Forest Green Rovers 0 Rushden & Diamonds 0

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

10th February 2001 – The Lawn (Attendance: 1,144)

Webmaster’s MoM: Warburton

Match Report by Andrew

If, come the end of the season, Diamonds clinch promotion to the Nationwide League by the slenderest of margins, then the point earned at The Lawn will be seen in a altogether different light than it was when the referee blew the final whistle on a wind-swept, rain-lashed afternoon.

For the initial reaction as the players and management headed back to Northamptonshire was one of disappointment and frustration. It is unlikely that so many goalscoring opportunities will present themselves again in a 90-minute period, and the chances of facing an opposing goalkeeper in such inspired form is equally slim.

Make no mistake, whatever match fee Forest Green’s Steve Perrin received for his performance between the posts was hugely deserved. In particular, with 10 minutes of the game remaining, and Diamonds throwing everything bar the proverbial kitchen sink at the home goal, he pulled off three stunning saves in a crazy 30-second period to keep the scoresheet blank. Duane Darby, Andy Burgess and Justin Jackson all looked on in disbelief as Perrin spread himself in front of goalbound shots.

Forest Green’s ground may be called The Lawn, but it hardly fitted its idyllic description for the visit of Rushden. Their F.A. Umbro Trophy replay against Matlock Town had been postponed earlier in the week and more rain in the following days had left the ground very heavy. Not as much as at Marine, but playing conditions were still difficult.

Brian Talbot was forced into one change from the side that won comfortably on Merseyside seven days earlier, the suspended Paul Underwood replaced by Gary Setchell.

Rovers, perhaps more used to the conditions, started the game strongest. Yet for all their pressure, which forced a number of goalmouth scrambles and consecutive corners, Billy Turley wasn’t forced into a real save in anger until the half-hour mark when he was alert to a through-ball from midfield. He was grateful though for Tarkan Mustafa’s superb last-ditch tackle on an advancing forward after a back pass slowed more than it would have done on a better surface. In the meanwhile, Diamonds could point to a number of first-half chances that went begging. Perrin showed an early example of what was to come in abundance later when he blocked Justin Jackson’s shot with his legs and the danger was cleared before Jon Brady could pounce on the loose ball. Then it was the Australian who came within inches of opening the scoring when a trademark free-kick from 25 yards out was superbly palmed away for a corner. Duane Darby saw a shot pulled wide after Garry Butterworth’s lob had left the home defence flat-footed, and Jackson then shot just past the post after escaping his marker, before seeing another effort blocked by the goalkeeper. Andy Burgess also shot just over before the half-time whistle sounded.

The second half started in a similar fashion to the first, with Forest Green putting the Diamonds goal under considerable pressure. Mark Peters bravely deflected a goalbound effort away for a corner before Turley was called into action twice in a matter of minutes, first turning behind a Nathan Lightbody effort and then positioning himself perfectly to deal comfortably with a Leon Cort header.

However, as the game entered its final quarter Diamonds’ extra fitness and stamina began to shine through. Jackson saw another shot deflected over the bar, Darby sent a header wide under pressure from the defence and was then involved in a moment of controversy. Through on goal, he took the ball round Perrin falling in the area under a challenge. Penalty? Not according to the referee who promptly booked the striker for ‘diving’. Still the visitors surged forward.

Jackson, not for the first time, saw an effort rebound off the keeper’s legs and then captain Ray Warburton headed just wide after perfectly meeting a Brady corner. There then followed the ‘triple’ save, and Mustafa, Jackson and Peters all saw last-gasp efforts either saved or elude the woodwork.

The sign of a really good goalkeeper though is one who can react at a second’s notice even when he’s not been called into action for a lengthy period, and that’s exactly what Billy Turley did in the dying minutes. He was quickly out to dive at a forward’s feet and deflect the ball away for a corner, despite home protests that a foul had been committed and a penalty should be awarded.

Initial disappointment was slightly lifted when news of Yeovil’s defeat at Chester filtered through to Gloucestershire – two points dropped or one point gained? Only time will tell.

Diamonds: Turley, Mustafa, Setchell, Carey, Peters, Warburton, Butterworth, Brady, Jackson, Darby, and Burgess. Subs (none used): Essandoh, Rodwell, Butcher, Wormull, Naylor.

BOSS ON FOREST GREEN POINT

Brian Talbot was in a philosophical frame of mind after Saturday’s draw at Forest Green Rovers, insisting that his team couldn’t have done more to try and break down the home defence.

“I couldn’t have asked anymore from my players,” he declared. “People will look at the scoreline and be disappointed but we couldn’t have done anymore with our performance. It was difficult afternoon in terms of conditions, but we matched them every inch of the way and as the game went on we got hold of it and got on top.

“Their goalkeeper was magnificent. How he save the three shots from Darby, Burgess and Jackson, goodness only knows, and the saves he made from Brady and Jackson in the first half were magnificent. And then you look at what Billy’s had to do – he’s not really had any saves to make, He’s come out and made a good save at the finish at somebody’s feet. The referee actually said it was a tremendous touch that he got, although some people were calling for penalty.

“Obviously you want to win every game, but it’s impossible, so you just have to say “well done” but “bad luck” today in terms of the three points. “People look at results, but I have to look at performances. We’ve played Forest Green twice now this season and both times we should have won. On the other hand they could have nicked both games. From both games we should have got six points, but we’ve only got two. But that’s football and you have to take the rough with the smooth.”

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