Rushden & Diamonds 3 Ilkeston Town 0

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

FA Cup Second Round Replay

30th November 1999 –Nene Park

Rushden Team: Turley, Brady, Rodwell, Burgess, Wooding, Warburton, Butterworth, McElhatton, Town, Collins, Underwood.
Substitutes: Smith, Mison, Heggs, Cramman, De Souza.

Diamonds Scorers: Wooding 2 mins, Town 17 mins, Collins 86 mins

Webmasters MoM:  Butterworth

Brian Talbot made a brave move tonight, surprising everyone by bringing into the team young Andy Burgess and the fans favourite David Town. The line-up certainly had an attacking flavour to it, but too often brave moves like this can upset the balance and backfire. No such chance in this game, as Diamonds were inspiring in the way that they eased through into the next round of the FA Cup, and a tie away to Sheffield United.

Diamonds had a dream start, attacking from the whistle slick movement down the right from Brady who put a great cross into the box, a flick on from Collins and there was the in-rushing Tim Wooding to head home. Ilkeston did not let their heads go down and battled strongly to get back into the game. Billy Turley was called upon to make a save, low down, after eight minutes as Hemmings danced his way round Wooding and Rodwell to get in a good shot. A couple of minutes later Unders crossed deep into the box to Brady. With the ball hanging in the air Brady challenged, the keeper lost the ball, but there was no-one coming in to pick up the loose ball and it was cleared. Just seconds later it was Butts trying his luck with a blockbuster from 30 yards that was well held by the keeper. Ilkeston looked dangerous every time that Hemmings got the ball but tonight it was Rodwell and Warburton that won everything thrown in the air towards Helliwell. On 17 minutes we were graced with a second goal of pure elegance. David Town picked up the ball outside the area, dummied past two players, cut inside and placed a superb shot past the keeper and into the corner of the net – pure magic that he had threatened to do in all of his previous outings. Unfortunately for Ilkeston, with the game slipping away from them, they started to resort to strong-arm tactics – trying to bully their way back into the game. On 19 minutes Eshelby was booked for a disgusting tackle on Unders, and Hemmings followed him into the book for arguing. On 20 minutes Collins flicked on to Macca who put in a great deep cross but Burgess was just beaten to it by the defender, and then Town was put through but the keeper saved. Diamonds were attacking in waves, Ilkeston having to defend deep as Diamonds pushed up the field. Unders had a 25 yarder rise just over the cross-bar on 23 minutes with the keeper well beaten and on 29 minutes a half chance fell to Towny but he mis-hit completely. Razor had a chance to increase the Diamonds lead on 34 minutes with one of his “specials” but the keeper saved well from the header. Just before half time Butss burst through into the box, swapping passes, but the ball was eventually flicked off the head of Macca with the goal beckoning. Diamonds continued to push forward and Ilkeston just continued to push – mainly in the back of the Diamonds players. Diamonds went in at half time well on top, but there was always the sneaky feeling that Ilkeston could nick a goal back if concentration was lost at the back.

Ilkeston came out of the traps running in the second half. The first five minutes they managed to get Diamonds on the back foot and it looked like they may have been awarded a penalty as there appeared to be a hand-ball in the area just a couple of minutes into the half, but it was not seen by the referee. Diamonds then settled and got back into playing their game. They pushed forward solid for the next ten minutes, with Town through on 55 minutes but adjudged to be offside. Razor was called upon to clear off his line from under the bar on 64 minutes. From the clearance Diamonds broke quickly upfield, the ball was splayed about and Brady was left with a difficult shot which unfortunately he hit high over the crossbar. Again the next seven or so minutes was incessant pressure from Diamonds with Ilkeston looking dangerous on the break with Hemmings. They had a corner on 73 minutes that sailed just over the bar and a shot from just outside the area that caught Turley unsighted but slid away just outside the post. On 82 minutes Heggs came on for Town, who received a great ovation from the Diamonds crowd. With Heggs finding a lot of space with his trickery it was not long before he linked up with Collins and started to cause panic in the Ilkeston defence. Collins hit the post on 83 minutes after great work from Brady. Turley pulled off a magnificent point blank save on 85 minutes but the tie was now won and Ilkeston were tiring. On 86 minutes Andy Burgess, who was always willing to run at the defence, shimmied and shot past the keeper but the ball rebounded off the crossbar and Collins was unable to tuck the rebound away, instead hitting the keeper with the shot. But Collins continued to battle for a goal and it came on 86 minutes, great work from Heggs, who cut the ball back un-selfishly for Collins to stroke home.

