2001-02 RDFC v Rochdale Play Off

By Steven

Rushden & Diamonds came from behind twice to snatch a 2-2 draw against Rochdale meaning there is ‘all to play for’ when the two teams go head-to-head again in three days time for the second leg of this semi final play-off encounter.

Stuart Wardley and Garry Butterworth both struck for Diamonds to cancel out efforts from Lee McEvilly and Paul Simpson in front of over 6,000 supporters at Nene Park.

Prior to the game, Diamonds boss Brian Talbot kept faith with the same starting eleven that began proceedings in the 4-2 victory against Halifax Town last week, meaning Ritchie Hanlon was not included.

Butterworth maintained his place in the centre of midfielder and partnered Wardley, who 48 hours earlier had put pen to paper on a new two-year contract at Nene Park.

Scott Partridge kept his place in attack, after his impressive performance at The Shay and partnered Onandi Lowe meaning Brett Angell had to settle for a place on the substitute bench.

For Rochdale, they brought down an experienced and strong line-up. Simpson, the former Manchester City and Blackpool midfielder, started for the visitors while fans favourite Clive Platt started in attack.

Kevin Townson, Rochdale’s leading goalscorer, was named amongst the substitutes after missing the last few games through injury.

A near full capacity crowd greeted the two teams in this carnival atmosphere as Diamonds set the early pace as Partridge just failed to beat the offside trap inside the first minute.

Diamonds created the first chance of the game when Lowe powered his way past the Rochdale defence but the Jamaican international striker was forced wide by goalkeeper Neil Edwards and could not direct a shot towards goal.

On five minutes, Diamonds went even closer. Butterworth’s through ball from the centre of the field found Paul Hall but the midfielder saw his shot roll wide of the Rochdale goal.

But despite Diamonds’ early pressure it was Rochdale who took the lead after eight minutes. And it was amazing run from midfielder McEvilly that broke the deadlock as he skipped past four defenders after picking up the ball on the halfway line to slot past Billy Turley.

But the goal brought some controversy as the throw-in, which led to the goal, seemingly should have been given to Diamonds but referee Graham Barber gave it in the opposite direction.

On 12 minutes, Rochdale nearly extended their lead but Turley produced an excellent one-handed save from Simpson after the midfielder had broke into the penalty area.

After 15 minutes: Diamonds 0 Rochdale 1

A dangerous free-kick from Mark Peters caused confusion in the Rochdale penalty area on 18 minutes but Partridge could not get the ball from under his feet a put a shot towards goal.

The Diamonds continued to play the better football, looking dangerous on the attack but Platt was also causing havoc of his own as Peters and Andy Tillson struggled to keep him quiet.

Turley produced another reflex save on 23 minutes when he stopped a powerful header from Gareth Griffiths but at the other end Partridge went close with a dipping 25-yard effort which was well saved by Edwards.

After 30 minutes: Diamonds 0 Rochdale 1

Lowe tested Edwards from 40 yards with a powerful free-kick that went inches wide of the woodwork and then Diamonds had the ball in the back of the net just moments later but the offside flag intervened.

But then just a minute later, Diamonds got themselves back on level terms. A delightful delivered free-kick from Hall found Wardley in space and the former QPR midfielder header into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.

But Rochdale nearly responded just moments later. A long ball found Simpson in the penalty area and his turn and shot brought another reflex save from Turley.

Tillson fired a header over the Diamonds crossbar on 37 minutes from another impressive free-kick by Hall and this match continued to be entertaining to the neutral spectators.

Lowe went close following an excellent find from Butterworth but the Jamaican international overstretched and could not put the ball on target.

Half-time: Diamonds 1 Rochdale 1

Diamonds started the second-half brightly as Lowe sent a curling shot towards goal but Edwards made no hesitation and took an easy catch amongst a crowded penalty area.

On 51 minutes, Lowe displayed his power by holding off the challenge from Jobson but his shot rolled inches wide of the target with Edwards scrambling across the face of his goal.

A shot-cum-cross from David Flitcroft nearly deceived Turley as Peters sent a header over his own crossbar and out for a corner.

But Rochdale regained the lead on 56 minutes when Simpson unleashed a powerful 35-yard shot that deceived Turley. It certainly sent the 1,100 Rochdale fans wild as they celebrated the goal.

Diamonds thought they had got themselves on level terms just a minute later but Lowe’s goal was ruled out for a foul on a Rochdale defender.

After 60 minutes: Diamonds 1 Rochdale 2

The goal seemed to have knocked the stuffing out of Diamonds, as Rochdale looked the more likely team to get the next goal as they continued to throw more bodies forward.

On 67 minutes, Diamonds rattled the crossbar as Partridge fired a delightful ball from 30-yards out over the head of Edwards as the home-side were now beginning to put more pressure on the visitors.

But on 73 minutes, Diamonds got themselves back on level terms and it came from an unlikely source. A Peters free-kick was not cleared by the Rochdale defence and the ball broke to Butterworth whose shot struck the underside of the crossbar and into the net.

After 75 minutes: Diamonds 2 Rochdale 2

Both teams were throwing bodies forward in the closing stages of this game and Butterworth was stopped in his tracks by a fantastic tackle from Griffiths when Wardley put the Diamonds midfielder in the clear.

On 86 minutes, Townson found space in the Diamonds penalty area but Turley produced a good save at his feet and then the Rochdale striker saw his second shot go wide of the target.
At full-time: Diamonds 2 Rochdale 2

Diamonds: Turley, Mustafa, Underwood, Peters, Tillson, Butterworth, Wardley, Burgess, Hall, Lowe, Partridge (Angell 82).

Subs not used: Brady, Mills, Pennock, Setchell.

Booked: Lowe (75), Angell (90)

Rochdale: Edwards, Evans, Griffiths, Flitcroft, Oliver, Doughty, Simpson, McLoughlin, McEvilly, Platt (Townson 53), Jobson.

Subs not used: Coleman, Gilks, Durkan, McCourt.

Booked: Simpson (32), Oliver (37), Griffiths (75)

Referee: Mr G Barber.

Attendance: 6,015

For Video Highlights see here.

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