Rushden & Diamonds 3 Morecambe 3

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

28.03.98 – Nene Park (Attendance: 2758)

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

Goal scorers and time of goals: RDFC : Collins 10 and 15 mins , Underwood 35 mins.

Webmaster Diamonds Man of the Match : Darren Collins

Match Report :

It was hard to write last weeks report for the game against Halifax, this is just as hard. It is hard to understand how a team that is cruising with a 3-0 lead, playing exhibition football, can suddenly change in the space of minutes to a team lacking vision skill and committment. But this is exactly what happened at Nene Park this afternoon. Diamonds played the first 35 minutes and looked superb. Foster had a goal dis-allowed as early as 6 minutes, before Darren Collins put Diamonds into a two goal lead on the 10th and 15th minutes. The first goal Collins cracked into the right hand side of the goal, and the second was a header after good work from Fossy on the right. Collins just failed to make his hatrick on 20 minutes as the keeper saved brilliantly. Fossy then proceeded to smack a screamer just over the bar on 21 minutes, and Cooper followed on 34 minutes with a deadly dipping shot from 30 yards that had the keeper beaten. Underwood put Diamonds further ahead on 35 minutes after a mix-up in the Morecambe defence and you could be forgiven for taking bets on how many Diamonds would score. Then the unthinkable happened. Morecambe hit back with two goals in as many minutes and the game turned. From that point on it was all Morecambe and the half time whistle couldnt come quick enough for Diamonds.

The second half was all Morecambe and it was surprising that they had to wait until the 70th minute to equalise. Wooding fell over on the edge of the box leaving Mark Shirley to squeeze the ball between Smith and the post. This was no more than Morecambe deserved. They totally dominated Diamonds in Midfield so much so that Diamonds were unable to create any chances for their attackers, in fact they could not even get hold of the ball for long periods. When they did have the ball they gave it away cheaply. Mison, Cramman and Wooding were the main culprits, in fact Mison has had another nightmare game. He is a big player but sometimes one wonders about the size of his heart when the chips are down. Tim Wooding has lost his confidence after the Halifax game and he totally lost it after giving away the third goal. Cooper has none of the dominence in midfield that we associate with Gary Butterworth, but put in a few telling, crunching tackles – one of which he was rewarded with another booking. Capone after a great first half received no service, and the changes BT effected made no difference to a side that lost its way. Full credit to Morecambe and their supporters for the fightback, but today was the day that we could have nicked two points back on Halifax, and we failed miserably. The longer todays game went on it was only ever going to be Morecambe who would score, and in the end Diamonds were literally hanging on for a draw.

The first half hour showed the heights that this team can aspire to, but the last hour was woeful and needs sorting quickly or Diamonds may not even hang on to a runners-up position. Hopefully Gary Butterworth will be back to add leadership qualities to the team at Telford next week. We need him back desperately.

Full marks however to Julian Capone, speaking on Radio Diamonds after the game. Too often the supporters listen to players after a defeat who seem to show no feelings for the loss. Julian was honest in his thoughts on the game, and obviously very upset with the result and the way the game was almost lost. Full credit – for once someone came across as feeling as bemused and shocked as the Diamonds supporters are after a performance like that.

Hednesford Town 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

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

Vauxhall Conference

23.03.98 – Keys Park (Attendance 1342)

Diamonds Team Smith, Wooding, Bradshaw, Mison, Cramman, Whyte, Hamsher, Cooper, Foster(Sub Mehew 72min), Collins, Underwood – subs: Capone, Rawle.

Webmaster Man of the Match Mark Smith.

John Hamsher scored a 14th minute goal for Rushden & Diamonds away at Hednesford. Most of the rest of the match had the Diamonds defending, and once again the man of the match and hero, Mark Smith often had to defend his goal.

It was obvious that the Diamond’s team have not given up the title just yet, and it was a shame the same effort could not have been displayed against Halifax on Saturday.

Darren Collins might have scored after only 5 minutes when the Hednesford goalkeeper managed to scoop Darren’s ten -yard chip from under the bar. However, 9 minutes later the home teams defence failed to clear a Tim Wooding’s corner, and John Hamsher blasted a 15 yard volley, which left the Hednesford goalkeeper helpless.

It was only great goalkeeping by Smith that prevented the home team to get on equal terms. A fierce shot from Hednesford’s Paul Carty was tipped over the bar, and Mark’s body stopped a powerful header from Delton Francis from going into the net. Later he came off best in a one-to-one again with Carty, after Francis had created an opening.

Darren Bradshaw and Chris Whyte held firm against Hednesford’s continuous attacking in the second half, and it became one way traffic, unfortunately it was all towards our goal. Hamsher saved the day for the Diamonds when he cleared off the goal line after a scramble from a corner.

