Rushden & Diamonds 2 Woking 0

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

28th December 1998 – Nene Park (Attendance: 4306)

Rushden Team: Corry, Wooding, Bradshaw, Rodwell, Hamsher, McElhatton, Butterworth, Heggs, Foster, De Souza, Underwood.
Subs: West, Whyte, Brady.

Diamonds Scorers: De Souza and Foster 90 mins

Webmasters MoM: Jim Rodwell

Match Report:

Diamonds chose today to silence their critics by turning on a superb performance in front of a bumper Bank Holiday crowd. The pre-match build up though couldn’t have been worse for Diamonds. New keeper Ian Feuer had rang in this morning suffering with a bad bout of flu, and was unable to travel to the game. The Club desperately tried to contact Mark Gayle, but to no avail. The only alternative was to bring in Youth Team keeper Steve Corry for his debut, so the phone call was made to Corry this morning telling him he was playing. Fifteen minutes before the kick-off the Club Doctor was still working on a nasty black eye on Darren Bradshaw, the eye was closing and impairing his vision. Thankfully he made it and proceeded to play a stormer.

Diamonds started the first half impressively. A looping header from Fossy bounced back off the woodwork, an overhead kick on the turn from John Hamsher was also denied a goal by the woodwork. Diamonds really turned on the style, the midfield suddenly clicking into gear and totally dominating. John Hamsher was superb as again he covered every blade of grass, joining the attack when he could and giving great support to his defence. Today the defence stood proud. Whether it was protective of the rooky keeper or not they were magnificent to a man. Jim Rodwell was a tower of strength, as must surely have earned himself a place in next weeks game against Leeds United, even though Chalky White was brought back to the substitutes bench for today’s game. Tim Wooding made marauding runs down the flank, though it must be said his crossing let him down today. Unders and Heggs tormented the Woking defence, and yet another shot rattled the woodwork. Eventually though the pressure paid off and De Sousa stuck a ferocious shot past the Woking keeper. The first half ended with Diamonds totally dominant, but surprisingly only one goal ahead.

The second half was pretty much the same, although Woking did manage to exert some pressure on the rookie Diamonds keeper, most of it unfair challenges. The only thing that let Corry down on his big day was his kicking, but when he needed to gather the ball he did it with confidence. Pressure down the flanks and dangerous crosses into the box continued to cause Woking problems. Goalmouth scrambles and the Woking keeper somehow managed to keep Diamonds at bay until the last minute when Fossy got on the end of a De Sousa and Heggs link-up to secure the points for Diamonds.

This was one of the best performances seen at Nene Park from Diamonds this season. It goes to prove that they can perform as a team and look like Championship contenders. Speaking to De Souza after the game he said that he could feel the support of the crowd today, and I think that worked both ways. The crowd reacted to a great performance, and the players reacted to the crowd. It must also be said that the Woking support, particularly in the second half was superb, really getting behind their team, and it did visually lift the team for a spell. De Sousa was a little disappointed with his performance, feeling he should have stuck another couple away, but he enjoyed playing upfront with Fossy. It was great to see Fossy back today, working hard, showing enthusiasm, and his goal was just reward for his effort. Macca also had a great game, and was himself unlucky not to get on the scoresheet, twice being put through. It was nice to see the confidence running through the team, confidence to have a shot, or make runs forward – something that has been lacking for so long.

So now we look forward to the Leeds game with some confidence. This performance must surely have given David O’Leary sitting in the Stand something to think about. I would be very surprised if BT changes this winning team other than to bring in Mark Gayle or Ian Feuer for Steve Corry. In the last couple of months we have now seen three of our Youth Players brought into the first team squad, Paul Kyriacou, Andy Burgess and now Steve Corry, so the future looks quite rosy for Diamonds. Now we all need to get behind the team for Leeds, it was good today but must be ten times better if we are to compete with the noise from the Leeds fans. Come on you Whites!!!

Stevenage Borough 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

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

26th December 1998 – Broadhall Way (Attendance: 4390)

Rushden Team: Feuer, Wooding, Bradshaw, Rodwell, Hamsher, Brady, Butterworth, Heggs, West, De Souza, Underwood.
Subs: Foster, McElhatton, Archer.

Webmasters MoM: Ian Feuer

Match Report:

Both Boro and Diamonds slipped further behind the Conference leaders, after this hard fought but un-impressive display.  Maybe the conditions played a large part in the stalemate as rain and wind lashed down on the players, but I don’t think we saw either team demonstrating today that they are potential Conference Champions. You can come up with many reasons why the match was poor, Diamonds concentrating on the FA Cup, having to make changes due to injuries, Boro managerless, Carl Alford playing for Boro – all valid reasons but at the end of the day the teams don’t look good enough!

