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RUSHDEN AND DIAMONDS v WOKING

Brian Caffarey - 28th February 2008

RUSHDEN AND DIAMONDS v WOKING
3pm on Saturday 1 March 2008

It seems a long time since Garry Hill?s much-fancied side travelled to Kingfield for the season?s opening fixture on a glorious summer day. Frank Gray?s young team acquitted themselves better than many expected that afternoon and no one present will forget Marvin Morgan?s stunning solo goal in a hurry. This Saturday brings the return trip to Nene Park. All talk of a promotion challenge by the Diamonds has long since vanished but they have been in slightly better form lately and will prove hard to break down.

WOKING

Let?s hope that the Cards? encouraging 3-0 midweek win over Weymouth in midweek in the Setanta Shield has shaken us out of the torpor evident in the previous league matches against Farsley Celtic and Northwich Victoria. Liam Marum will surely feel that he did enough on Tuesday evening to start alongside Marvin Morgan up front. We can expect to see Jay Gasson return to the defence but it wouldn?t be a surprise, away from home, to see Adam Green retained at the expense of Giuseppe Sole. It will be interesting to see who Frank plays at right-back. Matt Ruby?s distribution wasn?t wonderful on Tuesday night but we kept a clean sheet, so there must be a good chance that he will start there, in preference to Damian Batt or Paul Lorraine.

DIAMONDS SQUAD

This is the Diamonds? second season back in non-League football following their five seasons in League 2. Last year was a disappointment as they struggled to adapt on and off the pitch, flirting with the relegation spots for a while. Garry Hill took over in February 2007 after Graham Westley?s brief spell in charge and he spent the summer building what looked like a very useful side for this season?s campaign.

With the financial problems apparently easing, a number of experienced players arrived at Nene Park to complement some of the youngsters who had come through the Diamonds? successful youth set-up. Paul Bastock, with St Albans last season but best known for over 600 appearances for Boston United, joined to compete for the goalkeeping jersey with Paul Nicholls, who signed from Fisher Athletic. But Bastock has just been released by mutual consent, having lost his place to 21 year-old Dale Roberts, who subsequently joined on loan from Nottingham Forest. At the back Phil Gulliver, a former favourite with the Diamonds faithful, rejoined the Club after a season with Hereford United. James Krause, a 20 year-old left-sided defender who represented England at U 17 level, signed from Ipswich. Garry Hill was also fortunate enough to secure the loan from Reading on work experience terms of Curtis Osano, who impressed Cards fans in his spell here last season. The defence was stiffened too by the capture of Abdul El Kholti.

In midfield Hill nabbed Curtis Woodhouse. Woodhouse, a player with over 300 League appearances under his belt, abandoned football to pursue a boxing career but was lured back to the game by Hill and signed on a two-year deal at Nene Park. Woodhouse competes in midfield with, among others, Andy Burgess, who rejoined the club after 18 months at Oxford United, Lee Hales, on loan from West Ham, and two more well-known Conference players: Jon Challinor, formerly with Exeter and Aldershot Town; and Dean Howell, who has appeared for a host of Conference teams, including Weymouth under Garry Hill.

Among those released were Jon Ashton, Gary Mills, Dave Savage, Scott Tynan, Danny Williams and Leo Fortune-West. Two highly promising graduates from the Diamonds? Academy, Paris Cowan-Hall and Callum Reynolds, were snapped up by Portsmouth for an undisclosed compensation payment.

Later moves have seen ex-Card Paul Watson switch to Crawley; defender Michael Corcoran join from Oxford; Andy Gooding, a 19 year-old former Coventry midfielder, sign on till the end of the season; and Accrington?s striker David Brown join on loan. In the last 24 hours the Diamonds have brought in an other striker on loan, 21 year-old Conal Platt from Weymouth.

The big moves, however, were the departure of top striker Simeon Jackson, joining Mark Stimson?s growing band of non-League stars at Gillingham for a fee of ?150k, and defender Wayne Hatswell?s transfer for an undisclosed fee to Cambridge United. With Jackson?s departure, a lot of the onus now falls on Michael Rankine to supply the goals. Hill has attempted to relieve the pressure by bringing in young Southend striker, Charles Ademeno, on loan.

SEASON SO FAR

Rushden?s home form is similar to ours, with five wins, seven draws and four defeats. Wins have come against Farsley, Oxford, Northwich, Weymouth and ? two weeks ago ? 1-0 against Altrincham. They lost 1-0 at home to York City in the FA Trophy Quarter-Final last Saturday, with Rankine missing two glorious chances, but had a fine 3-1 win away over Kidderminster Harriers midweek to put them in the Northern semi-final of the Setanta Shield, where they will travel to Northwich Victoria. So, we could meet them again once we?ve despatched the Shots!

PREVIOUS ENCOUNTERS

Last season saw the Cards produce one of their best performances in beating the Diamonds 3-0 at Kingfield, Craig McAllister scoring twice, including a penalty, and Giuseppe Sole finding the target with a superb volley. The return encounter in April saw the Cards go down 2-0 to goals from Michael Rankine and Simeon Jackson.

This season our opening day fixture saw the Diamonds travel to Kingfield to face a new-look Cards side who had won only one of their pre-season fixtures. Marvin Morgan?s fabulous goal gave the Cards the lead just after half-time but the joy was short-lived for two minutes later Curtis Woodhouse rammed home a loose ball to give the Diamonds a share of the spoils.

GETTING THERE

Nene Park,
Diamond Way,
Irthlingborough,
Northants,
NN9 5QF.
Tel: 01933 652000
Fax: 01933 650418
Website: www.thediamondsfc.premiumtv.co.uk

by coach ? why not take it easy and go on the Supporters? Club coach? It leaves Kingfield at 11.30am and the cost is ?15 for members and ?19 for non-members. Ring the Club Shop (01483 772470) to book a place.

by car - from the South (M1): leave at Junction 15 (s/p Northampton A508) and follow signs to Northampton. After approximately 3 miles, turn right at A45 and follow signs to Wellingborough (A45). Keep on A45, travelling east, until you reach the junction with the A6, and turn left (s/p Kettering A6). Cross the river and turn right at the next roundabout into the ground.

by train ? Wellingborough Station is the nearest station, which is around four to five miles from the ground.

OTHER THINGS YOU MIGHT WANT TO KNOW

? away fans ? Adults: Standing ?13/ Seating ?15; Concessions: Standing ?8/Seating ?11; U16s - ?5; U8s - free
? parking ? there is ample parking adjacent to the stadium.
? food/drink ? if you want to have a drink before the match, there are several bars around the ground. Visiting supporters have a designated bar situated in the AirWair Stand. The Kimberley Suite will be open to all Woking fans wishing to have lunch before Saturday's match. There is no need to book, although tables can be reserved in advance. The cost is ?6.95 per head with fully licensed bar available. On the menu this weekend is :-
- Baked chicken in a cheese & bacon sauce
- Vegetarian pizza
- Sausage casserole

All served with a selection of new potatoes and vegetables.



Come on, you Cards!







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