So the end to a great evening. A typically hard Cup Tie, a game that had everything – goals, great play oh and I nearly forgot 10 ( I may be wrong but I lost count) Ilkeston bookings, an Ilkeston player sent off, and their manager also sent off! All of that in a game that was not a particularly dirty game. The sending off of Knapper was strange as he just appeared to run into and trip the referee. Their manager continued to argue with the referee for ages with the game having to be stopped – he was then escorted away by Diamonds stewards. A great game for all Diamonds fans. Ilkeston brought about 750 fans into the Airwair and I think for the main part they were magnificent. They never stopped cheering on their side, but their reputation meant that a significant police presence was required. It just shows what a difference good acoustics and all being together in a stand makes to the noise. Now its on to Sheffield in just over a weeks time, and who would bet against Diamonds getting a result against an out of sorts United side. First things first though, lets get a good turnout at Hayes on Saturday as we get back into the swing of the Conference – no Cup hang overs please lads!

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Rushden & Diamonds 1 Havant & Waterlooville 0

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

F.A. Trophy Round 2

27th November 1999 – Nene Park (Attendance: 1835)

Rushden Team: Turley, Brady, Rodwell, Stowell, Wooding, Warburton, Butterworth, McElhatton, De Souza, Collins, Underwood.
Substitutes: Smith, Mison, Sale, Heggs, Burgess.

Diamonds Scorers: Collins 50 mins

Webmasters MoM: Collins

Making his debut today at left-back was Matty Stowell, on loan for a month from Bristol City, replacing the injured Mark Peters. On to the bench Brian Talbot had included Carl Heggs as a replacement for Kenny Cramman who can count himself un-lucky to be dropped.

The first half was a pretty un-inspiring half. Havant came to defend and keep the score down, hoping for a goal on the break, and Diamonds struggled to break them down. Collins almost found himself through on goal after three minutes, but he was blocked un-ceremoniously by the defender. De Souza put a great cross into the box just a minute later which was hastily cleared for a corner. Brady took the corner and Macca at the near post flicked a header just wide of the upright.  Macca then had a 25 yard shot charged down after just six minutes – all the pressure was coming from Diamonds in these early stages. A few hearts must have been in their mouths on 10 minutes when a Havant attacker went down in the box, and I have seen penalties given for less but the referee thankfully waved play on. On 22 minutes De Souza put Collins through but though he shot well, he also shot straight at the keeper. On 23 minutes Jon Brady had a cross hastily cleared, the rebound fell nicely to Wooding but his shot rose over the crossbar. Diamonds best effort came on 27 minutes when a Jon Brady free-kick evaded the wall and his shot crashed against the crossbar and over for a goal kick. Diamonds best chances were coming from dead ball situations, another falling to Paul Underwood from a free-kick that the keeper managed to punch clear. Jim Rodwell on a rare sortie forward had a header well saved , low down, by the keeper late in the half. Havant lacked any ideas going forward, and apart from a few flourishes, seemed to have no intention of attacking. At the end of the half Darren Collins had a great chance to give Diamonds the lead, Underwood crossed and Collins found himself with a free header but his header went weakly past the upright.

Second half Diamonds came out showing more enthusiasm, and they took the lead on 50 minutes when Brady dummied a defender on the half way line and put a delightful ball through for Collins to run on to. He ran goalwards and un-leashed a wicked shot that the out-rushing keeper stood no chance of keeping out. Other than a couple of goalmouth scrambles Diamonds were now home and dry with Havant only intent on keeping the score respectable. Collins almost increased his tally on 54 minutes but his first touch let him down and he only won a corner having only the keeper to beat. De Souza had a chance to release Collins on 59 minutes but delayed and the chance was gone. Chances were at least being created today, falling to Brady, Collins and De Souza, but they were either blocked by defenders, saved by the keeper, or hit wide of the goal. As the game wore on the Havant players were getting frustrated, challenges were becoming dirty, and the referee seemed to be losing his grip on the game. On 77 minutes Carl Heggs came on for De Souza, not I think because De Souza had done anything wrong, more that BT wanted to give Carl a run-out. Maybe the better option would have been to keep De Souza on and bring Heggs on to sit just in behind, but the game continued with a few more chances but Diamonds could not break down the resolute defence of Havant. It was unfortunate for Havant that their number seven let them down, by constantly fouling and whingeing to the referee.  Heggs had a couple of half chances before the end of the game but both were squandered.

