Rushden & Diamonds 3 Southport 1

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

23rd February 1999 – Nene Park (Attendance: 2135)

Rushden Team: Smith, Heggs, Bradshaw, Warburton, Rodwell, Brady, McElhatton, Cooper, Foster, Collins, Underwood.
Subs: De Souza, Whyte, Butterworth.

Diamonds Scorers: Foster, McElhatton, Cooper

Webmasters MoM: Paul Underwood

Match Report:

Diamonds continued there good run with another win tonight, and a much better performance particularly in the first half. Unfortunately for Southport they had their keeper dismissed for handling the ball outside the area after only three minutes, and from that point the outcome was never in doubt. The first half saw great goals from Foster, McElhatton and Cooper. The latter were goals of real class, and come after all of the complaining that our midfield was not getting on the score sheet. The first half was all Diamonds, with Brady and Underwood tearing the defence to shreds and getting in great crosses. The defence again looked solid and the midfield started to make use of the space and spray some ball about. Collins and Foster worked hard upfront, while Heggsy ran his socks off but allowed his final ball to be a bit indifferent. But at last we were seeing a footballing game from Diamonds as the confidence visibly returned.

The second half was much harder for Diamonds as they fought to breakdown a re-organised defence of seven across the back playing a well orchestrated offside system. It worked well for them, and Diamonds eased off the gas well content with an easy win. Unfortunately the only real blemish on the game a 90th minute error from Smudger who allowed a relatively easy chance to slip under his body.

Diamonds then picked up the points from their crucial game in hand on Cheltenham, and now looked poised to push all of the way. Brian Talbot made a great gesture in spending 15-20 minutes in the terrace chatting to fans, explaining a few misrepresentations, which I am sure went down well. WE have no game this weekend so the players get a chance to prepare for the run in, loads of points to be won, and some great games coming up. With confidence and results returning who would bet against us now! It was also interesting to see the scouts in the South Stand again – Ian Dowie of QPR and Roy McFarland of Cambridge. The interest seems to centre around Paul Underwood, remember Leicester City were interested earlier in the season. Lets hope we can hang on to quality players like Paul as they will be needed next season in the Third Division when we are there!

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Rushden & Diamonds 1 Hednesford Town 0

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

20th February 1999 – Nene Park (Attendance: 3123)

Rushden Team: Smith, Heggs, Bradshaw, Warburton, Rodwell, Brady, McElhatton, Cooper, DeSouza, Collins, Underwood.
Subs: Butterworth, Foster, Whyte.

Diamonds Scorer: Collins 90 mins

Webmasters MoM: Darren Bradshaw

Match Report:

The omens did not look too good for this game, as arriving early for a TV interview I was greeted by Carel Vandervalden driving out of the stadium. My hopes therefore that Van the Man would return to the stage today were dashed, and it was left to Coops to fill again the gap left by the exclusion of Butts in midfield. But Darren Bradshaw was fit again and so there was hope that we could get another win under our belts, to prove that we still did have some ambitions on the title.

Unfortunately our first half performance did little to instill any confidence that we really are title contenders. There is no doubt we have a great back line, and the return of Brads strengthened it even more. But where was the midfield, the vision the skill? Yes I know driving back up the M1 towards Barnsley. In the first half we were very poor. Macca said on the coach returning from Welling that he had just had his worst game for Diamonds. Unfortunately for Macca he had another one today, though at times he looked like the player most likely to score for Diamonds. Coops influence in midfield is minimal and there is no-one who can deliver the quality ball to our attackers. Heggsy worked hard but his touch has deserted him, and today the same can be said of Daz. He clearly does not enjoy being upfront with De Souza, as time and again there was no reading of each others game, they went for the same ball, or neither went for the ball. It was so dis-jointed it was almost funny. Underwood was involved throughout the first half as time and again all of the play went down his side, leaving Skippy thinking he must have a body odour problem. No one would come near his side of the pitch, let alone pass to him. On the rare occasion he did see the ball he looked quite dangerous. So level at half time, and neither keeper having much to do at all.

