Sports editor Mark Lea’s column: On the other side this time

Action from Saturday's stalemate between AFC Rushden & Diamonds and Holbeach United. Photo: Steve Relf
Action from Saturday's stalemate between AFC Rushden & Diamonds and Holbeach United. Photo: Steve Relf
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What a day at the Dog & Duck with plenty of familiar faces, a warm welcome and a slightly strange feeling.

For 12 seasons, working for the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph, I had covered the ups and downs of Rushden & Diamonds FC.

I saw them promoted into the Football League and relegated back into the Conference.

At a rough estimate I was paid to watch 600 games – including the last-ever match away to Darlington in April 2011.

Financial problems meant that Diamonds were not forever.

But they came back as the supporters created AFC Rushden & Diamonds, initially as a youth team and then joining the United Counties League as a senior side.

I have seen a few games at the Dog & Duck which they share with Wellingborough Town and I live nearby.

But Saturday afternoon was the first time I have covered a game involving Diamonds as a journalist for the opposition.

As one of my former colleagues pointed out, it was like a reunion.

The top-of-the-table showdown looked like it would be a cracker and I had been really looking forward to it. And we were not to be disappointed.

Diamonds’ display was impressive and Holbeach United were not allowed to hit top form.

But the Tigers battled away and there were a few moments in the second half when I thought they might have nicked three points.

Apologies for the cliche, but the game was a real credit to the UCL.

Sadly it ended with a bit of controversy after a bust-up in front of the home bench.

However, it would be a shame to reflect on that incident rather than some free-flowing football and plenty of goalscoring chances all afternoon.

These two teams will surely continue the title battle all season.