2001-02 Rochdale v RDFC Play Off

By Steven

The party will go on long into the night this evening as Rushden & Diamonds’ fairytale season continues thanks to a 2-1 win over Rochdale which see the club book a place at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Onandi Lowe and Paul Hall were the men on target as Diamonds had to come from a goal behind and the scenes at the final whistle will live long in the memory of Diamonds supporters.

It was a fantastic evening with over 1,000 Diamonds supporters singing their hearts out throughout the game as Brian’s team held on superbly for over 10 minutes to claim the victory.

Diamonds boss Brian Talbot kept faith with the same starting eleven than began proceedings three days ago in the first-leg at Nene Park although changes were made amongst the substitutes.

Stuart Gray was named on the bench, his first appearance for the first-team since the defeat against Hull City in February while Barry Hunter was also included. Gary Mills and Gary Setchell both dropped out.

Rochdale boss John Hollins was forced to make one change to his side. Clive Platt, who hobbled off in the first-leg with a hamstring injury and he was not passed fit to play this evening so Kevin Townson, the club’s leading marksmen stepped in.

The Spotland pitch left a lot to be desired. Boggy in patches, it looked a heavy surface and it was going to be interesting to see how both teams could cope with the heavy rainfall that had hit Rochdale during the course of the day.

The two teams were greeted to a fantastic ovation by a near full house at Spotland and this was certainly going to be a tense evening of football.

It was a shaky couple of opening minutes by both sides as the rain continued to lash down at Spotland but Townson had the opening chance of the game as he fired over the crossbar, for the home side, from inside the penalty area.

But Diamonds responded strongly to that early effort as Onandi Lowe showed his pace and strength to fire a shot across the face of the goal which Rochdale goalkeeper Neil Edwards had to make an important save.

There was a nervy moment in the Rochdale defence as a mix-up between Edwards and defender Matt Doughty nearly resulted in Scott Partridge sneaking through and finding a way through goal.

Hollins was forced to make a substitute within the first ten minutes as Richard Jobson fell awkwardly and after challenging Lowe for an aerial ball. Experienced defender Simon Coleman took over his role.

Townson was causing much of the problems for Diamonds and his run and shot on 12 minutes beat Billy Turley but went inches past his right-hand post.

After 15 minutes: Rochdale 0 Diamonds 0

A Paul Hall cross on 16 minutes was volleyed wide by Stuart Wardley as the Diamonds enjoyed some good possession, keeping the buoyant Rochdale crowd quiet.

On 19 minutes, Hall found space down the right and Partridge controlled his cross beautifully but Lowe skied his shot over the crossbar.

The visitors were now enjoying more of the possession and Brian’s team were looking the more likely to open the scoring. On 26 minutes, Tarkan Mustafa dragged a shot wide of the target.

After 30 minutes: Rochdale 0 Diamonds 0

On 32 minutes, Lowe created some space outside the Rochdale penalty area and fired a thunderbolt shot but it went inches wide Edwards’ right hand post.

Rochdale won a free-kick in a dangerous position on 35 minutes but David Flitcroft’s delivery was just too long for Townson.

Despite the conditions this was an exciting game and it was evident that Diamonds were having much better of the chances in the first-half.

Lowe flew at a header on 41 minutes that got the Diamonds bench off their seats as it flew wide of the Rochdale goal.

Rochdale pressed forward in the closing stages of the first-half but the two teams went in level as the half-time whistle blew.

Half-time: Rochdale 0 Diamonds 0

Both teams started brightly in the second-half as Townson broke free into the penalty area but was stopped in his tracks by Turley while Lowe skied a shot well over the bar just moments later.

The home side were now looking the stronger side as Peters and Tillson were put under considerable pressure but to their credit, Rochdale’s chances were minimal.

Townson continued to cause problems for Diamonds and on 56 minutes he should have done better when he got the better of Tillson.

After 60 minutes: Rochdale 0 Diamonds 0

Rochdale created the best chance of the second half on 61 minutes when Simpson put McEvilly in the clear but Turley was brave and saved at the strikers feet as he ran towards goal.

Lowe displayed his power and pace once again but fired wide on 62 minutes as chances were created at either end of the field.

But on 63 minutes, Rochdale took the lead in bizarre circumstances. Mustafa’s back pass took a nasty bobble and it deceived Turley and the ball rolled into the back of the net, much to the frustration of the Diamonds goalkeeper.

But what a response from Diamonds as Lowe striker a fierce effort from inside the penalty area after a goalmouth scramble where Rochdale failed to clear their lines.

There was bad news for Diamonds on 66 minutes when Underwood had to be replaced by Gray as the visitors captain looked as if he had picked up a knock while going in for a tackle.

After 75 minutes: Rochdale 1 Diamonds 1

But Diamonds fans went ballistic on 75 minutes as they took the lead. Lowe spotted Paul Hall and the Jamaican international midfielder coolly ran past Edwards and slotted the ball into the empty net.

It was fantastic stuff but this wasn’t over as Rochdale threw men forward and Simpson drilled a long-range effort over the crossbar.

Partridge, who had been working tirelessly all evening, pulled a shot wide with just seven minutes to go but it was the home side who were now looking the stronger side as Brian’s team tried to hold on.

And they did and as the full time whistle blew the scenes were remarkable in front of a packed Spotland stadium.

Rochdale: Edwards, Evans, Doughty, Jobson (Coleman 10), Griffiths, Flitcroft (McCourt 72), Oliver, McLoughlin, Simpson, Townson (Connor 79), McEvilly.

Substitutes: Gilks, Durkan.

Booked:

Diamonds: Turley, Mustafa, Underwood (Gray 66), Peters, Tillson, Butterworth, Wardley, Burgess, Hall, Lowe, Partridge.

Substitutes: Angell, Pennock, Brady, Hunter.

Booked:

Attendance:8,485 (1,091 from Diamonds)

Referee: Mr RG Furnandiz

For video highlights see here

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