So Diamonds run of five without a win has come to an end, just before the crucial game against Ilkeston next Tuesday. Ilkeston will prove to be a lot more of a problem than Havant and the Diamonds performance will have to show a marked improvement over today’s. I think the lack of crowd, lack of support from behind the goal first half, contributed to an un-eventful first half but thankfully Collins goal sparked a bit of life into the game and the second half Diamonds commanded as their fitness came to the fore. Next stop Ilkeston and then a difficult away game next Saturday at Hayes.

Rushden & Diamonds 0 Telford United 1

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

McMillan Trophy

23rd November 1999 – Nene Park (Attendance: 1451)

Rushden Team: Turley, Brady, Rodwell, Cramman, Wooding, Warburton, Butterworth, McElhatton, De Souza, Collins, Underwood.
Substitutes: Smith, Mison, Town, Hamsher, Burgess.

Webmasters MoM: Butterworth

Diamonds went into the second of their week of Cup games, this time in the McMillan Trophy, changing to a 4-4-2 formation due to the injury to Mark Paters last weekend. In came Kenny Cramman for a rare First Team start. The importance of this game was highlighted by the nights attendance – 1451 – a big thumbs down by the faithful who I am sure see this competition as a distraction to the League.

The first five minutes was played in Diamonds half, Telford taking the initiative to push forward. Diamonds first chance of the game came from one of Ray Warburton’s specials, but he headed down too sharply and the ball bounced in front and then over the goal. For the next ten minutes we were treated to some neat passing play from Diamonds, something that was to continue for most of the night, but the final ball to the front men lacked vision and quality. On 16 minutes Macca had a speculative shot from 35 yards after a poor clearance from the keeper, but it was no trouble. Time and time again the Diamonds approach play was good but the final ball of poor quality. Totally against the run of play Telford took the lead, a mix-up in the Diamonds defence gifting them a goal which Turley could do nothing to stop. Cramman, Underwood, Wooding and Brady were seeing so much of the ball, crosses were going into the box, but either Collins and De Souza were too static or the crosses went straight to the keeper. It looked as though if anyone was to score again in the half it was more likely to be Telford, catching Diamonds on the break. This was almost the case on 40 minutes when a good break down the left was only averted when Wooding got his back in the way to deflect a goalward shot with Turley scrambling across for the save.

If the creativity in the first half was rare, it was rarer in the second. Diamonds were constantly being caught offside, We made little in road to the deficit and never really put Telford under pressure – in fact I can barely remember one save that the keeper was forced to make, only a couple of challenges to crosses into the box. It was Telford who were causing Turley to make the odd save, low down on his goal-line on a couple of occasions. A half chance fell to Macca after De Souza did well to hold the ball under pressure and lay it back into his path. But once again the shot was deflected for a corner, and the corners posed no threat to the Telford defence. On 65 minutes Burgess and Town came on for Cramman and Collins but the game remained in the same vein – loads of Diamonds possession, good going forward to the final third and there it stopped! This was one of those evenings when even the free-kicks were not getting past or over the defensive walls. The only bright spot of the last fifteen minutes was to see Andy Burgess shimmy past a defender to the bye-line but again the final ball in was deflected away clear.

The final whistle must leave Brian Talbot with a headache! To have so much possession, good possession, in a game and fail to test the keeper must be worrying. His forwards, who must be one of the quickest pairings in the Conference, are failing to get into scoring positions and get shots in on goal. The midfield, although busy and working hard, are failing to create the killer ball to the front men. In short we are not scoring and don’t look like we will score. Many people will be glad that we are out of this Cup, but this was a game that Brian Talbot still wanted to win. The substitutions upfront made no impact to the game. In defence other than the one lapse we looked reasonably comfortable – Jim Rodwell had a good game, as did Ray Warburton, but then pressure was scarce. The midfield and the wing-backs created a lot of space and put a lot of ball into the box, but put the Telford defence under no pressure. Attention now turns to the F.A.Trophy on Saturday against Havant & Waterlooville. I am sure that this is a Competition that the Club want to win and the game on Tuesday against Ilkeston a Competition that the Club want to progress in. But it gives very little time to solve the goalscoring problems that we are having.

