Rushden & Diamonds 2 Stevenage Borough 1

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

27th December 1999 – Nene Park (Attendance: 5721)

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

Stevenage Team: Taylor, Harvey, Miller, Smith, Howarth, Kirby, Martin, King, Alford, Leadbetter, Morrison.

Diamonds Scorers:  Collins 17 minutes and Brady 79 minutes.

Webmasters MoM:  Jon Brady.

Diamonds went to the top of the table with a tough, gritty, but slick performance against the Boro at Nene Park. Brian Talbot was forced to shuffle his pack with David Town suffering from a hamstring injury – in came Miquel De Souza, and Matty Stowell replacing Andy Burgess at number 3. Stevenage came to Nene Park with two ex-Diamonds in their ranks – Ian King and the “Pie Man” Carl Alford. Alford said before the game he expected to bag a brace but today he was to be unlucky.

A massive crowd of 5721 turned out to witness a tough top of the table clash. Diamonds came out of the blocks looking the brighter of the two sides, and Underwood found himself through with a chance on just three minutes, but his shot was well blocked by Smith. In the early stages Brady was finding acres of space, working well with Tim Wooding to put some lovely crosses into the box. Boro had their first half chance on 8 minutes, a flick header from Alford just clearing the crossbar. Diamonds had a great chance to take the lead on 13 minutes. Unders ran at the defence who were backing off. He played a great ball into Collins, Collins then laid in back into his path but the shot was blasted high over the bar. Diamonds though did not have to wait too long for their first goal. Superb play from De Souza found him getting to the bye-line and cutting back a great ball into the path of Collins in the box who swept the ball home. Boro tried to create some pressure then themselves, and Alford again had a header but this time it was well saved by Turley.On 24 minutes a long ball over the top of the Boro defence found Collins through and bearing down towards the goal. He was forced wide but cut back beautifully and then blasted a shot goalwards but it curled away from the goal for a goal-kick. Collins then turned provider on 27 minutes cutting a ball back to Butts who who took aim but he too blasted over from about 25 yards out. Diamonds were controlling the midfield with Butts and macca superb. We all know Macca likes to get forward himself and on 35 minutes he was put through by Collins, but was unlucky to see his shot hit the foot of the post and rebound to safety. Carl Alford found himself through and bearing down on goal on 38 minutes but the ever improving Jim Rodwell made a superb saving tackle. Just a minute later Boro had an appeal for a penalty turned down as the ball appeared to hit Razors hand in the box. The official in charge who had a very indifferent game waved away the claims. Then in the last seconds of the first half Underwood retrieved the ball from a Boro defender just on the half way line. He ran at the defence and then put in a sweet cross to De Souza who just had to touch the ball home into an empty net. In trying to place his shot the ball skewed off his boot and ended up going wide of the far post. So Diamonds went in at half time with a 1-0 lead when it could so easily have been three goals up.

Diamonds started the second half in a similar vein to how they finished off the first half. Macca went close just two minutes into the half when his flick header went agonisingly wide of the post with the keeper scrambling across his goal despairingly. Diamonds were playing neat football, football to feet. The front men were holding up the ball well – waiting for support – and then making darting runs behind the static Boro defence. Then on 51 minutes Turley was called upon to make a superb save, at full stretch, pushing the ball behind for a corner. Gary Butterworth had a speculative shot from the half way line, seeing the keeper off his line. The keeper managed to save it but fluffed his catch putting the ball behind for a corner. On 59 minutes another great ball over the top saw Collins just beaten to the ball by the out-rushing keeper. Then against the run of play Boro equalized. A debateable free kick was given. The ball was launched into the box and with Turley impeded the ball came loose and there was Alford on hand to tuck it away. As he tucked it away and darted towards the corner flag it looked for a second as though there was going to be an assault on the snack-wagon in the corner, but hsi celbration was curtailed with a few gestures being made towards the De Banke terrace. Just three minutes later Macca was again unlucky seeing his flicked header from a free-kick again hit the post. On 66 minutes in was Collins turn to flick a header goalwards but the keeper saved well. Miller for Boro was finding a lot of space out on the right, and balls were being floated high into the box towards Alford. Very predictable but also very effective. On 69 minutes Matty Stowell was replaced by Burgess. On 76 minutes Butterworth burst through but was just beaten to the ball by the keeper. Then a minute later Collins laid the ball off in the box to Unders who again had his shot saved by the keeper. Then on 79 minutes Nene Park erupted. Underwood got the ball wide on the left, half way in the Boro half. He put over a superb cross , way over to the far right of the Boro box, and there was Jon Brady running in to power a superb header into the net. It flew in like a bullet.On 85 minutes great work from Burgess wide on the left found De Souza in some space. He jinked and fired in a shot that the keeper tipped over the crossbar. Our indifferent referee decided that no touch was made and awarded a goal-kick – quite amazing! Diamonds for the remaining minutes tried to play out the game by keeping possession, but it so nearly turned sour for them as a back pass to Turley suddenly hit a large divot as he took his clearance kick. The ball skewed wide 5 yards to the nearest Boro attacker but a glorious saving tackle by Rodwell saved Billy’s blushes and the game was now won.

So Diamonds go to the top of the table – just where BT wanted us for the turnaround into the New Year. Confidence will now be high for a result at Broadhall Way next week. Hopefully we can take a great crowd along to cheer the lads on to another victory. The whole team performed superbly today, but my Man of the Match goes to Jon Brady just ahead of Macca or Butts. He must surely be playing the best football of his career at the moment, and long may it continue. Razor and Rodders had a touch time at the back but did everything asked of them. Tim and Unders worked hard and Darren Collins and De Souza ran their socks off. Matty Stowell had a good game but possibly his distribution not as crisp today, but then he was put under pressure more than in previous games. All in all a massive result, and a nice run of results now will set things up nicely – especially if our friend at Yeovil and Nuneaton keep slipping up. Its not very often a Kettering win gets a cheer at Nene Park but there was a massive one at 4.45 today!

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