The 2002-2003 season brought much optimism for the club following their impressive first year in the Football League. Marcus Bignot, a former Crewe player was brought in to strengthen the squad and the club made an impressive start, losing only one game from their opening eight encounters. Despite an 8-0 loss to Coventry in the Worthington Cup (breaking the record for the heaviest club defeat) Diamonds were never out of the top six throughout 2002.
A 5-1 home win over Shrewsbury kicked off 2003 and important victories over Kidderminster, Cambridge and Bournemouth kept the momentum going. On March 1st 2003, Diamonds were in second place in the table, a massive 12 points behind leaders Hartlepool, and at that stage there was no talk of the title. However, an incredible turn of fortunes for both sides resulted in one of the most amazing finishes to the season. With Hartlepool struggling to find any form, Diamonds took full advantage and in March the club racked up wins over York, Hull, Bury and Exeter, with Brian being named Manager of the Month (his second award of this type for the season).
Diamonds won four important games on the trot in April, including a 2-1 victory over Carlisle, which secured promotion and could have secured the championship in the penultimate match of the season, but a 0-0 draw against Leyton Orient combined with a Hartlepool win set up a mouth-watering end of season game. The computer fixture could not have written the script any sweeter – Hartlepool were the last day opponents for Diamonds at Nene Park. The home side knew a draw would be good enough to secure the title and Paul Hall settled nerves with a first-half opener. It looked as though there would be no response from Hartlepool but with minutes remaining Diamonds fans were to endure nail-biting moments when Hartlepool grabbed an equaliser. However, this was to be Diamonds day as they held on for a famous draw to secure the championship in only the club’s second season in the Football League.
This meant the Diamonds had secured their second national league title in their short existence, something other clubs may struggle to ever achieve, and certainly not in the current millennium.
The game at home to Oxford United on 28th December 2002 was the 600th in the Diamonds History – see here for a reflection on that milestone.
See below for a match summary as well as links to match reports. The final league table for the season can be seen here.
See here for a detailed summary of all the games during the season, including team-line up for each game and match timings.
|Sat 10/08/02||A||D3||Swansea City||Drew 2-2||Lowe, Underwood||6327|
|Tue 13/08/02||H||D3||Torquay United||Won 3-0||Darby, Wardley, Hall||3602|
|Sat 17/08/02||H||D3||Kidderminster H||Won 3-1||og, Gray, Darby (V)||3329|
|Sat 24/08/02||A||D3||Shrewsbury Town||Drew 1-1||Darby||3548|
|Mon 26/08/02||H||D3||Scunthorpe Utd||Won 2-0||Lowe, Burgess||3849|
|Sat 31/08/02||A||D3||Cambridge Utd||Lost 1-4||Wardley||4598|
|Sat 07/09/02||H||D3||Southend Utd||Won 3-0||Gray/2, Hall||4176|
