Kettering Town 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

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

27th March 1999 – Rockingham Road (Attendance: 5017)

Rushden Team: Smith, Heggs, Bradshaw, Rodwell, Branson, Brady, McElhatton, Cooper, De Souza, Collins, Underwood.

Subs: Foster, Butterworth, Wooding.

Webmasters MoM: Branson

Match Report:

This was always going to be one of Diamonds toughest games of the season, and so it proved today. Kettering have improved in leaps and bounds over the teams from the last two seasons that were humiliated by Diamonds at Rockingham Road. This current team held the top position for approximately 15 weeks so they are no mugs. Although there own title aspirations have all but gone they would like nothing better to upset the Diamonds march on the title. With a crowd of over 5000 packing the ground tension was high, both on and off the pitch.

The game was very tight, chances were always going to be few, and so it proved. The first half was a very even affair with neither team really creating many openings. Diamonds best came after Heggs managed to skip past his marker on the right, get to the line, and fizz over a superb cross that was nicked from the head of De Souza. The Diamonds defence was rarely troubled – the Poppies being very workmanlike in their build up but lacking invention around the box. Diamonds soaked up any pressure and gradually started to fizz the ball about themselves, with both Brady and Unders working hard down the flanks, and De Souza and Collins running tirelessly upfront, though without really putting Kettering under too much pressure. At half time Diamonds could be happy with the 0-0 scoreline.

The second half also lacked goals but there was no lacking excitement or incident. Collins and De Souza had two early chances to put Diamonds in front but both were squandered by shots way off target and in Collins case out of the ground. Diamonds started to take control, but tackles were now starting to come in hard and fast. We had seen theatricals from both sides, but when Darren went in for a tackle and the Kettering player reacted badly a scuffle started, Coops went in and raised an arm and the Poppies player dropped to the ground in a theatrical heap. Now I fully expected Coops to go, but the referee only gave him a yellow and then dismissed Collins. With Collins gone there was little option but to keep Migs upfront on his own and play out the game for a point. To play around with the midfield would have been suicide. Kettering then put Diamonds under immense pressure, with Diamonds having to clear their lines with long ball up to De Souza. But one thing this current Diamonds team does not lack now is strength and spirit. They worked so hard for each other, they were superb. The defense in particular was magnificent, no other word for them. Rodders and Brads commanded their area and Guy Branson on a scale of 1-10 would get a 20. He was a giant out there today, hard and fair, strong in the tackle and the head, playing his way superbly out of any trouble and even helping out Migs upfront on occasions. Smudger was as reliable as ever, Skippy and Unders both had every blade of the pitch covered, and Heggsy worked as hard as I have seen him – though his shooting when the opportunities arose left a lot to be desired, on target but no power. Migs upfront worked tirelessly in a difficult situation and should be very happy with his display. The only worry was that we failed to create enough chances, the best in the second half a shot from Macca that somehow the keeper managed to palm over the crossbar.

BT was obviously delighted with the performance and the point. I think it was a point won for Diamonds, and two points lost to Kettering. I am sure many Robins fans will be rubbing their hands at today’s result, but they do so at their peril. This Diamonds team are working as hard as any Diamonds side I have seen. They are superb at the back and look as though no-one will score against them. With a similar workmanlike performance next Saturday the Diamonds should be four points clear of the Robins and playing catch me if you can. Lets hope the Robins have read the same script. We are ready for them!


Leek Town 2 Rushden & Diamonds 3

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

Harrison Park (Attendance 809)

Rushden Team: Smith, Heggs, Branson, Wooding, Rodwell, Brady, McElhatton, Cooper, De Sousa, West, Underwood.

Subs: Foster, Whyte, Butterworth.

Diamonds Scorers: De Souza, Underwood, Wooding (Pen)

Webmasters MoM: Paul Underwood

Match Report:

Diamonds came to Leek knowing that a win would move them joint top in the Conference above Kettering, and we saw a much better performance from them tonight. They played with more confidence and fire in their bellies. There seemed more of a determination to win well. BT had been forced to make changes to the team again as Darren Collins was suspended and Fossy was rested because of an ankle worry. At the back Brads and Razor were still absent though the good news is that both MAY be ok for Saturday, maybe not 90 minutes though.

