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!

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