Ilkeston Town 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

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

FA Cup 2nd Round

20th November 1999 – The Manor Ground (Attendance: 2700)

Rushden Team: Turley, Brady, Rodwell, Peters, Wooding, Warburton, Butterworth, McElhatton, De Souza, Collins, Underwood.
Substitutes: Smith, Mison, Cramman, Town, Hamsher.

Diamonds Scorers: De Souza 55 mins.

Webmasters MoM: Butterworth

Diamonds came to the first of three Cup games this week wanting to bounce back after last weeks defeat at Yeovil. Ilkeston had knocked Carlisle out of the FA Cup in the previous round so would be no pushovers, in fact it was Diamonds that had everything to lose. Brian Talbot changed his team, leaving John Hamsher on the bench and playing both Jim Rodwell and Tim Wooding in the defence. A capacity crowd turned up to watch the game on a bitterly cold but bright afternoon.

Darren Collins almost gave Diamonds a dream start, getting on the end of a Jon Brady free-kick, but his header after just 45 seconds was well saved by the keeper. Ilkeston demonstrated their intentions early on as after just two minutes a tackle on Paul Underwood tossed the player well into the air. Diamonds had started brightly, Collins having a second early half chance taking a ball from Wooding but allegedly hand-balling as he was about to shoot. Ilkeston had to wait until the 14th minute for their first chance of the game, but Butterworth managed to block and clear the shot with ease. Diamonds continued to exert the early pressure, Macca forcing a corner after 17 minutes which was unfortunately wasted by Jon Brady. Against the run of play Ilkeston took the lead on 19 minutes with a quickly taken throw in, Peters lost his marker, and a tame challenge left the ball bobbling nicely for the Ilkeston attacker who shot superbly over Turley and into the net. Just a minute later they broke through again and nearly increased their lead but stoic defending averted any serious trouble. Diamonds almost levelled the score on 25 minutes, when an Unders free kick caught the keeper napping, but he recovered enough to tip his shot round the post. The large number 9 for Ilkeston was causing Diamonds no end of problems. He won everything in the air, flicking neat headers on for the chasing forwards. Butts hit a shot high and wide on 33 minutes, but wasted opportunities. A free kick on 35 minutes was totally wasted from a great position, and on 40 minutes Diamonds best chance of the half occurred as De Souza wriggled his way down the left, cut the ball back well but no-one was coming in to support him. Even so the ball seemed to take a ricochet and ran just past the far post and away from Collins coming in. So half time came with Diamonds failing to impress, and Ilkeston the better team in the half.
Diamonds started the second half with more urgency. Peters went into the book after an awful refereeing decision as he stood his ground and the Ilkeston forward just clattered into him. On 53 minutes Macca hit a rebound from 25 yards, a wickedly dipping shot that just cleared the crossbar. He also had a chance a minute later, combining well with Collins ,and firing in a shot which the keeper saved comfortably. Ten minutes into the half and Diamonds pulled level from a De Souza shot, whipped into the net, with the keeper possibly un-sighted as the ball was fired through a ruck of players in the 6 yard box. De Souza’s receiving pass from Collins following great interpassing was superb. For some reason then Butts was booked – over celebrating? something said to the referee? who knows, but a strange booking. On 58 minutes Diamonds almost took the lead as a Brady cross into the box was headed superbly by an Ilkeston defender towards his own goal and only a superb save from the keeper managed to keep the ball out at the expense of a corner. De Souza followed Peters and Butts into the referee’s book after 66 minutes when he carried on with play after the referee had blown for offside, and kicked the ball goalwards – a needless booking. Ilkeston started to come back at Diamonds and a great block save from Turley prevented them from taking the lead. Turley’s save rebounded and the incoming shot was cleared from the near post at the expense of a corner. Macca had a header saved low at the post on 75 minutes after another goalmouth scramble. In a bid to put more pace in the attack Brian Talbot introduced David Town into the fray, replacing Jon Brady. The last 15 minutes belonged to Diamonds who always looked the more dangerous and most likely to score.

