Cheltenham Town 3 Rushden & Diamonds 1

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

F.A.Umbro Trophy 2nd Round

31.01.98 – Whaddon Road (Attendance: 2058)

Diamonds Team : Smith, Wooding, Bradshaw, Cramman, Hamsher, Whyte, Mison, Butterworth, Collins, Alford, Underwood, Subs: Capone for Hamsher(60), Cooper for Alford(60), Ndekwe for Mison(72).

Goal scorers and time of goals: RDFC : Collins 86 mins

Webmaster Diamonds Man of the Match : Gary Butterworth

Match Report :

In probably the hardest of the 2nd Round games, Diamonds got off to an impressive start, and it was 4 minutes before Cheltenham managed to get into the Diamonds half. Early pressure from Diamonds saw Underwood have a chance after 30 seconds, and Hamsher hit the woodwork after 3 minutes. Gary Butterworth also had a shot that was heading for the net deflected away, but the referee in-explicably gave a goal kick. All of this in the first five minutes. Two interesting names taking part for Cheltenham today are Clive Walker, who nearly became Coach at Nene Park, and ex-Diamond Dale Watkins. Kenny Cramman was booked after ten minutes for not retreating far enough after giving away a free-kick for a two footed tackle by Cramman. As the game wore on Cheltenham gained in composure and started to look impressive. Clive Walker put in a couple of excellent corners that had the Diamonds defence in disarray. Smith continued not to take goal-kicks again today, still suffering with a hernia problem.Diamonds exerted a little pressure after 15 minutes and Tim Wooding had an opportunity which was hit straight at the keeper. Diamonds certainly look good from set-pieces but it was Cheltenham looking the more impressive from open play.

Bradshaw had to make a saving tackle after 20 minutes as Dale Watkins, who up to that point had struggled, cut through the Diamonds defence exposing Chris Whyte for lack of pace. Cheltenham took the lead on 20 minutes making the most of a ricochet from Chris Whyte. Diamonds at this point could count themselves unlucky to be behind, but now facing a considerable task. One minute later Dale Watkins hit a 25 yarder to put Cheltenham 2-0 ahead. Truly a goal to grace any setting, it left Mark Smith no chance. Hamsher and Bradshaw looked in defensive dis array as Cheltenham had a great chance to get their third, but Bradshaw gave away a free-kick to halt the play. As the half wore on a touch of desperation started to creep into Diamonds play as they were put on the rack by Cheltenham. Book, in goal for Cheltenham had no trouble catching all of the weak crosses put into the penalty area by Underwood and Hamsher.Their seemed to be problems for Diamonds with the midfield unable to get telling passes through to Collins and Alford. Mison’s run of inconsistent performances continued throughout the first half, surely giving consternation to head coach Brian Talbot.

The first half had nobody to help Butterworth hold the ball in midfield. Chris Whyte as in previous games continued to give away needless ball to the opposition with stray passing. Pressure from Diamonds after 35 minutes could have put Diamonds back in the game, but the ball was not rolling favourably for the team in Blue. There was always the feeling that if Diamonds could pull one goal back then a second would not be impossible.

Jamie Victory, the Cheltenham Full-Back (Ex-Portsmouth) had a great first half, snuffing out any attacking ideas to get forward from Wooding on the right. Underwood on the left took up a lot of good positions in the first half, but the final ball from Underwood was always lacking. Pressure on 40 minutes forced a corner for Diamonds but the loose ball always fell for Cheltenham, and the luck Diamonds have had over the last few months seemed to have deserted them this afternoon. On 42 minutes Collins had a chance but headed straight at the keeper. The first half finished with all of the pressure coming from Diamonds. Wooding was booked for a blatant trip on Eaton after 44 minutes.The first half finished with some dubious tackling from Cheltenham going un-punished by the referee, more of the inconsistence that we have seen all season in the Conference.

The Radio Diamonds summed up the service that Carl Alford was getting upfront when they said it was abysmal. Diamonds made no substitutions for the start of the second half, but the longer the game stayed at 2-0 the more Brian Talbot must have considered changing things. Diamonds needed to strengthen up the midfield to avoid Cheltenham throttling the game. Only Butterworth showed any commitment in midfield and shouldering any responsibility. One accepts that if Mison was consistent every game, then Fulham would not have released him. But surely we should expect more than we are currently getting. Smith blocked a breakaway from Cheltenham on 55 minutes after a mistake by Cramman, and then within 30 seconds another chance went begging as Walker created a great chance for Watkins which was wasted.

