Cheltenham Town 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

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

28.11.98 – Whaddon Road (Attendance: 4051)

Diamonds Team: Gayle, Wooding, Bradshaw, Mison, Warburton, McElhatton, Butterworth, Heggs, West, Collins, Underwood. Subs Hanlon, Rawle, Brady.

Webmasters Man of the Match award : Mark Gayle

Match Report :

Diamonds can feel disappointed not to come away from Whaddon Road without at least a point. Thats the fact – but they did NOT deserve a point. They can feel aggrieved at missing a penalty to a superb save from the keeper, and a 35 yard shot from Tim Wooding that some how the keeper managed to keep out, only for Brady to miss the open goal with the rebound. In between Cheltenham had taken the lead from a slightly scrambled goal – hotly disputed by the Diamonds defence, but well deserved none the less. So what went wrong for Diamonds? Probably a case of what went right! In the first half the defence looked shaky at the back. The normal ever dependable Bradshaw and Warburton had trouble clearing their lines. Grayson upfront for Cheltenham was superb, fantastic workrate, great skill, and a tidy touch. He epitomised everything that Diamonds upfront were not.

BT had taken a flyer playing Darren Collins, something we all desperatly wanted to happen. But it backfired terribly as Collins took a bad tackle early on, lay crumpled for nearly five minutes, and from then on was a passenger. Yet it could have been a perfect start for Diamonds as Heggs was brought down in a seemingly inoccuous tackle, and was awarded a penalty. The spot-kick was placed hard and to the keepers right, but he saved superbly. That lifted Cheltenham, and demoralised Diamonds.

With Collins struggling and West in the main in-effective it was left to Heggs to do all of the running. In the first half, other than the penalty the Cheltenham keeper had nothing to do. His defence and midfield controlled the game, and Diamonds long ball tactic failed miserably. Cheltenham took their goal after pressure from corners and free-kicks around the box, and slack Diamonds marking.

The second half saw Diamonds open with much more urgency. Collins went off to be replaced by Brady – a strange move, West came off and was replaced by Rawle, and then minutes after Brady missed his open goal he was himself substituted by Hanlon for a 20 minute run-out. Diamonds huffed and puffed but never really looked capable of scoring. Mark Gayle was forced to make two superb saves in the latter stages that kept the scoreline respectable, but it was not Diamonds day.

So where are the problem areas for Diamonds. Today they matched Cheltenham for strength and competitivness, but lacked skill on the ball. It was Cheltenham who played the ball around and looked more like Championship material. We have to admit that we played today without a strikeforce. The problem is who is going to score us goals? West is too slow to cause worries and hardly has a shot on goal these days. A fully fit Collins is as good as any, but I suspect he will now require a long lay-off. Mark Rawle is not ready for the arena yet and was totally in-effective in his run out in the second half. Heggs caused problems when he managed to stay on his feet but again I cant remember him having a shot. We have sold Mehew this week to FGR, and Fossy is still mysteriously absent – injured, Heggsitus, whatever it is we need him back now! We have to admit that we need class upfront and we have not got it. If you cant score goals you dont win prizes, and this team/squad is not good enough to get out of the Conference on the showings so far. It is still lacking in too many areas, and is finding that it is no better than most of the teams in the Conference. It has the individuals but they dont appear to gel well enough as a team. BT has to do something about a class striker now, before we slip too far behind the frontrunners.

Individuals like Underwood, Warburton, and Bradshaw will continue to impress – but Mison is still struggling to get a grip on a game, Brady is in-effective and possibly lightweight, and Butts has not got up to speed yet. Tim is still lacking pace and when put under pressure gets careless with his passing. Doncaster next week! Its going to be very hard to get a result up there. Lets hope its settled one way or the other because we need to get back to Conference winning ways as quickly as possible.

Rushden & Diamonds 2 Bath City 0

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

FA Umbro Trophy 2nd Round: 21.11.98 – Nene Park

Diamonds Team: Gayle, Wooding, Bradshaw, Mison, Warburton, McElhatton, Butterworth, Heggs, West, Brady, Underwood. Subs Hanlon, Rawle, Rodwell, Hamsher, Cramman.

Goal scorers and time of goals: RDFC : Jon Brady, O.G.6mins

Webmasters Man of the Match award : Darren Bradshaw

Match Report :

The right result for Diamonds but an average performance against below average opposition. The early goal from a headed flick into his own net set Diamonds on their way to an easy passage into the next round. You wondered whether the early goal would mean Diamonds could turn on the style, but they proceeded through the game in a lethargic manner, occasional spurts of pace, but generally lack-lustre. No-one performed badly, but no-one shone. Heggsy up front flatters to deceive, a bit like Fossy sometimes. He does a lot of running about, but spurns the chances given to him. Colin West was caught too many times laying off the ball short and placing his partner in difficult positions and having to risk injury. A prime example was a ball too short to Butts who was subsequently injured by an incoming player. Time and time again Westy did the same thing, and when through on goal had neither the pace or the confidence to go for goal. Yet it was West who probably had the best chance to put Diamonds further ahead in the first half, meeting the ball un-marked with his head, and seeing his header skim past the far post. The first half continued at a “yawn” pace as neither side seemed to want to move at more than a canter.