The second half Diamonds came out with a bit more passion, and had a couple of chances to open the scoring, both falling to Daz who wasted them when normally he would have stuck them away. De Souza was taken off and Fossy brought on. Now one thing about Fossy at least he is a worker and puts himself about. For the first twenty five minutes of the second half Diamonds looked brighter, spreading the play, Brads making runs forward and starting to splay passes about. They even started to use Skippy on the right wing, who started to buzz a few crosses into the box. But as the game wore on it started to look as though the best Diamonds could do was scrape together a draw. A few corners pressurised the Hednesford defence, and then on 90 minutes a free kick was conceded out in Skippy country. With minutes ticking away he hit a delicate chip over the defensive wall on to the head of Daz who steered it into the net. You could sense the relief all around the stadium, not least from BT and Simes on the bench. But all was not quite over as it was left to Smudger to make a brilliant save late on to deny Hednesford and allow Diamonds, probably un-deservedly to take all three points. So yet again we have played poorly and yet taken all the spoils.

This win keeps Diamonds in contention, although other results did not go Diamonds way with the Poppies fighting back to win at KIngstonian and Cheltenham getting a great win at Hereford. But a further win next Tuesday against Southport could give the lads the lift in confidence that has been lacking for so long. The De Banke were superb today, certainly making themselves heard particularly in the second half. As for BT, maybe his kiddology saying we have no chance is working, as we have picked up seven points from the last nine, and stand a good chance of making that ten from twelve if we can dispose of Southport on Tuesday. Maybe the ball is starting to roll in Diamonds favour, as we are still there though not playing well. I certainly am not going to be moaning if the purple patch comes against Cheltenham and the Poppies in March. Come on you Whites!!!

Welling 0 Rushden & Diamonds 1

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

16th February 1999 versus Welling United at San Siro

Rushden Team: Smith, Heggs, Whyte, Warburton, Rodwell, Brady, McElhatton, Cooper, DeSouza, Collins, Underwood.
Subs: Cramman, Foster, Hamsher.

Diamonds Scorer: Collins

Webmasters MoM: Jim Rodwell

Match Report:

With three points and a win under their belts an absolute necessity, Diamonds made the trip to Welling United last night. Welling themselves desperately needed the points in their fight to avoid relegation so it was going to be an interesting encounter. Brian Talbot had made the brave decision to drop Gary Butterworth, and with Van the Man still not 100% it was left to Mark Cooper to fill the gap in midfield. The only other change to the team being the return of Unders after his suspension.

The opening minutes looked particularly good for Diamonds as they came out and put Welling under immediate pressure. Sharp, crisp tackling in midfield and neat interpassing upfront gave De Souza a great chance after only a couple of minutes, but his shot skimmed just over the crossbar. Welling survived the early scare and started to play a bit themselves, but always ran out of ideas in the final third as passes were misplaced and the first touch let them down. These days Diamonds nearly always look competent at the back, and again JIm Rodwell had a great game. On the occasions that Welling did cause problems there was Jim to get in a lunging tackle, hustle a player off the ball, or get his head to a cross. He now manages to find his team-mates with a lot of his clearances, something that always let him down in the past. But as Diamonds continued to exert pressure on a poor defence Collins found an opening, shrugged off a challenge, and coolly placed the ball past the keeper and into the net.

With the initiative Diamonds continued to make chances in the first half, never looking class, often clumsy, with Cooper in midfield giving a different dimension to the game, but still not being able to command and provide the platform to the forwards. Too often De Souza and Collins seemed to get in their own way, both making the same runs. Heggsy seemed lively and had a couple of great runs, made a few intelligent passes and crosses, but nothing into the feet of Collins and De Souza. It appeared that as the game wore on Heggsy and De Souza were getting a bit frustrated with themselves. Even Chris Whyte found himself upfront on occasions in an attempt to press home the advantage and grab a second goal but it failed to materialise.

