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Rushden & Diamonds 1-0 Kingstonian

Most K's people - of whom there were 259 - agreed before the match that they'd be happy with a point from this top of the table clash, but came away disappointed. The one goal win for Rushden was by the narrowest of margins and, on another day, could have gone the way of the visitors. That it didn't can be partly explained by two people who were sitting in the stand with the K's fans during the first half - David Leworthy and Simon Stewart. Both were sorely missed, with the lack of finishing skills on display a definite problem. That said, the two replacements - Mark Harris and Dwight Marshall - didn't really do anything wrong.

But it was Rushden who started better. Clear cut chances were hard to come by, but most of the pressure was in the half of the field defended by the yellows. There was much concern on 13 minutes when Eddie went in to a tackle, seeming to kick his opponent in the head it has to be said, only to come out of it clutching his leg. A stretcher appeared and worst case scenarios were being banded about - Phil Wingfield and Dean Thomas up front - yet Eddie-the-invincible returned just a few minutes later.

The referee for the day was a Mr.D.Drysdale from Lincoln. He was to become a prominent figure, and started out in the way he was determined to continue by booking Derek Allan. Nobody really knew what it was that he'd done, yet the card was shown anyway.

K's had certainly taken their time to get into the game, but they put together a good move half way through the half, when Eddie, Marshall and Pitcher combined well to set up Wingfield. Unfortunately Hamsher got there ahead of the winger and cleared. At the other end, Matt Crossley performed heroics to stop Rushden from taking the lead. He first stopped a shot from Collins with his "private parts" and then stepped in front of an Underwood shot. Then reached down to check that he was still intact.

Farrelly was determined to keep a sixth clean sheet in a row, and did his best to do so when tipping over a Town back header. Just after Wingfield set off on a run, beating Eddie on his way to passing to Colin Luckett. His cross-cum-shot was more of a shot and almost troubled the goalkeeper. Unfortunately, just afterwards, Rushden took the lead. A pass was played to Collins on the left which he attempted to control with a deft touch. Luckily for him his woefully un-deft touch struck his forehead, landing in the perfect position for a shot at goal. His twenty yard strike was a good one, and was the first goal conceded by K's for over 480 minutes. But it was well worth waiting for.

Crossley almost equalised in first-half injury time, but his header was gobbled up by Turley. Just seconds later Tarkan Mustafa almost "did a Wembley" when he connected with a Phil Wingfield cross. His volley was sweetly struck, but slightly too high. And so half-time. And a conker display. The less said the better.

It took just four minutes of the second half for K's to receive a wake-up which they probably didn't need after spending half-time with Chapple. A Brady corner was headed down by Warbuton, bounced once and struck the bar. K's had gotten away with it - all apart from Farrelly, who was then ripped apart by the Scottish tongue of Allan. "I thought you might have ventured forth to claim that one Stevey m'boy" was what it looked like he said. Not that we can lip-read that well.

Marshall went close with a left-foot shot before Pitcher decided that, if he couldn't beat Rushden by going around them, he'd attempt to go through them. K's had a free-kick on the very edge of the box and, faced with a wall of ten, Pitcher did what he always did. Blasted it straight at the wall. He's probably one of those people who speak English VERY LOUDLY when in a foreign country so that then they'll understand. As it was the ball ricocheted somewhere ending up wide of the Rushden goal, with the referee awarding a goal kick.

Phil Wingfield, who had been asking to be taken off towards the end of the first half, was given an easy opportunity to equalise on 63 minutes. Allan passed to Mustafa on the right, and his cross was, for once, inch perfect. The ball was in exactly the right place for the winger to head home, yet he headed over. And nobody was all that surprised. Least of all Geoff Pitcher.

And this was where Mr. Drysdale decided to get back into the action. McElhatton had got away with a few nasty challenges, but his clear foul on Gary Patterson was the worst of the lot. The referee did give a free-kick, but nothing more. When this was compared with his treatment of Allan previously, it is difficult to justify. It became even more difficult moments later when Eddie Akuamoah received a yellow card, seemingly for passing the ball. That particular Fifa directive must have passed us by.

In between Mark Harris had almost restored parity. His header from a Pitcher corner was certainly goalbound, but it struck Matt Crossley's shoulder and bounced harmlessly away. Wingfield had another chance just after this, again from a Pitcher cross, but once again he was found severely wanting as his shot went a long way wide of goal. His third good chance of the match came just after, and this time he actually managed to shoot on target. However, Turley produced the save of the match and tipped the shot away for a corner.

With K's pushing forward for all they were worth, with Mark Harris switching to centre forward, gaps began to appear in the defensive ranks. Rushden should have capitalised when Butterworth passed to Town. Luckily for K's, his right foot volley was even worse than Wingfield's previous efforts (and that took some doing) as it bounced roughly twenty yards wide. Rushden had two more chances before the final whistle, but both Underwood and McElhatton shot over.

As the whistle went, the relief on Rushden's faces was fairly obvious. They had probably just deserved the win, but they certainly knew that they'd been in a game. Referee Drysdale sprinted off down the tunnel, probably worried that somebody would start a debate which he would be unlikely to win. Yet the refereeing display, though abysmal, had nothing to do with the result. K's had played without two important players and had lost to the better team on the day. If Chapple needed a reminder of the lack of strength in depth he received it here at Nene Park.

Sat 9th Oct 1999
Nene Park
Football Conference
Rushden & Diamonds1
1Steve Farrelly
2Tarkan Mustafa
3Colin LuckettCautioned
4Matt Crossley
5Mark Harris
6Derek AllanCautioned
7Gary PattersonCautioned
8Geoff Pitcher
9Eddie AkuamoahCautioned
10Dwight Marshall
11Phil Wingfield
12Johnny Walker
13Richard Hurst
14Junior Kadi
15Dean Thomas
16Danny Smith
Man of the Match
Colin Luckett
Colin Luckett
Match Report By
Gary Ekins