Luton Town 1 Rushden & Diamonds 0

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

FA Cup 1st Round Proper

17th November 2000 – Kenilworth Road (Attendance: 5771)

Webmasters MoM: Mills

Match Report by Chris

Diamonds produce a superb performance at Kenilworth Road but went out of the AXA sponsored FA Cup thanks to a 56 minute Liam George strike.

Diamonds employed a 3 – 5 – 2 formation. Gary Butterworth was ruled out with a hamstring injury so Gary Mills was given the central midfield role. Paul Underwood and Tarkan Mustafa played as wing – backs while Andy Burgess and Jon Brady were employed inside them. Jean – Michel Sigere was used just behind Justin Jackson with Ray Warburton, Mark Peters and Jim Rodwell forming a three-man defence.

Diamonds, defending the goal in front of their own fans, started brightly and forced three quick corners within the first two minutes of play.

At the other end, Billy Turley was quickly called into action pulling off a superb right handed save to turn Kent Karlsen’s 6th minute shot round the post. From the resulting corner, Warburton cleared Mark Stein’s volley off the line.

Four minutes later, Petri Helin gave Liam George a simple chance to put the Hatters in front but the little striker somehow contrived to shoot wide of the left hand post. From that moment until they scored, Luton didn’t have a serious shot on Diamonds goal as the visitors started to dominate the game.

Playing some incisive fast flowing football, Diamonds created several good chances before the interval. Luton appeared to have problems defending a series of inswinging corners and when Brady swung one in on 12th minutes, Sigere headed against the left-hand post before shooting the rebound wide.

That chance spurred Diamonds on. Trickery from Sigere almost put Jackson in before they went close from yet another corner. Brady was again the provider from the left and when Peters header went goalwards, Stuart Fraser deflected the ball onto the post and away from danger.

Good work from Sigere on the half-hour allowed Jackson to check inside Julian Watts before unleashing a shot, which Nathan Abbey could only parry. Abbey did well to block a Mustafa rising shot following one of his trademark mazy runs. On the stroke of half – time, Sigere released Jackson into space, the striker cut inside from the left and when the shot came in, Abbey saved Luton again.

Roared on by their noisy fans, Diamonds continued their offensive in the second half with some exciting attacking football. Sigere missed a glorious 49th minute chance to score when he blasted over from just inside the penalty area while a minute later; Rodwell headed Burgess’s corner into the arms of the keeper.

From another Burgess corner, Warburton got in front of a now hesitant keeper but headed over.

On 54 minutes Diamonds created another wonderful chance for Sigere. Jackson got to the by – line on the right but when the cross came in the Frenchman’s diving header went agonisingly wide.

Completely against the run of play, the home side broke two minutes later and scored what turned out to be the winner. Matthew Spring played the ball over the top of the Diamonds defence; George beat the offside trap and then coolly laid the ball past Turley and into the right hand corner of the net.

Six minutes later, George turned provider but the outstretched leg of Mark Stein could only guide his shot into the side netting.

Again, just like the first half, Diamonds dominated the rest of the half and Turley’s goal was rarely threatened. On 71 minutes, Abbey flapped at a Gary Mills free kick but Karlsen acrobatically cleared off the line. Warburton then headed over from a corner.

Simon Wormull was sent on to replace Mills who left the field to much applause. Following a rare Luton attack, Rodwell produced a great tackle three minutes from time to deny Thomsen. Gary Setchell replaced Peters in the dying seconds as Brian Talbot’s men tried to secure an equaliser but it wasn’t to be. However, it could have been a different story at the death. Turley had made his way up front for a corner when Thomsen seemed to clatter into Warburton but referee Laws gave nothing.

So defeat for Diamonds but they produced arguably their best performance of the season so far. Manager Brian Talbot was understandably proud of his team. “We played very well, we wanted three big headers and we played more in midfield. We played Sigere just behind because we wanted to plug the midfield and get hold of the ball. I think it worked. We’ve been practicing and working on it in training this week”.

Talbot praised all his players but singled out Sigere for special mention. “I thought Sigere was excellent. The only one thing he didn’t do was to score a goal! His football tonight and his appreciation of the game was perhaps the best we’ve seen so far from Jean – Michel.

I think everybody who watched us on television tonight will think what a good football team we have at Rushden & Diamonds”

Gary Mills has picked up a hamstring injury, and Mark Peters broke his nose in the clash with team-mate Billy Turley in the Luton penalty area.

Team: – Turley, Mustafa, Underwood, Mills, Rodwell, Warburton, Peters, Brady, Jackson, Sigere, Burgess

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