So Diamonds into the hat tomorrow, and hoping for another plum tie. Ilkeston come to Nene Park in the replay on Tuesday week, and I am sure will come across a different Diamonds team – especially if there is a name draw at stake. Before that game though there is the matter of Telford at home on Tuesday in the McMillan and Havant & Waterlooville in the FA Trophy next Saturday. With Conference results favouring Diamonds today there was not too much ground lost in the League battle at the top of the table, and its two weeks before Diamonds return to league action away at Hayes on Saturday week.

Yeovil Town 5 Rushden & Diamonds 1

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

13th November 1999 – Huish Park (Attendance: 2180)

Rushden Team: Turley, Brady, Rodwell, Peters, Warburton, Butterworth, McElhatton, Hamsher, De Souza, Collins, Underwood.
Substitutes: Mills, Wooding, Smith, Mison, Cramman.

Diamonds Scorers: Underwood 45 mins.

Webmasters MoM: Underwood

Diamonds arrived at Huish Park knowing that a win would take them two points clear at the top, and a defeat would bring Yeovil up as serious title contenders tucked nicely in behind Diamonds, Kingstonian and the new leaders Nuneaton Borough. The preparations for this game had gone well, the players had had a light training session in the morning and seemed keen to do well. But the saying goes “the best laid plans of mice and men” and Diamonds were in for a shock.

Brian Talbot made one change to his regular team, in came Jim Rodwell to cope with Wazza. On the bench Michael Mison was preferred to Mark Sale, Smudger came in for the injured Bertocci, and Tim Wooding replaced Jim Rodwell.

Diamonds game plan was thrown into confusion after just one minute. Yeovil forced a corner with their first attack of the game. The corner was placed superbly into the box, straight on to the head of Sciverton, the No4, and Turley could only help the ball into the net. Slack marking, hesitant keeping, whatever the reason Diamonds were now up against it. Yeovil were looking sharp, picking up every loose ball, and crossing at ease into the penalty area. Jim Rodwell was forced to make a tackle and clear for a corner just three minutes later as the Diamonds defence was in disarray. Diamonds had their first corner after 9 minutes, Brady took it and Rodwell forced the ball into the net but was given as offside. From here on in Yeovil were in command. Diamonds had a few half chances in the first half – on 12 minutes De Souza flicked on for Collins but the keeper gathered, De Souza headed over after 32 minutes, a Collins flick through for Macca on 37 minutes – Macca given offside, an an Unders free-kick taken too quickly – but it was Yeovil who were the most adventurous and dangerous. They battled, won all of the loose and second ball, played the ball well out of defence, and Patmore held everything up superbly then sprayed lay off passes around at will. Diamonds were giving away possession much too easily, looked disjointed, lacked passion – indeed were very poor. Yeovil increased their lead just before half time. Turley came for a cross this time but failed to collect leaving an easy headed chance for Sciverton to get his second goal. But Diamonds were handed a lifeline with just seconds remaining of the first half. They were awarded a free-kick just outside the box. Brady passed square for Butterworth who then flashed the ball out left to Unders who cut into the box and fired well past the keeper. A superb goal and the only plus for Diamonds in that first half performance. Mark Peters had also been booked on 34 minutes for a deliberate hand ball when on the floor.

