Rushden and Diamonds’ expulsion from the Blue Square Premier division (the Conference to those who abhor euphemistic descriptions of set-ups that are far from ‘Premier’) has somewhat reduced the chances of them playing the Tigers in meaningful competition any time soon. The Northamptonshire club, an unholy fusion of Rushden Town and Irthlingborough Diamonds who merged at the behest of Dr. Marten’s shoe magnate Max Griggs, were a Football League club for five years between 2001 and 2006. During that time they faced City four times, with all of those meetings played in Division Three (now League Two).
The first encounter, in October 2001, was arguably the most exciting of the four games and ended three apiece at Nene Park, a ground lauded by some pundits as the model for new lower league grounds, though in truth it is just a Nineties version of Scunthorpe’s ‘warehouse with the roof cut out’ Glanford Park. Gary Alexander opened the scoring with a fabulous strike that was missed by one Amber Nectar editor because of officious stewarding. The home side equalised after a cross from one time Hull City hero Duane Darby was unwittingly headed/faced by Mike Edwards into his own net.
An incredible/flukey strike from Burgess then gave the Diamonds the lead and he bundled home a third before half time to put them 3-1 up. City’s response after the break was swift, Hunter returned a favour by scoring an own goal on 46 minutes and a point was secured when Rodney Rowe thrashed in a close range shot after his first attempt from further away was parried. Two men involved in this game went onto better things, Caleb Folan was a second half sub (replacing Darby) for the home side, he would go on to become City’s first £1M signing and stray offside a lot for us in the Premier League. The referee that day was Howard Webb, who has progressed from policing bottom division denizens to resisting urges to send off every Dutchman in the 2010 World Cup final.
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