Both teams in the first half failed to give quality ball to the forwards. Boro battled away down the flanks, and Diamonds pushed West and De Souza down the middle. Both failed miserably as there was no inventiveness or creativity in the middle of the park. The Diamonds defence had difficulty keeping their feet in the conditions, as gave away needless fouls. Feuer looks to be a good keeper, 6’7″ tall he commands the area but is also very quick to either come out and clear his lines, or smother opposing forwards. He made a couple of great saves and I am sure BT will be very pleased with his debut performance. Boro had the best of the first half chances, and only the woodwork kept Diamonds level at half time as a looping header beat the keeper, but rebounded to a Diamonds player and was safely cleared. De Souza gad a couple of half chances that were wasted, and poor finishing from West kept the scores level at half time.

Boro obviously pushed forward in the second half as you would expect from the home team, but despite huffing and puffing from Boro, the Diamonds defence never really looked in that much trouble. Rodders, coming in for the injured Warburton, had a steady game doing all that was asked of him. He is never going to be a player that will creatively clear his lines, but he does what he is good at very well. Bradshaw and Wooding suffered most from being unable to keep their feet, but both played well, as did John Hamsher who is a real work-a-holic. He tirelessly covers every blade of the grass, but found no chance to really get forward as often as he normally likes. Carl Heggs had one of his quieter games, a few mazy runs, but will probably feel disappointed with his performance today.

Jon Brady and Unders struggled down the flanks, the crosses were poor, and there seemed an un-willingness to take players on today. Strange that, because the conditions were made for players who can run and turn quickly. West and De Souza were very strong today, holding and shielding the ball, making tireless runs, but the lack of creativity in midfield meant that there service was poor, and there was a lack of support to help them.

Neither of these teams look capable of taking the Conference on this performance today. Diamonds must beat Woking on Monday to keep up with the leaders, there can be no mishaps. We are now in a position where BT cannot say the ball is in our court, we only have to win our games in hand and we are at the top. Our position is precarious, and we now need to see some good performances, from the team and certain individuals. The players have now to stand up and be counted. I am sure there will be a good crowd at Nene Park on Monday, so lets hope that we can look forward to a well earned three points. Another performance like that against Farnborough will not be good enough. Forget Leeds, we need those three points!

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Farnborough Town 0

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

19th December 1998 – Nene Park (Attendance: 2400)

Rushden Team: Gayle, Wooding, Bradshaw, Hamsher, Warburton, Heggs, Butterworth, Brady, De Sousa, West, Underwood.
Subs: McElhatton, Foster, Rodwell .

Diamonds Scorers: West 28 mins

Webmasters MoM: Gary Butterworth

Match Report:

This was surely a case of “The day after the night before”. A lack lustre performance from Diamonds that at the end of the day saw them very close to throwing away two points. The first half was really dominated by Diamonds, but only because Farnborough seemed so poor, not really wanting to play and putting all men behind the ball. Heggs tormented them down the left, and De Sousa looked quick and strong upfront, feeding from West. Butts worked tirelessly in midfield and the back four looked solid. It was no surprise when on 28 minutes Colin West headed Diamonds in front, a well taken goal but slack marking from Farnborough. One could then be forgiven for thinking that Diamonds may want to push forward and try and get a performance going. But despite the goal, Diamonds huffed and puffed there way to half time.

The second half must be one of the poorest seen by Diamonds fans this season. Not helped by Razor being carried off early into the second half, the Diamonds performance never materialized. It was Farnborough then who sensed that Diamonds had not really got the gumption to press forward, and they may snatch a point with a bit of pressure. Diamonds passing was poor, the effort going in to tackle was half-hearted (Heggs the exception), and the midfield became non-existent other than a tireless Gary Butterworth. The front men got little or no service, there was no creativity in midfield, and surely BT would not have been happy with this performance. But it must be said we collected all three points having played poorly, and we are still up with the leaders.

Diamonds are desperate for the return of Carel Vandervalden to add some spice into the middle of the park, to create something, to inspire. We can only hope that BT shakes them out of this “Leeds Dream” that they appeared to be in today. Two important games are on the horizon, against Managerless “Boro” and the ever improving “Spiffs” on Bank Holiday Monday. With the Poppies getting a great result at Hereford and the Robins giving Boro an early Xmas Stuffing, six points from these games are crucial. We can then get the Leeds game out of the way and concentrate on improving our League position.