Diamonds started off well, pushing forward and playing neat possession football. Leek themselves played some attractive football but seemed to have difficulty getting quality ball in to the box. The pitch was awful and it was a credit to both teams that the game was fairly entertaining. There were rumours that a couple of moorhens were surveying the pitch earlier with a view to making a nest and habitat. There was no bounce in the pitch just a splat as the ball landed.

Diamonds took the lead from a great cross from Skippy that found the head of Miguel and the ball slid into the net at a terribly slow pace. One nil up and cruising – Leek huffed and puffed but never really put that much pressure on the Diamonds defence. The first half finished with Diamonds well on top.

The highlight of the second half was a glorious goal from Unders. A neat back flick from Macca to Unders 30-35 yards out, and he hit a glorious shot curling into the top right corner. This had come after Leek had equalised from another mistake from the Diamonds defence – a cross glancing backwards and over the head of Macca finding the foot of the in-rushing Agana who trundled it past Smudger and into the net. Diamonds deserved their 2-1 lead though and extended it when De Souza was brought down by two players inside the box when clear through on the keeper. Tim Wooding made no mistake from the spot. Leek tried to play football throughout the game and there endeavour was never in question. With the problems they have had financially they deserve to stay up, their team are hard working and a credit to their budget. It really is a shame that there crowds are so poor.

Notable performances from Diamonds – MoM had to go to Unders for his magnificent goal and his hard work on the difficult pitch. Rodders and Branson were superb at the back and Macca and Coops industrious in midfield, though I would not say Macca was playing to his normal high standard. The best performances we have seen from them for a while came from Skippy, Heggsy and Miguel. They worked hard throughout and showed the commitment that it seemed was lacking of late. Heggsy in particular, considering some of the stick that he has recently received did not stop working throughout the game until BT decided to bring on Butts to make safe the points. Hopefully Skippy will gain some confidence from his performance, though its unfortunate that his booking received last Saturday means he will miss the Cheltenham game. Unders picked up a ridiculous booking from last nights ref, and Agana was lucky only to receive a yellow for a tackle on Coops.

Now its onward to Rockingham Road where a win will take us 3 points clear at the top and a win against Cheltenham the following Saturday will really turn up the heat!

Morecambe 2 Rushden & Diamonds 3

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

20th March 1999 – Christie Park (Attendance: 1089)

Rushden Team: Smith, Hamsher, Whyte, Rodwell, Branson, Brady, McElhatton, Cooper, Foster, Collins, Underwood.

Subs: De Souza, Butterworth, Wooding.

Diamonds Scorers: Rodwell, Cooper, McElhatton

Webmasters MoM: McElhatton

Match Report:

Diamonds came to Christie Park determined to get a result, even though they would be without a few regular first team players. Bradshaw and Warburton, the heart of the Diamonds defence were still missing through injury, and Carl Heggs had appeared in front of the FA on disciplinary charges and received a one match ban and a fine. But in came new signing number one, Guy Branson – a familiar and popular face at Nene Park with staff and supporters alike. Foster was picked to play upfront even though he was still nursing an ankle injury.

Now, to be honest having watched the game I had my match report written in my mind. Similar to Dover I thought we had a good first half and then let it slip badly in the second. But coming back on the coach we watched a replay of the game on video and my thoughts changed somewhat – so here goes report number 2.

Diamonds looked very impressive in the first half, albeit against a poor Morecambe side who lacked any idea, and within a few minutes Morecambe had the home fans on their backs. Diamonds were quick to challenge, beating the Shrimps to the ball every time, dispossessing them easily. The pairing of Branson and Rodwell at the back coped well with any aerial ball thrown into the Diamonds half, and Macca and Coops controlled the midfield. Hamsher was like a terrier chasing the ball, and there was quick interplay between the wing backs and Fozzy and Collins upfront. Diamonds looked every bit a Championship challenging team. It was no surprise therefore when a free kick taken by Skippy on the right found Rodders unmarked 3 yards out and his powerful header shot past the keeper and into the net. Not content to sit on their lead Diamonds continued to press forward and Darren Collins had a couple of chances that were blocked, but each coming from the less favourable left flank. Diamonds found so much space down the left it was unbelievable. They increased their lead when a cross into the box was fumbled by the defenders and Coops was on hand to turn and fire into the net through a ruck of players. A couple more half chances were created but Diamonds finished the half well on top but under no pressure what so ever from Morecambe. Smudger had made a couple of saves but was rarely troubled.

