Rushden & Diamonds 1 Leigh RMI 1

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

31st March 2001 – Nene Park (Attendance: 3,882)

Diamonds Scorers: Sigere

Webmasters MoM: Warburton

Match Report by Chris

Rushden & Diamonds had to settle for a point after enduring a frustrating afternoon against Leigh RMI at Nene Park on Saturday.

Jean-Michel Sigere opened the scoring for Diamonds before Tony Black bundled home an equaliser shortly after the break. To add to Rushden’s misery, Tarkan Mustafa was sent off for two bookable offences.

Brian Talbot made the one expected change from the side that started at Northwich on Sunday, Sigere replacing the suspended Justin Jackson. Mark Sale and new signing Stuart Gray were handed a place on the substitutes’ bench.

The visitors soon demonstrated that they hadn’t come to Nene Park to purely defend. After 3 minutes, Tony Black saw a long-range effort comfortably saved by Billy Turley while two minutes later the same player planted a header wide after a good cross from Steve Jones. The Diamonds keeper then had to deal with a Dave Ridings free kick.

Diamonds forced a couple of corners before Ray Warburton made a last ditch tackle on Black after the forward threatened to break clear.

Diamonds were gradually getting into the game with Andy Burgess in the thick of the action. The teenage winger saw one shot saved by the keeper while another flew wide of the post after good work by Sigere and Mustafa. On 17 minutes, Burgess finished off a good run from the halfway line with another shot at Craig Dootson but the visiting keeper saved at the second attempt.

The breakthrough came on 34 minutes. Jon Brady won a tackle in the penalty area and released Duane Darby down the right. The Conference’ leading scorer sent the ball across the face of goal and Sigere accepted the easiest of chances to head home at the far post.

The second half was just two minutes old when Leigh scored the equaliser. The Diamonds defence were caught napping down the Leigh left allowing Dave Gorman the chance to cut in and produce a stinging shot. Turley did well to parry the ball but only as far as Black who bundled the ball into an empty net.

Brilliant trickery from Darby almost brought an instant response for Diamonds as the tempo increased but with both teams searching for the crucial second goal it was referee Coffey who moved centre stage. “He didn’t have a very good day at the office” was the diplomatic response of Manager Brian Talbot and how right he was. On 56 minutes, Mustafa was unfortunate to receive a yellow card for a foul before a farcical situation occurred on the hour. Darby, who’d received no protection from the referee throughout the game, sustained a cut head while undergoing a challenge. He was ordered off the field for treatment but had to wait a full two minutes to return!

There was more controversy on 61 minutes when Diamonds were convinced that a cross from Gary Setchell had been handled in the penalty area but the referee waved away appeals.

Three minutes later a Brady corner was cleared to Burgess on the edge of the penalty area and German did well to clear a tremendous volley off the line.

The bad news continued for the home side. Following a rash challenge by Mustafa on Monk, the defender was shown a second yellow card on 65 minutes and Diamonds were reduced to ten men.

Diamonds quickly reorganised. Sigere was taken off, Brady moved to right back and Simon Wormull came on to play on the right hand side of midfield.

Dootson saved a shot from Burgess before Leigh gave the home fans a scare on 72 minutes. Jones beat the offside trap and it needed a good covering tackle from Brady to clear the danger. Warburton, Setchell and Mark Peters all made good blocks as the visitors tried to make the extra man pay while a jinxing run from Black ended with a shot that sailed over the bar.

Carey, Burgess and Wormull all went close towards the end and in the dying seconds Dootson produced a great save when he tipped a Warburton header over the bar.

So a point apiece and on the balance of play a fair result. Leigh deserve credit for employing two wingers and carrying out their intention to play football. They will be a hard nut to crack for the rest of the season.

For Diamonds, it may appear to be a case of two points dropped but with Yeovil failing to win at Dover, the Conference title remains in their hands. The draw extends Diamonds unbeaten run to 15 games, a season best for the Conference.

Diamonds: Turley, Mustafa, Setchell, Carey, Peters, Warburton, Butterworth, Brady, Sigere, Darby, Burgess. Subs: Sale, Rodwell, Gray, Wormull, Bossu.

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