Rushden & Diamonds 3 Stalybridge Celtic 0

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

Vauxhall Conference

28.02.98 Nene Park (Attendance: 2475)

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

Goal scorers and time of goals: RDFC : Mison 27mins, Collins 44 mins and Foster 82 mins..

Webmaster Diamonds Man of the Match : Darren Bradshaw

Match Report :

Diamonds proved again today what a class outfit they have turned into. It must be said however that this was a very poor Celtic team, surprisingly poor in defence, considering Mel Sterland is their manager. Diamonds put Celtic under pressure from the off, and Collins hit the post in the first minute with only Steve Cherry, returning to Nene Park, to beat. Relentless pressure from Diamonds created chance after chance, but all went begging until a goalmouth scramble found the ball at Mison’s feet, and he slotted the ball past Cherry for Diamonds opener on 27 minutes. Collins grabbed a deserved goal just on half-time. If it had not been for Steve Cherry in goal Diamonds could, and should have gone into the break with at least a four goal advantage.

Talbot brought Fossy on to play the second half, substituting for West who received a knock towards the end of the first half. It was nearly a dream start for Foster who shot past Cherry and the post in the opening minute of the second half. The second half was a stroll for the Diamonds. They passed the ball around superbly, cut through the Celtic defence time and time again only to squander chances. Foster must have had six great opportunities but his lack of match sharpness caused him to waste them all, until he slotted in Diamonds third on 82 minutes. In fact one of his headers had beat all of the defence, Cherry included, only for Diamonds Mison to get in the way and block the ball on the line.

One down point for the afternoon was yet another booking for Darren Collins, who joins the ranks of players who will be missing for a couple of games in March, Diamonds make or break month. Its about time Brian Talbot told him not to go in for needless challenges with both feet. He gets booked, rightly so, each time. Plus performances today came from Butterworth, showing no signs of his injury being too much of a problem, Darren Bradshaw and Chris Whyte both superb again, and the ever improving Kenny Cramman who must now be getting back to his very best. Smithy had very little to do, and it was nice at the other end to see Steve Cherry get an ovation from the Diamonds fans who remember the effort he put into Diamonds move up the table and away from relegation last season.

Now for the crunch game against Cheltenham next weekend, where three points again are a necessity.

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Kettering Town 0 Rushden & Diamonds 4

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

Vauxhall Conference

21.02.98 – Rockingham Road (Attendance: 4016)

Diamonds Team : Smith, Wooding, Bradshaw, Cramman, Whyte, Mison, Cooper, Capone, Collins, West, Underwood, Subs: Foster, Hamsher, and Hackett .

Goal scorers and time of goals: RDFC : Mison 19mins, Underwood 42mins, West 57 and 87mins.

Webmaster Diamonds Man of the Match : Team Performance

Match Report :

A superb, professional performance this afternoon saw Diamonds breeze past Kettering and into Second Place in the Conference. Putting Gateshead and the squandered chances behind them Diamonds looked too professional for a Kettering side which must still have worries about relegation. Diamonds started the first half with a strong wind in their faces, making it difficult to clear their lines, but in the opening 10 minutes they battled and matched Kettering, who tried to exert early pressure.

Diamonds coped with a couple of early corners from Kettering, and gradually started to take a stranglehold on the midfield. Poor refereeing meant that the first half became very much a stop/start half. Every time that the quick Pearson went down under a tackle the referee booked a Diamonds player. Bradshaw, Mison, Collins and Whyte were all booked, with a couple of bookings for Kettering as well. Diamonds created good width down the flanks, and it was from one such move that a wicked cross was fired in finding the head of Mison who easily scored. This happened just as the Diamonds fans were giving Mison stick for losing possession time and time again. On 42 minutes Underwood sent the fans crazy as another great cross gave him the space to lift the ball round the advancing keeper to send Diamonds into the break with a well deserved two goal lead.