So Diamonds pulling a goal back, back into the game, and for the first five minutes of the second half spirits were high. This was probably Diamonds best spell in the game. BT had brought Mills and Cramman on for Rodwell and Hamsher in an attempt to spark some life into a lack lustre Diamonds performance, and for the first five minutes it appeared to be working. On 8 minutes Unders put a high cross into the box for Collins to challenge the keeper for, the ball fell loose but the keeper gathered with no Diamonds player coming in for the second ball. Yeovil then went straight up the other end and scored their third. Turley missed a far post cross and the ball was stabbed home. Fifteen minutes into the second half and Diamonds should have been down to ten men – Turley bringing down a Yeovil player who was clear through on goal. He was lucky to get away with just a yellow. A few minutes later Diamonds had a rare sortie into the Yeovil half. Brady put a ball into the box for De Souza to challenge for and he won a corner. The corner was lifted into the box, half cleared and the ball fell for Macca whose shot on the turn was instinctively saved by the keeper and pushed clear. Yeovil added their fourth 23 minutes into the second half when a deep cross found Turley stretching, he managed a finger on the ball but tipped it onto the crossbar and not over it with the rebound falling nicely for the poaching Yeovil player unchallenged on the line. Three minutes later came the best goal of the game, a flick on by Patmore I think, and a shot on the run from Ben Smith scorched past Turley into the net. So Diamonds were dead and buried, but to their credit they still tried to play. Mison came on for Collins and Diamonds pushed forward again. Macca had a shot on goal saved on 72 minutes and a minute later he was looking for a penalty when tripped in the box. De Souza won a corner on 76 minutes but Peters and Warburton both rose for the same ball and got in each others way. Diamonds continued to play the hopeful long ball to De Souza, who worked tirelessly but ran the front line very much on his own and lacking support. Butterworth hit a volley late in the game that went wide and on 84 minutes a header from Razor was tipped round the post with a great save from the keeper. Diamonds humiliation ended with 5 minutes of injury time being added.

It was party time at Huish for the home fans with a well deserved win. One question though: Why the over the top celebrations though when they score – coming onto the pitch and giving the stewards a hard time after every goal. According to the stewards its a regular occurrence! And they don’t get thrown out – remember up at Scarborough with one of our fans? Anyway well done Yeovil, a thoroughly deserved victory but a shame about some of the unpleasant “incidents” after the game.

As for Diamonds, not the end of the world being one point off the lead but a golden opportunity missed. Attention now turns to the FA Cup and a team called Ilkeston Town.

Rushden & Diamonds 1 Dover Athletic 1

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

6th November 1999 – Nene Park (Attendance: 3037)

Rushden Team: Turley, Brady, Wooding, Peters, Warburton, Butterworth, McElhatton, Hamsher, De Souza, Collins, Underwood.
Substitutes: Mills, Cramman, Bertocchi, Town, Rodwell.

Dover Team: Hyde, Browne, Virgo, Leberl, Beard, Dunne, Clark, Wormull, Vansittart, Brown, Le Bihan.

Diamonds Scorers: Underwood 87 mins.

Webmasters MoM: De Souza

After the excitement of games played during October, a string of great results and then a scintillating performance at Nuneaton, then we can maybe excuse a lack lustre performance from Diamonds today. The two current form teams came head to head at Nene Park so it was always likely to be a closely fought game. Dover had come to secure a point and as it turned out very nearly came away with three – which would have been unfair to Diamonds.

Dover had the best of the first five minutes, and had a great chance to take the lead after just one minute, Mark Peters failed to clear in his own corner by the bye-line, Clark managed to get in a cross that flew across the box with no-one able to get a touch. This fright seemed to spur Diamonds to life, and on 4 minutes Collins was through on goal but a last ditch tackle managed to clear the ball off his toes for a corner. We were then treated to an exhibition from both teams of two minutes heading tennis – a strange situation because in the very blustery conditions at Nene Park, with a swirling wind, I would have imagined it would be far easier to keep the ball on the grass. On 8 minutes indecision in the Dover defence let De Souza bustle his way clear but the ball seemed to stick at his feet and the chance was gone. Collins had a half chance on 17 minutes, taking a shot on the turn that the Dover keeper saved well, parried the ball but there was no in-coming Diamonds player to take on the rebound. Dover had their first shot of the half on 21 minutes, a long range effort that went high and wide causing Turley no problems. Jon Brady was causing trouble down the flanks and he picked up a loose ball just outside the box on 23 minutes but shot wide of the keepers far post. Just two minutes later De Souza had the best chance yet to put Diamonds into the lead. He brought the ball down well just inside the box, struggled to get in a shot which was blocked, he regained his composure and swung another shot goalwards, not a lot of power but the ball beat the keeper and hit the post. The rebound off the post fell straight to the keeper who couldn’t believe his luck. Darren Collins, who was having great trouble coping with the bright low sun and the strong gusts of wind had a header saved on 30 minutes, managing to connect to a Jon Brady cross but unfortunately unable to get much power behind the header. Three minutes later great work from Underwood put a ball into the box finding Collins with a bit of space. He cushioned a header into the path of Brady but the keeper saved well at his feet. Diamonds had a further two half chances falling to Macca and Collins but the first half ended all square. Dover seemed loathe to risk any sort of adventurous play, and some of their “diving” tactics resembled those of another team not too far away who also play in similar colour shirts!