So Diamonds went in at half time one up, never really troubled – though Smudger did have to make one good save in the half, and looking better than we had seen them for a while. A platform to build on in the second half? Unfortunately not! Diamonds seemed content to hang on with what they had got. The defence rarely looked troubled but likewise nor did Wellings. There were a few chances but we rarely if ever put the defence under consistent pressure, and their keeper had no save to make from the Diamonds attack, only to watch shots from Macca and Heggsy shave the crossbar.

The game petered out, bookings and mis-tackles took over and a victory was eventually secured. Second half the play was scrappy, there seemed an in-ability to pass more than twice in succession. But we are back to winning ways and I think that pressure did get to the players. In previous games we had surrendered leads and got beaten, so maybe the performance tonight was of secondary importance. I don’t think we will see the vision come back into the side until Van the Man returns, and surely the dropping of Butts means than we are not far away now from that change.

There was certainly no doubting the effort from the team tonight, but bookings received throughout the game by Diamonds players meant that the passion had to be curtailed. A dismissal would have been disastrous. It will be interesting to see now how the team reacts on Saturday, in a hard game against Hednesford. My worry was that BTs dismissal of the title this season would have an effect of the players, but maybe its all kiddology to take the pressure off. Certainly on the coach returning from the game the lads are up for it, and have not given up. Lets hope they get great support at home on Saturday and next Tuesday against Southport, and maybe they can put in a performance to match the effort.

Kidderminster Harriers 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

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

13th February 1999 – Aggborough (Attendance: 2773)

Rushden Team: Smith, Heggs, Warburton, Whyte, Rodwell, Brady, McElhatton, Butterworth, Collins, De Souza.
Subs: Hamsher, Cooper, Foster.

Webmasters MoM: Michael McElhatton

Match Report:

Brian Talbot decided during the week to change his formation for this game and play a 5-3-2 but it failed to turn the game into a much required win for Diamonds. In past seasons we would have been happy with a point away at Kiddy, and last season we were complaining that we did not manage to draw enough games away from home. This season our away form is very good, if not the performances, and its been our home results that have let us down. This draw virtually wipes out any chance of promotion this season, requiring us to win virtually all of our remaining 17 games if we are to reach the points total that should ensure the Championship this season. I am sure that over the next few weeks we will start to see the rebuilding and re-structuring for next season.

Neither team today really looked like taking the game by the scruff of the neck. The two best chances fell to Diamonds with De Souza hitting the post and Collins and then De Souza again, failing to tuck the ball away. Other than those little flurries the game was a negating game, as Diamonds failed to command midfield, again, and seemed content to soak up pressure on the defence and hoof the ball away anywhere. Time and time again clearances were hurried and fell straight to a Kiddy player. Macca got himself booked and will now face a one game suspension, Darren Collins was lucky not to get sent off as he clattered a nasty tackle from behind on a Kiddy defender, and Jon Brady was lucky not to get booked for abusing the linesman on the far side on more than one occasion. All in all another lack-luster performance, with the midfield non-existent apart from Macca who seemed to be the only player willing to try and give some support to the front men. When we played the ball about we looked quite good, but every move seemed to end with the hopeful punt upfield. No vision – no Vandervalden!

So where from here! Even the most optimistic supporter must know that our season is over, and any chance of the title has disappeared to the Robins. Welling on Tuesday in normal circumstances should have been a formality, but the stakes now are not so high – you get nothing for finishing second, let alone sixth. I am sure the plans will now go into operation to start work on preparing a squad capable to do the “biz” next season.

What we don’t want to see again, either this season or next, is an exhibition similar to that which disgraced the Club after this match had finished, when louts purporting to be Diamonds “supporters” turned on the team by the tunnel and verbally screamed abuse at the players. These people are not wanted at the Club, and have let Max down badly by their behaviour.

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Woking 2

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

F.A. Trophy 4th Round Replay

9th February 1999 – Nene Park

Rushden Team: Smith, Wooding, Warburton, Cramman, Rodwell, Brady, McElhatton, Butterworth, Collins, West, Underwood.
Subs: Hamsher, Heggs, Foster.