The second half started with Kettering looking for an early goal to get back into the game, but it was Diamonds who always looked the more impressive either going forward or holding the line at the back. Both Collins and West worked hard up front, and both had chances to extend Diamonds lead as they fought the offside trap.On 87 minutes West was put clear, calmly rounded the keeper and literally walked the ball into the empty net. The Kettering keeper then proceeded to assault West, and in-explicably got only a yellow card when he should have been sent off. That goal virtually killed the game as far as Kettering were concerned. Diamonds looked cool on the ball, and at times played it around superbly. It was therefore no surprise when Collins had a chance to put Diamonds further ahead, hit the post, and a bobbling ball fell to West who executed probably his easiest goal for some time. The game ended with Diamonds in the ascendancy and strolling around Rockingham Road.

As for notable performances, the whole of the backline did their job well. Bradshaw was again superb, as was Kenny Cramman who has come in for some stick from yours truly on many an occasion. Kenny missed nothing either on the ground or in the air. Possibly a few wayward passes, but he was always their to make amends and clear up any danger. Michael Mison still gives cause for concern when he tries to beat people in attack, and finds himself out of position when the attack breaks down. Chris Whyte was excellent, Mark Cooper, in for the injured Gary Butterworth, got better as the game wore on. As for West and Collins, they put in such effort up front, I just wish Darren would hang back from making his stupid lunging tackles in non-dangerous positions. He collected another booking today, and may soon find himself missing from crucial games in the run in. Even Julian Capone had one of his better games today, and he looks to be a much stronger player these days.

A downer on the afternoon was some stupid behaviour from some Kettering fans throwing eggs over the perimeter wall, from outside the ground, which splattered over the Diamonds supporters and around the Diamonds penalty area. Smithy retrieved one and threw in nearly 30 yards towards the side of the ground where the Kettering Supporters were gathered. They thought it was sinister and jeered and threatened. Couldn’t they see it was just a YOKE?

See here for video highlights of the game.

Gateshead 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

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

Vauxhall Conference

14.02.98 – Gateshead International Stadium (Attendance: 616)

Diamonds Team : Smith, Wooding, Bradshaw, Cramman, Hamsher, Whyte, Mison, Butterworth, Collins, C.Smith, Underwood, Subs: Cooper, Capone and Foster .

Goal scorers and time of goals: RDFC : Collins 12min and Bradshaw o.g 90 mins.
Webmaster Diamonds Man of the Match : Gary Butterworth

Match Report : Darren Bradshaw and Mark Smith have been two of Rushden’s outstanding performers in the surge towards the top of the Conference. But at the International Stadium on Saturday it was their un-characteristic mistakes that blew a huge hole in the promotion ambitions and handed bottom of the table Gateshead only their third win of the season.Gaffe number one came three minutes into the second half. The ball was knocked in from the right and as it landed Bradshaw fatally hesitated. He couldn’t cope with the bounce and it skimmed clear for substitute Paul Proudlock to spot Smith fatally stranded in no-mans land and he beat him with an astute 15 yard lob. Then in injury time Proudlock got over a centre from the left, Smith mis-timed his punch and allowed Nick Peverill to hook the ball onto the post where it rebounded off the unfortunate Bradshaw and into the back of the net.

It was indeed a cruel blow for the Diamonds. But they only have themselves to blame as they scorned a string of chances. One goal from 18 on target chances is hardly the stuff that aspiring champions are made of. Gateshead’s defence was a shambles when it was at its best, and in only the sixth minute John Hamsher cut in from the right but shot weakly at keeper Dean Williams. And it came as no shock when the visitors took a 12th minute lead. A flowing move from deep released Gary Butterworth on a forceful run, and when his shot was deflected it gave Darren Collins the opportunity to volley his 22nd goal of the season. Gateshead retaliated with Smith forced into spectacular saves from long range efforts. But most of the action was confined to the home half as Diamonds constantly carved holes into a static back-line – the best chance falling to Collins who robbed Kenny Lowe only to side foot tamely over.