My first viewing of the second half was that Diamonds had let it slip and Morecambe had the better of the half. But on watching the video this was not the case. Diamonds still had so much possession, but were failing to create the openings and chances required to increase their lead. Their quest was not helped when the Shrimps scored within 20 seconds of the restart. Poor defending from Chris Whyte, caught out of position left Morecambe with a one on one they took good advantage of. The goal going in off the post. Morecambe did admittedly then have a purple patch when they had the confidence to spray it around and work well down the left flank. Smudger was again called on to make important saves, but Diamonds still looked capable though a bit jittery. Maybe they were remembering Dover and being 2-0 up a few days before and surrendering the lead. The shock came mid way through the half when another defensive blunder let Dover equalise. This now sparked Diamonds into life, and BT decided to make his substitutions. Off came Fossy who had received a crafty knock on his injured ankle seconds before the Morecambe equaliser and on came De Souza. Off came Hamsher who had chased everything and on came Butts to add some stability and vision to the midfield. The tempo was upped and Diamonds pressurised the Shrimps defence in search of the winner. De Souza and Collins had great chances that were squandered but with minutes to go Diamonds forced a succession of corners. From a corner the ball was dropped into the box, the ball broke loose to Macca who rifled it into the net. Had the keeper got a hand to it he would have ended in the net as well. The players went crazy, the supporters went crazy, and Diamonds in the end got the three points they deserved and the battle continues to hot up for the Championship.

So now its off to Leek on Tuesday, god willing, and they the Battle of the Poppies next Saturday. Nine points from these away games essential – nine matches to go twenty seven points to play for. Diamonds are going for maximum points and promotion!

Rushden & Diamonds 2 Dover Athletic 2

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

16th March 1999 – Nene Park (Attendance: 2734)

Rushden Team: Smith, Heggs, Whyte, Rodwell, Wooding, Brady, McElhatton, Cooper, Foster, Collins, Underwood.

Subs: Hamsher, West, De Souza.

Diamonds Scorers: Cooper, Heggs.

Webmasters MoM: None

Match Report:

A disappointing result and performance from Diamonds, who let slip a two goal lead when they were cruising through the first half. Injuries to Razor and Brads meant BT having to shuffle his defence and bring in Chris Whyte and Tim Wooding. The first thirty minutes saw Dover in disarray and Diamonds attacking at will. A beautiful free kick from Coops and then a scrambled goal off his knee by Heggs, and you could be forgiven for assuming a rout was on the way. But Dover were brought back into the game by a superb 35 yard goal from Wormull. Diamonds still pressed forward and when Collins was through with only the keeper to beat, and three defenders trailing in his wake, an outstretched leg up-ended him. Never has there been a more blatant foul , but somehow the referee only booked the offender and the chance to increase the lead gone. A header that hit the bar seconds from the end of the first half would have made it a realistic scoreline, but it was not to be.

The second half was a totally different ball game. The Dover manager made tactical changes that limited the ball to Collins and Foster from midfield, and suddenly there was no width and no midfield. Coops who had an excellent first half drifted out of the game, Unders and Brady were kept playing towards their own goal, and Heggs failed to make any impression. The defence then showed that they had not played together for a while and looked jittery, and it was no surprise when Chris Whyte fluffed a clearance, was left trailing as the attacker steered the ball into the net past Smudger.

For the next twenty minutes Dover looked by far the better team, and had the better chances to take the match. The jitters crept into the team, who started arguing amongst themselves. De Souza was brought on to add some pace upfront replacing Fossy, and in the last five minutes Hamsher was brought on to replace Heggs, who showed his disgust at the decision by storming past the dug-out and down the tunnel. In those last five minutes and injury time Diamonds should have taken all three points as shots rained in, were cleared off the line, and De Souza had two great chances to secure the points but wasted them.