John Hamsher had another game where he was hard working and honest. But after 60 minutes both he and Alford were substituted and Mark Cooper and Capone entered the fray. This gave Diamonds a midfield of Underwood, Butterworth, Capone and Cooper with Collins and Mison upfront. A strange decision by Talbot as Mison was played in that position against Raunds on Wednesday, and he proved totally in-effective and lacking. So against stronger opposition the logic of how Mison can offer more upfront than Carl Alford defeats me. But then Brian Talbot may be playing a master stroke!!!!

Diamonds started to put a little more effort into midfield and a good spell was ended by Mison “hoofing” the ball sky high. Mison’s lack of control caused much amusement to the Cheltenham fans as he continually gave the ball away or knocked it into touch. The side lacked balance, but certainly the effort from the players was improved as the game wore on. Mison shot wide with a glorious opportunity after 70 minutes when it seemed easier to score than miss. How many times have we seen Michael Mison’s shooting let him down in a similar position. Watkins increased Cheltenham Towns lead after 73 minutes with his second great goal of the afternoon. This from a striker who was rejected as not good enough for Diamonds. Following the third goal it was decided to bring on Malcolm Ndekwe, a striker, and replace Michael Mison who had had a nightmare game. Clive Walker nearly put Cheltenham further ahead but then the crowd erupted and were incensed as Bloomer was booked.

Cheltenham continued to look impressive and make Diamonds look very ordinary. This win must give Cheltenham a great deal of confidence for their visit to Nene Park in March. Dale Watkins certainly looked sharp and highlighted the lack of pace in the Diamonds side. Ndekwe put a header over the bar on 76 minutes in a rare Diamonds attack. Watkins was then brought down by the clumsy Whyte and a penalty awarded that Watkins proceeded to miss after a fantastic penalty save by Smith who still has a 100% record since coming to Diamonds. The only real highlight of the afternoon for Diamonds. Kenny Cramman had a free-kick saved on 85 minutes which forced a corner. In the 86th minute Collins grabbed a consolation goal for Diamonds which made the score a little more respectable. Maybe if Mison had tucked away his best chance the result may have been more in contention.

Diamonds can now look forward to Halifax next week with some trepidation. In a game where only 3 points are acceptable if Diamonds are to stay in contention for promotion. On this performance things don’t look too promising. But with no game mid-week Brian Talbot can work with the team and hopefully his tactics will work better next week.

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Dover Athletic 0 Rushden & Diamonds 3

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

Vauxhall Conference

24.01.98 – The Crabble

Diamonds Team : Smith, Wooding, Bradshaw, Cramman, Hamsher, Whyte, Mison, Butterworth, West, Alford, Underwood, Subs: Kelly, Capone and Alford.

Goal scorers and time of goals: RDFC : Underwood 23 mins Alford 37 and 88 minutes

Webmaster Diamonds Man of the Match : Carl Alford

Match Report :

Dover started off the brighter of the two sides, and in fact could have gone ahead in the first minute but Chris Whyte cleared off his line following initial pressure from Dover. The team of Diamonds was slightly changed from previous weeks as Michael Mison replaced Brendan Hackett, and Carl Alford replaced the suspended Collins. On four minutes Diamonds had their first opportunity as Michael Mison wasted a great opportunity when heading wide and high into the crowd behind the goal. Other than the opening chances, there was very little other action causing concern to the keepers in the first fifteen minutes.

As the half wore on Diamonds started to come more into the game. On 22 minutes following pressure from Diamonds, Gary Butterworth crossed for Paul Underwood to head in Diamonds opening goal. Dover attempted to hit back immediately forcing a couple of corners which Diamonds managed to deal with quite adequately. As the half continued Diamonds passing skills came into their own and a header from West on 30 minutes nearly put Diamonds further in front. Dover looked great on the break and on 35 minutes Smith made a marvellous save from a Sammy Ayorinde header. Then on 37 minutes West picked up the ball just outside the area, he was pushed back so passed to Alford. Alford saw Martin Davies off his line and he chipped the keeper beautifully for his first goal of the season. A great goal by Alford which must have impressed Brian Talbot.

