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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