Rushden & Diamonds 2 Stevenage Borough 0

Match Report courtesy of Unofficial Rushden & Diamonds Website (1997-2001)

Vauxhall Conference

26.12.97 – Nene Park (Attendance: 3527)

Diamonds Team : Smith, Hamsher, Bradshaw, Mison, Wooding, Whyte, Butterworth, Capone, West, Collins, Hackett, Subs: Underwood, Kelly and Ndekwe.

Goal scorers and time of goals: RDFC : West 67 and Capone 90 minutes.
Webmaster Diamonds Man of the Match : Darren Bradshaw

Match Report : Another three points for the Diamonds in a match which was never as exciting as previous meetings, but then we never got any points from previous matches against Stevenage. A well organised Diamonds team, which is now unchanged for the last three games, swept aside a rather inept Stevenage team, missing the strike power of previous seasons. Diamonds looked solid in all departments, although both Capone and Butterworth gave possession away needlessly on many occasions.

In the first half Brendan Hackett tore the Stevenage defence to shreds down the left, with support from Hamsher who seems to be fitting into his new role quite nicely. Darren Collins missed a half chance early on and the fact that Diamonds had so much time on the ball caused both Hackett and Capone to spurn good chances by taking one touch too many. Stevenage had a few half chances that better teams would have stuck away, but these days Diamonds seem to ride their luck well. The main surprise was that Diamonds failed to go in at half time with a good lead, as they were by far the superior team in all departments.

The second half continued with Diamonds exerting all of the pressure, although Stevenage came out fighting for the first ten minutes. It was therefore no surprise that after persistence from Collins and Capone in pressuring the keeper and the defence that the ball was threaded back to West who delicately chipped the ball over the flailing keeper into the Stevenage net, to put Diamonds one up. What was surprising was that it took so long for the second goal to come as most of the pressure throughout the second half was exerted by Diamonds. In injury time Capone clinically shot past the keeper after being put through by Collins to round of a good performance from the Diamonds.

Darren Bradshaw was outstanding in defence and Smith coped well with anything thrown at him. Colin West persevered but found it hard today and his first touch was a little slow. Whyte, Mison, and Wooding all did well at the back, but the surprise again is how much confidence Brendan Hackett now has. He appears willing to take players on again, and get past them, but also sticks rigorously to the role that BT has set for him. The encouragement that BT gives him during the game appears to be working wonders and long may it continue.

One interesting quirk in the game was how the referee managed to let the match start with Stevenage wearing shirts that were almost as pale as the Diamonds shirts. After protests from BT the team were ordered to change, had no other shirts themselves so had to wear the blue Diamonds away strip. At the start of the second half Stevenage came out wearing their white and red shirts which were also a poor distinguishing shirt from the Diamonds white, so were ordered to change back again to the Diamonds blue away shirts. What a cock-up on the part of the officials, and Fairclough for bringing his team un-prepared.

Though Diamonds failed to move up any places after this win it puts increased pressure on Hednesford and Halifax who only managed to draw against lowly opposition.

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