Dover then put on more pressure, forcing Smith to another great save, and then a shot from fully 30 yards whistled past the woodwork with Smith beaten. Dover were creating the chances but failing to take them, the difference between the two sides. Bradshaw had a very shaky first half against the pace of Adams, probably his worst 45 minutes since making the team. Luckily Wooding was having a good game and managed to mop up any slack tackling from Bradshaw. Chris Whyte also had problems with his marking in the first half.In fact he took a knock at the end of the 1st half which left him hobbling and looking as though he may have problems for the second half

Dover as you might expect, started the second half in the ascendancy as they pushed forward to try and get back into the game. Ayorinde had a couple of chances but his accuracy in shooting left much to be desired. Cramman made a great saving tackle on 7 minutes from Dempsey, and on the break Diamonds put the ball forward to Alford who passed back to Mison who hit a good shot just past the post. The first ten minutes saw the Diamonds defence lacking in some way, and looking un-balanced.

The attack for Diamonds lacked support from midfield, and one must say the pace of Collins. Too often West found himself holding up the ball and waiting for support that did not come. On 57 minutes the referee made his first booking of the afternoon, Bradshaw going into the book for a foul on Adams. Gary Butterworth had his appetite back today and found himself getting forward much more than he has done in previous games. Hamsher, though playing well, was obviously playing in a position that was a bit alien to him, and maybe Capone should have been picked for his ability to play wide. Sixteen minutes into the second half Cramman put Underwood in who put across a great delivery to Alford who had his shot blocked by Martin Davies on the line, who hastened a clearance.

Ayorinde picked up on a poor clearance from Mison who fortunately for Diamonds again managed to fluff his shot. Dover started to pile on the pressure, pegging Diamonds back in their own half for long periods. Cramman continued to take the goal kicks for Smith, who is still suffering with his hernia problem. It must be a serious worry for Talbot that Smith may not see out the season, and Darren Watts will have to be drafted in. Carl Alford put in a lot of work both up front and helping out in defence. On 67 minutes Diamonds were again lucky to escape as Dover squandered yet another great chance. Diamonds seemed to have no-one who could hang on to the ball and relieve pressure on the defence. Diamonds were also unable to put any quality balls into the Dover area and put the home team under pressure. Dempsey, who plays wide on the left put Wooding under constant pressure in the second half. In attack for Diamonds both West and Alford, who are similar players, found themselves making the same runs.

As the game moved into the last 15 minutes Diamonds attempted to push Dover back. Whyte looked very slow to recover from his runs forward, obviously troubled by his first half injury. As the game continued Bradshaw seemed to settle down and get back a bit of form. With Whyte struggling it was imperative that Bradshaw and Mison were covering better. Dover made a substitution on 82 minutes in an attempt to provide a couple of killer blows and bring Dover back on terms. With 9 minutes to go Dover fired another couple of great shots at the Diamonds goal that fizzed past the post, much to the relief of the shaky Diamonds defence. On 85 minutes Underwood was put through and fired a weak cross to a Diamonds player, and then Alford climbed way above the Dover defence to waste a golden opportunity by heading way over the bar.

West’s work rate was very impressive today up front, but he seemed to lack the presence of Collins, with whom he had made a close partnership over the last half dozen games. For many games at the beginning of the season Diamonds were criticised for not taking their chances, while the opposition took theirs. The recent form of Diamonds can be put down to Diamonds now taking their chances. On 88 minutes Carl Alford put the game beyond all doubt with another great goal, reminiscent of the Carl Alford of old. A great finish and all credit to Carl who has proved that maybe his future is still rosy at Nene Park. Certainly he has proved a point to Brian Talbot, who himself must be congratulated for bringing Carl back to the team, when his future looked bleak. A U-turn by Talbot, but showing what a strong character he is.

In the last couple of minutes Capone came on for Underwood and Butterworth got booked for putting the ball into the net after the whistle had gone. A senseless booking by the referee but Butterworth should have known better, as this referee has a poor reputation when it comes to bookings. On 90 minutes Alford had a half chance to complete his hatrick, but missed his shot.

So three points for the Diamonds, but unfortunately as in previous weeks all of the top teams won, so limiting the jump up the table for Diamonds.

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Southport 0

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

Vauxhall Conference

17.01.98 –  Nene Park (Attendance: 2477)

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

Goal scorers and time of goals: RDFC : Collins 43 mins

Webmaster Diamonds Man of the Match : Gary Butterworth

Match Report : Three more points to Diamonds in a match that for the best part they dominated. Colin West returned to the line up in place of Carl Alford and Paul Underwood replaced Julian Capone as Diamonds re-shaped their team. The first ten minutes opened at a frantic pace for Diamonds. Collins had a great one on one against the keeper after 3 minutes but shot against the keeper, West had a shot deflected over on 4 minutes, West had a shot saved on 5 minutes, Cramman had a shot saved on 6 minutes and Hackett had a shot saved on 7 minutes. The Southport keeper played out of his skin, keeping Diamonds at bay single handed. Thought of “it will never go in ” sprung to mind.

