Forest Green Rovers 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

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

22nd January 2000 – The Lawn (Attendance: 1302)

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

Webmasters MoM: Turley

A disappointing afternoon for Diamonds as they slipped behind in the title race, after putting up an inept showing at Forest Green Rovers. Brian Talbot had changed the side, bringing in Carl Heggs for a first start of the season and Martin Aldridge upfront replacing Miquel De Souza. Aldridge had been banging the goals in for the reserves but how would he shape up in his first Conference start? The truth today was that he was one of many players who struggled to impress the Diamonds supporters who had made the long trip south.

Diamonds started well and for the first five minutes had all the pressure, pegging FGR back in their own half. Diamonds also had a couple of half chances, falling to Brady who shot well wide, and Aldridge whose toe-punt also finished well off target. Gradually though FGR came into the game and started to pressure Diamonds themselves having ridden out the early flurry. Forest Green had their first real attack after 10 minutes and Turley was lucky to see the ball fly past his post. On 13 minutes Brady took a corner that Rodwell headed well but the keeper saved. The game then went away from Diamonds after 17 minutes when Razor gave away a silly free-kick wide and outside the box. The ball was lofted into the danger area and a free header, with not much power, took a wicked deflection off the pitch just in front of Turley and bounced 90 degrees into the net. On 21 minutes Macca was booked. FGR had a great chance to extend their lead on 24 minutes with the Diamonds defence flat footed. Daley on the wing was tearing Unders to shreds and all of FGR play was coming Daley out wide. Rovers then had a free header in the box that was luckily for Diamonds headed well wide. Diamonds best chance of the half came on 37 minutes when Razor headed a great ball goalwards only for the keeper to somehow tip it over the crossbar. Just before half time Unders had a chance to put Diamonds level from a free kich but the ball just drifted wide of the keepers left post. So at half time Diamonds were one nil down and thankful that it could so easily have been more.

Two minutes into the second half and Daz had a chance but headed straight at the keeper. Then 5 minutes into the half Billy Turley was called upon to make a magnificent save, tipping the ball over the crossbar. And it was not going to be his only crucial save of the afternoon. BT took Heggs off 9 minutes into the half and replaced him with Andy Burgess, and then Diamonds looked better shape wise. It was Burgess who worked his way down the left and set Aldridge up with a chance but he scuffed his shot wide, and was then substituted by BT and replaced by De Souza. Aldridge who is still not 100% match fit certainly seemed to be off the pace at this level, though its still early days and his reserve games have showed his capabilities. But like all front men they need good service, and today the service from Brady and Unders was inconsistent. Diamonds next real chance came 20 minutes into the half when De Souza worked his way across the box and had his shot deflected for a corner. Burgess just a couple of minutes later turned provider for Daz, but he headed over the bar. They it was down to Billy Turley yet again to pull off a magnificent save again, that received applause from both sets of supporters. He could do nothing though a few minutes later except watch as a FGR shot went across him and flew to safety ricocheting off his far post. Twenty nine minutes into the second half and Jon Brady put a dangerous ball into the box but again the final finishing was poor and Daz again headed wide. The Diamonds finishing in the box was poor, very poor and not testing the keeper. Then on 79 minutes Burgess found some space in the box by turning superbly, drew his leg back to shoot and had it whipped away from beneath him. No penalty was given, no flag from the linesman and play continued. Ironic that after the game the referee came into the dressing room and apologised for making a mistake with the decision – or lack of it. Games at this level hinge on these decisions and points are lost. With ten minutes remaining Brady had a shot from well outside the box saved by the keeper, but they were hustled so quickly each tme they got the ball, and the FGR front men held up play well when the ball was booted high upfield. With two minutes to go the referee again made a mistake when he missed a blatant handball in the box, one of two handball decisions that he missed during the game. So at the end a result which I feel was well deserved by FGR, though others disagree. With a little more luck they could have scored five or six, and Diamonds have to pick themselves up and drastically improve on this performance to achieve their seasons aspirations. The hard work will continue in training during the week, and the imminent return of Bradshaw – who may play a part on Tuesday – will boost confidence within the camp. Certainly Diamonds will be keen to bounce back next Saturday against Northwich and avenge an unlucky defeat earlier in the season and hit back at some of the poor press they received in the programme at that game in the best possible way – by taking all three points and putting in a good performance.

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