So two points dropped, but Cheltenham and Kettering only picked up a point a piece as well. The Robins must be even more disappointed than Diamonds as there point at home to bottom of the table Farnborough ended up with Farnborough only having ten men on the pitch. The Poppies would normally be pleased with a point at Woking, but they probably needed three to sustain their title aspirations with games now running out for them. I think the title will be won and lost over the next two weeks, when Cheltenham play the Poppies, Diamonds then play the Poppies and Diamonds then play Cheltenham. Exciting games ahead!

With Razor probably out for the rest of the season, BT desperately needs Brads to play on Saturday at Morecambe, though he looks extremely doubtful at the moment. As for new signings before the transfer deadline – forget Tillson from Bristol, its a non starter. He is a friend of Andy Collett, lives in Sawtree, and was being shown the facilities. With Wycombe and other Nationwide Clubs after his services he is not willing to drop out of the League, and Diamonds would not break their pay structure.

Rushden & Diamonds 2 Leek Town 0

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

13th March 1999 – Nene Park (Attendance: 2860)

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

Diamonds Scorers: McElhatton, Collins.

Webmasters MoM: McElhatton

Match Report:

Diamonds keep the pressure on Kettering and Cheltenham with a great 2-0 win against bogey side Leek Town. The only change from the team that beat Stevenage Borough was the recall of Unders to replace Kenny Cramman.

Diamonds dominated the first half without really impressing. They were very slow in playing the ball forward to the front men, Collins and Foster. The two seemed so intent on not getting caught offside that they were constantly seen to be running back towards their own goal and the defenders and midfield sat too long on the ball. When it did come the Leek defenders were quick to close down the attackers and they made it very difficult for the Diamonds front men. The ball from Unders on the left was very poor, and Skippy on the right seemed loathe to attack the defenders, but when the crosses came into the box Diamonds looked dangerous. The woodwork saved Leek Town in the first half, as shots from Collins and Foster, and a Collins header struck the wood and bounced out from the goal. Diamonds, though not playing well could consider themselves unlucky not to have gone in at half time with at least a two goal lead.

The second half belonged to Diamonds as they came out fired up. It was no surprise when a cross into the box was passed on by Heggs to Macca, Heggs appeared to handle the ball from my position, but Macca made no mistake by blasting the ball past the keeper and into the net. When Darren Collins added Diamonds second shortly afterwards Diamonds were cruising. Smudger had to make a few saves, and always looked confident in his box, taking all crosses superbly. Anyone doubting BTs commitment should have seen the joy on his face as Collins and Macca found the net. Fossy worked tirelessly upfront, particularly in the second half and was unlucky not to bag a brace himself. He was later substituted, with De Souza taking his place, and De Souza was unlucky not to put Diamonds further in front when his header shaved the upright.

So in the end a good performance, particularly second half, and another three points. The defence looked solid, though Rodders looked uncomfortable clearing his lines at times. Brads and Razor marshalled the back line superbly, Macca and Coops ran the midfield, and Heggsy, Daz and Fozzy all looked up for it today. Skippy and Unders lacked the first touch today, and I don’t think Unders had one decent run at a defender. Its now Dover on Tuesday and another difficult game, but who is taking bets on Diamonds being out of it now!

The support of the lads was great today, especially from the De Banke and the new drum. The drum was great, but we could do with hearing it more often lads. Should be even better when we get one in the South Stand as well!!!

Rushden & Diamonds 2 Stevenage Borough 1

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

9th March 1999 – Nene Park (Attendance: 3169)

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

Diamonds Scorers: Collins (2)

Webmasters MoM: McElhatton

Match Report:

Diamonds bounced back from the disappointment of last Saturday against Hayes with a thrilling victory at Nene Park against Stevenage Borough. This was a great entertaining game, both teams setting a high standard of play. We saw tonight a great team performance from Diamonds, something that has been lacking since the game against Woking at New Year. The whole team seemed up for this game, and the fact that Boro were up for a footballing game instead of a defensive display we see so often these days at Nene Park, meant it was great for the spectators.