On 19 minutes West was pulled to the ground just outside the box, but the Southport wall did its job on coping with a Kenny Cramman special. On 23 minutes Southport had their first shot at the Diamonds goal and on 24 minutes Smith came out to gather a high cross, dropped the ball and the attacker mis-hit his shot with only a defender on the goal line to beat. On 41 minutes Underwood was sent clear with only the keeper to beat and all the time in the world, but he tried chipping the keeper and the ball was conveniently placed in the keeper midriff. A terrible waste from a player of Underwood’s calibre. The breakthrough came on 43 minutes as a slick Diamonds move found Collins in with a chance, which he slightly mis-hit and the ball found the back of the net. A half in which Diamonds dominated saw them go into the break with a solitary goal lead.

Capone came on for Hackett at the start of the second half. Hackett who flits in and out of the game replaced by Capone who usually does the same. Neither player has really demonstrated that they can put in consistently good performances, maybe harsh but true.On 50 minutes a mix up between Bradshaw and Smith almost let the Southport attacker through but the run of the bounce favoured Bradshaw who made a hasty clearance. Just a couple of minutes later Southport had a free header at the far post which must have missed by a whisker. A further saved by Smith on 60 minutes saw Southport being allowed to get back into the game. There were a few chances at either end in the latter stages, a curler from Butterworth on 66 minutes and a shot from Capone into the side netting on 87 minutes, the best of the Diamonds efforts.

So three more points for Diamonds, unfortunately all of the top six teams won today, and a performance that sparkled for the first ten minutes and then proceeded to be classed as a normal Diamonds performance. At times looking the “biz” but at other times looking very average as possession was squandered and given to the opposition. Individual performances varied today. Collins still looks sharp up front, but West gave away needless possession on a few occasions. But he never gives up a chase. Capone looks great when running with the ball, but too often today was running towards his own goal. Darren Bradshaw, John Hamsher and Kenny Cramman looked solid, though Chris Whyte ( who has done a great job ) looks to need a break and is desperately lacking pace and vision. Smith made some crucial saves under pressure and is still struggling with his hernia problem. Underwood had a good game, but Butterworth who was voted Man of the Match, I thought at times lacked concentration, with passes going astray. But even Butterworth at 75% is a considerable asset to the team.

This week has seen Mark Cooper join the Diamonds and I am told that he will fill a central midfield role. I am also told that new arrivals will be imminent as long as the promotion push does not falter. I think that decision needs to be made now. We are in 6th position and in with a great chance. At this point in time we do not have a strong enough team, probably requiring another 4-5 top class additions to the squad. Lets get them now, give it our best shot, and if we fail this season at least they will be gelling for next season. Any comments?

Rushden & Diamonds 3 Farnborough Town 2

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

FA Umbro Trophy

10.01.98 – Nene Park (Attendance: 2164)

Team : Smith, Hamsher, Bradshaw, Cramman, Wooding, Whyte, Butterworth, Capone, Alford, Collins, Hackett, Subs: Kelly, Ndekwe and Underwood.

Goal scorers and time of goals: RDFC : Cramman, Collins (2).

Webmaster Diamonds Man of the Match : Darren Bradshaw

Match Report : Interest in this game was high as Brian Talbot was forced to change his line-up due to the suspension of Mison, Guy Branston having returned to Leicester City and Colin West’s in-eligibility. In came Kenny Cramman, back after injury, and the surprise inclusion of Carl Alford back in the first team for the first time since the season started. We had reported on this site previously that Carl thought that he was back in favour with BT, and today he was given the chance to prove that he could perform at this level. He had the opportunity to prove to BT, and indeed any prospective Clubs watching that he could hack it with the best.

Farnborough came to Nene Park with a somewhat patched up team due to injuries and suspensions, and in the opening twenty minutes all of the urgency and skill came from Diamonds. Alford started well with Collins and had a shot cleared off the line early on. In view of all of the early pressure coming from Diamonds it was some surprise that Farnborough took the lead midway through the half, when a mix-up in defence following a corner, allowed a scrambled goal in which the ball some how managed to cross the line. But to Diamonds credit they hit back within two minutes, a free kick following a needless foul on Capone, was rifled into the net by Cramman following a deception by Alford. With all of the pressure coming from Diamonds up to the end of the first half there seemed to be no worries in the Diamonds camp.

