Rushden & Diamonds 6 Northwich Victoria 0

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

29th January 2000 – Nene Park (Attendance: 3468)

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

Diamonds Scorers: OG 3 mins, McElhatton 30 mins, Collins 50 mins, Lowe 56 mins, Burgess 67 mins and McElhatton 76 mins

Webmasters MoM: Butterworth

This was a crucial game for Diamonds in light of their disappointing game last Saturday at Forest Green. Previous defeats this season have seen Diamonds bounce back well, but with Diamonds finding it hard to score goals in recent games it was expected that Northwich would provide stern opposition today. In came new boy David Lowe for his first game for Diamonds, in came Andy Burgess for the suspended Underwood and in came Kenny Cramman for a rare start these days.

Diamonds got off to the best possible start. After only three minutes Braids was fouled just outside the area. A superb free kick was floated into the box and a Vics defender turned the ball past his keeper and into the net. Diamonds demonstrated in the first five minutes an exhibition of slick, crisp passing movements. It was 12 minutes before Northwich mustered anything remotely looking like an attack, when they achieved their first corner of the game. Tim Wooding went into the referees book after just 16 minutes being booked for a late tackle just in front of the dugout. The referee would have just cautioned Tim had not the Vics bench shouted and remonstrated at the referee persuading him to book Wooding. Andy Burgess had a great chance to put Diamonds further ahead on 17 minutes when Brady wide on the right found space and crossed into the box to Collins. He swivelled round but was unable to connect properly, the ball fell invitingly for Burge whose control for once let him down and the chance was gone. On 22 minutes a back header from a Vics defender almost caught out his keeper as the ball almost bounced over his head with Lowe in close attention.

Northwich actually got the ball into the Diamonds net after 22 minutes – Turley made a magnificent save but could only deflect the ball out to a waiting Vics attacker, but luck was on Diamonds side as the linesman flagged for offside. Diamonds continued to push forward, and Macca shot wide of the far post on 29 minutes when Lowe was unmarked to his right and in a great position. But Diamonds did increase their lead after 30 minutes. Burge put a great ball into the box, Macca and Daz both rose for the same ball but Macca won the challenge and steered a header past the despairing keeper. Macca was certainly fired up for this game – maybe because he now is suspended for the game at Billericay and wanted to go out on a high. Two minutes later a crafty back heel by Burge set Butts on his way goalwards. He put a cross into the box and Daz was just unable to stretch enough to connect with the ball. The only danger to the Diamonds defence came in the last five minutes of the half when Northwich were awarded a couple of corners that put a little pressure on the defence.

Too often in the past Diamonds have gone in at half time and then sat back on their lead but there was none of this today. Collins found himself through on 48 minutes but the keeper saved well at his feet. But on 50 minutes Collins got his reward for a great performance today to silence his critics. Brady found space and set Wooding away down the right. His inch perfect cross found Daz who powered a header like a bullet past the Vics keeper. He nearly increased his tally just minutes later, running with the ball across the edge of the box he unleashed a shot that rose high over the bar. On 56 minutes Diamonds were awarded a corner after some great work by Lowe. Somewhat fitting then that Lowe got his first goal for Diamonds from the resultant corner, scoring well with a header. Diamonds were rampant, piling relentless pressure on the frail Vics defence.

On 57 minutes Daz had a one on one with the keeper but again the keeper denied him his second goal. On 63 minutes Simpson was sent off for a second bookable offence and Diamonds now ran riot. On 65 minutes a Wooding block-buster just missed the post and threatened to demolish the De Banke such was the power of the shot. Burgess was denied with a fine save from his header on 66 minutes, Collins had the rebound magnificently saved as well, and the ball was then blasted high over the bar. But Burge got his reward just a minute later when he picked up the ball just outside the box, shimmied past a defender and placed a superb shot into the corner of the goal past the keeper. So five nil and there was still more to come. Daz just failed to get his head to another great cross from Tim. Seventy six minutes and Macca got his second of the game, blasted in from the edge of the box. BT then decided to make a few substitutions. Peters and Mills came on for Braids and Razor. Lowe had a shot saved by the keeper on eighty and again on eighty one minutes. We then witnessed the save of the game from the Northwich keeper as he somehow tipped a header from Daz over the crossbar. On 86 minutes Heggs came on for Lowe and he almost made an instant impact when he picked up the ball in his own half and ran at the Vics defence, turning them this way, that way and inside out. His fierce shot unfortunately went just the wrong side of the post and into the side netting. The match finished and the players received a superb standing ovation from the crowd. A magnificent, clinical performance.

Individual performances – well they were all superb, even when the substitutes came on they looked class. Billy T had little to do but took his crosses well, punched confidently, and made that great save in the first half. Lowe in his debut added another dimension to Diamonds play. His vision of passing, his reading of the game and his work rate were superb. He held the play up well, played the simple ball well, and gave us something we had been lacking. Razor and Rodders were giants, Braids just gets better and better and is surely playing the best football now of his career. Kenny and Tim also impressed but for me the stars were Macca and Butts, who dominated the midfield and Butts was awesome today. To think that last season for a while he was struggling to command a place in the team. What we also witnessed today was the depth of quality in the squad. The substitutes came on and they all did superb, involved from the first to the last seconds of their game. When Burge manages a bit more strength, body wise, he is going to be an awesome player. Watch out Billericay – Diamonds are back!

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