Rushden & Diamonds 1 Sheffield United 1

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

FA Cup Third Round Replay

Final Score: 1-1 United Win 6-5 on Penalties

21th December 1999 – Nene Park (Attendance: 6010)

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

Sheffield United Team: Tracey, Sandford, Derry, Murphy, Quinn, Woodhouse, Hunt, Devlin, Bent, Smith, Kozluk.

Diamonds Scorers: Warburton ;

Webmasters MoM:  Jon Brady ;

A full house at Nene Park were not disappointed with the game witnessed tonight. Those who thought that Sheffield would easily turnover Diamonds on their home patch were proved to be very wrong. By the end of the game it was hard to imagine that one of these teams played in Non-League football. Diamonds were magnificent – no other word for it! Back into the team came young 18 year old Andy Burgess, back from suspension came Butts and Braids and the scene was set for a titanic battle. Warnock, United’s Manager had commented in the press that he hoped the pitch was up to scratch. At this stage of the season you would be hard pressed to see a better pitch anywhere. There were going to be no excuses tonight!

The first five minutes were off at a hectic pace, both sides showing their intention to get forward at any opportunity. It was United who nearly drew first blood with a rasping shot after 5 minutes that had Turley diving, but the ball cannoned off the crossbar and away to safety. Sheffield United then forced two corners in quick succession but Rodders and Razor held firm and stifled the danger. On 7 minutes it was Diamonds turn to impress. David Town passed to Brady in the box after a great “Towner” dribble, but unfortunately Braids was unable to get a clean strike at the ball and it was hastily cleared to safety. United tried pumping everything in the air to Bent, who had caused so much danger at Bramall Lane. But tonight both he and Devlin were kept under control magnificently. Razor and Rodders were superb, winning everything in the air. On 10 minutes United had another scare as Brady, picking the ball up on the half way line , ran at the United defence. He then slipped a great ball through to Town but his hard low shot was well saved and held by the keeper. There was hardly time to catch your breath. On 16 minutes a free kick by Wooding was lofted into the box. Collins challenged the keeper but the bounce beat them both and cleared the keeper but unfortunately went behind for a goal kick. Town had another chance on 21 minutes but again the keeper denied him. Diamonds had more chances in the first twenty minutes of this game than the whole of the game at Bramall lane. They were certainly not going to be put in the shadows by their visitors tonight. Turley was then called upon to make a good save, low down at his right hand post. He held on with Bent coming in sniffing a rebound. The quality of the crosses coming in from Unders, Brady and Burgess was superb, constantly causing United problems. Burge started on one of his weaving ruins on 36 minutes but his shot was beaten down in the box for a corner. Just a couple of minutes before half time Diamonds supporters had their hearts racing as Marcus Bent picked up the ball on the half way line at ran at the Diamonds defence. As they backed off and let him close in on goal he unleashed a shot that went well wide and a sigh of relief swept over Nene Park. United continued to press and Macca gave away a silly free-kick just on the edge of the box, but the Diamonds wall help firm and danger was averted. With just seconds of the first half remaining Burgess ran at the defence wide on the left. He put in a cross to Brady who flicked the ball on to Collins. He got the faintest of touches but the ball rebounded safely into the arms of Tracey. So 0-0 at half time and Diamonds easily holding their own against the Division One opposition.