In the second half Farnborough suddenly believed that they could come away from Nene Park with a result and Mehew and Wingfield came to life. For fifteen minutes Diamonds were given the run around. Capone was substituted with Underwood and suddenly all of the shape went out of the Diamonds team. Mistakes started to be made and it came as no surprise when Farnborough re-took the lead. Mark Smith allowed the ball to slip into the net through his legs, only his first mistake of any sort since joining the Club. But it could have been so different if Collins had of tucked away the simplest of chances with virtually an open goal at his mercy. Suddenly you had visions that again Diamonds were going to exit the FA Trophy at its earliest stages. But Collins redeemed himself by firing another equalizer for the Diamonds. Diamonds piled on the pressure in the final minutes not wanting the game to go to a mid-week replay. With two minutes to go up popped Collins for his second and a 3-2 favourable scoreline. But the game didn’t end without drama as Mehew fired in a vicious 30yard drive virtually on the final whistle that shaved the outside of the post.

So Diamonds move into the next round and the draw on Monday. The plus’s in this game were the performances of Darren Bradshaw and Carl Alford. John Hamsher had a good game in a new midfield role alongside Gary Butterworth. One wonders how much Mark Smiths injury is troubling him, and whether it would be better to bring in Darren Watts, as the defence seemed not to want to put Smith under any un-necessary pressure. Brendan Hackett did his usual flitting in and out of the game, refusing on a couple of occasions to want to accept the ball or make runs. Darren Collins picked up a fifth booking for one of his sliding lunges and now faces suspension, some thing that Diamonds could do without if they are to sustain a challenge on the title. So often a suspension when you are on a goal run turns into a goal drought when you return to action. Lets hope that this is not the case with Collins. Finally a word on Carl Alford, who I think proved today with his unselfish running and hard work that he still has a lot to offer at Nene Park.

Stevenage Borough 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

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

Vauxhall Conference
01.01.98 – Broadhall Way (Attendance: 3103)

Diamonds Team : Smith, Hamsher, Bradshaw, Mison, Wooding, Whyte, Butterworth, Capone, West, Collins, Hackett, Subs: Rawle, Branston and Watts.

Goal scorers and time of goals: RDFC : Collins 7 minutes.

Webmaster Diamonds Man of the Match : Darren Bradshaw

Match Report : A cold and windy Broadhall Way greeted Diamonds and the hundreds of supporters who had travelled down the A1, in the hope of seeing their team move up the league and put pressure on the leaders. However it was not to be, and a good first half performance was followed by a very poor second half. Yet the first half had promised so much. Stevenage were pegged back from the first whistle and it was only seven minutes before Diamonds took the lead, a header from West saved by the keeper and Collins was there to score his one hundredth Diamonds goal.

There were shaky moments in the first half when Stevenage pressured Diamonds, and the Diamonds defence faltered, but Diamonds spurned chances in front of goal that would have extended their lead to support the possession that they were getting. Mison in particular wasted a superb opportunity with only the keeper to beat, but he blasted high over the bar. The Stevenage crowd were quiet throughout the first half, and you would have thought that it was Diamonds who were the home team. The first half was probably shaded by Diamonds who just about deserved to go in with a lead.

The second half however belonged to Stevenage, apart from small patches during the game when Diamonds broke down the flanks, only for the final ball to be lacking. The match statistics will show that Diamonds attempts on goal in the second half were virtually non existent. Some players like Gary Butterworth, Darren Bradshaw, Mark Smith and Darren Collins have good performances week after week but today there were too many players who were making elementary mistakes that cost Diamonds possession and eventually three points.

Chris Whyte by his own standards had a poor game, giving the ball away and lacking concentration. Julian Capone constantly gave away possession and was later substituted, as was Brendan Hackett who also failed to live up to his recent performances in the Diamonds shirt. Colin West had a competent game without really getting up steam, and Michael Mison was rarely in the game, but still managed to collect another booking and was lucky that an earlier challenge that he made with both feet flying in escaped with just a warning. John Hamsher and Tim Wooding had good games but when at least five players are not performing up to scratch the writing is on the wall. At the end of the day not even a point was deserved over the full ninety minutes.