When Diamonds increased their lead in the second half the game suddenly seemed to spring to life. Westy went off with a slight strain and was replaced by the more mobile Mark Rawle, and Butts was replaced with John Hamsher. Diamonds created a few chances, hit the woodwork a couple of times, and had a blatant penalty appeal refused. But it was Bath in the latter stages who started to impress, finding width on the flanks, and it required two great saves from Mark Gayle to keep the score sheet blank for Diamonds.

So in to the next round, we will see on Monday who we get drawn against, but this was hardly preparation for the big match next Saturday. I am sure BT was hoping for a game on Tuesday to sharpen the lads, but with Southport now requiring a replay the game has again been postponed. Somehow the Sponsors awarded the MoM to Heggsy, which met with a quiet reception from the fans. No-one really excelled but Darren Bradshaw looked as impressive as ever. Warburton and Macca did nothing wrong, Tim still looks a bit slow after his injury layoff, and Butts looked steady.

Westy is a disappointment for me, and to a certain extent so is Jon Brady. We hear how he is having problems adjusting to full-time, how he is playing out of position, but why cant he get over better crosses. Yet again we had people waiting in the middle for good service, and once again they were let down. Unders got in a few crosses, but had no shots on goal. We desperately need Darren Collins back, but isnt it sad that with the squad we have that one player can make such a difference to the side!

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Shrewsbury Town 0

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

FA Cup Round 1

Date: 14.11.98  – Nene Park (Attendance: 4121)

Diamonds Team…Gayle, Wooding, Bradshaw, Mison, Warburton, McElhatton, Butterworth, Heggs, West, Collins, Underwood. Subs Hanlon, Rawle, Rodwell, Brady, Cramman.

Goal scorers and time of goals: RDFC : Paul Underwood

Webmasters Man of the Match award : Michael McElhatton

Match Report :

This was a superb performance from Diamonds, in front of the largest crowd at Nene Park for many a while, and against Nationwide League opposition. All of the players deserve a lot of credit from this hard working, gutsy performance. Diamonds in the first half were magnificent. They had Shrewsbury so far penned back in their own half of the pitch that Mark Gayle had no work to do at all – other than watch one shot deflect off the woodwork. He rarely had to pick up or kick the ball Diamonds were so dominant.

The goal came midway through the half, and was somewhat flukey. A Paul Underwood cross looped over the keeper, hit the post, came off onto the keeper who could do nothing to stop it creeping into the net. Darren Collins and Carl Heggs both had chances to increase Diamonds lead when put through to one on one situations with the Shrews keeper, but failed to make the most of their chances. Underwood on the wing was always a handful, and Heggs playing down the centre and the left flank showed great pace and skill tormenting the Shrews defence. Diamonds went into the break with the one goal lead, and new that Shrewsbury would come out guns blazing in the second half.

They did not disappoint. For most of the second half, and particularly the latter part, it was Diamonds turn to be put under pressure. A succession of corners, and wicked crosses rained into the Diamonds penalty area. All were dealt with either by Warburton or Bradshaw. The ball skidded off the pitch and ther were numerous goalmouth scrambles, but Diamonds were determined to a man, not to let the advantage be wrested from them. The pressure was relentless, and when the fourth official held up 3 extra minutes at the end you would not have been surprised to see a late equalizer go in. But Diamonds held out and now go through for an away tie against Donny.

Performance wise, virtually all of the team played out of their skins, full of commitment and heart. West struggled to make an impact, particularly in the second half, and when Collins went off injured, his replacement Mark Rawle looked sharp and full of determination. Bradshaw, Warburton, Wooding and McElhatton were outstanding, and a special word must be said for Michael Mison. Today he showed guts and heart in his performance and proved that maybe he has got more to offer the squad than many supporters believed he had. Carl Heggs looks as though he will be a very useful addition to the squad. Underwood continues to excite down the flanks, and seems to be settling into taking on defence responsibilities when called upon. Gary Butterworth is still feeling his way back to full match fitness, and looks to be improving with every game he is now putting under his belt.

Diamonds should be reasonably confident of getting at least a point at Doncaster, and making it into the next round of the Cup. Lets hope that the support that we take up to Donny will cause the lads to raise their game again, and who knows what the next round may have in store!

Rushden & Diamonds 4 Leatherhead 0

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

FA Cup Replay

Date: 11.11.98 – Nene Park (Attendance: 1855)

Diamonds Team…Gayle, Hamsher, Underwood, Mison, Rodwell, Butterworth, Bradshaw, Heggs, Collins, West, Brady. Subs Warburton, Hanlon .

