Grays Athletic did well to carve out another vital point in a tense goal-less draw at the New Rec.
The result saw Grays drop into the relegation zone with just six games to go.
However, they are now just two points behind Weymouth, three ahead of Woking. The game against fifth from bottom York, now possesses huge importance.
Rushden, enjoying safety in the middle of the table, played in a relaxed manner in the first half as they sprayed the ball around the park while Grays looked very tight.
The first twenty minutes saw Steve Arnold as the busiest player as he made three vital point blank saves from the Diamonds. In fact, Arnold had his best game for the Blues which may be a vital factor.
Any Grays attacks were easily snuffed out by the class and style of ex-Blues defender Simon Downer. Grays shouldn’t beat themselves up that they didn’t score as Downer once again showed why he should be playing in a much higher league.
In the 9th minute, Lee Tomlin produced a sublime back heel in the area in to the path of Michael Rankine but his shot was straight at Steve Arnold.
Grays produced a series of half moves until the 9th minute when Barry Cogan blasted over the bar. The next move didn’t come until the 22nd when Ishmael Welsh did the same.
Stuart Thurgood was appearing all over the field trying to get the team going but they were second to the ball.
Rushden’s Neil Cousins received a yellow card after his foot connected with a brave header from George Beavan in the middle of the field.
Lee Tomlin threatened from the off in the second half turning the Grays defence inside out before Stuart Elliot intercepted conceding a corner.
Grays, attacking their favoured Ball Court End started to threaten with Welsh rampaging on the right and Thurgood stretching the game.
Rushden were still dangerous as a snap shot from Neil Cousins flashed over the bar.
In the 61st minute Stuart Elliott moved into midfield and produced a rasping shot that flew over the bar
Two minutes later an Andy Pugh shot was deflected off Simon Downer and the keeper did well to tap it over for a corner. From the corner, Ronnie Jones header just crept over the bar.
The Blues tails were up as Diamonds boss Justin Edinburgh demanded commitment. They sparked into life in the 70th minute when skipper Andy Burgess 25 yard shot was glanced away by Jamie Stuart.
At the other end, Andy Pugh should have scored when Cogan found him in space inside the box but he blasted it straight at Dale Roberts.
Grays couldn’t break down the Rushden defence and the draw saw them slide back into the relegation zone.
There is still much to play for and a third game unbeaten at home with four still left is a big bonus for Grays. With Woking away at Barrow and Weymouth away as well, Saturday cannot be underestimated.
Tommy Black provided very little in midfield but Stuart Thurgood was a force of nature and looks like he will drag the team to survival. Tyro’s Long and Jones look very impressive.
It would be great for the fans to get behind the players and Gary Phillips to give it the 12th man treatment on Saturday.
Report by Michael Casey
Thanks to Your Thurrock for the match report