And so it continued after Gateshead had pulled level. Collins beat the keeper to a through ball but fatally checked his shot and Paul Marquis was on hand to block. Tim Wooding volleyed inches over the top from a glorious position, Paul Underwood blazed over the top, and Collins again got clear to slide the ball wide of the advancing Williams – but also past the far post. Underwood then saw his goal-bound header hit a defender and substitute Adrian Foster’s deft turn created an opening at the near post but Williams was down quickly to get his body in the way. Having used all their substitutes in a desperate throw of the dice Diamonds were reduced to ten men when Butterworth was stretchered off five minutes from time.

And then came the last gasp killer blow. It wasn’t exactly what the doctor had ordered in front of the cable TV cameras….

Rushden & Diamonds 4 Halifax Town 0

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

Vauxhall Conference

7.02.98 – Nene Park (Attendance: 3875)

Diamonds Team : Smith, Wooding, Bradshaw, Cramman, Hamsher, Whyte, Mison, Butterworth, Collins, West, Underwood, Subs: Cooper, Capone and Craig Smith .

Goal scorers and time of goals: RDFC : Collins 1min and 59 mins, Butterworth 32 mins and Underwood 66 mins.

Webmaster Diamonds Man of the Match : Darren Collins

Match Report :

The unfairest decision to be made was the “Man of the Match” because in the game witnessed this afternoon the whole of the Diamonds team were superb. They blitzed Halifax from start to finish, playing them off the park. Halifax were left tattered and torn as Diamonds ripped them apart. If chances were taken this could easily have been a rout. For Diamonds the match could not have got off to a better start, as neat interplay between the midfield and West put Collins in with a chance which he stabbed past the keeper to make it one nil. Diamonds carved Halifax apart time and again, with the “Big Yin” impersonator Brian Kilcline finding that he had a handful with Darren Collins and Colin West.

The second goal for Diamonds was one of the best ever witnessed at Nene Park. Great clinical passing and interplay, Kenny Cramman passing a great ball to Butterworth who hit a wonderful shot curving wide of the keeper and into the net. Minutes later a looping shot from Underwood rebounded off the crossbar just failing to fall to a Diamonds player. Diamonds were barely tested in defence but when danger did threaten there was Darren Bradshaw and Chris Whyte to clear up. Bradshaw did not put a foot wrong all game and Chris Whyte seemed to put any inconsistency behind him as he coped admirably with the Conference top scorer Horsfield. But surely one of the most improving players must be John Hamsher, who had his best game yet for the club. His skill on the ball and his running off the ball must have been an inspiration to any young players watching the game. Tim Wooding looked composed and Michael Mison had one of his better games, but still for some reason doesnt want to mess his hair as he jumps for the ball but never connects with a header.

The only mystery of the first half was how Diamonds failed to be further ahead, and how Halifax are clear at the top of the Conference. Their team lack any imagination, and are the dirtiest team seen this season at Nene Park. They argue amongst themselves, and surely will fall away in the title race. They did have one great little player in Jamie Murphy at No4 who saved their bacon on many occasion as it looked like Collins would race clear.

The second half we expected Halifax to come out and put the Diamonds under pressure, which they did briefly. Diamonds always looked the most likely to score though and on 59 minutes Collins grabbed his second following a rebound off the crossbar.Three up and cruising Diamonds piled on the pressure and on 66 minutes Cramman put over a great ball from the left and Paul Underwood planted a great header past the keeper. For Halifax there was now no return, and their strong arm tactics came to the fore. In all six Halifax players were booked and worse was to follow.On 87 minutes Paul Storeman was sent off for a right hook that floored Mark Cooper.

Collins somehow managed to miss a sitter which would have completed his hatrick, but he can be excused a rare miss these days. This must surely have been one of the most complete Diamonds performances for years. It certainly looks as though the squad are stronger and fitter this season and looking good for a competitive title run-in. In the last quarter of this game Diamonds introduced new loan signing Craig Smith from Derby County, and his first touch forced the Halifax keeper to tip the ball round the post for a corner. He subsequently also had a great chance with a header which went agonisingly wide. The final words must be saved for the Halifax supporters who were there in their large numbers, sang throughout the game, even though their team game them nothing to cheer about. Well done the visiting Shaymen supporters!

See here for video highlights of the game.

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