Rushden & Diamonds 2 Northwich Victoria 1

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

20th February 2001 – Nene Park (Attendance: 2820)

Diamonds: Turley, Mustafa, Setchell, Carey, Peters, Warburton, Butterworth, Brady, Jackson, Darby, Burgess. Subs: Essandoh, Rodwell, Butcher, Wormull, Naylor.

Diamonds Scorers: Darby, Jackson.

Webmaster MoM: Darby

Match Report by Chris

Diamonds returned to the top of the Conference following a narrow win over battling Northwich Victoria.

As the fans saluted another fine team performance, there were good news to cheer as the electronic scoreboard confirmed that Yeovil had gone down at home to Dagenham & Redbridge.

Brian Talbot made the one expected change to the side that started against Scarborough on Saturday with Gary Setchell replacing the injured Paul Underwood. Richard Butcher regained his place on the substitutes’ bench.

Jon Brady got in a testing cross early on before Justin Jackson tested Lance Key in the 13th minute after making good ground on the left. Northwich replied with a Richard Norris free kick that skidded off Ray Warburton¹s head and away for a corner.

It was a game of few clear-cut chances and Diamonds had to wait until midway through the first half before making the breakthrough. A neat one-two between Jackson and Darby allowed Jackson the chance to shoot from the edge of the area. Key could only fumble the shot and Darby pounced to fire home the rebound for his 18th goal of the season.

To the delight of the 60 travelling supporters, the lead lasted just three minutes though as Mark Bailey rose above the Diamonds defence to power home Mark Devlin’s cross.

On 28 minutes, Diamonds came within inches of regaining the lead when Jackson hit the bar after easing round a defender. Eight minutes later, Garry Butterworth saw a long range shot saved at the second attempt by Key but the midfielder defence splitting pass did set up Diamonds second goal moments later. Jackson was able race clear of the Northwich defence and, after rounding the keeper, he slid the ball home to restore the lead.

Gary Setchell had a shot well saved after being fed by Andy Burgess before Jackson couldn’t get any direction on a header following an excellent cross from Darby. As the first half came to a close, Butterworth found Darby in space but the striker’s shot was wide of the left-hand upright.

The second half was as tight as the first with the visitors pushing forward at every opportunity. Northwich almost got back on level terms when Devlin headed over following a teasing cross from Bailey. At the other end, Burgess’ instinctive volley was superbly turned away by key diving to his left.

Unmarked Adie Mike missed a golden chance for Northwich on 61 minutes when his bullet header was directed straight into Billy Turley’s arms. Darby nearly got his second of the night when he fired over after a neat turn. By the middle of the half, Diamonds were in control and while another goal would have put the game beyond doubt, they never really looked in trouble as the defence kept up their impressive recent form. Chances were at a premium and the only other real shot of note came in the dying minutes when Jackson¹s curling shot was well tipped around the post by Key.

So as Darby and Jackson both helped themselves to their 18th goal of the season, Diamonds maintained their unbeaten run in 2001 and have now gone 9 games undefeated. On Saturday, Rushden take a break from Conference league action when they visit Forest Green Rovers in the last 16 of the F A Umbro Trophy.

Speaking after the game, Brian Talbot agreed that it was a good end to a day that had started with the news about Paul Underwood’s enforced lay-off. “It’s always disappointing when one of your best players gets injured and is going to be out for six weeks, but that is part of football and you have to accept it and get on with it. Gary Setchell came in tonight and did a good job for us. Tonight has been a difficult match for us, but we battled hard and defended their bombardment of long balls very well. I think our good spell, which we had in the first half for about 20 minutes, has won us the match.” The manager was also pleased to see his twin strikeforce of Duane Darby and Justin Jackson on the scoresheet..

“Both of the main strikers are carrying little niggling injuries, but we want them on the pitch. We need them playing, they’re an asset to us, and they lead us very well. They work hard and complement each other. All we want to do is keep players fit and healthy get them back on the pitch week-in, week-out.

“It was a sloppy goal that we conceded, but I can’t be too critical because we’ve gone 6 games now and only conceded the one goal. But the manner of the goal was disappointing. They put it into the box and we stopped playing for a fraction because we thought that the ball had gone out of play, but you’ve got to play to the referee’s whistle. They got the cross in and we were a little bit asleep. It means then that we’ve got to work hard again to get back in front, and all credit to the players because they did.

“It was a tremendous ball from Garry Butterworth and Jackson was on it like a flash. I thought the keeper didn’t realise how quick Jackson is, especially when he took it round him pretty easily and stuck it into the back of the net.” Yet despite Diamonds’ return to the Conference summit, Brian is keeping everyone’s feet firmly on the ground.
“We can’t get carried away after gaining three points and Yeovil losing three. We are top of the league but there’s a long way to go yet and it’s going to be hard. We’ve got 13 games left and we’ve got to win a lot more games yet to get the required points we think we need to win it. At the moment they’re still favourites, they’ve got two games in hand, but looking back to a few weeks ago, if they’d have won their two games in hand, we would have gone 13 points behind. Now if they win their games in hand, they will only be six points ahead, but we’ve still got to play them. So it’s getting closer and closer and the sooner they get their two extra games played and we’re still above them, the better.”

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