Mark Cooper was an honourable replacement for the rested Butterworth, and hopefully this rest will enable Gary to return to the form that we have been accustomed to.

Unfortunately yellow cards were given to some of our regular sinners, namely : Mison, Collins, and Cooper, also Hamsher.

Halifax Town 2 Rushden & Diamonds 0

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

Vauxhall Conference

21.03.98 – The Shay (Attendance: 3951)

Diamonds Team : Smith, Wooding, Bradshaw, Cramman, Whyte, Mison, Butterworth, Hamsher, West, Foster, Underwood, Subs: Mehew, Capone, Rawle .

Webmaster Diamonds Man of the Match : Mark Smith

Match Report :

The Shaydown turned out to be the letdown, as Diamonds failed to put in a performance against Halifax Town this afternoon. When Halifax came to Nene Park they let themselves down badly, and Diamonds did the same at the Shay. Halifax pressed Diamonds back from the first whistle, with Bradshaw peppering the Diamonds penalty area with superb crosses for the two front men to get on the end of. Mark Smith was kept extremely busy making at least three first class saves in the first half that kept Diamonds in with a shout at half time. Diamonds were second best throughout the first half. Whyte and Bradshaw looked solid at the back and Cramman and Wooding tried to push forward along the flanks, but it all went disastrously wrong in midfield and upfront. Butterworth, due to his injury has lost all pace and bite and was found lacking. Time and time again Diamonds failed to clear their lines and passed to the opposition. We couldn’t find any quality ball for the forwards, and although Fossy worked hard he had only one opportunity on goal that he blasted into the side netting. West was in-effective and gave too much ball away to the opposition, and Underwood struggled as he did last week against Woking. How Diamonds managed to go in level at 0-0 at half-time is a mystery. They should have been 3-0 down at least, and would have had no complaints.

When the referee blew for the end of the first half, you thought at least Brian Talbot would be able to gee them up for the second half, but the game resumed as it had finished with Halifax in total control. Diamonds forced a couple of corners in quick succession, but never put the defence under pressure. West was substituted by Mehew, who had a lot to prove, but things went from bad to worse for Diamonds. On 70 minutes a mix up in the Diamonds defence and Wooding put into his own net. Time and time again Halifax ripped the Diamonds defence apart but poor finishing kept the score to the single goal. Mehew was then substituted himself which is a mystery, as I cant make out whether he got injured or BT thought he was no better than West. Then on 85 minutes, with the faithful 500 starting to drift away, Halifax got their second after great interplay up front, that left Smith floundering. Diamonds only attempt on goal came with three minutes to go, and Julian created an opening only to blast high and wide. That summed up the game for Diamonds.

A great performance from Halifax that will surely see them playing League football next season, as the other Conference results all went in their favour. Good luck to them, as on this performance they will more than hold their own in the Third Division. For Diamonds its more of a case of what might have been. The supporters around me were more disappointed that we went down without much of a fight. We didn’t seem to want the result as much as Halifax, we were not as quick as Halifax, we had no penetration, gave the ball away cheaply, and deserved nothing from the game. Having said all of that we are still in second place, and whatever the outcome at the end of the season, the season is a success for Diamonds. The race for the title was never lost at Halifax, (yes I know that its still mathematically possible to catch Halifax), it was lost against Gateshead, and Hayes at home, and Slough at home. The lessons have been learn from those games. So now we move on the Hednesford on Monday night and another tough game. Congratulations again to Halifax on a superb performance and a well deserved victory.

Ps. When the Shay is finished it will be a very good stadium.

Woking 0 Rushden & Diamonds 2

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

Vauxhall Conference

14.03.98 – Kingfield Stadium

Diamonds Team : Smith, Wooding, Bradshaw, Cramman, Whyte, Mison, Butterworth, Capone, Mehew, Foster, Underwood, Subs: Cooper, Hamsher, Rawle .

Goal scorers and time of goals: RDFC : Mison 5mins, Foster 90 mins.

Webmaster Diamonds Man of the Match : Darren Bradshaw

Match Report :

This turned out to be a great day for the Diamonds, but started out disappointingly. Why you may ask! Because on turning up at the ground we were told Diamonds fans had been allocated standing room only and more importantly they were not allowed into the clubhouse for a pint. Directions were given to the nearest pub, some mile away. So much for turning up early for a pie and a pint and a natter. Anyway onto the match Report.

Diamonds started the match in great style and from the off set out their stall to attack Woking. In the fifth minute a cross through ball found Mison( in a forward position???) on the right edge of the area and instead of crashing his shot over the bar hit a great shot into the far corner of the net past the despairing keeper.

