Rushden & Diamonds 0 Droylsden 0

This was an afternoon that had the press corps checking their thesaurus for appropriate words to describe the game, the weather conditions or the size of the crowd. The crowd was the poorest since the Southern League days, and surely there have been few worse games since the Diamonds left that league.

Manager Hill made six changes from the side that beat Halifax in the Setanta Shield just two days earlier, with the three cup-tied players returning to the line-up, as well as a rare start for Lee Tomlin and also El-Kholti and Gooding started as they had at Kidderminster.

Droylsden had also played on Thursday, drawing with runaway leaders Aldershot, which followed a victory over Halifax, so manager Dave Pace kept faith with the majority of those players, although Steven Daly was suspended following his dismissal on Thursday, and although Jamie McGuire’s two match ban was not due to start until Monday he did not make the 16.

At a damp and gloomy Nene Park, with a swirling wind, the Bloods kicked off towards the Peter De Banke terrace, and within three minutes they had had to bring on Robbie Talbot for Dale Johnson. Andy Burgess was playing in left midfield, with Lee Tomlin on the right, and Conal Platt pushed forwards to support Charles Ademeno.

The visitors did have a couple of early attacks that looked dangerous, whilst for the Diamonds Conal Platt was far more involved than he had been against Kidderminster. Phil Gulliver made a great tackle on Terry Fearns after he had got past Michael Corcoran who was playing at right back. Fearns was able to get in a shot after good work by Chris Denham after 22 minutes, but it was deflected wide for a corner.

That was the end of the Bloods threat for the half, as the Diamonds started to have more of possession without really threatening Phillips goal. In fact it was as late as the 33rd minute that Phillips was called into serious action when he had to field an El-Kholti cross, and then shortly afterwards an Andy Gooding cross was met by Andy Burgess on the edge of the box, and his looping header had Phillips scrambling backwards to tip the ball over the bar.

The resultant Platt corner also looked dangerous as it looped in the wind and narrowly missed dropping in at the far post.

Andy Burgess was getting some space out on the left, and one of his crosses was headed straight to Woodhouse by the Bloods defence, but he could only shoot wide – as if summing up the dour first half.

Half time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Droylsden 0

The Diamonds came out very early for the second half, setting an expectation that they might be about to show greater drive in the second period.

For the first few minutes of the half it appeared that this might be the case, as a run down the right by Lee Tomlin, found Ademeno, who hit a quick pass to Andy Gooding running into the area, but his shot was blocked. Ademeno then managed to rob out-muscle Strong and feed Andy Burgess who could only miskick. A minute or so Diamonds won a free kick, and Conal Platt found Andy Burgess who put in a dangerous looking cross that was well cleared.

Lee Tomlin then made a decent run down the right and crossed to Platt and Burgess, and although neither player could reach the header, Platt was able to retrieve the ball and knock it across to Burgess whose header was saved by Phillips.

The Bloods then created their first chance for 20 minutes or so, with Mackin setting up Denham for a powerful shot which the dependable Roberts gathered.

The next action perhaps summed up the afternoon, as a decent looking Diamonds break involved an interchange between Tomlin and Ademeno, setting Platt up for a shot which he sliced so badly that it went out for a throw in.

After this initial action the game settled back into a midfield struggle, with neither side showing enough quality to put a telling move together. The Bloods tried switching Chris Denham between either wing, and he remained their best player when he kept on his feet.

Abdou El-Kholti was starting to look dangerous on the left, as he and Burgess started to work out the strategy down that wing, but Corcoran on the other side had very few chances to get forwards.

Garry Hill brought on his three substitutes, but by that stage the game had settled into a stupor that even the quality of those players could not change. Even the fourth official had descended to the level of the game as he too struggled – in his case to operate his numbers board.

When the Diamonds did try to get the ball forwards quickly along the ground they did look dangerous, with one move starting from their own penalty box with Gooding and Burgess finding Tomlin in space, but his ball forwards to Woodhouse running into spacewas hit far too hard.

As the home fans streamed away towards the end the Bloods fans continued to cheer on their team, and it took a couple of late saves from Roberts, notably from Denham, to deny them seeing their first away win of the season.

The Diamonds now have a few days off until the Setanta Shield final at Aldershot on Thursday, but will need to shake off the lethargy shown at Nene Park this afternoon.

Full-time: Rushden & Diamonds 0 Droylsden 0

Teams:

Rushden & Diamonds (White): Dale Roberts, Michael Corcoran, Abdou El-Kholti (Dean Howell 68), Chris Hope (Capt), Phil Gulliver, Lee Tomlin, Andy Gooding, Curtis Woodhouse, Andy Burgess, Conal Platt (Jon Challinor 68), Charles Ademeno (Michael Rankine 61),

Subs Not Used : Tom Shaw, Marcus Kelly,

Droylsden (Blue) : Paul Phillips, Lee Roche, Colin Cryan, Greg Strong, Kevin Lynch, Levi Mackin, Sean Newton, Ashley Burbeary, Chris Denham, Dale Johnson (Robbie Talbot 5, Ged Murphy 73), Terry Fearns (Adam Dugdale 82)

Subs Not Used : Karl Munroe, Danny Ellis

Goals: None

Yellow Cards: Strong, Mackin, Roche

Referee: Mr M Stewart

Attendance: 1186 (31)

Man of the Match sponsored by Roger and Norma Smart : Andy Gooding

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