Nuneaton Borough 1 Rushden & Diamonds 1

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

26th December 2000 – Manor Park (Attendance: 2614)

Diamonds Scorers: Jackson

Webmasters MoM: Mustafa

Match Report by Andrew

Diamonds last competitive game of the year ended in huge disappointment when a Lee Charles strike two minutes from time earned Nuneaton Borough a point they rarely looked like attaining.

This was Nuneaton’s first home game since three of their supporters were tragically killed travelling back from their F.A. Cup tie at Bournemouth, and a minute’s silence was impeccably observed before kick-off. Additionally, a ground collection raised in excess of £2,000 for the victims’ families. A sign of the bond between all true football supporters was also evident at the gates of the Manor Park ground where a Diamonds scarf had been placed next to the colours of Nuneaton.

Brian Talbot made four changes to the side, which started the game against Hednesford Town ten days earlier. Back came the previously suspended trio of Billy Turley, Ray Warburton and Justin Jackson, and also recalled was Garry Butterworth, in for the injured Gary Mills.

The first half was an end-to-end affair with reasonable chances falling to both sides. Borough were the first to threaten when a combination of Jim Rodwell and Warburton blocked a Delton Francis shot, and then Ian King saw a free-kick fly just over Turley’s bar.

Gradually though, Diamonds got into the game which was played on a pitch described later by Brian Talbot as a gluepot. Andy Burgess went close to opening the scoring when his glancing header from a Duane Darby cross cleared the bar by inches, and when a Jon Brady free-kick fell to the feet of Rodwell, his shot was comfortably saved by Chris MacKenzie.

Good combination work by Burgess, Paul Underwood and Jackson caused panic in the home defence and Brady shot over after industrious efforts by Darby. Diamonds wasted the best chance of the half with nine minutes remaining when Darby was put through by Burgess but one touch too many gave the Borough defence the chance to clear their lines.

Goalless then at half-time and whatever Brian Talbot said during the interval clearly had the desired effect for the second period saw Diamonds dominate possession and chances. Jackson just failed to get on the end of a dangerous cross from Tarkan Mustafa, and then saw a shot saved by MacKenzie in a one-on-one situation. But Borough were always in contention while the scores remained level and Rodwell earned the applause of the travelling support when he timed a tackle to perfection to stop Charles progressing further towards Turleys goal.

The deadlock was finally broken on the hour and the goal was worth waiting for. Jackson collected a ball from Mustafa with his back to goal but lost his marker superbly to curl a fine shot past the despairing right hand of MacKenzie. At that stage there looked to be only one outcome, and Jackson saw another shot saved by MacKenzie as Diamonds pressed forward looking for a second goal.

The visitors’ hearts were in their mouths however when a Williams’ shot flew just over after Diamonds had failed to clear their lines properly. Turley looked to have made a match-winning save with 15 minutes remaining, when he had to adjust his body after the ball bobbled off the tricky ground. But, he had no chance in the 88th minute when Charles was given space to fire home an unstoppable shot to the delight of the home support.

So Diamonds end the year lying in second place in the Conference, seven points adrift of Yeovil Town. Next up is the return game against Nuneaton at Nene Park on New Years Day (3.00pm).

Diamonds Team: Turley, Mustafa, Underwood, Carey, Rodwell, Warburton, Butterworth, Brady, Jackson, Darby, Burgess.

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