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.

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