Four Goal Grenzy Makes New Striker The Toast Of The Town

Slough Town

Slough Town

Hercules (6), Abbott (48, 52, 69), West (66)
Rushden & Diamonds

Rushden & Diamonds

League Attendance: 1325 Gary Abbott
A second half hat-trick by Slough striker Gary Abbott shattered any illusions that Conference newcomers Rushden & Diamonds may still have had following the 4-3 defeat on their league debut at Kidderminster on Saturday.

The ambitious Midland League champions left The Park shell-shocked after being torn to shreds by Brian McDermott's tenacious new squad. Cliff Hercules made the crucial breakthrough from a set-piece six minutes before the break after the Rebels had eventually wrested control from a robust and skilful Diamonds midfield.

Diamonds will have received no help from watching the Rebels outclass Stalybridge Celtic three days earlier when only one comer to the visitors, was won during the match. Slough's first this season, played short by Danny Bolt to Mark West, produced an immediate second and a change of routine. Hercules crash-landed in a packed six-yard box after a run from deep and managed to poke the ball home through the mayhem at the second attempt.

His 300th goal in non-league football must have eased any remaining qualms he might have harboured after relinquishing the striker role to put steel in the defence.
Yet a one-goal lead at the interval never looked like being enough. Slough had been denied the freedom of Saturday and Diamonds, unaccustomed to defeat, could be relied on to come out fighting.

But they never got the chance as Abbott, who had stood out in the first half as he had against Celtic, gave a performance like Mel Gibson's in Braveheart.

With the half just three minutes old, Steve Bateman sent Simon Stapleton away from just inside Diamond's half. From the edge of the area, Stapleton rolled the ball to Abbott who with one movement curled it to West and turned to bury the return at the base of the right-hand post.

Abbott needed no help at all four minutes later when he dribbled goalwards and caught Graham Benstead napping with a snapshot from just outside the area which went in low at the left post.

Diamonds, who by this time were unable to compete with the one-touch skills and kaleidoscopic reorganisations with which Slough confused them, relied increasingly on the fast-break from livewire semi-pro international Darren Collins.

But Paul Wilkerson, who saved with his legs early in the first half when Diamonds were on top pulled off several crucial stops, and palmed another shot to safety before Slough struck again in the 66th minute.

Open play, set pieces, Slough don't seem to mind. This time it was a dummied free kick driven low toward the target by Gary Blackford. It exploded upwards when it hit flesh, but arch-predator West was there to do what he does best, guiding the ball home off his chest.

Three minutes later and Abbott delivered a teasing cross which the increasingly nervous Benstead had to help over the bar for a comer. In rushed Hercules for a strike which was smashed off the line, but there was the elusive Abbott who swivelled neatly to complete his hat-trick from close range.

Even he could not believe what was happening and he threw himself on the ground in a mock faint.

But the reality is there for all to see. After inflicting Diamonds' worst ever defeat and netting nine times with one against, the Rebels top the Conference. They have been there before; there is some resemblance to the start of past seasons. Yet many, with their wildest dreams already partially fulfilled, went home deliriously happy and spent a sleepless night. But even if it is all too good to be true, football is back and it is tremendous fun.

Rushden & Diamonds Lineup

Benstead, Peaks, Ashby, Stott, Rodwell, Hannigan, Hackett, Butterworth, Wilkin, Collins, Cramman. SUBS: Kirkup (for Wilkin, 73), Wooding (for Peaks, 73), King (for Hannigan, 73)


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