Diamonds totally bossed the first half, with Fossy working tirelessly upfront creating space, and Daz with a spring in his step running at the defence. It was no surprise when Collins ran at the defence, cut inside as he so often does and unleashed a shot that the keeper could only assist into the net. Diamonds Then increased their lead when a great cross from Kenny Cramman was looped over the keeper with a deft header again from Collins. Boro continued to play neat attractive football with the dangerous Carl Alford always looking to have a pop at Smudger. However poor decisions from the linesman caused frustration that saw a few bookings on both sides. The offside trap worked a treat for Boro as Heggs and Collins were consistently caught out.

The second half continued in the same entertaining way, but early in the half, with Diamonds down to ten men as Collins was off the field receiving stitches, a defensive error let in Carl Alford who hit a glorious shot across Smudge and high into the net – a superb reminder of his goalscoring prowess. There was now always a worry that Boro may sneak an equalizer. Collins hit a glorious shot on the run from 25 yards that the keeper did well to tip over for a corner. Smudge took care of everything thrown at him, and in the end Diamonds ran out deserving victors.

So at last we saw a performance of note from Diamonds. This was an evening where every player worked their butt off for the victory. Heggs must have worked harder than in any previous game for the Club. Though midfield still lacked some creativity, Macca made up for it with his enthusiasm and his superb runs from deep. Coops worked hard and maybe gives more bite in midfield than Transit would have done. Rodders and Brads were again superb, with Razor having a much better second half than the first. We saw the emphasis on getting early and quality balls into the box tonight, which was what BT was urging the players to do last Saturday, but which they ignored. As for Boro they looked a very good side, with Mark Smith at the back looking every inch quality. I am sure that Cheltenham will now be looking over their shoulders, and will not relish the trip to Boro on Saturday. The Diamonds run-in started tonight, and if this performance can be continued for our next two games then who knows what may be around the corner.

Ps The scouts were out in force again tonight – Gerry Francis and Ian Dowie, plus the manager from Donny and a scout from Cambridge. At least they saw a better game than their previous visits.

Hayes 2 Rushden & Diamonds 1

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

6th March 1999 – Church Road (Attendance: 1300)

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

Diamonds Scorers: Own Goal

Webmasters MoM: None

Match Report:

Yet again Diamonds threw away an early lead and ended up pointless – maybe also clueless. BT brought back Butts into midfield alongside Macca and Coops, following Butts impressive display during midweek for the Semi Pro England side, but it failed to make any impact. The first half saw Diamonds grafting hard, creating a few openings which normally Darren Collins would have buried, but not today. It was left to a goalmouth scramble and an own goal which Heggsy made sure crossed the line, to give Diamonds their first half lead. It was a deserved lead as Hayes created little, resorting to cheating tactics upfront fooling the referee into making senseless bookings. When Diamonds went in at half time 1-0 up and with the Poppies and the Robins both losing, you would have thought they would come out fired up for the second half, but the opposite happened and they were caught by two quick goals against, from virtually free headers, very similar to Cogenhoe in midweek.

There was nothing constructive to talk about in the second half whatsoever, so take this second paragraph as the sum content of the final 45 minutes.

So where did it go wrong? Well for starters we had no creativity in midfield – sounds familiar! To win games you need to score goals and we had only one half hit shot on their goal in the whole of the second half, and only a few chances in the first half. We had no-one who could get a cross into the box! We created no pressure on the opposition. We have no-one with vision to create service for the front men. Hayes wanted it more. They were a large , awkward, average side – nothing more. And we could not beat them!!! I am sure that the criticisms will be out for BT, but in his defence he was shouting instructions to his players that were being ignored, the players had ample time to get crosses in but failed miserably. They know from their faces seen getting back on the coach that they have let themselves and everybody else down with their second half performance and that they will need to pick themselves up ready for Boro on Tuesday. They still need our support, now even more, so lets give them a lift on Tuesday in an attempt to get back on track. It aint all over till the Alford sings!!!

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