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.

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