Rushden & Diamonds 4 Doncaster Rovers 2

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

FA Cup Second Round Replay

15th December 1998 – Nene Park (Attendance: 5564)

Rushden Team: Gayle, Wooding, Bradshaw, Hamsher, Warburton, Heggs, Brady, Butterworth, Collins, West, Underwood.
Subs: Foster, Wilson, Rodwell, McElhatton, Mison .

Diamonds Scorers: Hamsher – Penalty, Brady, West (2).

Webmasters MoM: John Hamsher

Match Report:

A superb night of football, a large crowd, a real Cup atmosphere, and Diamonds steamroller their way into the 3rd Round of the FA Cup and a dream home tie against the mighty Leeds United on 2nd January 1998.( Sorry Boro we can only take 3 points from you now over the Xmas/New Year period.)

Both teams started the game well fired up but it was Donny who took the initiative to extremes, when on 4 minutes a rash double footed challenge on Bradshaw saw the Donny Centre Forward shown the red card. The game had hardly settled back down before another rash challenge on Heggs after he had skinned the defender saw the player sent sprawling and a penalty given. John Hamsher stepped up as cool as you like and scored a cracker that the keeper had no chance with. Down one goal, playing with 10 men, you might have expected Donny to keel over, but this is a very talented and strong Donny side, not lacking in spirit. Roared on by their superb support they fought back into the game. Wright on the wing delivered some superb dead ball kicks that constantly put Diamonds under pressure, with Gayle having to be at his best to keep the ball out of the net. When the equaliser came it was from sloppy defending, but a superbly taken goal. At this point I think Donny actually started to look the more direct of the two teams. But Diamonds spurned at least 3 great chances to go in at half time with a lead. Brady Collins and West all managed to miss golden chances.

The second half saw Diamonds start some what tentatively but gradually as the game wore on their dominance shone through. West scored the all important second goal with a beautiful looping header over the keeper from a pinpoint cross from Bradshaw. Brady added a Diamonds third shortly after and then West added his second superbly tucking the ball under the advancing keeper when put through. The heart went out of Donny as Diamonds started to play the ball around the park. Westy then gave away possession carelessly just midway inside his own half for Donny to score a 90th minute consolation goal, but it was all over long before that. A magnificent performance, and some superb individual performances on note, namely Mark Gayle, Colin West, Darren Bradshaw, Ray Warburton and in the first half Carl Heggs. Jon Brady proved that he is a much better player when he is played in the correct position, wide on the right. Tim Wooding has now developed more of a mean streak and looks much more dependable at the back. Darren Collins was not fit so really should not be judged too harshly for his performance tonight.

Attention must now turn back to the Conference with games against Farnborough, Woking and Boro coming up before the Leeds extravaganza. But lets enjoy tonight, offer commiserations to the magnificent support of Doncaster, and wish them luck in their fight to get out of trouble at the foot of the table. They are too good a team to be down there.

Telford United 2 Rushden & Diamonds 2

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

12th December 1998 – Bucks Head

Rushden Team: Gayle, Wooding, Bradshaw, Hamsher, Warburton, McElhatton, Butterworth, Heggs, West, De Sousa, Underwood.
Subs: Mison, Foster, Rodwell, Brady.

Diamonds Scorers: De Sousa, Heggs.

Webmasters MoM: Ray Warburton

Match Report:

A reasonable performance today from the Diamonds considering what atrocious weather conditions we had in Telford. Taking that into account this proved to be an entertaining game, with Diamonds desperately unlucky to come away with only one point. Making his debut in attack was Miquel DeSousa, coming to Diamonds from Peterborough in a swap with Richie Hanlon.

The first few minutes saw Diamonds pushing forward but it was Telford who took an un-expected early lead following poor goalkeeping and defending, Mark Gayle failing to collect at the attackers feet and leaving an unguarded net for the attacker to chip into. Diamonds pushed forward and it was De Souza who took the equalizing goal after great work from Carl Heggs down the left. His first goal for the Club was a clinical strike and from what we saw during this game it will be the first of many. Diamonds continued to rain shots and crosses on the Telford goal, and had chances been taken should have gone in at half time with a substantial lead. The rain and therefore slippery surface seemed to affect the normally dependable Diamonds defenders more than Telford, and Bradshaw and Wooding really struggled today. Poor passing from defence, over-hit long balls out of defence, and loose marking put Diamonds under un-necessary pressure.

Diamonds came out in the second half looking determined to push home their superiority, but it was Telford again who stole the march, again suicidal defending, this time from Underwood. But again a great finish from the Telford player who whipped the ball high in to the net. Diamonds were relentless in pushing forward. When they played the long ball they looked very average, but when playing one-touch football across the width of the park they at times looked superb. The equaliser eventually came, with Heggs squeezing the ball over the line before it was hooked away by a defender. The linesman signalled a goal to the referee and Diamonds were back on level terms. From here on in it always looked like Diamonds who would get the winner, but it was not to be! Another point away from home, a satisfactory performance – no more, and now we look forward to Tuesday night. But what of individual performances today?