Diamonds Scorer: Warburton 45 secs

Webmasters MoM:  Jim Rodwell

Match Report:

Congratulations to Woking on their result tonight, it was totally deserved and well won. Once again we have seen Diamonds surrender a lead by sitting back and letting the opposition dictate the game. Once again we have seen a Diamonds team, and I use the word team loosely, with no vision or guile in midfield. Tonight was another example of players not playing to their strengths, and doing their own thing. Tonight we can’t blame this one on BT and his substitution mishaps, this was all down to the players who must shoulder the blame.

Ray Warburton was poor in the centre of the defence, and other than his 45 second goal had a game I am sure he will wish to forget. Thank goodness he had Rodders alongside him, to save his blushes. He really looks as though he needs some more less competitive games under his belt. Kenny and Tim were adequate at the back, but too often their passes bypassed midfield and went to opposing defenders, giving the front men no service at all.  Unders was adequate but often failed to get crosses in, and gave away possession cheaply, and Skippy! Skippy is best on the wing, taking players on and putting in crosses. So why did he spend the first 30 minutes tracking Scottie all over the park, getting pulled into a central position and cluttering up midfield. Talbot was screaming for him to stay wide, but it appears Skippy knows best. When he eventually tried to put in a performance for the team, and follow orders he looked a much better player and caused more problems.

Gary Butts is still nowhere near the Gary of last season. He loses tackles in midfield, gives away possession cheaply and his distribution is poor. Maybe now is the time to take the bull by the horn and bring in Van the Man. He hustles in midfield and has the vision to feed the front men. He is fully fit now, so BT must bring him back sooner than later. Macca always works hard but had little support, and tonight not much sense of direction. Even Smudge in goal looked shaky, and on a few occasions was lucky to get away with dropping crosses. You cant really judge Daren and Westy upfront because they had so little service. Fossy did nothing of note when brought on as a late substitute, only the tricky Carl Heggs – with his un-orthodox style, caused Woking any problems. On the night Woking were more skillful, quicker, more direct, had width, and thoroughly deserved their win.

The only bright spot for Diamonds was the performance of Rodders. This is a player who at the beginning of the season was on a month by month contract, and expected to be on his way out of Nene Park after Christmas. He was given his chance to show that his illness last season was finally out of the way, and he has shone ever since. He does all that is asked of him, shows guts and commitment, and puts a lot of the better known players to shame. He is my current choice for most improved player and player of the season so far.

With the season now so dependant upon the next two Conference games, both away from home, Diamonds have got to dig deep, and BT has got to somehow lift this team. They have only won five of their last 17 games, which is dismal and certainly not Championship form. The season has to turn and it has to turn now or it will just fizzle out completely. Who at the moment would even put money on our winning the Northants Senior Cup, let alone the Conference. Now is the time to put in a team performance, for players to work together instead of individually. We have good players, 28 of them, but we rarely see them perform as a team, or perform consistently. The heights of the match at home to Woking at New Year show what can be achieved. The potential is there, now we need to see it again, week in and week out. Nothing else will do if we are to salvage the season.

Woking 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

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

FA Trophy Fourth Round Proper

6th February 1999 – Kingfield Stadium (Attendance: 2800)

Rushden Team: Smith, Wooding, Whyte, Cramman, Rodwell, Hamsher, McElhatton, Butterworth, Collins, Foster, Underwood.
Subs: Brady, De Souza, West, Warburton, Corry.

Webmasters MoM:  Michael McElhatton

Match Report:

Diamonds needed to bounce back from their poor display last Tuesday, and were boosted by some of their injured players being fit enough to take part in this FAT game. Back came Keeny Cramman and Dazza straight into the team, and Razor Warburton to the bench. Just having Dazza involved again obviously gives a lift to the whole team, and it was De Sousa who made way for him.

