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!!!

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