After 45 minutes I’d mentally torn up that first draft. Somehow we were galvanised – I think by a tackle from Carl Fletcher – and were level and had taken control of the midfield and the game.
After 82 minutes I despaired again as we threw it all away.
After 96 minutes I was consoled by the scoreboard showing that the other Div3 scores had contrived to leave us in 3rd place. 3rd after losing successive games to Bury and R&D – now that’s what I call a result!
OK, OK you want to know what actually happened, I understand. Well, to some extent, the usual happened. We didn’t start well – no hold that - we just didn’t start!
Granted Steve Purches sent a 5th minute volley dipping over the bar, which from t’other end looked like it was going in. However Turley watched it sail over.
The wind was troublesome and so was Onandi Lowe when we let him drop deep and turn and run with the ball. He had an early effort just wide. Paul Hall also looked lively for Diamonds but didn’t really provide the killer ball. Cherries couldn’t provide any ball – anything lumped up to SuperFletch came straight back – he couldn’t seem to win anything and we were laborious in our build up. Wade did cut in onto his left but hit a poor dribbly shot well wide.
We just couldn’t get anything going.
R&D took the lead when Lowe outjumped the game Lil’Fletch – was it a foul? Well the assistant ref for our home game v Rochdale would’ve thought so – remember he gave a penalty to ‘Dale for a ‘nothing’ challenge and this was as least as ‘bad’. Anyway Carl ended up in a heap, Lowe picked up the ball, turned, ran and shot. The ball bounced just in front of Mossy and he couldn’t hold and Duane Dibley, sorry Darby, beat Cummings to poke the rebound into the net.
We continued to struggle although we did get the ball out to the wings a bit better. Wade skipped between two defenders but thumped his shot into Turley’s chest. Somewhere around now BabyFletch won his tackle on half-way and carried the ball towards the Rushden defence which set the tone for the remainder of the half.
Then the moment when I was convinced, at the time, it wouldn’t be our night. A cross from the right and Feeney hung in the air like a very poor person’s Denis Law (and that’s no insult) and headed back across goal. Ball meets crossbar, bounces out and is hacked clear.
However, there was no let up in our pressure and generally Rushden struggled to mount a threat for a while. Perhaps they should have changed to a diamond formation? OK perhaps not.
Oh, the goal, you want to know about that too… Sure thing, well Cummings had been getting forward on the left and combining well with, generally, The General (that’s O’Connor) and Feeney. On this occasion, however, he was put in with a precision pass from O’Connor or Browning which the right back went at full stretch to cut out but missed and was left sprawling on the fantastic playing surface. WC sped into the box and steered a cross into Feeney’s path, who couldn’t and didn’t miss. This was on 45 mins and no less than we deserved as we’d bossed the game for 20 minutes or so.
We expected that there would be a feisty performance from Brian Talbot in the home dressing room, with perhaps the odd DM getting a booting, but it didn’t really show in his side’s performance as we continued to dominate in midfield with Browning sitting and Hayter scurrying. Battersby had come on for Darby at the restart.
Unfortunately, Feeney limped off with what looked like a hamstring pull. He did return but after another 5 he was replaced by Danny Thomas in the 65th minute. Our main goal threat had gone. Hayter moved upfront and O’Connor came inside. Thomas did try, actually getting stuck into some tackles and look dangerous but didn’t always deliver – one cross going behind the goal when he was in acres of space with time to look up and take the ball further.
Another cross went behind the three players in the box, but overall this wasn’t a bad performance from Danny.
Rushden did pick up a bit and got the ball in more advanced positions. Then the incidents that led to the goal. Lowe got the ball, Browning came over to challenge and Lowe went down near the angle of the box. Browning was booked when there looked to be little intent. As he ran back to mark up there was a clash in the box that left Tindall on the deck. I couldn’t see what happened. A yellow card was brandished but I couldn’t tell you who to. Tindall was led off injured and Lewis Buxton came on. The free-kick was swung in and the ref gave a penalty for what I thought must be handball at the back post. It turns out to be for a pull by Elliott.
Lowe despatched the pen and we brought on Holmes for Purches in an attempt to salvage a point. He did cause problems but too often we were guilty of wasting the ball.
So a good performance for the last 2/3rds goes unrewarded, but we are still third as I write, the next morning. We will need to reproduce the good bits more often than not if we’re to hang on to that spot.
This was a local game for us – we live 17 miles away – but well done to the large turnout of fans from the South Coast, South Yorkshire and all other points – they certainly didn’t deserve to travel home pointless.
AFCB: Moss, Purches, Tindall, C Fletcher, Cummings, Elliott, Browning, O'Connor, Hayter, Feeney, S Fletcher, Hayter
Subs: Tardif, Holmes (for Purches, 86), Buxton (for Tindall, 82), Thomas (for Feeney, 60), Stock
Ray Brown, Milton Keynes