had Bertie Cozic on for Paul Buckle, Lee Phillips for Logan and eventually Jamie Mackie for Stansfield. We never looked like conceding again, but it was all getting a bit scrappy and we never carved out any clear cut opportunities. Phillips looked out of touch, but in the final minutes Mackie came closest, running in from the right only to put his shot just over.
A game to forget, certainly, and I hope just an off day. Paul Jones was the pick of the bunch for me. Steve Tully looked alright, but all the defenders, especially the central ones, will want to examine their performance. The wingers looked threatening, but the final punch just wasn't there.
The Grecian faithful who made this trip will surely agree that with many more showings like this, getting to the play- offs, never mind winning them, will be no more than a pipe-dream.
Rushden and Diamonds 3
Exeter City 0.
Saturday 3 March 2007.
Referee D Coote
Rushden & D'monds: Tynan, Ashton, Albrighton, Hope, Watson, Danny Williams, Mills, Woodhouse, Kelly, Jackson (Tomlin 86), Rankine (Beardsley 89).
Subs Not Used: Baker, Wilson, Goodliffe.
Booked: Kelly, Albrighton, Rankine.
Goals: Jackson 11, Albrighton 19, Woodhouse 52.
Exeter: Paul Jones, Tully, Todd, Edwards, Billy Jones, Carlisle, Gill, Buckle (Cozic 58), Elam, Stansfield (Mackie 86), Logan (Phillips 70).
Subs Not Used: Rice, Richardson.
Booked: Gill. Att: 2,344.