The first half was pretty much an un-inspiring half. Both teams seemed unable to get a grip in midfield, and Diamonds succeeded in collecting four bookings for senseless fouls, some maybe dealt with a bit harshly by the referee who seemed extremely whistle happy. There were few chances to score at either end and the loudest cheers went up when the referee blew for half time and then the announcement came over the tannoy that the Poppies were losing at home. To be honest there was not too much to talk about in the first half at all. Diamonds worked hard, closed down quickly, and constantly hit the long ball too long, and the neat touches were always taken one too many before a cross came in and possession was lost. At the back Rodders and Whyte were unflappable and Kenny and Tim Wooding never really under pressure.

The second half opened up and it was Diamonds who always looked the more likely to score. Great chances fell to Dazza but unfortunately both were squandered when one on one with the keeper. Macca also came close on two occasions but the shots were blocked and charged down. Collins is obviously slower than we would expect as a result of his long lay off, but the team ticks over much better with him leading the attack. Fossy worked tirelessly but was eventually substituted with De Sousa, who unfortunately hardly got a look in. It must be said however that this Woking side looked very poor. Their distribution and first touch was often abysmal, and I can remember only one chance of note on the Diamonds goal – and Smudger made a great save. In fairness as well Diamonds huffed and puffed but made hard work of creating openings, maybe due to the heavy pitch or maybe lack of vision again from Hamsher and Butts in midfield.

So another draw and a replay next Tuesday that knocks the re-arranged game with Yeovil on the head. This now leaves matches against Dover and Yeovil to be arranged and adds to the fixture pile up. But at least this was a better battling performance from Diamonds, lets hope they can finish the job on Tuesday. It must also be said that there was a great turnout at Kingsfield Stadium from Diamonds fans today, and certainly in the second half they made themselves heard.

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Kidderminster Harriers 1

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

2nd February 1999 – Nene Park (Attendance: 2400)

Rushden Team: Smith, Wooding, Whyte, Wilson, Rodwell, Hamsher, McElhatton, Butterworth, DeSouza, West, Underwood.
Subs: Brady, Heggs, West.

Diamonds Scorer: Foster

Webmasters MoM: Jim Rodwell

Match Report:

Not good enough! Unfortunately they are the facts. Two dropped points tonight against an average Conference team, and title hopes are fast disappearing into the distance. Tonight we got off to a great start with Fossy tucking a great goal away after only 11 minutes, we then had a goal disallowed for offside which must have been a close decision, and from then on when we should have been pushing home the advantage we sat back, turned negative and let Kiddy back into the game. We had chances to extend the lead but again wasted them, either hitting straight at the keeper or wide of the mark. Yet individuals were not playing that bad, we just don’t hack it as a team. Our midfield was non existent tonight and their distribution to the front men was abysmal. Too often it was left to Wilson and Wooding to hump the ball forward – missing out the midfield completely. The crosses put in from Unders were never finding a Diamonds player and John Hamshers nightmare unfortunately continues. There is no creativity in midfield, no-one to hold the ball, play it around, show some skill. Macca works hard but lacks the deft touches needed to create an opening. We so desperately need Van the Man back in midfield and Dazza upfront. When we went in one nil up at half time you could be excused for thinking that the second half would be a formality.

But we were too negative in our approach to this game. Kiddy are an average side, with some good players, but what’s important is they work as a team. They equalized with a brilliant 30 yarder that caught Smudger off his line. But we never really looked like stepping up a gear and turning on the style to push home and take the points. I was disappointed that BT did not set out with three front men from the start to show we meant business. Instead we see Unders playing too deep to be effective, and nobody adding width to the team and getting quality ball in to the front men. When Brady was brought on it really was too little and too late. The crosses continued to be poor and the small Kiddy number 5 continually outjumped De Souza. We were poor in almost every department except the centre back area where Chris Whyte and Rodders were superb.

Where do we go from here? Well I think BT has some serious thinking to do about his team, the balance seems wrong. If Dazza and Van the Man are anywhere near fit he has to bring them back for Saturdays game at Woking. The way things are looking the FAT may be all we have a chance of winning this season. Yes we still have 18 games left of this season, a lot of points to be won – maybe, but we need some consistency and that is something that is desperately lacking. I think that the poor crowd at tonight game is also telling the Club that the performances are just not good enough.

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