From then all of the first half belonged to the Diamonds. They played the neater football, using the whole width of the pitch and could have added to their tally as shots and deflections caused chaos in the Woking defence. Capone time and again cut through the defence only for a last minute tackle to deny him space for a shot. New boy Mehew found himself doing a West job, holding up play for Fossy to get into dangerous positions. The defence looked solid and was rarely troubled other than a few goalmouth scrambles. Cramman and Wooding spread wide and both flanks were exploited. Bradshaw and Whyte in the centre were superb, though Underwood didn’t have one of his best games. So Diamonds went into half time with a one goal lead that could so easily have been a three goal advantage.

I expected the second half performance to continue in the same vein, but it was not to be. Woking made a substitution, Capone went off injured, Butterworth got crocked (again) and Diamonds suddenly found themselves on the back foot. Woking sensed an equaliser and pressed forward relentlessly. Diamonds had to endure corner after corner but hung on due to stout defending. Diamonds though always looked dangerous when breaking quickly and it was no surprise when in the latter stages with Woking pushing everything in an attempt to equalise found themselves short at the back. Foster took the ball outside the Woking area, shimmied past two defenders to gain space and fired a rifle shot past the keeper and into the top right corner of the net. No more than he deserved as he ran himself into the ground and chased every ball.

So Diamonds have pushed back into second in the table and pulled back another two points on Halifax. Next weeks game will undoubtedly be a championship decider as a win for Diamonds will bring them to within four points of the leaders. Notable performances today came from Bradshaw and Cramman. Mehew had a tough initiation but performed admirably, while the only worries from the game came from and indifferent performance from Paul Underwood and another injury knock to Butterworth. Collins would have made a greater difference to todays game, but lets not criticise in any way, lets enjoy the Annies putting one over (again!!!) on the “Spiffs”.

Rushden & Diamonds 4 Cheltenham Town 1

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

Vauxhall Conference

07.03.98 – Nene Park (Attendance: 3857)

Diamonds Team : Smith, Wooding, Bradshaw, Cramman, Whyte, Cooper, Butterworth, Capone, Collins, Foster, Underwood, Subs: Rodwell, Hamsher, Rawle .

Goal scorers and time of goals: RDFC : Cramman(Pen) 33 mins, Collins 65 mins , Foster 88 mins and Cooper 87 mins.

Webmaster Diamonds Man of the Match : Mark Cooper

Match Report :

This was always going to be a difficult match for the Diamonds, as Cheltenham had turned them over twice already this season, and probably looked the best team in the Conference. The first thirty minutes the teams were very evenly matched, each playing hard and not shirking any tackles. Diamonds probably just had the better of this opening spell, and Underwood and Collins both went close, Underwood in particular missing with an unmarked header, similar to those that in previous weeks he had tucked away.

Julian Capone was finding a lot of space on the right and when he was sent clear in the 32nd minute with only the keeper to beat he was tugged to the ground and a penalty awarded. The referee had no option but to send off Knight. Kenny Cramman took a great spot kick that put Diamonds in front, but the arguments continued from the Cheltenham players who felt that the foul didn’t warrant a sending off. I must admit that if it had gone the other way I would have been very disappointed. Diamonds continued to exert pressure and had chances to go further ahead but the chances were squandered.

Diamonds could feel slightly lucky to go into the break 1-0 up, but they were playing against a tricky wind when it was difficult to clear the area.Cheltenham came out in the second half looking rather dejected. Diamonds started to play the ball around, and Collins and Foster started to cause more and more problems to the Cheltenham defence, making the extra man tell. Foster is always a handful for any defender and it was on 54 minutes that the game took another turn as Freeman clattered into Foster from behind with a vicious tackle that warranted a red card on its own.

With Cheltenham now down to nine men Diamonds had only to play the ball around and not let Cheltenham into the game, but slack marking allowed Victory to pull a goal back on 81 minutes which could have hurt Diamonds but straight from the restart a mix-up in the Cheltenham defence allowed Foster space to round the keeper and prod the ball home. Diamonds finished the game as a spectacle on 87 minutes when Foster was put through but failed to knock the ball past the advancing keeper. The keeper failed to clear the ball, Foster challenged and won the ball back, passed back to Cooper who shot from 30 yards into an empty net.

So another great result for Diamonds, and some great performances in the afternoon from players who have received criticism from me in some games. Julian Capone had one of his best games for Diamonds as did Paul Underwood. Both players gave 100% and covered every blade of the pitch. Kenny Cramman had another blinder as did Chris Whyte and Darren Bradshaw. Tim Wooding has developed into an accomplished right back. On the down side one worry must be for Gary Butterworth who limped off on 81 minutes with an ankle injury. Diamonds now move on to next weeks game with Woking, unfortunately missing the suspended Darren Collins and possibly Chris Whyte. Michael Mison however will return to bolster the defence.

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