Rushden & Diamonds 1 Hayes 0

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

7th September 1999 – Nene Park (Attendance 2432)

Rushden Team : Turley, Brady, Rodwell, Peters, Warburton, Cooper, Butterworth, McElhatton, Collins, Sale, Underwood. Substitutes West, Wooding, Smith, Mills, De Souza.

Diamonds Scorers: Peters 18 minutes

Webmasters MoM: Ray Warburton

Injury to Darren Bradshaw, with ankle tendon problems, meant that Brian Talbot had to change his defensive line up tonight for the first time this season. Back into the team came Jim Rodwell, always an able deputy. Diamonds needed to get back to winning ways after the disappointment of last Saturday up at Northwich, so three points from this game in hand were the order of the day. They were achieved with a gritty, though sometimes less than pretty performance, against a hard battling Hayes team. Make no mistake, Hayes are always a tough, physical, well organised team so you have to compete in all departments. Diamonds achieved that tonight and the spoils were three valuable points that moved them up to fourth place in the league.

Hayes actually came closest to scoring in the opening minutes, a lob going over Turley but just wide of the far post. Cooper had a chance on 10 minutes after good work from Sale and Collins, but his shot was mis-hit and the danger cleared. Another chance just a couple of minutes later fell to Unders, but his hastily hit shot sailed high and wide. On 16 minutes a punch out from the keeper went straight to Brady, who hit the ball back into the box first time only to see Darren Collins steer the ball just wide of the target.

Then on 17 minutes came a superb Diamonds move. Great play from midfield found Sale on the edge of the box. With quick thinking he laid the ball sideways for the incoming Butterworth who brought out a great save from the Hayes keeper. But Hayes joy was short lived as Brady within seconds put a great cross into the box, and Peters rose to head down hard and low past the keeper. Diamonds were playing well at this stage, and further chances fell for Collins on 25 minutes – a shot over the bar, and Sale having the ball whipped from his boot when about to shoot on 38 minutes. But Hayes had their chances, the best on 41 minutes when hesitancy in the Diamonds defence almost gifted them an equalizer – the shot just going wide of the post. So half time Diamonds going in with a 1-0 lead and feeling comfortable.

On 50 minutes Diamonds actually had the ball in the Hayes net, a header from Mark Sale, but the referee awarded a free kick against Cooper for a foul on the keeper. On 54 minutes again a mix up in the defence almost gifted Hayes a goal, but the defenders managed to hastily make a clearance under enormous pressure from a goalmouth scramble. On 58 minutes Darren Collins hit a pearler, after great work from Macca, the ball flying inches wide of the upright. Jon Brady went into the book on 59 minutes for arguing.

The first thirty minutes of the second half Diamonds had a few chances, but were struggling to find a rhythm. Darren Collins and Mark Sale were working hard upfront but the service to the front men was lacking sparkle. Maybe the clinical cross park passes of Darren Bradshaw were missing, but the front men still worked tirelessly. Sale creates so many problems for defenders that it leaves space for Collins and the wing backs, but tonight the lay-offs and flick-ons did not seem to be coming off as well as in previous games. Maybe we should give some credit to Hayes, who marked him so tight that he was continually held and impeded in the close challenges. On 79 minutes Darren Collins found himself one on one with the keeper, but the keeper was brave and smothered knocking the ball out for a corner. On 88 minutes Tim Wooding came on for Jon Brady and in the last minutes Diamonds were put under extreme pressure as Hayes threw everything from set piece moves to grab the elusive equalizer – but Diamonds held firm.

Notable performances then from the back three in particular – Warburton, Peters and Rodwell, with Warburton outstanding and Rodwell doing everything that was asked of him. Butts , Macca and Coops ran the midfield, though Macca was unable to get himself forward as often as in previous games but he always gets you on the edge of your seat when he picks up the ball and runs at defenders – he has got the goal bug now! The crosses into the box did not seem so frequent tonight either, but the all important aspect was getting the three points and putting up a resolute performance. We played well at Northwich and came away with nothing, whilst tonight we played not up to our normal standard and took all three points. We can now look forward to Woking on Saturday at home and Kettering away on Tuesday. Two mouth-watering games and hopefully six points.

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