If the first half lacked sparkle and high entertainment value then first thirty minutes of the second half was even less inspiring. There were enough chances in the first half for Diamonds to have been well in command had they been taken, but chances in the first thirty of the second half were very few. Even worse for Diamonds was that they fell behind on 56 minutes. Brown found his way easily down the left, got to the line and cut back a delicious ball leaving Clarke totally unmarked for a simple tap in for a one goal lead. For the next twenty minutes Diamonds worked hard in midfield to create an opening but the final ball was just not good enough. Darren Collins first touch had deserted him, the crosses into the box were not finding Diamonds players, and De Souza was finding that as soon as he got the ball he suddenly had three markers climbing all over him. Such is the new found confidence of De Souza that they did not stop him. Time and time again he wriggled free, held the ball well for support, and got into dangerous areas. But the support was not sharp enough today. Butts and Macca were running midfield, but found the Dover defence hard to pull apart and out of shape. Kenny Cramman was brought on for Tim Wooding, and on 76 minutes Town came on for Brady, changing the formation from a 3-5-2 to a 4-4-2. This gave Underwood much more room to get forward. Diamonds were so unlucky not to equalize after 80 minutes. Paul Underwood picked up a loose ball well into his own half. He set off on a run, turning defenders first left and then right. He moved towards the middle of the Dover half towards the area, and unleashed a superb shot that was bending into the top left of the keepers goal. Somehow the keeper got a touch and turned it behind for a corner. But this Diamonds team does not give in and were turning the screws, looking for a break, and it came on 87 minutes. The constant pressure was causing Dover to start giving away silly fouls around their area. Unders stepped up to take a free kick and hit a superb shot, maybe getting a very slight deflection, past Hyde in the Dover goal. Diamonds now pushed forward again looking for the goal that would give them the three points. From another free kick Razor climbed head and shoulders above the Dover defence but could not direct his header on target as he did against Scunthorpe. Injury time, probably five minutes of it, was solid Diamonds pressure but the goal would not come and the points were shared.

So the current un-beaten run continues, but it was a case of two points lost today. Dover were a hard team to break down, but the threat of Wormull and Vansittart never materialized. So Diamonds lose top spot to Kingstonian and now look forward to the long trip to Yeovil next Saturday. With other results going for Diamonds today there was little damage in dropping the home points, but a win next Saturday would surely put the train back on the rails.

Nuneaton Borough 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

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

2nd November 1999 – Manor Park (Attendance: 4490)

Rushden Team: Turley, Brady, Wooding, Peters, Warburton, Butterworth, McElhatton, Hamsher, De Souza, Collins, Underwood.
Substitutes: Mills, Cramman, Bertocchi, Sale, Burgess.

Diamonds Scorers: De Souza 53 mins.

Webmasters MoM: De Souza

A crowd of 4490, Nuneatons biggest for 39 years, and a Conference best for this season, witnessed a superb display from both teams tonight. Both teams had great chances to take all three points but superb goalkeeping at both ends split the points. Diamonds were forced to bring Tim Wooding in to replace Darren Bradshaw who will be out of action for three months with an achilles problem, but other than that there was no change to the side that impressed in the Cup against Scunthorpe last Friday night. Last season Diamonds suffered a bad league patch around their Cup games but tonight there were no distractions allowed and Diamonds put in a superb performance.

