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15.08.2006 @ 19:45 Nene Park Crowd: 2015
Rushden & Diamonds 1 - 3 Grays Athletic
Referee: R Fletcher Conference National-Match

Michael Rankine (43) Glenn Poole (30)
Aaron McLean (61)
Michael Kightly (85)
Starting Line-ups
Nicky Eyre
Glenn Wilson
Chris Hope
Wayne Hatswell
Paul Watson
Jon Ashton
David Savage
Marcus Kelly
Daniel Chillingworth
Leo Fortune-West
Michael Rankine
Ashley Bayes
Jay Smith
Andy Sambrook
Adam Green
Jamie Stuart
John Martin
Michael Kightly
Ashley Nicholls
Glenn Poole
Lee Boylan
Aaron McLean
Daniel Crane
Andrew Rigby
Lee Tomlin
Tyrone Berry
Simeon Jackson
Danny Knowles
Nathan Moulds
Tom Williamson
Dennis Oli
Jamie Slabber
Tyrone Berry -> Daniel Chillingworth (74)
Simeon Jackson -> Leo Fortune-West (81)
Dennis Oli -> Lee Boylan (78)
Yellow cards
Wayne Hatswell (17) Andy Sambrook (45)
Lee Boylan (72)
Red cards
None None
Match report |
Grays recorded their first win under new boss Frank Gray in stylish fashion, seeing off ex-League side Rushden and Diamonds at Nene Park.

Blues' star attacking trio of Glenn Poole, Aaron McLean and Michael Kightly grabbed the goals but it was a real team performance that bodes well for the season ahead.

Manager Gray said: "We worked our socks off and we got our reward. They are a good side and they put us under a lot of pressure but we defended well and played some excellent football. I am proud of the players.

The signs didn't look good in the opening stages as Rushden's huge front pairing of Michael Rankine and Leo Fortune-West put the visiting defence under huge pressure.

As early as the second minute Jay Smith misjudged a long ball, allowing Fortune-West a clear run on goal but the much-travelled striker couldn't find a way past Ashley Bayes, who saved well.

The visitors weathered the storm and began to stamp their own authority on the game. Wide men Kightley and Poole got themselves onto the ball more and it was the latter who made the breakthrough on the half hour.

The ex-Thurrock man, who finished last season as Grays' top scorer, had already gone close with three efforts from range before he notched his first of the season.

Kightly broke down the right and threaded the ball through to John Martin, whose clever step-over found McLean in space inside the box. Glenn Wilson and Chris Hope flung themselves at McLean's drive but the ball broke free to Poole who buried his finish into the bottom corner.

The goal shocked the hosts into life and once more the balls began to rain in on the visiting defence.

Rankine should have scored when the overlapping Paul Watson picked him out but he headed wide from no more than six yards.

But Diamonds were not going to be denied for long and they grabbed the equaliser shortly before the interval when Rankine atoned for his earlier miss and headed home Wilson's cross.

Rushden started the second half in the ascendancy but, like the first, Grays pegged them back and went ahead just after the hour mark.

Kightly's corner was swung to the back post where Jamie Stuart headed back across goal for McLean, who rose majestically to head home.

The hosts threw everything at Blues and forced Bayes into a string of fine saves but Grays stood firm, and with just five minutes to go a moment of magic from Kightly sealed the win.

Picking the ball up on the right, Kightly stepped inside his man and curled a fantastic left-footed drive past former team-mate Nicky Eyre in the Rushden goal.

By Ryan Goad
Thanks to the Thurrock Gazette for the report.