|Tue 10/09/02||H||WC1||Millwall (3)||Drew 0-0 AET||(won 5-3 pens) (V)||2731|
|Sat 14/09/02||A||D3||York City||Drew 0-0||–||4102|
|Tue 17/09/02||A||D3||AFC Bournemouth||Lost 1-3||Dempster||4527|
|Sat 21/09/02||H||D3||Wrexham||Drew 2-2||Hall/2||4090|
|Sat 28/09/02||A||D3||Hartlepool Utd||Won 2-1||Peters, Hall||5502|
|Wed 02/10/02||A||WC2||Coventry City||Lost 0-8||–||8750|
|Sat 05/10/02||H||D3||Leyton Orient||Won 2-0||Darby/2||4381|
|Sat 12/10/02||A||D3||Exeter City||Drew 1-1||Darby||2884|
|Sat 19/10/02||H||D3||Bury||Lost 0-1||–||3925|
|Tue 22/10/02||A||LDV1||Cambridge Utd||Lost 0-4||–||2116|
|Sat 26/10/02||A||D3||Hull City||Drew 1-1||Gray||10659|
|Tue 29/10/02||H||D3||Boston Utd||Won 1-0||Lowe||4079|
|Sat 02/11/02||A||D3||Rochdale||Won 1-0||Darby||2628|
|Sat 09/11/02||H||D3||Darlington||Won 2-0||Lowe, og||3911|
|Sat 16/11/02||A||FAC1||Kidderminster H||Drew 2-2||Duffy/2||3079|
|Sat 23/11/02||A||D3||Lincoln City||Won 2-1||Bell, Wardley||3198|
|Tue 26/11/02||H||FAC1r||Kidderminster H||Won 2-1||Duffy, Wardley||3391|
|Sat 30/11/02||H||D3||Bristol Rovers||Won 2-1||Lowe, Hall||3960|
|Sat 07/12/02||A||FAC2||Exeter City||Lost 1-3||Lowe||2277|
|Sat 14/12/02||A||D3||Macclesfield Tn||Won 1-0||Lowe||1839|
|Sat 21/12/02||H||D3||Carlisle Utd||Drew 1-1||Lowe||4355|
|Thu 26/12/02||A||D3||Scunthorpe Utd||Drew 0-0||–||4096|
|Sat 28/12/02||H||D3||Oxford Utd||Lost 0-2||–||4891|
|Wed 01/01/03||H||D3||Shrewsbury Town||Won 5-1||Darby/2, Gray, Lowe, Hall||4144|
|Sat 04/01/03||A||D3||Torquay Utd||Drew 1-1||Darby||2651|
|Sat 11/01/03||A||D3||Kidderminster H||Won 2-0||Hall/2 (V)||3417|
|Sat 18/01/03||H||D3||Cambridge Utd||Won 4-1||Gray, Bell, Hall/2 (V)||5206|
|Sat 25/01/03||A||D3||Oxford Utd||Lost 0-3||–||6508|
|Sat 01/02/03||H||D3||Swansea City||Drew 1-1||Hall||4046|
|Sat 08/02/03||A||D3||Darlington||Drew 2-2||Gray, Hall||2742|
|Sat 22/02/03||A||D3||Southend Utd||Lost 1-2||Hunter||6453|
|Sat 01/03/03||H||D3||York City||Won 2-1||Wardley, og||4463|
|Tue 04/03/03||H||D3||AFC Bournemouth||Won 2-1||Darby, Lowe||4353|
|Sat 08/03/03||A||D3||Wrexham||Lost 0-3||–||3441|
|Sat 15/03/03||H||D3||Hull City||Won 4-2||og, Hall, Lowe, Wardley||4713|
|Tue 18/03/03||A||D3||Bury||Won 1-0||Darby||2291|
|Sat 22/03/03||A||D3||Boston Utd||Drew 1-1||Darby||3504|
|Mon 24/03/03||H||D3||Rochdale||Drew 3-3||Hall, Lowe/2||3444|
|Sat 29/03/03||H||D3||Exeter City||Won 1-0||Darby||4921|
|Sat 05/04/03||A||D3||Bristol Rovers||Won 2-1||Lowe/2||6736|
|Sat 12/04/03||H||D3||Lincoln City||Won 1-0||Lowe||4962|
|Sat 19/04/03||A||D3||Carlisle Utd||Won 2-1||Wardley, Edwards||5468|
|Mon 21/04/03||H||D3||Macclesfield Tn||Won 3-0||Holdsworth/2, Bell||4494|
|Sat 26/04/03||A||D3||Leyton Orient||Drew 0-0||–||5180|
|Sat 03/05/03||H||D3||Hartlepool Utd||Drew 1-1||Hall||6291|
Note – those games with a (P) in the scorers column will have match photos in the report, and those with a (V) will have a link to video highlights of the game.
Match Note 3: After Extra Time. Diamonds won 5-3 on penalties (Gray / Hall / Wardley / Turley / Underwood)