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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