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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