The second half started with all the early pressure coming from United. Diamonds were finding it hard to cope with the long throws of Kozluk, which are just like having a corner given against you. On 50 minutes after good work from Collins Diamonds were awarded a corner, taken by Brady onto the head of Collins but unfortunately directed straight at the keeper. Town was showing his pace upfront and a great bit of interpassing between himself and Unders almost let Collins in but the keeper just beat him to the ball in the box. On 60 minutes Smith for United hit a great shot on the turn that sailed just over the crossbar. Devlin now started to become more involved in the game, weaving his magic, but was always quickly closed down by the Diamonds defence. Macca and Butts worked tirelessly in the midfield battle. Gradually their hard work paid off as there was suddenly a lot of space being made available to Diamonds in the middle of the park. Brady was playing with so much confidence it was marvellous to see – taking people on, making space and putting in great crosses for the front men. On 65 minutes BT decided to replace David Town with Mequel De Souza to add a different dimension upfront. On 68 minutes we were treated to some great skill and trickery by Burge down the left. A couple of jinks, a subtle drag and he was past his marker bearing down on goal. He shot but the ball was blocked, it rebounded to him again, he cracked it in but unfortunately just the wrong side of the post. Sheffield United now started to make unforced errors, they started to look jittery. The booking started, and I think that possibly five United players ended up in the book for niggly tackles and petulance to the referee. Burgess continued to torment down the left, but unfortunately the final ball sometimes let him down. Brady was turning his defenders magnificently, time and time again. It was often Diamonds who were looking more like a First Division side. De Souza had a half chance with fifteen minutes to go, latching on to an Unders free-kick, but his header was off target. The final ten minutes of normal time it was Diamonds looking the most dangerous, the most likely to score. Then on 88 minutes Turley was called upon to make a glorious save, at full stretch to turn the ball away for a corner with the United supporters behind the goal thinking the ball had gone in. The fourth official decided two minutes of injury time and it was then United’s turn to try and avoid extra time, Bent missing a half chance. The ninety minutes then finished at 0-0 and a further 30 minutes of extra time and then if needed penalties was started.

Within seconds of the start Burgess hit a wicked shot that Tracey somehow managed to save low down at his post. On 98 minutes Jon Brady went into the book for a silly foul right on the edge of his box. Turley managed to flick away over his bar a great header from the resultant free-kick. Diamonds, with De Souza running everywhere then started some pressure of their own, and forced a couple of quick corners. Then on 104 minutes disaster struck for Diamonds. For once United managed to get behind the Diamonds defence. Turley raced out but the ball was squeezed past him and not even the despairing attempt of Rodwell racing back and sliding into his goal could stop United taking the lead. Diamonds pushed forward again, no heads dropping, and Migs forced a corner wide on the left. Brady took it, it came over to Warburton who headed into the net at the second attempt, a glorious goal to send the home fans wild. The second period of extra time was end to end, but neither team wanting to give anything away. With just a few minutes of extra time remaining, BT played his penalty card, bringing on John Hamsher for Andy Burgess, who was named the sponsors Man of the Match. The minutes ticked by and we were suddenly into the penalty deciders – a cruel way to go out of a competition but what drama.

Diamonds took the first penalty, Jim Rodwell volunteering, and smashing the ball home. United equalised. Then up stepped Tim Wooding who hit a great penalty home – 2-1 to Diamonds. United equalized. Up stepped Migs to take Diamonds third – slotted away superbly. United equalized. Diamonds fourth was to be taken by “King Pen” the Hamster. Another superb penalty to put Diamonds 4-3 up. United equalized again. The fifth penalty was taken by Daz, another great finish and all that was needed now was Billy T to save and we would be booking our seats for St James Park or White Hart Lane. But guess what? United equalized. Now its sudden death and up stepped MoM ( well mine anyway) Jon Brady. He aims to the keeper right and its saved. The ball though looks as though it will still struggle into the net but it passes agonisingly wide of the post. Who is going to take the all important 6th for United – Marcus Bent, goalscorer extraordinaire. A superbly taken penalty and United are through 6-5 on penalties. The United bench went wild – you would have thought they had won at Wembley. Jon Brady just had his head in his hands and walked back to the lads in the centre circle.

The result went against us but there was only one winning team – Diamonds. We were superb to a man. The whole team was a great credit to Max, BT and his staff. There are no recrimination against Jon Brady. He had a magnificent game and without his goal at Bramall Lane, and his corner that presented Razor with his goal tonight, we would have had none of this excitement. This performance tonight could now set up our season. With thirteen home games and nine away games to come in the Conference, and with the crowd behind the lads like they were tonight there could still be a lot of celebrations not too far away. We have had a great Cup run, we are in second position in the Conference and we are still in the FAT. What a season we are having! It was certainly nice to see the supporters getting behind BT and his team again – lets see a repeat next Monday against Boro. Well done lads!

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