Rushden University of Football, Lesson Number 2 of 3.

FA CUP 4th QUALIFYING ROUND

Att: 2552



Rushden & Diamonds – 4 [McElhatton 11,45 Brady 13, Collins 74]

Sutton United – 1 [Rowlands 53]



So, we travelled to Rushden’s Nene Park stadium knowing that the chances of another good hiding at the hands of the biggest, richest club in all of the Conference was a distinct possibility. But more of that later.

First, another mad crawl round Firkin pubs in planned and this sees us visit the 2 in Norwich before the game. The 2 pints we enjoy prove to be expensive ones, as crap traffic on the way in and an unnoticed wrong turn on the A14 conspire to see us arrive some 10 minutes late at the ground.

As we’re wandering round the stadium to the away end we hear a roar. Bollocks. It’s way too loud to be our lot, so we must be behind already. Worse news follows seconds later, when Andree calls me on my mobile to see A, where the fuck we are and B, to inform us we’re actually TWO down. Double Bollocks!! Apparently we’d been stretched at the back early on and a deep cross had found McElhatton unmarked to head home. The second had come from no one challenging a deep penetrating run and Brady’s low shot had found the bottom corner.

So, by the time we took our seats some 15 minutes after kick off, we were already 2-0 down and looking like we were going out. What we saw of the 1st half wasn’t pretty, with the home side pretty much dominating. Their slick passing and superior movement are frankly making us look like like a little league side. We sit and wonder how Rushden are failing to convert their possession into goals, with one brilliant stop from Gareth keeping us afloat. Then we seem to pick up a little.

Whether it’s because Rushden slack off a bit or we just step up a gear, I’m not sure, but we have possibly our best spell of the game. Sammy has the first opportunity, going on one of his darting runs out wide and cutting in. He wriggles past the last defender and fires in a shot from a tight angle. The home ‘keeper manages to smother the ball with Sam lurking for any rebounds.

A couple of minutes later, Winston is again involved, chasing down a long ball forwards, the home ‘keeper gets there first. But he only succeeds in driving his clearance against our little forward and the rebound slips agonizingly wide of the far upright. We start to play a little better and begin to pass the ball a bit more. Then just as we feel that if we can go in 2 down with the way we’ve picked up, Rushden and McElhatton strike again. Another surging run is just jockeyed rather than anyone attempt a serious challenge and Mr McElhatton holds off Gwynne on the corner of the box and slide rules the ball into the far bottom corner. Arse. Dead on half time too, bastards…..

A tasty half time burger and news that Oldham are winning at Cardiff cheers me up a touch.

The second half sees our boys carry on pretty much where they left off and giving the home side a bit more of a run for their money. Some good runs from Nko and Sammy are causing Diamonds some concern and then we get our reward. A corner from the left is flicked away to the edge of the box and finds Keith Rowlands. He tees the ball up and thunders it through a crowd of players and past Turley in the home goal. Woo Hoo!!! A couple of minutes later and we almost put the cat amongst the pigeons. Another corner, this time from the right is met by Barry Laker at the near post, the ball is heading into the far corner and only a desperate fingertip touch from Turley keeps it out and the danger is cleared.

Our purple patch fades and Diamonds regain control of proceedings. As we push up a little further, Rushdens lightning counter attacks and powerful forward running is stretching our back line more and more. Gareth Howells has to go off with an injury to be replaced by Andy Little. No offence to the young ‘keeper, but this does little to improve our sense of oncoming doom. And so it proves. One long, diagonal ball over the top of our defence finds Collins in acres of space.

He takes a touch, advances into the box and shoots under Little. 4-1 and we’re officially out of this years cup. We then have to sit through a horrible last 10 minutes of ‘Ole’ football as Diamonds basically take the piss out of us, stroking the ball around like Man Utd playing Frickley. And we’ve still got to come here again in the league. Jesus Christ!!

To be honest, I don’t think our boys did themselves justice. We just seemed to be holding back and never really appeared to settle. The serious lack of depth in the sqaud is also painfully apparent. We’re pretty much down to the bare bones and with unconfirmed rumours of John Mackie departing to Reading, that makes 3 departures (Salako & Simpson being the others) with no incomings. The two youth lads will take time to settle, but this is how we got relegated last time. All we need is a run of injuries and frankly we’re fucked.

Ho Hum, off to Nuneaton next week, then K’s and Doncaster at home. October could be a miserable month.

MAN OF THE MATCH : Barry Laker. Outstanding under heavy bombardment.

ENTERTAINMENT : 7. Watching your side outclassed isn’t much fun though.

TEAM : Howells, Laker, Skelly, Brooker, Berry, Harlow, Hutchinson, Rowlands, Ekoku, Winston, Watson SUBS : Little, Vines, Forrester, Riley

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