The first five minutes was a battle in the middle of the park, Macca and Butts making their presence felt with some solid tackling. The Boro game plan was obvious from the start, attack down the flanks, take the ball into the corner and the bye-line and whip in crosses for the forwards to get on the end of in the box. It worked a treat for Boro in these early stages. They actually had the ball in the net after just seven minutes, but a push was spotted by the referee and Diamonds breathed a sigh of relief as they had been opened up clinically, maybe missing Bradshaw’s calming, commanding influence in the box. Diamonds first chance of the game came after 10 minutes with De Souza cutting the ball back for Collins instead of having a shot, the ball was easily cleared for a corner. The next 10 minutes was almost constant Boro pressure, great crosses were coming into the Diamonds area from wide positions and our wing backs were being torn apart. It was only fitting that the pressure would bring its reward, and Boro took the lead after 18 minutes, when Diamonds were forced to concede a free-kick wide on the right towards the bye-line. The ball was whipped into the box and a flicked on header left Turley with no chance. Diamonds almost hit back right from the restart, Collins found himself through and one on one with the keeper. He shot late, the keeper saved, and the incoming Butterworth blasted the rebound high over the bar. On 21 minutes the Diamonds defence backed off a charging attacker, and his long range effort was well held by Turley on his line. Boro continued to press for the second goal and just a minute later a header went just wide of Turley right hand post, another lucky escape. But unlike teams of previous seasons this Diamonds team has grit and determination, and heads don’t drop. They forced their way back into the game with neat interpassing and aggression from the forwards, Collins and De Souza. Unders and Brady started to take on players, get quality ball in to the forwards, and Hamsher started to go into overdrive. On 35 minutes Migs was put through from a route one from Turley. With only the keeper to beat he shot but the ball went agonisingly wide of the keepers far post, with all of the fans thinking it had gone in and not believing it had missed. De Souza had a second chance just three minutes later, sandwiched between two defenders and bearing down on the keeper he shot on the run but the keeper saved well. On 41 minutes came Diamonds best chance of the equalizer, a Brady cross into the box and Collins got in front of the keeper and flicked in a header which again flew just the wrong side of the post. When a De Souza header right at the death in the first half hit the base of the post and rebounded clear you could be forgiven for thinking that this was not going to be Diamonds night.

Brian Talbot was pleased with the first half performance and told them not to dwell on missed chances as more chances would come. The first chance came to Peters after just 4 minutes of the second half, an Underwood free kick, bypassing the keeper, and Peters header going over the keeper and unfortunately inches over the bar. Diamonds did not have to wait too long though to get back on level terms. Just eight minutes into the half Unders crossed into the box to De Souza. His first touch was superb, he brought the ball under control and swept the ball into the net giving the keeper no chance. The 700 Diamonds fans erupted in celebration, it was now “match on”.

The play now was end to end, both teams looking for the winner. Boro had two chances, the first on 55 minutes a header that Turley saved resulting from a wickedly whipped in cross, and the second only a lunging leg from the ever dependable Rhino saved a direct shot on the Diamonds goal. Boro kept putting Diamonds under pressure down the flanks, forcing them the give away silly, niggly free-kicks. Jon Hamsher had a half chance on 66 minutes when he picked up a loose ball outside the box, but could not keep his shot low and it sailed high over the crossbar. Just a minute later Turley was forced to pull out one of his “top drawer” saves a point blank shot after indecision and missed clearances left a Boro attacker 3 yards out and only Turley to beat. A magnificent reflex save kept the scores level. On 72 minutes a flicked header flew just over the Diamonds bar and on 74 minutes a blockbuster from Unders skimmed the Boro crossbar. Billy Turley was called upon to make another magnificent save on 80 minutes and on 88 minutes Diamonds had a chance to take all three points at the death when Brady embarked on a magnificent run into the box from just inside the half way line. He took a neat return pass from De Souza but saw his shot skim the post and fly into the side netting.

When the final whistle went there was an ovation from both sets of fans. This was a magnificent, hard fought game, a true battle but a credit to Conference football. Nuneaton look a superb team on this performance, and caused Diamonds no end of problems. The Match Officials for the game were superb, a class above what has been witnessed in some previous games this season. Once again the whole Diamonds team played well. Turley in goal, kept Diamonds in the game with some superb saves. The central defence looked in good form with Tim Wooding doing all that was asked of him in trying to fill Brads boots. Macca, Hamsher and Butts all had great games and gave 110%, and Unders, Brady, De Souza and Collins proved again what quality players they are. Diamonds must be happy with a point won tonight against a very formidable team that will be there or thereabouts in the shake up. Diamonds now face another difficult game next Saturday against Dover, another form team at the moment who like Diamonds have lost only three games so far this season.

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