The first Stevenage goal was a cracker that gave Mark Smith in goal no chance, and the second knocked all of the stuffing out of Diamonds. Mark Smith of Stevenage had a good game and a great battle with Darren Collins, and in the second half had upper hand. Diamonds now go into their FAT match with Farnborough without Branston who returns to Leicester, there is a question mark over West whose loan period is now up, without Mison who is suspended, and without Foster and Cramman who are both still injured. Alford, who appears to be coming back into favour at Nene Park is also injured so expect the team to be makeshift in certain departments. Todays performance highlighted that the team still requires rebuilding in some areas if it is to sustain a serious challenge either this season or next season. New players are constantly being looked at, but the problem is that even with the superb facilities of Nene Park it is still extremely difficult to lure the Nationwide players into joining a Conference team, even one as far thinking as Diamonds.

So onwards and upwards (hopefully) and bring on Southport. Congratulations to Stevenage on their win. Its a shame that some of the moronic goading from a few of their “supporters” in the main stand threatened to spoil the game, but full credit to the stewards for stamping it out quickly and quietly.

Stevenage Borough 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

Vauxhall Conference

01.01.98 -: Broadhall Way (Attendance: 3103)

Team : Smith, Hamsher, Bradshaw, Mison, Wooding, Whyte, Butterworth, Capone, West, Collins, Hackett, Subs: Rawle, Branston and Watts.
 
Goal scorers and time of goals: RDFC : Collins 7 minutes. 
Diamonds Man of the Match : Darren Bradshaw 
Match Report : A cold and windy Broadhall Way greeted Diamonds and the hundreds of supporters who had travelled down the A1, in the hope of seeing their team move up the league and put pressure on the leaders. However it was not to be, and a good first half performance was followed by a very poor second half. Yet the first half had promised so much. Stevenage were pegged back from the first whistle and it was only seven minutes before Diamonds took the lead, a header from West saved by the keeper and Collins was there to score his one hundredth Diamonds goal. There were shaky moments in the first half when Stevenage pressured Diamonds, and the Diamonds defence faltered, but Diamonds spurned chances in front of goal that would have extended their lead to support the possession that they were getting. Mison in particular wasted a superb opportunity with only the keeper to beat, but he blasted high over the bar. The Stevenage crowd were quiet throughout the first half, and you would have thought that it was Diamonds who were the home team. The first half was probably shaded by Diamonds who just about deserved to go in with a lead.

The second half however belonged to Stevenage, apart from small patches during the game when Diamonds broke down the flanks, only for the final ball to be lacking. The match statistics will show that Diamonds attempts on goal in the second half were virtually non existent. Some players like Gary Butterworth ,Darren Bradshaw, Mark Smith and Darren Collins have good performances week after week but today there were too many players who were making elementary mistakes that cost Diamonds possession and eventually three points. Chris Whyte by his own standards had a poor game, giving the ball away and lacking concentration. Julian Capone constantly gave away possession and was later substituted, as was Brendan Hackett who also failed to live up to his recent performances in the Diamonds shirt. Colin West had a competent game without really getting up steam, and Michael Mison was rarely in the game, but still managed to collect another booking and was lucky that an earlier challenge that he made with both feet flying in escaped with just a warning. John Hamsher and Tim Wooding had good games but when at least five players are not performing up to scratch the writing is on the wall. At the end of the day not even a point was deserved over the full ninety minutes.

The first Stevenage goal was a cracker that gave Mark Smith in goal no chance, and the second knocked all of the stuffing out of Diamonds. Mark Smith of Stevenage had a good game and a great battle with Darren Collins, and in the second half had upper hand. Diamonds now go into their FAT match with Farnborough without Branston who returns to Leicester, there is a question mark over West whose loan period is now up, without Mison who is suspended, and without Foster and Cramman who are both still injured. Alford, who appears to be coming back into favour at Nene Park is also injured so expect the team to be makeshift in certain departments. Todays performance highlighted that the team still requires rebuilding in some areas if it is to sustain a serious challenge either this season or next season. New players are constantly being looked at, but the problem is that even with the superb facilities of Nene Park it is still extremely difficult to lure the Nationwide players into joining a Conference team, even one as far thinking as Diamonds.

So onwards and upwards (hopefully) and bring on Southport. Congratulations to Stevenage on their win. Its a shame that some of the moronic goading from a few of their "supporters" in the main stand threatened to spoil the game, but full credit to the stewards for stamping it out quickly and quietly.

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