Goal scorers and time of goals: RDFC : Collins, Heggs, Brady, West
Webmasters Man of the Match award : Paul Underwood
Match Report :

BT rested some of his regulars last night as Diamonds easily disposed of Leatherhead in the FA Cup. Two goals in the first half and another two early in the second half killed any hopes of an upset at Nene Park. Leatherhead started off well, with all men behind the ball, leaving it to Diamonds to try and break them down. They held out for 20 minutes before Collins planted an excellent header past the keeper from a superb Underwood cross. From that point on it was plain sailing. Diamonds played the ball about the park with ease and it was really just a matter of how many they would be content to score. When the fourth goal went in, with 30 minutes still to play BT made further substitutions to save some more players ready for the battle on Saturday against Shrewsbury Town.

Performances of note tonight from Underwood and Butterworth, with Heggs looking very quick and sharp. His goal was clinical and he could have added to his tally if he had not snatched at two shots. The major worry for Saturday will be Mark Gayle. Unable to kick the ball properly due to his injury, he constantly put his defence under pressure. I am sure they will try to get him fit, but maybe BT will be forced to call in young Steve Corry for his First Team debut. Lets hope anyway that the game is well supported and the lads do themselves credit. If we do go out, it may not be a bad thing as it would leave more time to concentrate on the number one priority – Promotion.

Hednesford Town 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

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

07.11.98 – Keys Park (Attendance: 1387)

Diamonds Team…Gayle, Hamsher, Bradshaw, Mison, Rodwell, McElhatton, Brady, Butterworth, West, Collins, Underwood. Subs Hanlon, Rawle, Wooding.

Goal scorers and time of goals: RDFC : Hanlon

Webmasters Man of the Match award : Paul Underwood

Match Report :

Diamonds did a smash and grab at Keys Park this afternoon, and were somewhat lucky to get away with a point after a below par performance against Hednesford. This game only sprung Diamonds into life when they fell behind in the second half to a well taken, but hand assisted goal. Whether the control of the ball was deliberate with the hand or accidental we will never know, but certainly the skill in burying the ball through a crowded box and past Gayle in goal was no fluke. Yet things had started brightly for Diamonds, being forced to play in Hednesford Shirts and socks after someone forgot that an away strip was required. Even BT had to suffer as part of his kit was also omitted from the bus. Diamonds looked cool at the back in the first half. Hamsher, Bradshaw, Macca and Mison soaked up any pressure from the opposing forwards, with only Rodders seeming lacking in pace. Macca was surely lucky that the referee was the only person in the ground NOT to see him kick a Hednesford player up in the air just because he was frustrated that he did not get the ball.

Diamonds problem however was trying to get West and Collins into the game. For the most part the service to the front men was appalling. Butts showed today that he is nowhere near his best yet as time and again passes to the front men only found opposing defenders. Even the immaculate Bradshaw was found slightly lacking today, though we were treated to some mazy runs out of defence on a few occasions. Paul Underwood had a superb half, tormenting the defence, tackling back when required, as did Jon Brady – although some of his crossing left a lot to be desired. Diamonds went in to the break with a 0-0 scoreline, from a half of fits and starts, and the inevitable poor refereeing that we have grown accustomed to this season. In his favour though Mr Cooper was equally poor to both teams.

Hednesford started the second half seeming more determined to get a result, and it was no real surprise when their effort was rewarded with a goal. From here on in the game sprung to life, with Diamonds exerting more and more pressure. Off came West to be replaced by the quick and sometimes skilful Mark Rawle. This was followed by Mison being replaced by Richie Hanlon. These two players added a greater urgency to the game. How Hanlon is not a regular in the team I and many others cannot understand. He shows all of the qualities and skill that the team cries out for. Crunching tackles, hard headers upfield, the vision to play long or short ball, and to move into dangerous positions, he has it all. It was down to Hanlon to get his head on the end of a beautiful ball into the box and head low and hard into the net for the equalizer. From here on in there were chances at either end to nick the winner, probably the best falling to Hednesford.

The Town supporters at the end thought that this was a great game and a great Town performance. So maybe its me who is out of touch. I thought this was a performance from two teams who were playing as though they were mid-table. It was certainly not a performance from a team that looked like Championship material. They grafted and worked very hard, but there is something lacking. There’s no fluency in the play, not enough directness. Maybe Heggs and Warburton will add the missing touches to the squad. We now know Smithy will be out for 8 weeks, and VanderValden probably until February. Kenny is now fully fit, so expect a few surprises against Leatherhead. I think Kenny may play, and BT may play Heggs, West and Collins upfront. I also expect Warburton to push himself hard to be fit for Saturdays game if they overcome Leatherhead. With Smithy out for a long time expect BT to move into the transfer market quickly for replacement cover for Mark Gayle.

I don’t think a point was a bad result here today, but performances must improve quickly. Oh and before I forget lets all say a big thank you to the Spiffs for a great result against Cheltenham.

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