RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS 2-0 EBBSFLEET UNITED… FIRST AWAY TRIP ENDS IN DEFEAT
RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS 2-0 EBBSFLEET UNITED
Report by Allan Main
One point from six and 19th in the table may not read as well as many Fleet fans would have liked at the start of the season, but there is more to this Fleet side than points on the board, though the men from Kent will have been disappointed not to add one to their tally tonight.
Liam Daish fielded an unchanged side and the Fleet, kitted out in all red, started the match with intent, keen to capitalise on their status as one of the Diamonds’ bogey sides. Luke Moore drew blood early on, snapping off a shot at goalkeeper Andy Marriott. Inside four minutes, a Stacy Long corner was well met by James Smith but his header crashed off the post and Moore’s follow-up shot was again foiled by Marriott.
Moore was effervescent in this opening period and with Ricky Shakes unsettling his marker down the wing, Fleet’s speed looked like it might pay dividends. Stacy Long, Craig Stone and Neil Barrett all had shots as Diamonds’ defence was tested and Gareth Jelleyman in particular had his work cut out.
For their part, Diamonds came close on 17 minutes when former Gillingham defender Chris Hope headed Lee Tomlin’s corner over when well placed while Andy Burgess saw his left-foot shot hit the woodwork on 25 minutes. Moore’s personal battle with Marriott continued on 33 minutes, but again the goalkeeper stood up well to the shot, while he also proved equal to Long’s speculative effort shortly before half-time. Fleet looked the better side, with the Diamonds reduced mainly to long balls which was acnot the sort of service that striker Dean McDonald was looking for given his stature.
But as on Saturday, the Fleet started to let the game slip in the second period, though a couple of Long corners and another effort from Moore flattered to deceive in the opening 10 minutes. Gash should perhaps have done better on 55 minutes when he sent Barrett’s cross over the bar and that proved to be the turning point. A minute later, Rushden introduced former Oxford midfielder Michael Corcoran and he immediately began to give the home side’s midfield more poise and bite. A second substitution proved even more resourceful, Sam Smith replacing McDonald and the former youth team graduate opened the scoring on 64 minutes, collecting Curtis Woodhouse’s pass down the left and smashing an exquisite long-range shot past Lance Cronin, though it seemed to take a deflection on the way.
Smith tried his luck again minutes later while Lee Phillips rather swung at a loose ball from close range on 69 minutes. However, Phillips it was who extended the lead on 77 minutes. Smith picked up the ball from a throw-in and his pass evaded Darius Charles to send Phillips through on goal and the former Torquay and Exeter man made no mistake, slotting the ball low past Cronin. Daish threw on John Akinde and Kwesi Appiah in a bid to regain some initiative and although the Fleet raised their game, they didn’t look like troubling Marriott who in fact was more troubled by his own lack of concentration late on when fumbling an effort from Long.
TEAM: Cronin, Hawkins (Akinde 79), Opinel, Smith, Charles, Barrett (Purcell 71), Stone, Long, Shakes, Moore, Gash (Appiah 83). Subs not used: Mott, Ricketts.