De Souza had a great first game. He was quick and strong, showed great skill on the ball, took up great positions, and played intelligent football. With Collins and De Souza upfront it will certainly be a quick strike force. On today’s showing I think we have got a good striker, and maybe BT will confound his critics who said this was a poor deal. I think he had a great debut. As for my old mate Westy, I put my hands up and admit I thought he had a great game as well. He held play well, worked well with De Souza, tackled back when necessary, probably one of his best performances and was unlucky not to get on the score sheet. Heggs had a great game and relished having some help upfront. Butts had an improved game compared to Donny, Macca was solid but missed two great chances to score, Ray Warburton was superb again. It was only the defence that seemed to be off form today. John Hamsher didn’t have one of his best games, but he showed commitment and aggression in midfield – something lacking in previous performances from a certain Diamonds Midfielder who was on the bench today.

Doncaster Rovers 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

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

Competition: FA Cup 2nd Round

05.12.98 – Belle Bue (Attendance: 5300)

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

Webmasters Man of the Match award : Paul Underwood

As I was walking out from the ground a group of Donny supporters were heard to say “We cant grumble at that – it was a fair result”. In truth they were probably right. Neither team really deserved to go through to the next round on the performances witnessed today.

Lets get the good points out of the way first. Diamonds defence looked solid, and apart from a couple of dangerous corners swung in Donny never really looked like scoring. One fine save from Mark Gayle was all that was required to keep a clean sheet. In fairness the same can be said of the Donny defence and keeper. They were never really put under any pressure, and just a couple of chances fell Diamonds way, one late in the first half, a scorching header that brought a fine save from the keeper, and a looping header from Mison, that for once he got on target, headed off the line by Nicol.

The first half was really a non-event. The referee stopped the flow of the game on too many occasions, intimidated by the antics of Donny players intent on getting Diamonds players booked. They succeeded as well – I believe Mison, McElhatton and West went into his book. Yet a blatant right hook on McElhatton received only a yellow card when the player should have walked. Inconsistency again at the highest level! Diamonds however were playing with only eight men for all 90 minutes. Yes there were 11 on the pitch but only in body. Mison appeared to be on a different planet, West laid off a few passes but was totally in-effective again, and Butts had a nightmare – probably the worst game I have seen him play. Still the first half came to an end, Diamonds attacking, and one could be forgiven for thinking that surely BT would shake them up and maybe, only maybe, make some changes.

Wrong! The second half continued in the same vein. No midfield, no service for our attack – I use the term attack lightly as we have not seen a Diamonds attack since Shrewsbury. Archer on the wing could not catch a cold, couldn’t pass water, let alone a cross. We had no vision in midfield at all. It was left to Brads and Wooding to play long balls over our midfield in the hope that it would fall to one of our front players. It was left to Unders to try and play with Heggs out wide on the wing, and Macca to try and instil some aggression down the centre. The game was crying out for changes, but none came. This game was there to be won if the decision had been made to push for the win.

Why was Hanlon not brought on for Mison, if nothing else it is unfair to let Mison ridicule himself week after week. The same with West, though to a lesser level. West is a great holder of the ball but he has no pace, lacks control and stands more chance of saving a penalty than scoring a goal. It was only Heggs that ever got close to the Donny penalty area in open play, a sorry statistic. Why was Foster not brought on? We did not want a replay and another changed Conference game, why did we not push for the win – it could have been there for the taking had there been a more positive approach from the bench. There would need to be at least four changes to that team to make it above average. Those players may be on the bench or sitting in the stands, but the changes have to be made now.

Today we played a team at the bottom of the Conference, and lets be honest, we did not look much better, if at all, than them. Assuming we beat Donny, and lets not take anything for granted, we now also have to re-arrange a match against Boro due to take place at the beginning of Jan99. Add that to games that also need re-arranging against Leek, Southport, and Yeovil and the fixture pile up is a mess. A large squad that we have may solve part of the problem, but only if those players are up to the required standard to maintain a Championship Challenge. Personally I have my doubts on the quality and strength of the squad. We have lost David Mehew this week, Smudger is on the list, Ndekwe and Staff have gone out on loan to Burton Albion I believe, Vandervalden is out until February earliest with the shoulder dislocation, Chris Whyte only plays Capital games, Julian Capone is still recovering from injury, Paul Wilson is languishing in the Reserves. Just where is our quality in depth in the squad? It looks like being a long hard winter.

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