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Rushden & Diamonds 2-1 Kingstonian

Kingstonian's annual trip to Legoland Irthingborough was in doubt after some three inches of snow fell overnight, but thanks to the efforts of Diamonds fans and some diamond under-soil heating, the game was able to go ahead. It did so with K's getting back to somewhere near full strength, with Gary Patterson and Geoff Pitcher returning, but still missing Mark Beard and Derek Allan. After his fine Tuesday night display, Ronnie Green continued to displace Sammy Winston alongside Ian Duerden, giving K's a fairly attack minded side to take on the league leaders.

The first chance of the day fell to the promotion hopefuls, when Jon Brady crossed for Andy Burgess to head over, but it was the relegation threatened eleven who struck the early blow. Eddie Akuamoah raced down the right wing and pulled the ball back for Green. His header was well directed but ever-so-slightly off target as it struck the right-hand post. No matter - the ball bounced back out to Duerden, and with one swing of his right boot Kingstonian were ahead. The ball nestled in the bottom left-hand corner of the net with Billy Turley comprehensively beaten.

Both sides went close during the following minutes, with a Duane Darby free-kick from the edge of the box bouncing just over after deflecting off of the K's wall, and with a Mark Boyce shot being well saved by Turley, low to his left. But the lead lasted all of nine minutes. Burgess took a corner from the right and the ball sailed past all and sundry. It finally reached Mark Peters at the far post, and his header crashed against the bar. The ball dropped to the one yard line (if there were such a thing) where prowling was Darby. He had the simple task of smashing the ball over the line - although he still made it as difficult as possible by very nearly shooting over - and Rushden were level.

The pressure increased on those in yellow as Rushden sensed that these three points were there for the taking. One break saw Patterson make a last ditch block when Justin Jackson set Brady free on the right and another Burgess corner saw Ray Warburton produce a stunning save from Jimmy Glass, who tipped the header over with nonchalant ease.

Ronnie Green crossed slightly in front of both Akuamoah and Duerden as K's looked for another, but it was still mostly Rushden pressure as the half neared its end. Glass was called upon once more following a Burgess corner when a scramble ended with a side-foot flicked effort at goal from Peters only for the goalkeeper to turn the ball over once more.

The home side had two glorious chances to go into the break ahead in the final three minutes of the half, firstly when a fantastic move ended with Shaun Carey's shot deflecting off of Patterson's back for a corner, and then when a Jackson cross found Gary Butterworth at the near post. Simon Stewart had been left on his heels and it looked certain that the England midfielder would give Rushden the lead. But somehow he sent his shot past the post and K's went in at half-time still on level terms.

The second forty-five saw more pressure from the league leaders, and decreasingly frequent breaks from K's. One early break did see Akuamoah shoot over after Green and Duerden had combined well, but there was really only ever going to be one winner in this game.

On the hour mark Burgess played a fine ball to Jackson, who sprinted between Stewart and Saunders. One on one with Glass, the odds were on the striker's side, yet he could only manage to turn the ball past the post with his left foot. The K's keeper made another save just after, this time when Burgess cut in from the right and shot from the edge of the box - but his best was yet to come.

Jackson crossed from the left and Darby met the ball at the far post. His header was impeccable, going behind Glass who had run from left to right following the ball. Yet he somehow managed to turn in mid-air and stop the ball before it could cross the line. This led to an almighty scramble at the foot of the post, yet somehow Glass even managed to come out on top on this occasion - getting the ball clear for a corner.

The goal - which had been coming for some time - finally arrived on 73 minutes. Three minutes previous to that, the actual "incident" had occurred. In the build-up there was a clear foul by Darby on Patterson, who, strangely, was heading into his own penalty area. Once there, he lost the ball, bodies fell, both sides appealed and the referee pointed to the spot. Those in yellow disagreed vehemently but that changed nothing as Darby picked himself up to await the restoration of peace. When everyone was settled he sent the ball left, Glass dived right and Rushden had their deserved lead. The penalty itself may have been harsh - but the scoreline was certainly not so.

There was still time for the introduction of Sammy Winston, but to be fair he accomplished little - just as Ronnie Green had before him. The final chance of the afternoon fell to Pitcher - who had looked something akin to the "old" Geoff Pitcher - but his shot went some twenty yards over. And not long after the whistle went.

The final whistle saw some disgruntled K's players still complaining to the referee about the penalty award, and well they might. The Rushden players had certainly seemed keen to tumble on the most minimal of contact throughout the game, and it is quite possible that this was the case for the penalty. But then there can be no complaints whatsoever about the final score as Rushden were by far the better team. Whether they go up or not remains to be seen, but there was certainly enough from K's to suggest that some people's recent optimism may be well founded.

Sat 17th Mar 2001
Nene Park
Football Conference
Rushden & Diamonds2
1Jimmy Glass
2Mark Boyce
3Colin LuckettCautioned
4Simon Stewart
5Eddie Saunders
6Mark HarrisCautioned
7Gary PattersonCautioned
8Geoff Pitcher
9Ian Duerden
10Ronnie Green12
11Eddie Akuamoah
12Sammy Winston10
13Adrian Blake
14David Bass
15Billy Mead
16Mark Jones
Man of the Match
Simon Stewart
Simon Stewart
Match Report By
Gary Ekins