Dover Athletic 0 Rushden & Diamonds 4

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

12th February 2000 – The Crabble Athletic Ground (Attendance: 2950)

Rushden Team: Turley, Wooding, Cramman, McElhatton, Rodwell, Warburton, Butterworth, Hamsher, Lowe, De Souza, Underwood.
Substitutes: Collins, Burgess, Mills, Peters, Bertocchi

Diamonds Scorers: De Souza 45 mins,71 mins, Hamsher 64 mins (Pen) and Rodwell 73 mins.

Webmasters MoM: “THE TEAM”

Diamonds came to the Crabble full of confidence. Past results had been favourable here, and with an early look at the pitch meeting with BTs approval for our preferred style of play, the stage was set for a thrilling top of the table class. Macca had passed himself fit after an 11.00am fitness test and the boost to the squad was obvious to see. But preparations just before the start of the game, caused some confusion and led to Diamonds last minute preparations going awry. Because of the numbers turning up to watch the game and the relatively small number of available turnstiles the game was delayed ten minutes. Unfortunately no-one told the Diamonds dressing room, so as Diamonds players started the exit from the dressing room to the pitch they were then told of the delay. This undoubtedly led to a slow start for Diamonds in the first ten minutes of the match as the pre-match warm up and preparation was wasted.

For the first ten minutes Diamonds were pegged back in their own half, having to give away corners as they tried to settle down and psyche themselves up again. Pressure was not helped by giving away some poor possession, especially from Billy in goal whose kicking had gone awry, although some of the back passes to him were awful. Then it clicked for Diamonds, the rhythm was suddenly there, they were able to put their foot on the ball, create time and space, the movement upfront and from the flanks moved into gear and they never looked back. John Hamsher was causing all sorts of problems to the Dover defence on the right, jinking past players, cutting inside, putting superb ball into the box. Lowey was magnificent, holding the ball and laying off superb flicks for Migs and Unders to run on to. In the middle Butts and Macca started to boss it, and win all the second ball, all the lose Dover possession, and all of the 50/50s. Diamonds were playing class, top quality football, that we all know they are capable of in the right conditions. It was beautiful to watch and the chances to open the scoring inevitably came. Hamsher was the main provider, as a header from Migs was saved, a shot from Tim was heading inside the post but got a deflection for a corner, a great ball to Unders in the box but his header went wide as his shirt was blatantly tugged as he tried to jump to meet the ball, and a Razor header that the keeper almost fumbled on the goal-line. Diamonds were breaking sharp and fast, building the moves so skillfully it was a joy to watch. When Migs put them into the lead just on half time heading in from an Unders cross, it was no more than they deserved, in fact two nil would have been a more realistic result on the first half performance. As for Dover other than the first ten minutes they did very little, a few half chances where the finishing was well wide was all that they could muster. The only disappointing point for Diamonds was a couple of bookings, one to Macca that was probaly due to lack of fitness and one to Lowey for arguing to the linesman after an offside decision went against him.

The second half started as you would expect with Dover trying to regain some initiative and for a while they achieved that, working well down the right and putting in some quality crosses that unfortunately their forwards were too slow to latch on to in the box. Those that were connected with skimmed agonisingly wide of Billy’s post. Then probably the turning point of the game happened as a Dover forward cut across the outside of the Diamonds box. He unleashed a superb shot that somehow Billy got a finger to and pushed onto the post. The ball ricocheted out across the goal and was cleared away to safety. That was a save that you would not see bettered anywhere, in any Division or League. You could almost visibly see the Dover heads drop, as they knew this was to be Diamonds day. Diamonds stepped up a gear again, cutting open the Dover defence at will. Migs and Lowey were running the defence ragged, and Hamster and Unders causing trouble down the flanks. Migs was put in with a chance on 64 minutes working his way superbly into the box, unselfishly he cut the ball back to Macca whose goalward bound shot was saved well with the defenders hand and Diamonds were awarded the penalty. The penalty king himself, Hamster, slotted it away with ease showing no nerves at all – just another day at the office. Dover were down and out but still Diamonds pushed forward with flowing football and Migs grabbed his second on 71 minutes and Rodders planted a header past the keeper on 73 minutes to end the rout! In fact it should have been five as Macca weaved his way into the box with ten minutes to go and shot across the keeper but the ball went just wide of the post. If he had looked up he would have spotted Migs un-marked and ready to accept his hat-trick. But this was not a day to ponder on missed chances, but a day to remember that those Diamonds supporters who had made the journey to Dover had witnessed one of the most accomplished performances from a Diamonds team for many a season. It ranks with the second half at Kingstonian when we won 5-1, or Woking at home over the Xmas period in 1998, or Halifax at home when we won 4-0. But this was away from home at a title contender, and the superb football was sustained over the 90 minutes – it was a joy to watch!

It would be unfair to pull anyone out of the team for special praise this afternoon – they were all superb to a man. Billy has without doubt won over any few stragglers about his confidence in goal. He made saves, collected crosses and his positioning was faultless. Tim and Kenny worked non stop, Rodders and Razor were giants out there – not winning all in the air but fighting for every second ball, not playing it fancy but doing a job for the team. Macca and Butts were a world apart – running the midfield with strength, vision and flair. Hamster was a revelation out on the right, and will now be giving BT enormous selection problems, Unders looked sharp and incisive, and the front men were pure class with Migs pace and skil on the ball, the sharp turns, and Lowey just oozes sheer class. The ball seems to stick to his feet, he lays off deft little touches, brings others into play, is a goal maker and a goal taker. A magnificent performance and now we look forward to Forest Green and hopefully some revenge this Tuesday, and then the prospect of a mouth watering game up at Donny next Saturday. Lets hope we take the same if not more support with us next week and get another result to remember.

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